Eight things that happen when you quit alcohol

We all know too much alcohol is disastrous for the human body, though many studies have given us the OK to drink one to two glasses of wine per day, and see some health benefits.

There are even more reasons, however, to stop drinking alcohol completely. Here's what happens to your body when you begin to abstain.

1. YOU'LL SLEEP BETTER

A couple of glasses of pinot at night has a sedative effect on some people, making it easy to fall asleep. However, the quality of sleep you're getting in such a case is likely to be poor. A scholarly review of 27 different studies found that drinking will make you fall asleep quicker, but it'll soon affect the alpha wave patterns in your brain. The result is tossing, turning and waking up more often than usual throughout the night. Cut out alcohol completely and (after an initial period of adjustment) you should find you have longer, deeper sleeps every night.

2. YOU'LL LOSE WEIGHT

One of the main reasons people stop drinking alcohol is because they want to start losing weight, because you're cutting out empty calories altogether. Alcohol serves no nutritional purpose: It doesn't give you energy like carbohydrates or feed your muscles like protein. When you cut it out, you cut out hundreds of calories per day that weren't giving you sustenance anyway.

3. BUT YOU MAY CRAVE SUGAR

Although the sugar in beverages like wine is fermented into alcohol (and most wines therefore contain no or little residual sugar), a lot of people are satiated by wine's sweet taste. Like sugar, alcohol also gives your brain a hit of pleasurable dopamine and makes your feel temporarily happier. So if you stop drinking alcohol, you'll remove that dopamine hit and might begin seeking it from other sources – such as chocolate. While entirely in your control, this is something to be aware of.

4. YOUR METABOLISM WILL CHANGE

There is some evidence to suggest that light alcohol consumption (1-2 units per day) slightly speeds up your metabolism, but its effect is negligible if weight loss is a goal. Conversely, medium and heavy drinkers see their metabolisms slow significantly with alcohol consumption. Cutting out the drinks completely should see it speed up and make you burn energy more efficiently.

5. YOU'LL HAVE REGULATED BLOOD SUGAR

It is estimated that somewhere between 45 and 70 per cent of people with liver disease caused by alcoholism also have diabetes or a form of glucose intolerance. Alcohol wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels by decreasing the effect of insulin in your body (potentially leading to insulin resistance). When you take booze out of your diet, this risk factor reduces because your body isn't impaired any more and can manage blood sugar levels effectively.

6. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER COGNITIVE FUNCTION

When you're drunk you slur your words, slow down your physical reactions, and your memory function doesn't work as well as usual. What may surprise you is that these effects linger long after you've sobered up, and staying off the sauce can bring your brain back up to optimal speed. In a study published by New Scientist, it was found that five weeks without alcohol improves cognitive function and concentration levels by 18 per cent, alertness by 9.5 per cent, and performance at work improves by 17 per cent.

7. YOU'LL BUILD MORE MUSCLE

Bodybuilders are usually teetotallers for good reason. According to a study in the American Journal of Physiology, alcohol consumption hinders workout protein consumption into the muscles, impairing the repair of muscles. Massey University research has even found that drinking alcohol also increases muscle soreness after weightlifting sessions. That's right: Not only does booze make your workouts less effective, it makes them hurt more afterwards, too.

8. YOU'LL CHANGE YOUR DISEASE RISK

In terms of disease risk, giving up alcohol changes your disease risk both for better and for worse. On one hand, your cancer risk goes down: Cancers of the liver, colon and rectum, breast, and mouth all have links to alcohol, and the more you drink, the higher your risk. Conversely, because light alcohol consumption – again, 1-2 units per day (but not more) – will reduce your risk of heart disease, that means dropping your intake to zero can, theoretically, raise that risk.

Source: Well and Good. com

 

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Queen Elizabeth II: Chinese officials 'were very rude'

LONDON — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was caught on camera describing Chinese officials as “very rude” to the British ambassador.

The monarch made the comments to a police official at an event at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to mark her recent 90th birthday.

In the footage, recorded by the palace’s cameraman, Scotland Yard Commander Lucy D’Orsi told the queen that being a commander for a state visit by Chinese President Xi in October was a “quite a testing time.”

Introducing D’Orsi to the monarch, an official said D’Orsi was seriously undermined by the Chinese, but managed to hold her own and remain in command.

“They were very rude to the ambassador,” the queen said, to which D'Orsi agreed. The remark is highly unusual as queen usually steers clear of politics in public. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Xi made a “very successful visit” to Britain.

It was the second embarrassing incident from the palace event to come to public attention, after Prime Minister David Cameron was filmed telling the queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan were "fantastically corrupt."

He was speaking ahead of an anti-corruption summit he will host in London Thursday that will be attended by leaders and dignitaries including Secretary of State John Kerry.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari — who pledged to fight corruption ahead of his election last year — delivered the keynote speech Wednesday at a separate anti-corruption conference in London hosted by the Commonwealth, an association of 53 countries.

"We've got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain... Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world," Cameron said in the comments to the queen caught on camera.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the leader of the Anglican Church — interjected: "But this particular president is actually not corrupt... he's trying very hard.”

Garba Shehu, a spokesperson for Buhari, previously said in a statement that Cameron's comments at the palace were "embarrassing to us...given the good work that the president is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here."

"The prime minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else,” he added.

A senior Afghan official said Cameron’s remarks were unfair, the BBC reported.

Afghanistan was ranked 166th out of 167 countries while Nigeria was ranked 136th in anti-corruption organization Transparency International's 2015 corruption perception index. North Korea and Somalia jointly came in bottom in 167th place, according to the index.

Source: USA Today

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Google to ban ads for payday loans

SAN FRANCISCO — Bowing to growing pressure from consumer groups, Google will no longer accept ads for payday loans, a move that critics hope will create a new industry standard.

"Research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that," Google's product policy director, David Graff, wrote in a blog post.

Google defines payday loans as loans due within 60 days of being issued and in the U.S. loans with an annual interest rate of 36% or higher.

Payday lenders will no longer be able to purchase ads that appear above search results for key terms under Google's AdWords program. But they will still appear in search results.

The change does not rein in companies marketing loans for mortgage, student, car and commercial loans as well as credit card offers.

The ban, which takes effect on July 13, comes ahead of stricter regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Facebook banned payday loans last August.

A trade group for payday lenders called Google's new policy "discriminatory and a form of censorship."

“The Internet is meant to express the free flow of ideas and enhance commerce. Google is making a blanket assessment about the payday lending industry rather than discerning the good actors from the bad actors," Amy Cantu, spokeswoman for the Community Financial Services Association of America, said in an emailed statement. "This is unfair towards those that are legal, licensed lenders and uphold best business practices."

Cantu said the statement also applies to Facebook "and others with these policies," Cantu said.

Last year, Google and Microsoft agreed to remove search ads from unlicensed payday lenders when California officials formally order the lenders to stop charging excessive fees.

Critics of payday lenders say they hope Google's new position will significantly undermine opportunistic lenders that hunt for customers on the Internet and disproportionately target communities of color still struggling to recover from the economic downturn.

Consumers who turn to online lenders for payday loans face hidden risks of costly banking fees and account closures, according to a federal analysis released in April.

Half of the borrowers who got the high-interest loans online later were hit with an average of $185 in bank penalties for overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees when the lenders submitted one or more repayment requests, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis found.

One third of the borrowers who racked up a bank penalty ultimately faced involuntary account closures, the report also found. Online lenders made repeated debit attempts on borrowers' accounts, running up additional bank fees for the consumers, even though the efforts typically failed to collect payments, according to the analysis.

“Google’s important new standards will stop abusive lenders from using their far reaching platform to market dangerous debt-trap products that do serious and lasting harm to consumers," Lisa Donner, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform, said in a statement.

Source: USA Today

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Smartphones may loosen their grip over family life as voice devices rise

SAN FRANCISCO — The smartphone's grip over our every moment may be slowly loosening as digital assistants leap into speakers and other devices that bring the Internet into the public sphere.

So far, the field belongs to Amazon's Echo and its voice-activated assistant Alexa. An early hit since it became widely available a year ago, it is still in only a sliver of homes. But its interactions, distinctly different from smartphone use, have caused academics to take notice.

"When you talk to Alexa and she answers, everyone in the room can listen. There’s nothing personal or private about the Echo,” said Julie Kientz, a professor in the University of Washington’s department of Human Centered Design and Engineering in Seattle. “It’s definitely a paradigm shift.”

Since the advent of the BlackBerry in 1999 and then the iPhone in 2007, we’ve come to accept that often using technology disconnects us from others.

Images of parents furtively tapping at their phones under the dinner table or groups of teenagers oblivious to each other as they stare into their phone screens fill popular culture. And up until now, everything people have done with computers has been largely visual. We type, we tap, we swipe, but we’re still interacting individually with with words or icons on a screen.

That tide may be turning with the combination of voice recognition software and the Echo, a stand-alone device that for the first time is meant for public, or at least family, use.

Intrigued by its popularity — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said last month it's in such demand the company can't keep them in stock — other companies may soon follow with their own stand-alone voice-activated speakers/assistant,.

A report in The Information in March said Google had a secret project to create a product to compete with the Echo. Wireless audio company Sonos has identified voice control as a key part of how people will experience music in their homes in the future. Samsung has added voice recognition to some of its TVs.

Apple has taken Siri, the familiar voice for iPhone users, into Apple TV and Apple CarPlay, though so far it hasn't announced plans for other devices.

The co-founder of the digital assistant Siri, a familiar voice for iPhone users, introduced an artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant named Viv on Monday that would be available via any device and powered by every service.

The Echo is a wireless speaker and microphone with voice recognition that connects to Alexa via the cloud. Third-party vendors can build what Amazon calls “skills” for Alexa, effectively apps that let their devices interact with the Echo.

Together with the smaller Tap and Dot speakers, all three account for 26% of Amazon’s device sales, estimates Slice Intelligence, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based market research. Amazon hasn't broken out individual device sales.

Alexa is competing in a crowded field of voice-recognition software that is using artificial intelligence to better understand and mimic human conversation.

Millions of people talk to Siri, OK, Google or Microsoft’s Cortana on their smartphones. The technology giants are pushing hard on this technology as a way to keep a user forever engaged within their own ecosystems of apps and services.

But still, those assistants are largely designed to be used individually.

The public interaction of Echo is what makes the interface different, said Regina Bernhaupt, head of research at Ruwido, an Austrian remote control company that makes extensive use of voice commands.

“People want to be social. They are at home with other people and they want to share,” she said.

From the user’s perspective, there’s suddenly no barrier between them and a veritable smorgasbord of things that a spoken command brings to life.

“The whole notation of an interface disappears,” says futurist and Stanford University professor Paul Saffo. .

Not a personal assistant

The social nature of voice-activated technology that's made to be public has changed the dynamics of technology use in some households. "We have a 'no tech after dinner rule' but Alexa doesn't count" because it doesn't pull family members away from each other, Kientz says.

Though social niceties of Alexa haven’t quite been worked out yet. Is it OK to ask someone else’s Alexa for the weather report or to play a song?

Only if you ask your host for permission, says Daniel Post Senning, author of Manners in a Digital World and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute.

If he wanted to use someone’s else’s voice recognition system to check the weather or call a car, he’d first do the “briefest" of check in’s, to see if they minded.

As for just how revolutionary the Echo and other voice-activated systems will be, that depends on how people end up actually using them, said Marc Weber, a curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

There are dozens of failed attempts to create new user interfaces in the museum’s collection.

“It’s interesting that Amazon’s Echo brings that right out in to the open. It may be that they’ve come across the secret of making voice recognition socially acceptable,” he said.

Source: USA Today

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Chip and PIN cards and what you need to know

SAN FRANCISCO — That authoritative sstpp sound that comes from swiping a credit card through a reader is going away, to be replaced with the snick-snick of a card dip. It's the aural confirmation that after decades, the United States is entering the 21st century and finally embracing chip and PIN cards.

And that, in turn, means headaches but also, hopefully, security for millions of small businesses.

The new cards encode the user's account information not in the magnetic stripe along the card's back, but in a computer chip embedded in it. The chip generates a unique, one-time code for each sale.

"When chip data is stored in a merchant's system, that data cannot be used to create counterfeit cards," said Stephanie Ericksen, vice president of risk products for Visa.

"That makes merchants less of a target for criminals, because once they've mostly got chip data, there's not a lot the fraudsters can do with it," she said.

The PIN part of "chip and PIN" is something of a misnomer. In the rest of the world, when people buy with a credit card they dip their card in the reader and then input a Personal Identification Number, or PIN, much as Americas do when we use cash machines.

Here, most banks are issuing cards that allow a signature, rather than a PIN, as confirmation. Some banks are requiring PINs right away. Eventually it's expected all will.

The actual name for the new card system is EMV, for Europay, MasterCard and Visa standards. Though most people seem to be settling on "chip cards" as shorthand.

The actual name for the new card system is EMV, for

The actual name for the new card system is EMV, for Europay, MasterCard and Visa standards. Though most people seem to be settling on "chip cards" as shorthand. (Photo: Visa)

 

Once they're in widespread use, big data breaches like those that hit Target and Home Depot should become less common, because merchants won't be storing anything useful to thieves in their systems.

According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., the chip cards could reduce credit card fraud by 40% in the United States.

But getting to that happy day will require money, work and expense on merchants' part. And there's a deadline.

Currently, credit card companies and banks bear the liability for fraudulent purchases on credit cards. But beginning in October, merchants who haven't switched to readers that can take the new cards will be liable for fraud if there's a problem.

Though if your bank and credit union hasn't issued you one, they, not the customer or the merchant, are still liable.

Merchants aren't required to make the switch, but the cards are coming and they need to be prepared. While new cards will still have magnetic stripes, businesses are being encouraged to shift over quickly.

That means buying new credit card machines and software capable of reading both chip cards and magnetic stripe cards.

"It's not going to be without cost," said Todd McCracken, president and CEO of the National Small Business Association. "Depending on the size of the establishment, replacing all their card machines is going to cost a pretty penny."

About 30% of credit card terminals on the market today already have the hardware necessary to accept chip cards, though they don't necessarily have the right software, said Visa's Ericksen.

Merchants need special credit card machines capable

Merchants need special credit card machines capable of reading a micro chip credit card. (Photo: Visa)

 

Costs will vary depending on how big a merchant is. For mom-and-pop operations, "We're seeing some of the new card readers at the warehouse buying clubs that are under $100," she said.

Credit card companies plan to spend the first part of the year in an all-out push to get companies to upgrade.

For example, American Express will begin offering $100 in reimbursement to small merchants that switch to the chip card readers in February.

"We've allocated up to $10 million for upgrades," said Anré Williams, president of global merchant services at American Express.

The idea is to give merchants encouragement to make the shift, knowing that, "they're busy; they've got a lot of things going on," Williams said.

Sooner will be better than later because security experts are predicting a wave of data breaches as the window is "closing for hackers to easily profit from point-of-sale attacks on brick-and-mortar retailers," according to Experian's 2015 Data Breach Industry Forecast.

The biggest question for McCracken, with the National Small Business Association, is whether the savings on fraudulent charges the credit card companies will see end up being translated into lower rates for merchants.

"They've been telling us for years that the reason small businesses pay such high fees for taking credit cards is fraud," he said.

If the liability is moving to the merchant, and if the new chip cards are so much more security in the first place, the credit card fees small merchants pay should go down. Those typically run between 0.5% and 2% per transaction.

The association will be watching fees carefully, McCracken said. "If the fees don't go down, we'll see about pursing a legislative solution."

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Walmart sues Visa over chip transactions with debit cards

Walmart is suing Visa for allowing customers to verify chip-enabled debit card transactions with a signature instead of a PIN.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York Supreme Court says that Visa requires Walmart to accept signature-based transactions for chip debit cards, which Walmart says are a less secure method of payment than PIN-based payments and more expensive to conduct over Visa's network.

"PIN is the only truly secure form of cardholder verification in the marketplace today, and it offers superior security to our customers," says Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove. "Visa has acknowledged in many other countries that chip-and-pin offer greater security. Visa nevertheless has demanded that we allow fraud-prone signature verification for debit transactions in our U.S. stores because Visa stands to make more money processing those transactions."

Visa declined to comment.

Retailers were required to adopt payment terminals last year that accept chip-based debit and credit card transactions or else face liability for any subsequent fraud. The cards are embedded with a computer chip where account information is stored instead of in a magnetic strip.

The chip cards are considered much more difficult to hack because they create one-time codes to process every transaction. Transactions can be verified with either a signature or a PIN, though the retail industry has long argued that requiring a PIN is more secure.

Walmart automatically prompts customers to enter a PIN when they use a chip debit card, but customers can override it and enter a signature instead. Debit card transactions account for more than 70% of the dollars spent on credit and debit cards at Walmart.

The lawsuit says that because Visa allows a signature for debit card payments, it requires Walmart to route those payments through Visa's network rather than a competitor that might be less costly.

Source: USA Today

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Want to know which foods are healthy? So does the FDA

The growing divide between what's considered healthy food and what can legally be labeled as healthy is on its way to reconciling.

In response to pressure from the health community, elected officials and the public, the Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to redefine the term "healthy" as it's used on food labels, the agency confirmed Tuesday.

Current regulations, crafted more than 20 years ago during the advent of low-fat diets, allow products like fat-free pudding cups and sugary cereal to be labeled as healthy, but not whole foods such as nuts, avocados and salmon, which have come to be considered sources of nutritious fats. The government's current MyPlate guidelines recommend including nuts, seeds and fish as part of a balanced diet — making decades-old nutrition labeling guidelines confusing.

"In light of evolving nutrition research ... we believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term 'healthy,'" says FDA spokeswoman Lauren Kotwicki.

The FDA will ask the public to weigh in on how healthy should be defined given the modern understanding of nutrition and a well-rounded diet, which as some note, is a big deal.

"It’s pretty huge," says David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. "They recognize this is really a problem for public health nutrition. It was never intended to say 'don’t eat almonds.' But that effectively is what it’s saying in this instance."

Katz is referring to a warning letter the FDA sent to the snack company Kind last year. The letter said Kind's fruit and nut bars couldn't claim to be healthy due to their amount of saturated fat, which primarily came from almonds, the main ingredient in the bars. While Kind removed the term from its labels, it filed a citizen petition with the FDA in December, asking the agency to update its labeling requirements in light of new dietary recommendations. Katz served as a nutrition adviser to Kind over the past year.

Currently, companies can use the term "healthy" as a nutrient content claim if the food fits certain criteria for levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Generally, snacks like Kind's bars can't have more than 3 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.

The company got word last month that it would be allowed to continue using the phrase "healthy and tasty" on its bars, because the FDA concluded that it was not a nutrient content claim, according to emails obtained by USA TODAY. Kind is considering whether it will put the term back on its bars, which could be a costly move.

"We're not in a hurry to do it," says CEO Daniel Lubetzsky, adding that the fact that the FDA is reconsidering how healthy is defined is more significant than what Kind puts on its packaging. "It’s very energizing to feel that our voices were heard, and the FDA recognizes that the regulation didn’t really make sense."

Kotwicki notes that the FDA isn't reconsidering how healthy is used because of Kind, but a variety of factors including upcoming new rules on the Nutrition Facts panel, new nutrition research and the citizen petition, which received backing in February from four Democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon; Cory Booker of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York.

On the FDA's part, re-evaluating the term shows the evolving understanding of nutrition in the U.S., a conversation that's become more focused on overall health and well-being than specific nutrient levels, Katz says.

"The world of nutrition is increasingly saying, enough with nutrients let’s talk about food," he says. "An avocado is extremely high in fat but it’s a really nutritious food."

Source: USA Today

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Staples, Office Depot stocks plummet after $6.3B merger's demise

Shares of Staples and Office Depot nosedived Wednesday after their $6.3 billion merger deal collapsed.

Investors flocked away from both retailers after the office supply giants scrapped their deal in the wake of a federal judge's decision to issue a temporary injunction blocking the accord. The judge ruled on objections raised by the Federal Trade Commission.

Office Depot shares (ODP) plummeted 38.18% to $3.77 in afternoon trading, while Staples shares (SPLS) fell 16.55% to $8.65.

The merger deal's demise casts a cloud of uncertainty over the next steps for each retailer. The Obama administration had challenged the deal on anti-competitive grounds.

It was the second time in 19 years that the companies called off a merger after federal regulators raised antitrust concerns.

Debbie Feinstein, director of the FTC's competition bureau, characterized the ruling as "great news for business customers in the office supply market."

"This deal would eliminate head-to-head competition between Staples and Office Depot and likely lead to higher prices and lower quality service for large businesses that buy office supplies," said Feinstein.

In a statement, Office Depot CEO Roland Smith expressed dismay and said the merger deal would formally end May 16.

“While we are respectful of the Court’s decision to grant the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent our merger with Staples, we are disappointed by this outcome and strongly believe that a merger would have benefited all of our customers in the long term," said Smith. "We do not intend to appeal the Court’s decision and the two companies plan to terminate the merger agreement."

Staples CEO Ronald Sargent said the judge approved the FTC's request "despite the fact that it failed to define the relevant market correctly, and fell woefully short of proving its case.”

Staples said under the terms of the merger agreement, it will pay a $250 million break-up fee to Office Depot. Staples also says it no longer will sell more than $550 million in its large corporate contract business to another office products company, Essendant, as part of the Office Depot merger agreement.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's ruling said the FTC "met their burden of showing that there is a reasonable probability that the proposed merger will substantially impair competition in the sale and distribution of consumable office supplies to large Business-to-Business customers."

The FTC also provided sufficient evidence to show a preliminary injunction halting the ruling was "in the public interest."

Emmet's ruling said he plans to give give attorneys for the companies a sealed memorandum on Wednesday that details the legal rationale underlying his decision. The judge wrote he would seal the document initially because it contains "competitively sensitive information."

Emmet instructed attorneys for the companies to meet and propose redactions to the legal memorandum by Monday. The judge wrote that he plans to consider the proposed deletions, and then issue a public version of the memorandum

Source: USA Today

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Nigerian leader not seeking apology over ‘corrupt’ comments

LONDON - Nigeria’s president says he won’t demand an apology after British Prime Minister David Cameron called his country one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

Cameron is hosting an international anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday. At a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday, a television microphone caught Cameron saying the “leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries” were coming.

Cameron referred to “Nigeria and Afghanistan — possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is due to attend, said Wednesday that “I am not going to demand any apology from anybody.”

Speaking at an anti-corruption meeting ahead of the summit, Buhari says he wanted the return of plundered Nigerian assets held in British banks.

“What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible,” Buhari said.

He described corruption as “a hydra-headed monster and a canker that undermines the fabric of all societies. It does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.”

Asked about the gaffe in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Cameron said the leaders of Nigeria and Afghanistan were “battling hard against very corrupt systems” and had made “remarkable steps forward.”

Source: USA TODAY

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Royal Caribbean cancels seven more sailings out of Miami

Royal Caribbean has canceled seven more voyages of Empress of the Seas, which has been undergoing a major overhaul in dry dock since February.

The line said the 2,020-passenger ship needed more work than it originally envisioned when it scheduled the overhaul, which was supposed to be done by late March.

Royal Caribbean previously canceled six sailings of Empress scheduled to take place between March 30 and April 25. The new cancellations extend the ship's absence from service through late May.

Unveiled in 1990, the 48,563-ton Empress is rejoining the Royal Caribbean fleet after sailing for Spanish line Pullmantur the past eight years.

Royal Caribbean said it had discovered a need for significant infrastructure and physical improvements to Empress' galleys and provisioning areas that were not part of the original overhaul plans.

"We decided that instead of simply repairing the five galleys, we would completely rebuild them, starting from scratch with entirely new infrastructure and all new equipment, at a cost of $10 million," the company said in a statement.

Passengers on the affected voyages can choose to receive a full refund or switch to an Empress sailing later in the year. They also can switch to a similar sailing on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. Those who reschedule will receive an on-board credit.

“We sincerely apologize to our guests and travel partners for the inconvenience, and hope they understand that more time was needed to ensure Empress of the Seas meets the standards for quality our guests expect from Royal Caribbean,” Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley said in a statement.

When it rejoins Royal Caribbean's fleet, Empress will operate four- and five-night trips to Nassau, The Bahamas; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman and Key West, Florida. Some of the stops in Cozumel will be overnight stays.

The overhaul of Empress is bringing some new features that have debuted on Royal Caribbean's latest ships such as the one-year-old Anthem of the Seas.

USA TODAY Cruise in 2015 was among a handful of U.S. media outlets to get early access to Anthem ahead of its christening in Southampton, England. For our 'first look' tour of the ship's pool decks, public areas and swankiest suites.

Source; USA Today

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Whatever Duncan decides, fans should celebrate his greatness

The Duncan-ites of this world are pretty down right now.

We've been mopey this whole month, frankly, watching the previously age-defying ‎Tim Duncan -- our modern-day Bill Russell -- reduced to filling such a minuscule role for the San Antonio Spurs in these playoffs.

The NBA's corner of the Twitterverse predictably bathed in such sadness late Thursday night, once it started to sink in, before they even got to halftime in Oklahoma City, that we might be watching the final game ‎of Duncan's Hall of Fame career.

ou really shouldn't stay sad when we (A) don't yet truly know if it's the end, and (B) we've been treated to nearly two decades of Duncan's excellence.

 

He just turned 40, after all. Now -- or soon -- we're going to be powerless to stop him from hanging up that horrendously huge and clunky knee brace which, as longtime Spurs owner Peter Holt told us in 2014, forced Duncan "to change the way he runs."

Don't worry, though. This is not how we're going to remember him.

The Spurs' six-game collapse to their longtime understudies from Oklahoma City is fresh in the mind at the moment, so you probably can recite depressing stats such as how Duncan's 19 points in Thursday's season-ender trumped the 17 points he managed in the first five games of the series. Or how he played only two measly seconds of the fourth quarter in Game 3, inserted just long enough to launch an ambitious cross-court inbounds pass to Kawhi Leonard, as if he were merely a long-throw specialist out of English soccer's Premier League like we used to see from Rory Delap.

Yet downbeat factoids like those will fade from memory soon enough. You inevitably will remember Duncan as we all should.

As the closest thing to Russell that we've ever seen.

I remember in February when our #NBARank folks asked me to add some context to Duncan's placement as the eighth-best player in league history. I said it then, too: Argue all you want about whether to call him the greatest power forward who ever lived -- or concede, as Gregg Popovich finally did a few springs back, that he would be starting Duncan at center in a playoff series against Utah "like we have for the past 15 years" -- as long as you note that he was the ultimate franchise player.

The most dependable dude to build an NBA title contender around since Michael Jordan.

Yet he's really more reminiscent of Russell, given how he has stayed in one place for 19 seasons and bonded in sustained success with his coach to such a degree that Pop is right up there now with Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and, yes, Red Auerbach in pro basketball's bench pantheon.

I'm prepared to be realistic here. I understand we'll all need some time to grieve if Duncan indeed decides it's time to walk away. It has been a tough year for the nostalgic souls among us, with Kobe Bryant having said goodbye and Manu Ginobili surely contemplating retirement as seriously as Duncan must now.

So I suspect lots of us felt like Duncan's former Spurs teammate Stephen Jackson late Thursday, staring at the screen and wishing we had a Timmy Cam showing nothing but No. 21's every twitch.

"He didn't ask Pop to take him out at the end but he'll be cool with riding off into the sunset with no applause."

 

Stephen Jackson

"I wish you could have seen me," Jackson, now one of my ESPN teammates, said over the phone. "I was [pressed] right up against the TV, like, 'Dang, my boy, this could be it.' I'm just standing there trying to look at Timmy's face.

"I hate to see him go ... if he goes. Dave [David Robinson] went out with a championship and I think Tim deserved the same. But how much better can you be? How much more can you give to the game? He's the best power forward to ever play this game.

"I'm not sure if it's over, but if it is ... he didn't ask Pop to take him out at the end but he'll be cool with riding off into the sunset with no applause. I'm pretty sure he has no regrets."

 

Duncan could have walked away Admiral Robinson-style after the Spurs' fifth championship in 2014, but I understood why he resisted the fairy-tale farewell. He loves to play. He loves to be on the team even more than that. He loves to be in that locker room, right there with his on-court brothers, which is why Jackson was by no means the only former teammate or rival we've spoken with this week who said they wouldn't be surprised if Timmy decided to play on and return for season No. 20.

Tim Duncan Postseason Career

TD's numbers and all-time ranking

Games 251 2nd
Points 5,172 6th
Rebounds 2,859 3rd
Double-doubles 164 1st
Wins 157 2nd
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

Yet if he doesn't?

How can anyone complain?

"DEATH/TAXES/SPURS" is indeed a clever slogan for fan signage, but not even Duncan can go on forever.

 

How could someone as lucky as me ask for more? I moved to Texas a month before the Spurs won the May 1997 lottery that enabled them to draft Duncan and have had the privilege to cover him from reasonably close range ever since, which led to this historical opus on the Pop-and-Timmy era heading into the 2014 Finals. I started out as an NBA writer in February 1994, so there were a handful of trips to the Alamo City before he even blipped onto my radar, but I don't remember much of them. It's hard to imagine going to San Antonio to see a Spurs team that doesn't revolve around TD -- to see Duncovich uncoupled -- but, again, how greedy can we be?

When he does decide time is up, I'll miss that unerring bank shot, of course, as well as how he was the same even-keeled, ultra-loyal Timmy every time I saw him. I'll likewise miss our traditional co-congratulatory handshake at some stage in the first round of the playoffs every year when I'd remind him that I too was a member of the April 25th Birthday Club ... along with Duncan, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and legendary NBA photographer Andy Bernstein.

But seriously.

Don't let yourself get swallowed up by the sadness.

The prospect of Holt, Ginobili and Duncan all exiting Spursdom at the same time is an undeniable shock to the system, but The Big Fundamental's legacy is secure, whether or not you think five championships in 19 seasons were enough to qualify as dynastic. Starry heirs Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, meanwhile, are in place to keep San Antonio among the elite irrespective of market size.

So ...

As Timmy steps away now to go "figure out life" before making any definitive pronouncements about the future, this is our plan:

Celebrate.

Celebrate with appreciative, unreserved gusto how wonderfully long Timothy Theodore Duncan has made it look like he has had this whole basketball thing absolutely wired.

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Disappointing end for Spurs, but future bright

SAN ANTONIO -- No matter how much reporters gushed about the milestones the San Antonio Spurs kept reaching during a historic 67-win regular season, point guard Tony Parker always kept things in perspective.

How does this team compare to all the other Spurs teams you’ve been a part of?

How great is this season the Spurs are having?

How do you feel about establishing a franchise record for victories?

Parker almost always answered those inquiries with some form of “none of it means anything unless we win a championship.”

We saw precisely why at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday night, when San Antonio averted what could have been an embarrassing blowout with a valiant second-half effort only to fall 113-99 in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals to a hungrier and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder squad.

“I’ve been in the NBA for 15 years and to the conference finals half of my career, five NBA Finals, and stuff is going to happen,” Parker said. “Sometimes, it’s not meant to be, and we have to give credit to OKC. They’re coming from far, the last year, getting all the injuries and bad luck. And this year, the basketball gods, they went their way. Every tough play, every big basket, they made it. We have to give them credit.”

The 113 points rank as the most given up by the Spurs in a regulation elimination loss under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, as the Thunder flexed a major advantage in athleticism to capture this one. Oklahoma City outscored San Antonio 21-5 on the break and out-hustled the Spurs to loose balls, recovering 10 compared to three scooped up by the visitors, according to tracking by ESPN Stats & Information.

A horrid second quarter by the Spurs, in which Oklahoma City outscored them 30-12, allowed the home team to build a 28-point lead the visitors would cut to 11 in the fourth quarter with a gutsy, 25-8 run. That run said plenty about San Antonio’s prideful past, with players such as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker clawing hard until the end.

It also pointed to the culture deeply established in San Antonio that will be carried on by the new core of players such as Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green as well as promising youngsters such as Kyle Anderson and Boban Marjanovic, should he return.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played in the second half tonight,” Popovich said. “They really showed their character. They didn’t hang their heads. They busted their fannies, and did as well as they possibly could.”

They could be doing it for quite a while, too, particularly the young core of Aldridge, Leonard and Green alongside the 33-year-old Parker. All four of their deals run at least through the 2017-18 season, with Leonard’s contract extending through 2018-19. All but Parker have a player option for the season following when those deals expire.

And it's almost a given the Spurs will add even more firepower in free agency over the summer.

Perhaps that’s why New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry joked back in March that pundits “have said for 10 years that the Spurs’ championship window is closing.” Yet year after year, San Antonio remains in serious contention for titles as it brings in a few new role players as they phase out others. Veterans such as Duncan and Ginobili likely won’t make decisions about their futures until later in the summer.

More on ESPN.com

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put up 37 and 28 points, respectively, to close out the San Antonio Spurs 113-99 in Game 6 and claim the series 4-2.
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2016 NBA Playoffs coverage »

“We’ve accomplished amazing things. We won 67 games,” said Ginobili, 38. “And of course it’s disappointing when you don’t end up winning the last game. But only one team can do it. In 14 seasons, in my case, it’s happened a lot of times.”

 

Leonard led the team with 22 points and five assists, and wanted to capture a victory to force a Game 7 in San Antonio so the 40-year-old Duncan could play in front of the home crowd because “he’s been a great teammate to me; helped me grow up a lot throughout my years.”

Duncan characterized Thursday's loss as “one of those nights at the wrong time. Just one of those quarters at the wrong time. We always give credit to our opponents, and obviously, OKC turned it up there; turned our execution into just forced bad shots. Then we kind of trickled down from there and kind of snowballed. So we put ourselves in the hole. We actually played somewhat solid for the second half. But it was too little, too late.”

Maybe, but even with the disappointment that accompanies the Spurs' suffering elimination in Round 2, there should be optimism regarding the future as they’ve slowly put the pieces in place to remain competitive for a long time.

Sure, the Spurs became just the fourth team in NBA history to win at least 65 games in the regular season and fail to win the championship. But as Parker said over and over throughout the team’s historic regular season, none of the regular-season victories mean anything if it can’t win a title.

“Well, everybody is disappointed,” Popovich said. “The only team that is not disappointed is the last team standing. Everybody loses but one.”

Source: ESPN.com

 

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Manny Machado's stats put him in discussion for best young player

"He's just polished. I see all the guys that are compared in baseball, and his name is never really mentioned in there and I like that. Just let him continue to fly under the radar and do what he does. The kid is special." -- Adam Jones, to media members this season

Since Manny Machado's major league debut on Aug. 9, 2012, the Baltimore Orioles have won more games than any other team in the American League. He's 11 months younger than Mike Trout and three months older than Bryce Harper, but is often left out of conversations about the game's best young player.

If the season ended today, the American League MVP would almost surely go to Machado, who plays for a first-place team that ranks first or second in the league in hits, doubles, extra-base hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Machado, 23, is the 10th player in the last 100 years to record 25 extra-base hits in his team's first 31 games. Of the previous nine, four went on to win the MVP: Lou Gehrig in 1927, Stan Musial in 1948, Willie Mays in 1965 and Kevin Mitchell in 1989. Six of those nine players are in the Hall of Fame (Gehrig, Musial, Mays, Hank Aaron, Paul Waner and Earl Averill).

Machado's approach at the plate hasn't changed drastically from a year ago, when his walk and strikeout rates were the best of his career. He's still swinging at about the same number of pitches both in and out of the strike zone (28 percent).

Perhaps the largest difference from 2015 to 2016 is that he's hitting everything, and hitting it hard -- regardless of where he's being pitched.

Though his current .368 BABIP (54 points above his career mark) might give some reason to believe he's bound for regression, his hard-hit rate gives the impression that his numbers are legit. He ranks third in the majors in hard-hit rate this season (27 percent).

On defense, Machado has 62 career defensive runs saved, second-most in the AL since his debut (Alex Gordon, 69). He won the AL's Platinum Glove in 2013 but broke out offensively in 2015, joining Alex Rodriguez (1998) as the only players in MLB history to hit 35 home runs and steal 20 bases in their age-22 season.

Machado's combination of power and defensive ability at this age is rare; according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the sixth player to hit 75 home runs and win two Gold Gloves before his 24th birthday. The others are Al Kaline, Johnny Bench, Cesar Cedeño, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones, making Machado the only infielder to do it.

Of the players above, only four also had a top-five MVP finish to their names before turning 24: Machado and Hall of Famers Griffey, Bench and Kaline.

Couple all of this with the fact he is now playing shortstop in place of injured J.J. Hardy, and Machado won't be able to stay out of the spotlight for much longer.

Looking ahead

The Orioles will face the Tigers on Friday night in the second game of a seven-game homestand, and that bodes well for Machado. In 19 games at Camden Yards this season, he's hitting .423/.471/.833 -- all the best in the AL at a batter's home park -- with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 19 RBIs.

Source: ESPN.com

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Kamara could make Revs debut; Crew SC moves on; battle atop the East

As another weekend of Major League Soccer action gets set to kick off, Jason Davis looks around the league to preview matches and storylines you should be following.

Kamara could be set for Revs debut

The biggest story of the season to this point takes center stage Saturday with Kei Kamara's potential debut as a member of the New England Revolution when they face the Chicago Fire. The Revs' blockbuster trade for the former Columbus Crew SC striker cost them a pretty penny (in MLS terms), and they won't want to wait to get Kamara into their lineup. The club says there's a chance he will be available, which might just be a hedge against the small chance he won't be in New England and settled by the time the game kicks off Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Even if Kamara doesn't play, his arrival will be the story. New England has a pair of forwards -- Juan Agudelo and the banged-up Charlie Davies -- who can't be too happy to hear the news that their club thought it necessarily to trade for reinforcements. Further, there's the matter of how Kamara's presence at the center-forward position will or won't change the way that the team plays. Kamara seems made for crosses coming from Chris Tierney, Kelyn Rowe, et al, but it would be presumptuous to think chemistry will happen immediately.

New England still needs to work out some defensive issues, which Kamara doesn't address. But trading for an MLS elite-level forward will help them put the ball in the net more often, perhaps giving them the benefit of positive scorelines. Playing from the front is not something the Revs have done much of this season, and it could help Jay Heaps' team get on track in 2016.

Kamara-less Crew SC faces Rapids

Jermaine Jones v Seattle

Jermaine Jones and the red-hot Colorado Rapids won't take any pity on Columbus when they visit the Rockies on Saturday.

The flipside of Kamara's potential debut for New England is Crew SC on the road in Colorado playing without him. Considering how dependent Columbus had been on the striker before trading him, it will be a strange to see them lining up minus his significant presence. Crew SC was built around the idea of getting Ethan Finley and Justin Meram up the wings to serve balls into Kamara. Look no further than the progression of Columbus from pre-Kamara 2014 to the 2015 side that hosted an MLS Cup final to understand why the trade is so momentous.

Crew SC wouldn't have traded its leading scorer if there wasn't something very wrong in the locker room at MAPFRE Stadium. Assigning blame in this situation is a fool's errand without knowledge of the behind-the-scenes dynamics, but it's hard to believe that Federico Higuain didn't exacerbate any discord through his actions and lack of accountability this week. What matters in the short term -- at least until Columbus can use some of the reported $500,000 in allocation money they collected from New England to find a replacement -- is how the team gets on without a center forward.

And it had to be Colorado, a team that is riding high on a wave of confidence and can beat teams down with the best in MLS. Jermaine Jones won't be taking pity on Crew SC. The Rapids' defense has been solid even against in-form teams this year, putting ample pressure on Gregg Berhalter's side to figure things out on the fly. Life without Kei begins now.

Source: ESPN.com

 

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That's rich: ACC joins the $4 million coach club

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- For years, ACC coaches could only watch as their counterparts in other conferences cashed paychecks that grew bigger after every championship. Or every 10-win season for that matter.

Not anymore. Four ACC coaches are now in the $4 million club. Last year, that club belonged exclusively to Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney recently has joined, more than quadrupling the $800,000 salary he got when he was first hired in 2008. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino got a raise to over $4 million too. Miami coach Mark Richt? Well, he already was making $4 million at Georgia, in a conference that set a benchmark nobody else has been able to reach.

Dabo Swinney has more than quadrupled the $800,000 salary he got when he was first hired by Clemson in 2008. AP Photo/Richard Shiro

As it stands, nine SEC coaches make $4 million or more. But the four $4 million coaches in the ACC puts the conference in line with the Big Ten, which also has four. Though the gap remains large, it has closed significantly. And that is a necessary step for a league that has really placed an emphasis on improving its football brand.

“Schools are continuing to make an investment in football,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “They see that’s where the revenue is and want to make sure that we’re continuing to be competitive in the marketplace.”

ACC athletic directors are well aware of what is happening in the marketplace. Radakovich said he wanted to be sure the school was giving Swinney his “market worth.” The raise Swinney got in 2014 put him at $3.15 million, which still ranked him among the highest paid coaches in the country. But in just two years’ time, that dropped him outside the top 25. So following a trip to the national championship game, Clemson realized Swinney was deserving of another raise.

So Radakovich said the school did comparisons with other high-paying schools to figure out what they could afford to pay.

“We just wanted to make sure that in our circumstance and where he is nationally and within our conference, that we’re giving Dabo his market worth and making sure that he’s comfortable at Clemson and Clemson’s certainly comfortable with him,” Radakovich said. “We don’t have the same resources as some of the other schools. We did some comparisons as a percentage of our football budget allocation, and personnel as it relates to our whole budget. We were very comfortable that percentage of expense is well in line from a ratio perspective of the revenue we’re bringing in.”

Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox has done the same with Fisher, who got a raise to an ACC-leading $5.15 million last year. In 2013, Fisher made $2.75 million. He has received two raises since, after winning the 2013 national championship and making the 2014 College Football Playoff.

“Every year we do benchmarking,” Wilcox said. “We basically look at major institutions in the Power 5 conferences, where they pay, where’s the market.

“You have to stay on top of what the trends are. You want to keep all your coaches happy. You don’t like to have coaching turnover because you’re starting a whole new program whenever you do that. By making sure you’re staying on top of and understanding what the current market is and what the rates are out there, you make adjustments as you deem fit based upon the success of the program each year.”

 

It is undeniable the ACC has brought high-profile coaches into the mix, with Petrino joining Louisville in 2014 and Richt now joining Miami. High-profile coaches certainly add to the credibility of a league. So does the recent string of success, between Florida State and Clemson. So do coaching salaries, which often serve as a benchmark for the relative “strength” of a league.

Add in the close proximity to SEC schools (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all have SEC rivals), and the ACC had to do something to catch up.

“The market bears what people make, and if whoever’s in charge of deciding how much to pay a guy thinks he’s worth it, then that’s just the way it is,” Richt said. “I think it’s a matter of: Do they believe this person is worth this much to the program?”

Then there is the recruiting factor. Because recruiting is always a factor.

“You want to go out on the recruiting trail and be able to say, ‘I’ll be your coach when you’re here for your career,’” Petrino said. “It’s just a competitiveness you see throughout college football in general.”

Competitiveness on the field leads to competitiveness with salaries. No conference wants to say it cannot pay what the market dictates. That leads coaches to leave.

While nobody in the ACC is ready to dish out $7 million, the ACC is way ahead of where it used to be. More schools are seen as destinations, not stepping stones. That’s progress.

Source: ESPN.com

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Stephen Curry has NBA's best-selling jersey for second straight season

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry not only won back-to-back league MVP awards, but he also can lay claim to the NBA's best-selling jersey for the second straight season.

Curry's jersey sold more than any other player's during the 2015-16 regular season, according to sales on the NBA's official online website.

Curry's was also the best-selling jersey in every U.S. state except Ohio and Oklahoma, according to Fanatics, the largest licensed sports retailer in the country.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, in his final season, finished second in jersey sales, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis finished fourth, the highest season-ending spot on the jersey list for a rookie since James and Carmelo Anthony finished atop the jersey rankings at the end of the 2003-04 season.

Two players on the list jumped to career highs: Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was sixth, one spot behind teammate Kevin Durant, and Warriors forward Draymond Green finished 13th.

The Warriors finished first among team merchandising for the second straight year. The Chicago Bulls, Lakers, Cavaliers and Knicks rounded out the top five.

ESPN.com

 

 

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Tyga Gets Candid About Kylie Jenner Split, Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna

Tyga says he will always love Kylie Jenner, in what marked his first comments about the former couple's recent breakup.

The 26-year-old rapper and 18-year-old Keeping Up With the Kardashians star called it quits this week, about six months after they broke up briefly. A source had told E! News their latest split was "a long time coming." Tyga told E! News recently he has been doing "good" since the breakup.

Tyga talked about Kylie in a rare, brief and candid interview with paparazzi at Los Angeles International Airport Friday, as seen in a video posted by TMZ.

"Did age difference play a factor in the breakup?" a photographer asked him.

"Um," Tyga responded, lifting his head in thought. "Uh, I think, you know, we're both just focusing on our lives, our individual lives right now, you know? Sometimes things don't work out. But, you know, I love her."

"There'll always be love between the two of you?" the photographer asked.

"For sure," Tyga said.

"People, uh, grow and you know, it's time to evolve, you know what I mean," he said on-camera. "So everybody should have the opportunity, you know, at love and, you know, to live their life."

When asked if Rob is a good stepfather to King Cairo, Tyga said, "Don't go too far."

Source: E news Online

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Devon Still's Daughter Leah Was Just the Cutest at His & Asha Joyce's Wedding

Leah Still was the cutest flower girl at her dad Devon Still's wedding Friday and stole the show at the reception with a heartwarming speech.

The 6-year-old cancer survivor, who captured the hearts of fans with her brave health battle, led the NFL star's bride and longtime love Asha Joyce down the aisle. She and Devon wed in a romantic ceremony at the New York Public Library in New York City.

Family and friends, including his fellow football players, attended the event, which was livestreamed on Facebook and was selected as The Knot's Dream Wedding of the year.

Devon and his little girl had made headlines two years ago when he revealed Leah had been diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma. In March 2015, the family was told she is cancer-free.

"Thank you for everyone supporting me and I love my new family," Leah told wedding guests at the reception, as seen in a video celebrity guest Holly Robinson Peete posted on Instagram. "Now let's party!"

The happy couple entered the wedding to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." At the reception, they and Leah all danced together to "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, earning applause from their guests.

Asha wore three dresses that evening: A strapless Pnina Tornai wedding gown with Swarovski crystals, lace appliques and a mermaid skirt, paired with Simon G jewelry, as well as a champagne, ruffled Allure gown with a mermaid skirt and a strapless, tulle Allison Parris dress from Rent the Runway.

Devon sported a custom-made dark velvet Martin Greenfield Clothier tuxedo.

Leah looked adorable in a sparkling, pink Hayley Paige flower girl dress and a custom-made bracelet designed by the bride and groom and artisans and designers at Simon G. Jewelry.

The bracelet incorporates her favorite color—pink—and includes butterflies to represent "transformation into a new, beautiful life," The Knot said in a statement.

 

"After we got engaged, we put off on the wedding because my daughter was supposed to be the flower girl," Devon said in a statement released by The Knot. "When the doctors gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving, we were not sure that we were ever going to get to that point where I was able to watch her walk down the aisle."

"Now that we are going into the wedding, I think it's finally hitting us that we are over that hump," he added. "She really beat cancer."

Devon Still, Asha Joyce, Daughter Leah Still, Wedding

Joseph Lin Photography

Source: E News Online

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Lupita Nyong'o in talks to join Marvel's 'Black Panther' cast

Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o is in talks to join the "Black Panther" cast as the lead character's love interest, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, was introduced into the Marvel movie franchise in the recently released "Captain America: Civil War." The "Black Panther" movie will continue a storyline from that movie of an African prince whose father is murdered at the United Nations.

Nyong'o, who an Academy Award for her work in "12 Years a Slave," plays the mother of a young woman chess master from Uganda in Disney's "Queen Of Katwe," to be released in September.

Source: Yahoo.com

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Actors Of Nigerian Descent Blazing Path In Hollywood For Next Generation

EXCLUSIVE: David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nonso Anozie, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. These are but a few of the actors of Nigerian descent whao are working steadily in Hollywood — actors who have, for the most part, not changed their names for more easily pronounced stage names. Each has a unique story, but all have the same determination to forge a path based on their excellence in the craft while also firmly holding onto their Nigerian heritage.

 

As Captain America: Civil War opens this weekend with a storyline that involves Nigeria — played by actors of American and South African descent — what better time to talk to these actors of Nigerian decent?

Gbenga Akinnagbe head shot  The common thread among this crop of acting talent is one of pride in their roots, in their country of origin and in their — by American perceptions — unusual names. “My mother begged me to change my name; she thought I wouldn’t get a job because it was difficult to pronounce,” said Akinnagbe, who next stars in what could be a career-making role: the true story of a convict boxer in the indie film Heart Baby. “People would ask me, ‘Are you going to change your name?’ I said, ‘No. People are going to learn it.'”

Sound familiar? It should. Arnold Schwarzenegger kept his hard-to-pronounce name, and moviegoers around the world embraced the action star regardless. In Nigeria, a name is part of a spiritual ancestry of sorts and carries with it a strong meaning. For instance, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s name means “the crown” (Ade), “has arrived” (Wale) “warrior” (Akin) “of great chieftiantacy” (Nuoye) “of abundant prosperity (Agbaje). Similarly, Chukwunonso “Nonso” Anozie means “God is with me,” and Oyelowo means “a king deserves respect.”

In honoring Oyelowo as breakthrough performer of the year at the 2105 Palm Springs Film Festival, Brad Pitt even led a song to teach people how to pronounced the actor’s name.

Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje“Every day from when I first (began working), even in fashion, I was asked to change my name. Many, many times,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Oz, Lost, Suicide Squad), who started out as a model in the European fashion industry before becoming an actor. “I fought for my name because it is who I am. I was very intent on not changing my name. As a child in school, even my teachers (in England) tried to changed my name to Robert, but it didn’t feel right. It’s not me. I had to fight for it. Your ancestors and your parents name you based on the constellations and the legacy of that lineage, and I learned early on that every time someone calls you that name, it re-affirms who you are. My name describes my purpose in life.”

Anozie (Zoo, Game of Thrones, Cinderella) said that people in drama school said he should change his name to Zach Power. “There is a certain pride to your African lineage,” he said. “Even though when you are young and people make fun of you at school, I still feel blessed every time I hear my name.”

Another commonality among actors of Nigerian descent, they say, is the premium that is placed on education for a higher purpose, and children are pressured to go into a profession that is highly regarded. When Oyelowo said he wanted to become an actor, his parents “were mortified. Acting is not a ‘proper job.’ Nigerians value education very highly, and Nigerian parents value being able to brag about their highly educated children even more. Saying you have a struggling actor for a child carries no weight in Nigerian society.” He said that changed when his father saw him play King Henry VI at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. “To hear my dad leaning into a statement like ‘My son is the King of England!’ was something to behold.”

Akinnuoye-Agbaje had a similar experience: “As the only son, my father wanted me to take over his business (as a lawyer). To think of acting as a way to make a living was sacrilege.” So, in order to make his parents happy, he pursued his education and achieved both a Bachelors and a Master degree in law before following what he felt was his true vocation. His parents are part of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and part of a wave of immigrants that moved to England through a government program, but they didn’t meet until they were in Europe. Then they married and had five children. Akinnuoye-Agbaje was put into foster care because that it how it was done in England as both of his parents worked. His foster family actually took care of more than 50 Nigerian children. So he had two sets of parents — one black and one white — but for him it was a fight for survival. People would spit on him and unleash dogs on him as he tried to get to school through the mainly white neighborhood. It was a very tough upbringing.

While studying law, he had a part-time job selling menswear in a retail store when a photographer approached him. Eventually, Akinnuoye-Agbaje fought his way into becoming one of first black fashion models (the first on the cover of Sportwear International). And then, to pursue his passion for acting, he followed a girlfriend to the United States.

CongoHis first role was in the 1995 film Congo, and while doing that film, actor Tim Curry approached him and said he believed he had a big future in this profession and introduced him to a British agent. He went onto work in several films because he could do an African accent — some of his biggest breakout characters were African on such projects as The Bourne Identity and Lost. But it wasn’t until HBO’s Oz that Hollywood sat up and really took notice of him. And, at the end of the day, his success ended up actually bolstering his father’s legal practice because it brought him clients who big fans of his son’s show.

“I was the really the first Nigerian actor to come into Hollywood, cut down the bush and break through,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje. “Acting is no longer foreign to our culture, and to see Nigerians getting an opportunity to express themselves on the grandest stage is heartwarming. And particularly because our parents’ generation disregarded this profession as something credible. Now we have made it a credible entity. As more people hear our names and it’s not a novelty, it will become part of the fabric and fuse with who we have always been, which is African storytellers.”

These actors also are becoming strong role models for a new generation. Many started in Britain before making their way to the U.S. Oyelowo was born in the U.K., as were Ejiofor, Anozie and Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Some began in theater, including Oyelowo, was in the Royal Shakespeare Company for three years before doing the TV show Spooks/MI5.

Says young actor John Boyega (the lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens), the success of Oyelowo working in projects, including some that pay homage to his Nigerian lineage, has been his inspiration. Boyega was also born in England to parents of Nigerian descent and followed the same path as Oyelowo from stage to Hollywood. “Seeing an actor like that, who I can relate to on a personal level, is one of the things that pushes me and my generation forward against the inevitable challenges of this business,” said Boyega.

Anozie had his own challenges on the path to success. Like Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Anozie also grew up in a rough part of London, started acting in the Talawa Theater Company (“Talawa” means “strength”). “It was a black-led theater company,” said Anozie, who still loves the stage. “For me, the biggest influencer on me was Kenneth Branagh. I did a play with him at the National Theater, and he just came from the start of positivity every day and led from the front.” The two actors would end up working together many times; Branagh even directed him in Cinderella.

Anozie ended up at the Royal Shakespeare Company as well, after being plucked out by a scout as one of 16 actors to play major roles and not just spear carriers — a move that followed a local newspaper article noted the lack of diversity. Because of his talent, he became the youngest person in British history to play King Lear. He was only 23, which bested Sir John Gielgud, who was 26. “It was a major deal for my life. I am a 6-foot-6-inch-tall black man. I remember early on when I told friends that I wanted to be an actor and one of them was my Asian career adviser (in school). He looked at me and said, ‘It’s hard enough, but being a tall, young black man is going to be super difficult.’ I looked at it as a challenge.” Anozie said he just knew from a young age that he was going to be an actor.

othelloHis King Lear role led to a world tour of his play, Othello. After an exhausting year of traveling, he found representation in the States and set his sights on doing film and TV. He got his big break with the 2007 film The Last Legion, which starred Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley (who he has worked with three times now). He had his first screen test, however, in 2005 with the Barbershop TV series, but that role went to Akinnagbe.

Akinnagbe also started out on the stage, but it was a major life event that pushed him into it. He had been working in the congressional affairs department of a federal organization in Washington, D.C. (Corp. for National Service), and he became curious about acting and starting going to auditions for plays. He went to one audition, came back to his work cubicle, received a phone call and was offered the role. The next phone call he received would change his life: It was from his uncle, who told Akinnagbe that his father had just died. “I resigned my job after that,” he said. “During the day, I figured out funeral arrangements, and at night I did rehearsals.” He decided that life was too short not to follow his dream.

Eventually, he ended up as a background player on The Wire, and slowly that changed from a recurring character to a regular. In between, he continued doing stage plays and then landed in the indie film Savages.

“Being a member of the Nigerian acting community, I’m not surprised there are so many of us now because there is a stick-to-it-iveness,” says Akinnagbe “There is a multi-tasking drive to achieve.”

Kenneth BranaghBut where did they find role models? For Anozie, it was a teacher named Lord Eric, who would read African stories to him and other children. Through him, Anozie became to realize that “this black man was a reflection of me.” Later, it was Spike Lee and his films. He also learned from other actors like Branagh and Nigel Lindsay about how they led and affected the cast in such a positive manner; because of them and how he learned to communicate with actors, Anozie now is interested in directing and producing. “My goal is to put something into the world that will change people’s lives.”

For, Oyelowo he identified strongly with a legendary actor. “Sidney Poitier has always been a North Star for me,” he said. “He remains my acting hero and inspiration.” Oyelowo, though he was born in the U.K., lived in Lagos from ages 6-13 — a country where  he was not considered a minority. Because he was there during his formative years, that fact greatly impacted his life.

sidney poitier afi“To live in a society where every opportunity or offer is genuinely at your disposal does something incredible to your self-worth,” Oyelowo said. “By the time I returned to the U.K. and subsequently America, where I’m a minority and opportunities require more of a fight, my self-worth and notions of what I could achieve had already been baked into my psyche. I call it the ‘Sidney Poitier syndrome.’ I truly believe Mr. Poitier achieved what he did despite the racially turbulent times. He did it in because he grew up in the Bahamas, where his self worth hadn’t been daily pummeled by racial obstacles. Nigeria gave me the same thing. Nigerians are proud, kingly people. I wear that heritage unashamedly.”

Akinnagbe feels so strongly connected to Nigeria, that three years ago, he got a Nigerian driver’s license and passport. “I want to be there more. It’s very easy to lose your culture within one generation, and I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I love that people are keeping their names. A lot of the black actresses I know who want to get further, feel that they have to wear wigs and perm their hair. We have learned that long flowing hair like the Europeans is beauty. There is a question of what is pretty and beautiful. Natural hair is beautiful. If they don’t change that (thinking), Hollywood won’t either. We can’t wait for Hollywood to change the image, we have to change the image and make our own stories.”

David Oyelowo in SelmaOyelowo also noted that there has been a lot of resistance in Hollywood to actors of color being the hero or protagonist. “I’ve largely fought this battle by being a producer and developing my own projects. Thankfully, some of those projects have done well enough to force the issue that I can carry a story,” said the actor who spent seven years preparing for his role as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. “For an industry built on fear, you have to accept that half your job as an actor is to put people’s fears to rest so that your opportunities grow in conjunction with their confidence in you. I’m in the midst of that journey right now. I once asked Tom Cruise the secret to his success. He said, ‘Create, create, create … wait for no one. Create your own work.’ If it worked for Tom …”

Akinnagbe did just that, helping to produce and also starring in Ben Bowman’s comedy-drama Knucklehead, about a man who is developmentally disabled and tries to cure himself. The film bowed at Dances With Films last year. Akinnuoye-Agbaje also is putting together a project about his family and what they all went through coming out of Nigeria into the U.K.

The actors interviewed for this story said they felt a strong spiritual connection to Nigeria. “I’m always a Nigerian first,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who is the lead in the upcoming Michael Shamberg film Wetlands. “I’m British as well and also American because I’ve spent more time here. I consider myself a global citizen. I love my country and my culture, and it’s very important for me to represent that.”

Added Anozie, who is getting married to a Nigerian woman and will have traditional ceremony in their country of origin: “Culturally, I definitely feel like if you grow up with Nigerian parents, you hold on to the culture. There is something about Nigeria. It’s like no where else in the world. The people and country were produced through diversity — there are extremes in Nigeria, and it’s going to produce very gifted people. I think that is what it does. The culture hasn’t been taken away. Instead, it’s something to wear as a badge.”

Source: Yahoo.com

 

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The Fastest Way To Pay Off $10,000 In Credit Card Debt

What's the best way to pay down a credit card balance as quickly as possible, while paying the least in interest, and without hurting your credit? What follows is a powerful method recommended by the most astute personal finance experts* to achieve exactly those objectives. It's extremely effective, completely legal, and leverages programs created by credit card issuers to your advantage. Follow these steps and start to become credit card debt-free.

Step 1: Use A Powerful Tool To Immediately Stop Paying Interest On Your Balance

Think of someone carrying a credit card balance like a patient who enters an emergency room bleeding badly. The first thing a doctor will do is stop the bleeding. It's no different when attacking a credit card balance; the first thing you do is stop the interest charges.

There's a simple way to do this, and it's brilliance is that it actually uses the banks' marketing offers to your advantage: find a card offering a long "0% intro APR balance transfer" promotional offer, and transfer your balance to it. These are cards which offer new customers a long period of time (often as much as 18 months) during which the card charges no interest on all balances transferred to it. We constantly track all the cards in the marketplace in order to find the ones currently offering the longest 0% intro periods.

If you need more motivation, just think of this: on a $10,000 balance, $150 of a $200 monthly payment would get vacuumed up by interest charges.** That leaves only $50 of your $200 that actually reduces your balance, the rest vanishing into bank pockets. That's just brutal. Use our reviews to find a card which offers the longest possible no-interest period while charging low, or even no fees. Moving your balances to the card you choose will stop the bleeding, allowing you to move on to step two.

Step 2: Power Through Your Balance During The 0% Period.

Once you've transferred your balances and put a stop to the interest charges, it's time to capitalize on the interest-free period to really break free of the debt. The best part of this is how simple it is: just keep making the payments you used to make when you had to pay big interest payments. Going back to the $10,000 example above, if you transferred that balance onto a card like the Chase Slate (which offers 15 months of 0% intro APR with no transfer fee) and maintained the same $200 monthly payment, you can see how much faster you'll be reducing your balance in the chart below.

As you can see, without using the 0% card, the same $200 monthly payments barely make any headway. It's like swimming upstream, or walking while taking a step back for every two steps forward. That's no way to swim or walk, and attempting to pay off your cards while paying high card interest rates is no way to manage your finances. Move your balances onto one of the cards below, stop getting crushed by interest, and start making real progress toward getting rid of your card debt.

 

Top 0% Intro APR Balance Transfer Cards:

The No Transfer-Fee Card

The Chase Slate® is tied as our highest-rated balance transfer card, and for good reason. It charges no fee for transferring your balance to it in the first two months, no annual fee, and no interest on balances transferred for a full 15-month 0% intro APR period. This makes it a phenomenal tool to gain control of your credit card debt, as you can make a costless balance transfer, then use the 15-month interest grace period to pay down your balance.

The Verdict: If you don't need the entire 18 months offered by the BankAmericard, this can be efficient since it doesn't have a balance transfer fee. No transfer fee and no annual fee, combined with the 0% intro APR means that this is really free money for the 15 month term, no catches.

Most Appropriate For: Those who want a no-fee way to stop paying interest, and possibly pay off the cards during that breather. Those with good rather than excellent credit.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month would be better served getting a card paying high rewards.

Recommended credit:  Just Good. The Chase card has the most lenient credit requirements of our top balance transfer cards.

More Details >


The Ultra-Long 0% Intro APR Card

The BankAmericard® Credit Card is tied as our highest rated balance transfer card, featuring an unbelievable 18 billing cycles (months) 0% APR intro period. This means that if you were to roll your balance over onto the card today, you wouldn't have to pay interest until well into 2018. The card does charge a 3% balance transfer fee*, but if you’re looking to avoid paying any interest on your credit card balances for as long as possible, the BankAmericard could be your card.

The Verdict: Getting a loan this cheaply for this long is pretty amazing. If you're carrying a balance, and realistically you know you will have to carry that balance for a while, this card becomes a no-brainer. As an example, assume you have a $10,000 balance on your current cards at a 18% rate. Over the 18 billing cycle (month) term, you would have paid $3,098 in interest.* Switching to this card would cost $300 in fees, but then nothing the rest of the way, for a net savings of $2,798. Not bad, you could do a lot with that extra cash.

Most Appropriate For: Those who have large balances and want as much interest-free time as possible to pay the principle down.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month or every few months.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

More Details >


The Cards With Long 0% Intro APR AND Cash Rewards Programs.

Pros: Chase's new Freedom Unlimited card is essentially an improved version of the old Freedom. They bumped the base cash back rate all the way up to an industry leading 1.5%, and pay that full 1.5% on all spend, with no limit or spend category restrictions. Unlike most other high paying cash back cards, you don't have to worry about categories or have to activate anything. You'll receive the full 1.5% back as you make your spend, on all spend, automatically. In addition, Chase  is temporarily offering a cash bonus to new card-members. If you charge $500 on it in the first 3 months, you'll earn a $150 cash bonus. Finally, Chase is also offering new card-members 15 months of 0% interest for the first 15 months of using the card to make new purchases. So during that period, you can use the card without paying any interest on balances you tally, while still earning cash back. The card requires good, not excellent credit, making it easier to get in.

Cons: Charges a 5% balance transfer fee. This is on the high side, so we recommend looking at the Slate or BankAmericard if your goal is to transfer a balance. The Freedom Unlimited should be viewed as a cash back card.

The Verdict: One of the strongest cards available to those with good (but not perfect) credit. The card combines industry leading cash back rates (1.5% on everything) with a strong 15 months of 0% interest on new purchases combined with a $150 cash bonus when you use the card to make $500 in spend in the first 3 months.

Most Appropriate For: Those with good credit seeking a daily-use card offering great cash back rewards and 0% intro APR. Best for new charges.

Least Appropriate For: Balance transfers, as it charges the 5% fee while offering no more free term than the Slate (which has no transfer fee).

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

More Details >

Pros: Capital One's Quicksilver card makes things simple: you earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, with no limit and no category restrictions or games. We included the card in our balance transfer list because it offers 0% intro APRuntil February 2017 on all balances transferred.

Cons: Does charge a 3% balance transfer fee. Requires good credit to get in.

The Verdict: If you're looking to transfer a balance and make some purchases, you can use this card to avoid paying interest during the intro period AND earn cash rewards.

Most Appropriate For: Anyone who might make some large purchases in the near future, or regularly charges a lot on their cards. Making the charges on the Quicksilver  would earn cash back but not require any interest during the intro period.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent.

Source:E news online.com

 

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Goran Dragic's drives deliver Heat Game 6 victory over Raptors

MIAMI -- Point guard Goran Dragic was in attack mode early and often Friday night, and he carried the Miami Heat into another do-or-die Game 7 as a result.

Dragic penetrated to the basket with ease, finishing with a playoff career-high 30 points, and the Heat survived elimination, beating the Toronto Raptors 103-91 in Game 6 at American Airlines Arena.

The Eastern Conference second-round series is now tied, 3-3. Game 7 is in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

"I was just aggressive," said Dragic, whose plus-minus was a game-high plus-25 in 38 minutes. "I didn't want to go home to Europe. I still want to be here. It was an important game for us, and of course we came out from the first minute with aggressiveness, tried to attack the paint and space the floor, and I think we did an amazing job tonight."

Dragic came into Game 6 having an up-and-down playoffs in which he was averaging 15.4 points on 43.5 percent shooting.

The difference in Friday night's 30-point, 12-for-21 performance was his ability to get downhill and drive to the rim.

After averaging 6.6 points as a team on Dragic's 9.6 drives to the rim in Games 1-5 of the series, the Heat exploded for 26 points on Dragic's postseason-high 21 drives to the rim in Game 6, according to ESPN Stats & Info research.

It was tied for the second-most points created by a team off a player's drives in the playoffs, next to Boston's 28 points created off of point guard Isaiah Thomas' drives against Atlanta on April 24.

"What [Goran] shows is great emotional stability," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Tonight was his night, and he was aggressive. The only person that feels worse than him when he doesn't look like Goran is his head coach, because usually it's foul trouble or me that's the reason he can't look like himself. But he looked like himself tonight and it came at the right time."

Spoelstra pulled out all the stops in Game 6, using a small starting lineup that included rookie Justise Winslow and no player taller than 6-foot-9. Spoelstra later inserted a lineup that featured three guards, with Dragic, Tyler Johnson and rookie Josh Richardson.

The goal in trying to overcome the absence of 7-footer Hassan Whiteside was to provide Dragic and franchise player Dwyane Wade (22 points) with quality floor spacing and lanes to attack the basket. Meanwhile, the Raptors won the rebounding battle 43-41.

"Sometimes unconventional works," Wade said.

Toronto's All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry (36) and DeMar DeRozan (23) combined for 59 points for a second consecutive game, but this time, they received little help from their supporting cast. Plus, their perimeter defense allowed far too much penetration.

Simply put, the Raptors can't handle prosperity. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, they are 0-7 when leading a playoff series.

Both teams played a first-round series that went seven games. So of course, this one will, too.

The Heat have won four straight Game 7s, and the Raptors are 5-0 after losses this postseason.

Something has to give.

"It's different than a normal game," Wade said of Game 7. "It's not a Game 1, where you have a Game 2 the next day. You have to give a little more. You have to do a little more. You have to give everything you have. There's no tomorrow."

For the Heat, tomorrow exists because Dragic, for all his highs and lows, played like the best player on the floor.

"It's great. It's awesome. Even when you have a bad game, you want to be in this position because last time I played in the playoffs was six years ago and it's awesome for me," Dragic said. "I enjoy the competitiveness, I enjoy every game. You know sometimes you're going to have bad games and sometimes you're going to have good games, but I always try to look at the positive and try to respond. Nobody said it's going to be easy, and I'll be going to Toronto for the seventh game."

As Wade joined Dragic at the podium for their postgame news conference, the pair exchanged friendly shoulder nudges.

"I knew this guy to my left was going to have an amazing performance tonight," Wade said of Dragic. "You could just tell he was on the brink of having one, and it was a great game to get."

Source: ESPN.com

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Alexander Povetkin tests positive for meldonium; fight vs. Deontay Wilder in question

Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin has tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, putting his mandatory shot at world titleholder Deontay Wilder in jeopardy.

Russia's Povetkin, who is supposed to challenge Wilder in a much-anticipated bout on May 21 at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, tested positive for the substance in a urine test conducted by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on April 27, according to the agency's report, which was issued Friday and first obtained by ESPN.com.

VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman sent a letter Friday informing both camps as well as the WBC, whose title Wilder holds, of the positive test.

"This letter is to advise you that the 'A' sample urine specimen number 3969608 collected from Alexander Povetkin on April 27, 2016 in Chekhov, Russia through his participation in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) program has been analyzed for anabolic agents, diuretics, beta-2 agonists, stimulants and drugs of abuse," Goodman wrote. "The results of the analysis are as follows: Adverse. Urine specimen contains meldonium."

The report also included a copy of the laboratory report.

"Mr. Povetkin has the right to promptly request analysis of the 'B' sample at his expense," Goodman wrote. "Please be aware that VADA does not adjudicate results nor determine whether sanctions are appropriate. As with all results, adverse findings are reported to the relevant commission(s) who may make such determinations."

Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, who has tested positive for meldonium, is scheduled to fight Deontay Wilder on May 21 at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow. Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images

Meldonium, the same drug for which tennis star Maria Sharapova recently tested positive, was approved to be added to the banned substance list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in September and the ban went into effect Jan. 1. Meldonium is used because it is said to increase blood flow and allow more oxygen to be carried to the muscles and, therefore, enhance stamina, a trait boxers would want in a long fight.

Povetkin's levels were said to be very low, but it remains to be seen if the fight will be canceled.

"Traces of extremely low concentration of meldonium have been found in his blood. He consumed it in September last year," Povetkin promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing said, according to the Russian TASS news agency. "He has not taken it since Jan. 1. The situation is ambiguous. The blood sample was taken in April this year. We have been in contact with the World Boxing Council, which is to decide if Povetkin's boxing bout against Deontay Wilder will take place or not."

Promoter Lou DiBella, representing Wilder, told ESPN that he and the Wilder team were still gathering information on the situation.

"We literally have received this in the last hour and have not even had a chance to discuss this with our team," DiBella said. "We're in the process of doing this right now. But it's extremely upsetting and disappointing and while I am angry, I am certainly not shocked. We'll make a more detailed statement and figure things out when we discuss this among ourselves and with the WBC. We haven't had enough time to digest this. We'll have more to say later."

The fight nearly fell apart because of Ryabinsky insisted on delaying the beginning of the drug testing protocol. DiBella groused about it and threatened to pull Wilder out of the fight if testing did not begin. It only began when the WBC guaranteed that VADA would be paid for the testing.

So instead of beginning about 10 weeks before the fight, which was what was agreed to, testing began about seven weeks ahead of the fight.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman issued a statement after learning of Povetkin's positive test.

"The WBC's priority is and will always be safety, fair play and justice," Sulaiman said. "In order to continue to strive for the absolute safety of the boxers and for a just and fair outcome for all parties involved, the WBC is conducting an in-depth investigation of this matter. The WBC will make a public announcement in the very near future concerning the results of its investigation and any appropriate steps that it will take."

Earlier this week on a media teleconference to discuss the fight, DiBella was asked about the testing.

"Deontay's always said, a million times, he's never been hesitant to get involved in testing," DiBella said. "And we wanted testing to begin, frankly, before it did. But it began with what we believe is plenty of time to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. There's been already a number of random tests of both athletes that have turned out negative. So we're not concerned about that as an issue. And the testing is being done by VADA and they've been very buttoned up and everything's been handled appropriately.

"In a perfect world, we might have liked it to start a little bit earlier, but that's not an issue. ... It's in the hands of VADA, and we're very comfortable with it in the hands of VADA."

VADA has tested for several major fights and caught several fighters doping. Most recently, heavyweight titlist Lucas Browne tested positive for clenbuterol after his 10th-round knockout win to claim a secondary world title against Ruslan Chagaev on March 5 in Grozny, Russia. Browne's A and B samples were both positive, and on Thursday he was stripped of the title, suspended and had the result changed to a no contest. The title was returned to Chagaev.

Wilder-Povetkin is one of the most significant fights in the division because many view Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), 36 -- a 2004 Russian Olympic gold medalist and former secondary titleholder -- as by far the toughest test of Wilder's career, especially with the fight taking place in Moscow.

 

Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), 30 -- a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has made three title defenses -- was expected to face Povetkin on May 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but when the camps could not make a deal, the fight was put up for a purse bid, which Ryabinsky won with an offer of $7.15 million. That beat DiBella's offer of $5.1 million.

If the fight is canceled, it will cost Wilder the biggest purse of his career. Under the purse bid, he is due $4,504,500 to Povetkin's $1,930,500. Ten percent of the winning bid, $715,000, is supposed to go into escrow and go to the winner of the fight.

Wilder, who is in Europe already trying to acclimate to the time change before he is scheduled to go to Russia this weekend, expressed enthusiasm about going to Russia earlier this week on the media conference call.

"I'm going to tell you right now I am super-excited about going to Moscow, Russia, defending my title," Wilder said. "You know it seems like every time I turn around -- when I have the big stage and the cameras -- it's always a moment for me. And this moment right here's putting me down in history as the first American ever to defend his title in Russia. And I'm looking to do it in great fashion and to represent my country."

That is, of course, is the fight doesn't get canceled.

Source: SportsCenter.com

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Larry Fitzgerald fulfills promise to mom by graduating from college

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald added another honor to his already prolific resume on Saturday.

College graduate.

The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver graduated Saturday from the University of Phoenix, majoring in communications and minoring in marketing. It was the end of an educational odyssey that has taken more than a decade since he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 2002.

“I’m glad I can finally shake the 15-year college student stigma,” Fitzgerald joked to ESPN.

Fitzgerald left Pitt after his sophomore season and was drafted third overall in 2004 by the Cardinals. While he put college on hold to pursue his NFL career, Fitzgerald never forgot the promise he made to his mother, Carol.

Before Carol died in 2003 from breast cancer, she told Larry: “Education is one thing nobody can ever take from you. I know you have a passion to play ball, but education is something you can carry for the rest of your life.”

Larry told his mother he would get his college degree and spent the past 13 years working toward it.

He worked on classes year-round, including during the season, and logged in around the world, he said, during his international trips that ranged from Ethiopia to Brazil.

“I wanted to make sure I was doing what I promised her I’d do,” Fitzgerald said.

He chose communications and marketing because Fitzgerald believes they give him a foundation for a wide range of potential careers -- including joining the media.

“They’re skills I think are essential for life,” he said.

While the Hall of Fame is still a handful of years away, Fitzgerald joined another elite club by graduating on Saturday.

“I was the only one in my family who hadn’t graduated,” Fitzgerald said. “So now, finally being able to graduate, I’m part of the family now, for real.”

Source: SportsCenter.com

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U.S. official: ISIS declares state of emergency in self-declared capital

(CNN)U.S. military officials are closely watching social media and news reports that say ISIS believes it may soon come under siege in Raqqa, Syria, its self-declared capital.

"We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqa, whatever that means," Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters Friday. "We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should."
 
Media reports have indicated that ISIS is moving personnel around the city and trying to put up covers in certain areas to shield potential targets from airstrikes and ground attacks.
 
"They see the Syrian Democratic Forces, along with the Syrian Arab Coalition, maneuver both to their east and to their west," Warren said. "Both of these areas becoming increasingly secure, and the Syrian Democratic Forces increasingly able to generate their own combat power in those areas."The coalition believes ISIS is now responding to those maneuvers.
"We've had reports of ISIL repositioning both their combat capabilities, I guess what they think may be coming next," Warren said, using another name for ISIS. "And we've seen reports of them repositioning personnel ... either within the city or even out of the city."
 
U.S. military also note the movement of fighters who have been well dug in throughout Raqqa could give overhead surveillance aircraft an improved chance of finding and targeting them.
And while the U.S. has not officially said it believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi still remains in or around Raqqa, several officials say that has continued to be a working assumption. However, they are monitoring any potential intelligence that he could be in other locations as well.
"Baghdadi remains extremely careful" about his personal security, one U.S. defense official told CNN.
 
The U.S. will continue to try to find him, the official said. But even if he is located and captured or killed, the U.S. assessment is that it would not immediately change the scope and capability of ISIS operations, because there are other leaders ready to step in.
 
Source: CNN.com
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A Split Over Israel Threatens the Democrats’ Hopes for Unity

A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.

Two of the senator’s appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government. They said they would try to get their views incorporated into the platform, the party’s statement of core beliefs, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

“Justice for Palestinians cannot be attained without the lifting of the occupation,” Dr. West, one of Mr. Sanders’s five representatives on the platform committee, said in an interview. Dr. West said that while he recognized the necessity to provide for the security of Jews, who for thousands of years have been a “hated people,” he thought that the platform needed to bring more balance to “the plight of an occupied people.”

The presence of Dr. Zogby and Dr. West on the 15-member panel, which also has six appointees of Hillary Clinton and four from the party chairwoman, does not guarantee their views will prevail. But it raises the prospect that one of the party’s most sensitive issues will be open to public debate while Mrs. Clinton is in a fight to unify her party and appeal to voters turned off by Donald J. Trump.

It also laid bare a steady shift in the Democratic Party, whose members have been less willing to back Israel’s government than in years past. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, self-described liberal Democrats were twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israel than they were only two years ago. Forty percent of liberals sympathized more with Palestinians, the most since 2001, while 33 percent sympathized more with Israel.

Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, has himself criticized Israel’s military posture in the Palestinian territories, saying, among other things, that it used disproportionate force in responding to rockets launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2014.

“I have always and will always be 100 percent supportive of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace and security,” Mr. Sanders wrote in a statement. “I also believe that lasting peace in the region will not occur without fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people. I believe that most Democrats agree with that position and that a strong consensus will be achieved at the Democratic National Convention.”

In the interview on Wednesday, Dr. West, a public intellectual who is well known for his provocative statements — he once called President Obama a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface” — went further than Mr. Sanders has gone. Dr. West accused the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of “war crimes” and said that “the role of money and lobbies makes it difficult for there to be a candid dialogue” on Israel.

Dr. Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, a veteran of Democratic politics and a longtime advocate of the rights of Palestinians, framed the drafting committee’s work as a healthy consensus-seeking mission. But it is one in which he depicted Mr. Sanders as having the leverage.

“Any honest assessment would say that the debate on this issue has shifted over the last 30 years and the platform has reflected that but lagged slightly behind, and it’s now time to catch up,” he said in an interview. “Clearly most Democrats agree. But we will see what happens.”

As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton has been less inclined to criticize Israel, emphasizing that it had a right to defend itself. In a statement on Wednesday, Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser, indicated that her appointees to the platform committee would resist Mr. Sanders’s attempt to shift the center of gravity on the Israel debate.

“Hillary Clinton’s views on Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are well documented, and she’s confident that her delegates will work to ensure that the party platform reflects them,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The reaction was less reserved among those who champion a more traditional and full-throated support for Israel. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he found the inclusion of Dr. West on the committee “disturbing.” He said that the presence of other representatives of Mr. Sanders on the platform committee, including Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Muslim who has supported the rights of Palestinians, raised concerns that the party could “adopt positions that could be seen as hostile to Israel.”

“For us, the concern is that it legitimizes and potentially puts into a major party platform” a point of view “that undermines the principles of the Israeli-U.S. relationship that have been bipartisan for decades,” Mr. Hoenlein said.

At the 2012 Democratic convention, delegates booed officials who reinstated in the party platform a recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a view at odds with the United States’ official position that the city’s status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

“My concern is that the Democratic platform is not the venue in which to litigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Robert Wexler, a former congressman from Florida and Clinton supporter who served on the platform drafting committee that year.

The episode, which was televised, was an embarrassing and revealing moment that showed the growing rift in the party over Israel. Since then, some Jewish Democratic leaders have warned that a growing willingness to criticize Israel from within the party could pose a danger to its security in perilous times, and could chase Jewish voters away.

Dr. Zogby dismissed such critiques as emanating from the “sky is falling” crowd. He then noted, “They are not on the platform committee.”

Source: NY Times

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Last Liberia Sanctions, Vestige of Civil War, Are Lifted

UNITED NATIONS — More than a decade after the end of Liberia’s last civil war, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to lift the remaining sanctions against the West African country, enabling it buy arms on the global market and ushering in a new era of normalcy for a long-brutalized land.

A resolution to rescind the remaining sanctions ended a gradual easing of restrictions on Liberia. The Security Council acted late last year to lift travel bans and asset freezes against several individuals and entities. The Council had earlier lifted the ban on Liberian timber and diamonds.

Liberian warlords had traded in the country’s natural resources for years, turning a land of abundance into one of the worst killing fields of West Africa.

The Council vote was in many ways a vote of confidence in Liberia’s ability to maintain peace. The war ended after Charles G. Taylor, Liberia’s warlord-turned-president, stepped down and left the country in 2003. He was convicted by an international court for war crimes in connection with his role in the conflict in Sierra Leone, Liberia’s neighbor.

The United States, which had pushed for the original array of sanctions against Liberia, used the Wednesday vote as an occasion to argue the case for sanctions as an effective tool — and to say that sanctions need not last forever.

“Just as we must never hesitate to strengthen sanctions and their enforcement if necessary to address threats to international peace and security, we must move expeditiously to wind down and end sanctions when they are no longer serving the purpose or when they have achieved what was sought,” David Pressman, the American alternate representative to the United Nations, said.

Even as the Council voted to end sanctions, two prominent Liberian politicians, including the speaker of the House of Representatives, were accused in a bribery scheme that involved changing a mining law in favor of a British firm interested in an iron ore concession.

Source: NY Times

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Volkswagen Challenges U.S. Jurisdiction in Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen is challenging allegations made by the Justice Department over its diesel emissions scandal, questioning the American authorities’ jurisdiction and contending that the accusations against it do not justify penalties.

The Justice Department sued Volkswagen in January, saying that the company had installed illegal devices in nearly 600,000 vehicles sold in the United States that impaired emissions controls, increasing harmful air pollution. Volkswagen admitted in September that it had installed software to cheat on emissions tests in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

But in a response to the Justice Department, filed Tuesday in San Francisco, the German automaker appeared to back away from its mea culpa, saying that the facts of the case remained unclear and that it was still conducting an internal investigation.

It also challenged the court’s jurisdiction over Volkswagen, and over its subsidiary Audi, saying that cars in the United States were sold through local businesses and not the parent companies. It said that the statute of limitations voided any conduct at Volkswagen before 2010.

Over all, the Justice Department “fails to allege facts sufficient” for any penalties, Volkswagen lawyers said. But the carmaker described the filing as part of the legal process, and said it “has no bearing on Volkswagen’s commitment to resolving the U.S. government’s claims.”

The German automaker’s stance contrasts with that taken by General Motors over its failure to disclose a deadly ignition-switch defect. The Justice Department levied a smaller-than-expected $900 million penalty a year and a half after the defect was revealed, citing the automaker’s cooperation, and held off from bringing criminal charges.

Prosecutors have also stopped short of criminal charges against Volkswagen, though the Justice Department has said that the civil suit did not preclude future action, including against specific executives. Prosecutors have said Volkswagen “impeded and obstructed” regulators’ inquiries and provided “misleading information.”

Justice Department officials declined to immediately comment on Volkswagen’s response.

On Tuesday, the federal district judge overseeing the case, Charles Breyer, said that the automaker had made “substantial progress” toward reaching a settlement next month with car owners and the government.

Judge Breyer also repeated that the settlement would include substantial compensation for owners of Volkswagen and Audi cars in the United States. Volkswagen has said it has set aside 7 billion euros, or about $8 billion, for legal costs worldwide, even though they could be higher.

Source: NY Times

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Salesforce to Use Amazon’s Cloud to Expand in Canada and Australia

Amazon Web Services, the biggest of the cloud-computing providers, has a new line of work: Taking other cloud-computing giants into other countries.

On Wednesday, Salesforce.com announced it would use A.W.S. to expand in Canada and Australia, in a deal valued at about $400 million. If successful, the value of the transaction will most likely get much bigger.

“For sure, we’re talking of billions of dollars in services over the next several years,” said Marc Benioff, the co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce.

Salesforce already uses A.W.S. for some of its businesses, but this is the first time its key applications will be on someone else’s computers.

Mr. Benioff said Salesforce had evaluated similar deals with Microsoft and Google, the other two giants in selling cloud-computing to corporations. So far, A.W.S. is still ahead on its range of offerings and low prices, he said. Salesforce will review the contract in one year, he added.

Cloud computing uses a massive density of computer servers and sophisticated software to rent data storage, computing and applications to companies. Besides those capabilities, the deal with A.W.S. enables Salesforce to get into new markets faster, since Salesforce doesn’t have to find facilities and recruit talent.

Amazon has also established itself in countries like China that have strict requirements about what data can be sent offshore. Meeting those regulations is difficult and time-consuming, and companies like Salesforce put a premium on getting into markets quickly.

While the deal could be a sign of larger trends in corporate computing, as businesses evaluate whether to keep their own computers or work with the big public clouds, for now it also has limits.

That spending will probably be limited to new countries where Salesforce expands, Mr. Benioff said. That may change, he added, as the three giants bring down prices and increase the services they offer.

“We have our own infrastructure in the U.S., Japan, the U.K., France and Germany,” Mr. Benioff said. “If you have critical mass, your own infrastructure is still cheaper.”

Mr. Benioff said that, down the line, A.W.S. may also become competitive purely on price, as their scale and engineering enables them to run big computing systems at a lower cost. “If Amazon, Microsoft and Google are smart, the price difference will change,” he said.

Adam Selipsky, vice president of marketing and sales for A.W.S., said the company was intent on getting its prices down enough to replace existing servers in established markets.

“Our prices relative to what they can build themselves – we’re already at a stage where it’s competitive,” he said. “We’re just at the starting point of enterprise adoption.”

Source: NY Times

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Swiss Open Criminal Proceedings Against BSI Over Malaysia Fund Allegations

GENEVA — The authorities in Switzerland said on Tuesday that they had begun criminal proceedings against one of the country’s oldest banks, BSI, after allegations that it had laundered huge sums for “politically exposed” individuals linked to a scandal-plagued Malaysian state investment fund.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement that it suspected “deficiencies in the internal organization of the BSI S.A. bank” and believed “that due to these deficiencies, the bank was unable to prevent the commission of offenses currently under investigation in the criminal proceedings relating to” the investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The prosecution arose from an investigation that Switzerland started last year into suspected misappropriation of billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund, also known as 1MDB, and that it has pursued in cooperation with the authorities in Luxembourg, Singapore and the United States.

The investigation has strained relations with Malaysia and embarrassed its prime minister, Najib Razak, who is fighting a scandal that has roiled Malaysian politics involving allegations that $681 million was paid into his bank accounts.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced separately on Tuesday that it was withdrawing the license of BSI’s Singapore branch “for serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations, and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff.”

The authority said it had considerable evidence of “gross dereliction” of duty by BSI management and had sent prosecutors the names of six senior managers to investigate whether they had committed criminal offenses.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said that it had started proceedings against BSI, the oldest bank in the Swiss canton of Ticino, as a result of its own investigations into transactions linked to 1MDB and on the basis of an investigation by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the financial market authority said that “through business relationships and transactions linked to the corruption scandals surrounding the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB,” BSI had “committed serious breaches of money laundering regulations.”

The authority said that it had ordered BSI to hand over to the Swiss government profits amounting to 95 million Swiss francs, or about $96 million, and had started legal proceedings against two of the bank’s former top managers.

On Tuesday, it also approved the takeover of BSI by a Zurich-based private bank, EFG International, under an agreement reached in February between EFG and BSI’s Brazilian owner, BTG Pactual. The authority said it had approved the deal on the conditions that BSI be completely integrated into EFG and dissolved within 12 months and that none of BSI’s top management associated with its misconduct take leadership positions in EFG.

EFG said in a statement that it believed Tuesday’s developments would “draw a line” ending regulatory uncertainty in Switzerland and Singapore for clients, employees, investors and other stakeholders.

The financial market authority said it had investigated 20 other Swiss banks and had started legal proceedings against six of them over transactions linked to either 1MDB or the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, which has also been a subject of investigation by the Swiss authorities. BSI’s misconduct in its dealings with 1MDB “was particularly serious,” it said.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in January that it suspected $4 billion earmarked for development projects in Malaysia had been misappropriated from 1MDB, citing cases involving companies in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, and a United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund, “each involving a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures.”

In its business with 1MDB, the Swiss financial market authority said, BSI handled transactions for several foreign sovereign wealth funds amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars without adequately clarifying the money’s origins and helped to set up intermediate structures for handling the funds intended to increase the confidentiality of the transactions.

The sovereign wealth funds had constituted BSI’s most profitable group of clients, the financial market authority said, and generated fees that were above market rates. BSI’s senior management “did not question why the sovereign wealth funds should use a private bank to provide institutional services and pay excessive out-of-market fees for doing so,” the authority said.

It said the Swiss bank had also failed to apply adequate risk management procedures to business relationships “with politically exposed persons, the origin of whose assets was not sufficiently clarified and whose dubious transactions involving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars were not satisfactorily scrutinized.”

BSI had “happily accepted” the explanation that one deposit of $20 million was a “gift,” the market authority said, and in another instance it allowed $98 million to be paid into an account with no attempt to identify the commercial basis for the transaction.

“In many cases, there were clear indications of pass-through transactions,” the authority said, citing a case in which a payment of $20 million was shifted through several accounts on the same day before being transferred to another bank. Such transactions were often a clear indication of money laundering, but the bank failed to carry out any checks, the authority said.

The authority’s statement added that, despite its warnings to BSI about the risks in its dealings with clients linked to 1MDB, the bank’s board of directors and executive board had determined to continue these client relationships.

Source: NY Times

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Peter Thiel, Tech Billionaire, Reveals Secret War With Gawker

A billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur was outed as being gay by a media organization. His friends suffered at the hands of the same gossip site. Nearly a decade later, the entrepreneur secretly financed a lawsuit to try to put the media company out of business.

That is the back story to a legal case that had already grabbed headlines: The wrestler Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for invasion of privacy after it published a sex tape, and a Florida jury recently awarded the wrestler, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, $140 million.

What the jury — and the public — did not know was that Mr. Bollea had a secret benefactor paying about $10 million for the lawsuit: Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook.

A 2007 article published by Gawker’s Valleywag blog was headlined, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” drove Mr. Thiel to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. He funded a team of lawyers to find and help “victims” of the company’s coverage mount cases against Gawker.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said on Wednesday in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Mr. Thiel said that Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.” He said, “I thought it was worth fighting back.”

Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

Mr. Thiel said that he had decided several years ago to set his plan in motion. “I didn’t really want to do anything,” he said. “I thought it would do more harm to me than good. One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.”

Mr. Thiel has donated money to the Committee to Protect Journalists and has often talked about protecting freedom of speech. He said he did not believe his actions were contradictory. “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”

He continued, “It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.” Mr. Thiel said he had not targeted any other media companies.

But the revelation this week that Mr. Thiel was covertly backing Mr. Bollea’s case as well as others has raised a series of new questions about the First Amendment as well as about the role of big money in the court system — specifically the emerging field of litigation finance, in which third parties like hedge funds and investment firms pay for other people’s lawsuits.

Roy D. Simon, a professor emeritus of legal ethics at Hofstra University School of Law, suggested that the practice has helped “level the playing field” by providing resources for people to mount cases against big institutions that would be impossible otherwise.

But he said there was a risk when a lawsuit was funded by a single person with a potential agenda. “I am troubled by Thiel,” Professor Simon said. “I guess that one guy is much more likely to have an agenda driven by revenge or personal dislike or wanting to prove a point.”

But other legal experts said that the mere fact of Mr. Thiel’s involvement did not change the case. And while there is no legal requirement that underwriters like Mr. Thiel reveal their involvement to the opposing side or the jury, it is considered fair game for lawyers to ask questions about financial backing — something that Gawker Media did on Wednesday in court as part of its efforts to overturn the Hogan judgment.

“If you really do have concerns about the merits of this case, finding out who bankrolled it doesn’t really help you at all,” said Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. Absent any indication that there is something unlawful about how the funding took place, she said, “you would still need to show that there’s something substantively wrong with the ruling.”

In a statement, Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, who was also personally named in the Hogan suit, said: “Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”

Mr. Thiel is known as a brilliant entrepreneur. Born in West Germany and raised in California, he became a chess prodigy, an academic star and a promising lawyer before settling down in the Bay Area to found companies.

He achieved demigod status among Silicon Valley business leaders, thanks largely to his role at PayPal, where he became the de facto don of the early employee group known as the PayPal mafia. That group went on to become power players at such Silicon Valley institutions as Tesla, YouTube, LinkedIn and Yelp.

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Wilson C

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It's fascinating to read so many comments from people who judge Thiel's actions negatively because he supports Trump. It ought to go without...

Shel

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Shed not one tear for Peter Theil.He is an aggressive libertarian, and yet another Silicon Valley charlatan who conveniently ignore that...

tomp

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There seems to be a lot of mis-understanding of that "Libertarians" don't believe in rule of law. QUITE the contrary. Libertarians believe...

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Mr. Thiel is also known for his lucrative investment in Facebook, where he is a board member, and his three venture firms, Founders Fund, Mithril and Valar. (His defunct hedge fund, Clarium Capital, has been long forgotten.) He also co-founded the secretive data-crunching start-up Palantir and bankrolled Breakout Labs, which only funds what Mr. Thiel calls “hard tech” start-ups that tackle things like new energy, transportation and biotech companies. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” is the Founders Fund tag line.

But unlike most Silicon Valley billionaires, Mr. Thiel openly supports a wide array of eccentric philanthropic and social efforts aimed at radically altering life as we know it. His Thiel fellowship gives high school and college-age students money to drop out of school and start companies. He has donated to organizations that seek to extend the human life span, such as the Methuselah Foundation. And he co-founded the Seasteading Institute, which aims to create cities that float at sea, beyond the reach of governments and their laws.

A libertarian, Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

He said that he hired a legal team several years ago to look for cases that he could help financially support. “Without going into all the details, we would get in touch with the plaintiffs who otherwise would have accepted a pittance for a settlement, and they were obviously quite happy to have this sort of support,” he said. “In a way very similar to how a plaintiff’s lawyer on contingency would do it.” Mr. Thiel declined to disclose what other cases he had supported but there are at least two current cases against Gawker.

Without revealing an exact figure, he said that estimates of $10 million in expenses so far were “roughly in the ballpark.” He added: “I would underscore that I don’t expect to make any money from this. This is not a business venture.”

He would not say whether he had compensated any of the people, including Mr. Bollea, which could raise questions in an appeal. He insisted “there was no gray area” in what he had done.

Mr. Thiel was not the only boldface name in Silicon Valley who was outed as gay by Gawker Media — Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, is another example.

Owen Thomas, the former editor of Valleywag who wrote the article about Mr. Thiel, offered his side of the story in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “As I’ve said before, I did not ‘out’ Peter Thiel,” said Mr. Thomas, now business editor at The San Francisco Chronicle. “I did discuss his sexuality, but it was known to a wide circle who felt that it was not fit for discussion beyond that circle. I thought that attitude was retrograde and homophobic, and that informed my reporting. I believe that he was out and not in the closet.”

Mr. Thiel said he considered his financial backing of the cases against Gawker to be “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.”

He refused to divulge exactly what other cases he has funded but said, “It’s safe to say this is not the only one.”

Speculation that a secret benefactor was backing Mr. Bollea’s case was whispered during the trial but largely dismissed as a conspiracy theory. It gained currency in large part as a result of an unusual decision Mr. Bollea’s legal team made: It purposely excluded a claim that would have allowed Gawker’s insurance company to help pay for its defense as well as damages. The move struck observers as odd because most plaintiffs seeking damages usually hope to settle the case by leveraging the deep pockets of an insurer.

Mr. Thiel said, “I figured it would eventually come out,” adding that he was happy his role might spur a conversation about it being “extremely hard for the most common victims to get justice.”

He added: “It’s not for me to decide what happens to Gawker. If America rallies around Gawker and decides we want more people to be outed and more sex tapes to be posted without consent, then they will find a way to save Gawker, and I can’t stop it.”

Source: NY Times

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Survey: Americans are pretty clueless on credit cards and scores

Financial education isn’t standardized in the United States, leading many Americans to rely on loved ones or the news media for guidance and manage their money through trial and error. As a result, they have significant blind spots about basic concepts, a recent survey by NerdWallet and Harris Poll shows.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults shows that most Americans don’t understand the effects that common actions have on their credit scores, largely underestimate how many credit scores they have, and don’t understand how credit card interest works. These knowledge gaps can be costly, resulting in high interest rates and low, or no, credit card rewards.

What Americans don’t know could be hurting their credit

The FICO score is the most widely used credit scoring model, and five factors go into it:

 

  • payment history
  • amounts owed
  • average age of accounts
  • types of credit in use
  • new credit

Financial decisions that affect these factors can improve or hurt a credit score, but many consumers aren’t sure of the impact their actions have.

For example, more than half of Americans (54%) don’t know that carrying a balance on a credit card from month to month does nothing to help a person’s credit score. Keeping and using a credit account regularly can improve your score, but the balance should be paid in full each month to avoid racking up interest charges.

Almost 8 in 10 Americans (78%) don’t know that closing an older, paid-off credit card will likely hurt their scores. In the short term, closing a credit card account increases your credit utilization, which is the amount you owe compared with your total available credit; in the long term, it lowers the average age of your accounts. Both of these can take points off a credit score.

Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans (8%) know that a late payment usually doesn’t affect a person’s credit. A late payment may result in fees and a higher annual percentage rate, but if it’s made within 30 days of the due date, it probably won’t have any impact on your credit score.

Only 9% of Americans know they have multiple credit scores

People often refer to their “credit score” in the singular, as if they have only one score. But three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — collect consumer data independently of one another, and hundreds of different scoring models use their data. In the survey, however, 91% of Americans didn’t know that there are more than three scores on which their creditworthiness may be judged.

While there are many different scoring models, they don’t all carry the same weight with lenders. Lenders most often look at FICO scores. Each of the credit bureaus generates FICO scores based on its own data. Many credit card issuers and other lenders allow customers to see their FICO scores for free. And consumers who can’t access a free score can buy them from the credit bureaus directly.

Save and earn more by learning about credit cards

Americans who want to improve their financial lives can start with a solid understanding of credit cards and credit scores. A good credit score can help consumers obtain a loan at reasonable rates, get a good price on insurance and even rent an apartment. And a credit card, when used correctly, can earn rewards and protect purchases without incurring any interest.

But more than half of Americans (55%) don’t know when their purchases start accruing interest, the survey shows. Interest doesn’t accrue until the day after a credit card bill is due, so if you pay in full before then, you won’t owe interest.

Meanwhile, only 4 in 10 of those surveyed understood when it’s worth it to obtain a credit card that carries an annual fee. The answer? When the value of the rewards or perks you get from the card outweighs the fee.

Understanding credit cards is essential if you want to use them to your advantage. Check out the study, take the quiz to see how much you know about your credit and learn how you can improve your financial life with NerdWallet’s tips for building credit.

Source: USA TODAY

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5 Roth IRA investing tips that could earn you thousands

The Roth IRA hasn't been around as long as its traditional IRA counterpart, but the tax-free nature of the Roth in retirement opens up some unique opportunities for those willing to add them to their overall retirement savings arsenal. In general, because you don't have to worry about paying taxes on the money you make with investments inside a Roth, it makes sense to make the most of your Roth portfolio. Below, we'll consider five more specific things to consider with your Roth IRA investing.

1. Save your Roth money for your highest-return ideas.

The big advantage of a Roth IRA over a traditional IRA is the fact that with a traditional IRA, you're still stuck paying taxes on the money you withdraw in retirement. That makes huge returns bittersweet, because you effectively have to share them with the IRS. With a Roth IRA, on the other hand, once you've got your money into your Roth account, all the gains after that belong to you. Therefore, it's worth putting your most promising investment strategies into action within a Roth IRA. When they pay off, you get to keep all the profits for yourself.

2. If you have a short-term trading opportunity, think Roth as well.

Investing for the long run makes the most sense for most investors, but occasionally, you'll find out about a special situation that requires fast action. The fact that the Roth IRA is tax-free makes it preferable to a regular taxable account for short-term investing that you expect to generate what would ordinarily be taxed as a short-term capital gain. Because your higher ordinary income tax rate applies to profits on investments sold within a year of purchasing them, making investments in a Roth IRA instead can help you maximize your gains without the tax bite.

3. Avoid municipal bonds and other investments that are inappropriate for Roth IRAs.

The tax-free nature of the Roth IRA gives you a chance to make nearly any investment a tax-free one. As a result, it's essentially a waste to put investments that already have favorable tax characteristics into a Roth IRA, because you can't get double the benefit. The best example is investing in municipal bonds, which typically carry a lower interest rate than taxable bonds of comparable quality because municipal bond interest is free of federal income tax. In a Roth, holding muni bonds means accepting a lower rate for no reason, because even the interest on taxable bonds would be free of tax. Similar arguments should have you think twice before including other investments with favorable tax attributes, such as master limited partnerships and annuities, within a Roth.

4. Don't forget the contribution rules.

In your rush to get money into a Roth IRA, it's easy to forget about the requirements. Contribution limits for 2016 are $5,500 for those younger than 50 or $6,500 for those 50 or older. However, more important, income limits apply that prevent some people from making Roth IRA contributions at all. For 2016, if you're single with income over $132,000 or a joint filer with income above $194,000, you're not allowed to contribute to a Roth at all. Phase-outs extending $10,000 to $15,000 below those thresholds allow partial contributions of less than the applicable $5,500 or $6,500 maximum.

5. Think about conversions.

With the limitations listed above, it can be hard to get your Roth IRA balance as high as you might want. One alternative is to convert money in a traditional IRA into a Roth. You'll pay income taxes on the amount converted, including it in taxable income and paying whatever rate applies to your current-year income. In the future, though, you won't have to pay taxes on any further gains. Especially if you're in a low tax bracket right now, converting money to a Roth IRA can be a smart move. Moreover, there's no income limit on being able to convert.

Roth IRAs can be a great way to grow your money as quickly as possible. By taking maximum advantage of the tax benefits at your disposal, a Roth IRA can be the foundation of a strong retirement savings strategy to provide for yourself and your loved ones in your retirement and beyond.

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Source: USA Today

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Fares are cheap, but airlines are trying to change that

DALLAS (AP) — Enjoy lower airfares while you can. Airlines are taking steps to push prices higher by next year.

Fares have been dropping for more than a year. Taking inflation into account, the average round trip within the U.S. in late 2015 was the lowest since 2010.

Ticket prices have fallen even further this year, according to the airlines. Not only is flying from Dallas to Denver cheap, but popular international vacation destinations like Europe are more affordable.

Fliers can thank the steep plunge in oil prices since mid-2014. As they saved billions of dollars on jet fuel, both domestic and international carriers added supply — seats — faster than travel demand was growing. The major airlines have announced steps to rein in the oversupply, but such changes can't happen overnight, so fares will remain affordable for the peak travel season.

One downside: Be prepared to spend a few more hours of your vacation standing in an airport security line.

The number of airline passengers this summer is expected to rise 4 percent over last year's record level. That, along with fewer Transportation Security Administration screeners, is expected to create long lines.

American Airlines and United Airlines say they each plan to spend about $4 million on contractors who will help TSA by handling some of the non-screening duties at airport checkpoints, like running bins and managing the lines.

Stories about horrific lines might be an opportunity for last-minute deals, according to Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the travel guide company Frommer's.

"If American Airlines is going to spend $4 million of its own money, obviously the airlines are nervous about not being able to sell last-minute seats," she said. "I wonder if this rash of bad publicity won't make getting a last-minute booking more affordable."

Signing up for fare alerts from the airlines and price-tracking websites can help consumers spot those deals, many of which lapse quickly.

Last week the price-tracking website airfarewatchdog.com spotted $688 round trips on British Airways and American leaving New York on July 6 and returning July 17. George Hobica, the site's founder, said $1,200 would be more typical for peak season. The sale was gone after one day.

If you don't have kids in school, the easiest way to save money would be delaying a big trip until at least mid-August. "After that, we see fares drop off a cliff," Hobica said.

Within the U.S., the cost of an average round trip fell about 8% last year to $363, according to government figures. Through March, the average fare per mile was down 6% from early 2015, according to the industry trade group Airlines for America. Fares have fallen faster on international routes than on domestic ones, largely because the foreign airlines added of a glut of flights.

U.S. airlines now get about $1.1 billion more from baggage and ticket-change fees than they did in 2010, although the percentage of revenue accounted for by airfares is unchanged at 75%.

Faced with fuel costs that have gone back up since February, investors are now pressuring airlines to reverse the decline in fares by growing more slowly.

Delta Air Lines said this month it will cut its planned growth more sharply as this year goes along. By the fourth quarter, Delta expects its passenger-carrying capacity will be 2.5% higher than late 2015. That would be down from 5.4% growth in the first quarter. United Airlines squeezed its planned 2016 growth by 0.5 percentage points, and American will slash its planned international growth this year to 2.5% from the original 6%.

Those moves won't make a dent in the number of seats available this summer, but they could gain traction — and boost fares — by next summer.

Meanwhile, some airports have seen security lines stretch to more than one hour. With the blessing of Congress, TSA is hurriedly adding nearly 800 screeners and encouraging travelers to sign up for expedited-screening programs to make things go faster. It is unclear how much any of that will help when summer crowds show up.

At big airports, travelers might save time by going through a checkpoint farther from their gate, said Keith Nowak of Travelocity.com. At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Terminals A and C, where many domestic flights depart, can be crowded on weekday mornings, he said, and it could be quicker to go through security at another terminal and take the airport tram to your gate.

Source: USA Today

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How to say thank you — royal style

oyals really know how to say "thank you" with panache — and a picture.

Fans of the Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge who wrote to congratulate them on their recent fifth wedding anniversary got a charming thank-you card in response, along with a never-seen picture of the royal couple.

We know this because one of the recipients, royal photographer Paul Ratcliffe, posted it on Twitter Wednesday, which was then picked up by every royal and Cambridge-loving website in the U.K.

 

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were so touched that you took the trouble to write as you did on the occasion of their 5th Wedding Anniversary. It really was most thoughtful of you and Their Royal Highnesses send you their warmest thanks and best wishes.”

The photo shows the couple standing in what looks like a garden at Kensington Palace. She is wearing a white jacket and pleated skirt by Alberta Ferretti, according to the blogs that track her fashion. The photo was taken earlier this year by photographer Chris Jelf, who also took the Cambridge family's official Christmas portrait last year.

Another garden shot of the Cambridges, taken in October

Another garden shot of the Cambridges, taken in October 2015 but meant for December Christmas cards. (Photo: CHRIS JELF, AFP/Getty Images)

 

Official portraits of the young royals are not common and some of them are never meant to be seen by a wider public; instead they're reserved for such purposes as thank-you notes.

In 2014, when the Cambridges and their son, Prince George, returned from three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia, they sent thank-you notes with a picture to some of the people who hosted them on the trip. It briefly appeared on Twitter when a recipient posted it but was quickly taken down.

Source: USA Today

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James Blake on Frank Ocean's new album: It's 'better' than 'Channel Orange'

While Frank Ocean has presumably been off living his best life, the Internet has spent the last four years trying to process Channel Orange, what we did to deserve it and whether or not Ocean was just going to Lauryn Hill us.

And while we still don’t have an album (Jesus may return before we do), it appears that Ocean has been Thinkin' Bout us.

According to The Colour in Anything artist James Blake, Ocean's long-awaited album is an even greater opus than his previous work. In fact, Blake — who counts Ocean among his collaborators in his album credits — shared that The Colour in Anything was heavily inspired by Ocean's new record.

"His music was a huge influence on the way I was writing the record, the way I was writing melodies," Blake told Rolling Stone in an interview published Wednesday. "I was more of a fan of him when I heard his newer music," he added. "It's better. You grow, you improve, you nail a new message to the board. He's had time to mature. It’s really cool to watch."

Wish we could say the same, Blake, but we'll take your word for it!

And while we wait for Ocean's new LP, we'll just be over here hating. And looping this SNL performance.

Source: USA Today.

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Whoa! Eva Longoria tied the knot in secret ceremony in Mexico

NBC canceled her sitcom Telenovela just a week ago, but Eva Longoria has no reason to be down.

The actress married her fiancé Jose Antonio Baston in a private ceremony in Mexico Saturday. She sweetly commemorated the big day in a post on Instagram, writing how they exchanged vows "in our garden, surrounded by a small gathering of people we love."

 

According to People, the nuptials took place at Baston's home in the lakeside town of Valle De Bravo, Mexico. The bride wore a white dress designed by Victoria Beckham, who was in attendance along with husband David, and other celebrities including Ricky Martin, Mario Lopez, and Melanie Griffith.

 

The former Desperate Housewives star announced her engagement to the Mexican media mogul last December. He is her third husband after NBA player Tony Parker and General Hospital actor Tyler Christopher.

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Amber Heard files for divorce from Johnny Depp

Los Angeles (CNN)Actress Amber Heard has filed for divorce from actor Johnny Depp, according to documents obtained by CNN.

Heard, 30, and Depp, 52, have been married since February 2015.
She filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court on Sunday citing irreconcilable differences and requested spousal support, according to court records.
Depp and Heard made headlines last year after being charged with illegally bringing their two dogs into Australia, which has strict biosecurity laws regarding foreign animals.
Heard pleaded guilty to knowingly producing a false or misleading document, while two other charges of illegally importing her dogs were dismissed. She was spared a conviction over the incident and given a one-month good behavior bond sentence instead.
Depp, who was filming the latest installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise during the incident, and Heard then released a strange but somber apology video, which Depp has since had a bit of fun with.
He's also started taking shots at the man who threatened to euthanize their two terriers, former agriculture minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, saying the politician looked like he was "inbred with a tomato" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Wednesday.
It's not clear who will get to keep the dogs.
Depp's newest film, "Alice Through the Looking Glass," opens in theaters Friday.
Source: CNN.com
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Belly and The Weeknd protest Trump, ditch 'Kimmel'

CNN)Viewers of Wednesday's episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" saw presidential hopeful Donald Trump, but not scheduled musical guests The Weeknd and rapper Belly.

The rapper was set to perform his song "Might Not" which features singer The Weeknd, for whom he has written several hits.
A rep for Belly confirmed to CNN that the appearance was canceled after he discovered Trump was to be a featured guest on the late night show.
"A strong believer in equal rights for all, Belly is taking a stand against a man who has made many negative and detrimental remarks about minorities, women, various religious groups and more," a press release from Belly's camp stated. "His television debut was meant to support the release of his soon-to-be-released mixtape 'Another Day In Paradise.' Belly hopes that his fans understand his point of view, and he plans to make it up to them very soon."
The rapper is not the first musician to be rubbed the wrong way by Trump.
Recently The Rolling Stones became the latest band to to ask the presidential hopeful to not use their music at his rallies and appearances.
Singer Adele also requested that he not use her songs, and in October 2015 Aerosmith's Steven Tyler sent the Trump camp a cease-and-desist letter regarding the use of his band's song "Dream On."
"I feel like the way I was raised was to be able to see through all the titles in this world — from religion to race," Belly said in a statement. "I just didn't want to feel like I was a part of a celebration for somebody who has beliefs that the majority of us don't agree with."
Trump did not mention the canceled performance during his appearance on the late night show.
Source: CNN.com
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What's streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu in June

What's streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu in June

 

(CNN)June is feeling hot, hot, hot with all the streaming options.

From beloved movies to eagerly awaited new seasons of returning series, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are here to give you a reason to stay indoors and out of the summer heat.
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'Saved by the Bell' star Dustin Diamond back in jail after probation violation

(CNN)Actor Dustin Diamond, best known for playing the role of Screech on the 1990s high school comedy "Saved by the Bell," has been arrested in Ozaukee, Wisconsin on a probation hold, according to the Ozaukee County Jail.

Diamond was sentenced to four months in jail for stabbing a man during a Christmas Day 2014 altercation at a bar in Wisconsin. He served three months of the sentence.
A probation hold occurs when the offender's probation agent believes he or she has not complied with the terms of their probation. People on probation hold are generally held in county facilities while the agent completes a violation investigation.
If the incident that led to the violation investigation is serious enough, the offender -- in this case Diamond -- could have their parole revoked.
No new charges have been filed against Diamond, and no other information is available at this time, according to the jail.

Knife drawn in bar

Diamond was arrested following an altercation as he and fiancée Amanda Schutz were out celebrating. A group of people started asking for photos when someone "sucker-punched" Schutz, he told his former co-star, Mario Lopez, in an interview for "Extra."
"She leaned back to me and her face was covered in blood."
After one of the men in the group grabbed Schutz's hair, Diamond told the host, "I opened my pocket knife and said, 'Let my wife go immediately,' which worked."
Diamond denied that he actually stabbed anyone, saying that the victim "nicked his arm on the tip of" Diamond's pocket knife.
The actor served three months of his sentence and said of his experience in jail, "It's pretty daunting, it's pretty scary going into that environment."
During the interview, Diamond said he wants to focus on getting his acting career back on track and starting a family with Schutz.
"I want to put the tomfoolery and malarkey behind me... for that clean slate," he told Lopez. "Time for a change."
Source: CNN.com
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Jay Z responds to Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' in new song

(CNN)Ever since Beyoncé dropped her visual album "Lemonade" in April, fans have been awaiting Jay Z's side of the story.

On Tuesday night they got it -- sort of.
The rapper appears on the remix of Fat Joe's new song "All the Way Up," which was released Tuesday on Jay Z's streaming service Tidal.
On the song, Jay Z raps "You know you made it when the fact your marriage made it is worth millions/Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is/Survival of the lit-est/ N****s who really up vs. n****s up in your business."
Umm, ok.
Not exactly the confession fans were seeking in the wake of Beyoncé's album, with songs addressing infidelity, betrayal and heartbreak. That led some to question if the superstar singer was spilling tea about her marriage to the rapper.
Jay Z's freestyle rhymes may remind some of his wife's verses on her "Flawless" remix in 2014. In that song, she appeared to be referencing a now famous incident that same year in which her sister, Solange Knowles, was captured on surveillance video pummeling Jay Z in an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York City following the Met Gala.
"We escalate, up in this b**ch like elevators," Beyoncé rapped. "Of course sometimes s**t go down when there's a billion dollars on an elevator."
Jay Z also pays homage to the late superstar Prince who, prior to his death, had a deal with the music mogul to stream his music on Tidal.
"Prince left his masters where they safe and sound/We never gonna let the elevator take him down," Jay Z raps.
Source: CNN.com
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Céline Dion: 'I lost the love of my life'

(CNN)Months after the death of her beloved husband and brother, superstar singer Céline Dion is trying to be strong.

Dion sat down with People for its cover story to talk about her life since she lost both husband René Angélil and brother Daniel Dion to cancer.
The singer is scheduled to receive the Icon Award and perform at Sunday night's Billboard Awards. She will be singing a cover of Queen's "The Show Must Go On," at the awards and told People "René always insisted the show must go on."
"You know what, I'm 48 years old and I lost the love of my life," she said. "I miss him a lot from when he was great but not when he was suffering. I cannot be selfish. You have to let people go. I feel at peace."
Dion said she is trying to be strong for her three children with Angélil, René-Charles, 15, and 5 year-old twins Nelson and Eddy.
The children were not present during her husband's final moments, she told People.
"I got on my knees and I kissed him," Dion said. "It was the coldest thing I've ever experienced in my life, but it was amazing. I said, 'Promise me not to worry. I'm fine, the kids are great, we're gonna be okay. It's enough suffering. Just go in peace.' "
The couple first met when Dion was an aspiring 12-year-old singer and the much older Angélil became her manager. They were married for 21 years.
Source: CNN.com
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What makes a good speller (or a bad one)?

(CNN)By the time he was 6 or 7 years old, Sameer Mishra was a pretty confident speller. His memory was sharp, he liked to read, and he actually enjoyed the weekly tests at school. While his parents drilled his older sister, a National Spelling Bee competitor, he'd angle for his own list of words.

Within a few years, he made it to the big bee in Washington, too. On his fourth and final trip there in 2008, he won by spelling the word "guerdon," meaning "something that one has earned or gained." Yes, Mishra is a good speller.
But everyone knows people who claim they're terrible at it and never were any good. They'd rather just use spellcheck, they say. To Mishra, they'll confess, embarrassed, "I misspelled 'banana' in the fifth-grade spelling bee" and just gave up.
So what is it that separates the spelling stars from the dictionary-deficient?
For those on stage at the National Spelling Bee this week, it often meant five hours a day memorizing words or studying etymology. For the perfectly good, non-bee spellers among us, it might mean they enjoyed reading from an early age.
But research published this year in the journal Brain suggests it has something to do with how some people's brains retrieve words -- or don't -- and how we manage to get them out -- or not.

The science of spelling

For as easy as the teens on stage make it look to spell "scherenschnitte" and "nunatak," there's a lot happening inside to produce each word.
Start with something a little simpler: "If I tell you a word like 'yacht' and ask you to spell it, maybe you can do it," said Brenda Rapp, a cognitive science professor at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the Brain study.
If you heard the word and came up with y-a-c-h-t, it probably emerged from the areas of the brain that hold orthographic long-term memory, where spelling knowledge is stored.
If you're not familiar with the term of Dutch origin meaning a recreational watercraft, maybe you'd come up with something like y-o-t or y-a-h-t. You'd probably miss the "ch," but perhaps you'd identify a reasonable spelling that converts the sounds to letters, Rapp said. That process takes place in yet another part of the brain.
In either case, you had to hold those letters in mind, convert them into names or shapes and produce them in the right order. That, Rapp said, is orthographic working memory.
Each component plays a part in spelling a word, and each happens in a different part of the brain's left hemisphere.
Rapp and her colleagues studied 33 people who had trouble spelling after strokes. They struggled with long-term memory, working memory or both. The types of spelling errors they produced often depended on where their brains were damaged.
So what does that mean for those who just can't spell? People who haven't experienced a stroke or been diagnosed with something like dyslexia, which is closely related to dysgraphia, a word for poor spelling?
 
"To be a really good speller, all of these things need to be working well, and they need to be working well together," Rapp said. "You can imagine that in someone who is a poor speller, it suggests either one or more of these systems haven't fully developed, or they aren't interacting properly."
Human brains aren't specifically designed to do spelling or reading, like they are walking or speaking, Rapp said. Spelling and reading only stretch as far back as written language, several thousand years.
"They have to be learned," Rapp said. "They're not built in."
Most of us were trained in spelling and reading in school, but some will still see their emails marred by the angry red spellcheck lines. What you most often hear people complain about, Rapp said, is that they just can't see the word.
"For really poor spellers that otherwise seem like normal people of normal intelligence, it could be that ... for some reasons we don't understand, even though they had the same experience, they weren't able to create these long-term memory representations," she said.
That doesn't mean there's no hope of getting better or finding ways to cope.

Can you spell i-m-p-r-o-v-e-m-e-n-t?

More research is needed to zero in on which techniques works best to teach and learn spelling, but studying followed by testing has helped all of Rapp's stroke patients improve. Repetition -- "lots and lots of repetition" -- is key, she said.
 
6-year-old competes in Scripps National Spelling Bee
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
6-year-old competes in Scripps National Spelling Bee 03:45
"They study the word, then try to spell the word. They study the word, then try to spell the word. Study, spell, study, spell," Rapp said. "It's very important to test yourself."
For the youngest spellers, the key is getting the right words at the right time, said said J. Richard Gentry, an eduction consultant and author of "Raising Confident Readers." They're just learning to connect shapes with sounds and to store those patterns in their long-term memories. Some will still struggle, but a foundation that exposes children to bats, cats, hats and rats, for example, helps them move on to more complex sound and letter combinations, he said.
Spelling training has gotten more precise as research has improved, he said. No longer should students be presented with a jumble of words taken out of context. But neither does he believe that students should be tested on zingers used mostly in the course of a single reading or writing lesson.
"It's great that we're doing more writing, but spelling needs its own time, about 15 minutes a day," he said. "It's all about frequency and patterns."
And for adults who aren't aiming for spelling bee success? They can develop "spelling consciousness," Gentry said. That's what he calls an awareness that you should take the time to spell check an email or ask someone to read your memo before you send it.
"It's not their fault," Gentry said, especially if they have some form of dyslexia or were never really taught to do more than memorize the words on the test.
Even Mishra, the spelling bee champ, who recently graduated from Columbia University, said memorization can't be the only path to good spelling.
"I don't think it's possible to rote memorize the dictionary," he said.

The markers of spelling success

Mishra is attending the National Spelling Bee this week, and he still sees four qualities among the best-of-the-best spellers.
They're self-motivated and a little competitive. It's not about humbling the judges or besting other competitors, he said. The enemy is the dictionary, and the butterflies in their stomachs.
Second, they usually have a coach. It's an English teacher or a parent who helps them along the way, drilling them on words and keeping them on schedule. For Mishra, it was his sister, Shruti, who is now in medical school. When he hit a rough patch and struggled with the same words, she reminded him to run around outside or play video games.
"You can get frustrated, tired, exhausted," he said. "I needed someone to tell me: This is just a spelling bee."
Of course, it comes down to the work. The competitors are all intellectually curious, Mishra said. Great spellers are often avid readers, and they commit a lot of words to memory, but they'll also study prefixes, suffixes, foreign languages and definitions that will help them deduce how a word is spelled.
Just this week, after reading in Mishra's spelling bee bio that he's growing a beard, someone mentioned it was a "pogonotrophic fun fact." Mishra didn't know the word, but he knew that "pogo-" or "pogon-" referred to a beard and "-trophy" meant growing or development.
"It's pattern-building," he said. "A lot of really good spellers are really good at patterns."
Finally, Mishra said, great spellers persevere. Many competitors come back to the National Spelling Bee again and again until they've aged out of the competition. They inevitably leave off a letter or buckle after an intense round, but they don't give up and find something else to fill their time. "Grit" is what parents and educators call that quality nowadays.
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Why strong friendships are key to men's mental health

CNN)For decades this Philadelphia physician lived a life inside his head, rarely expressing himself with his heart. He says his inability to open up wasn't good for his first marriage, or his second.

"I did not want to get divorced again, did not want to go through this thing with a broken family with kids," he says. "That was really very painful the first time."
This father of five, who wants to remain anonymous for his children's sake, looks back on his life and the mistakes he made.
"I frequently made assumptions and would mentally go over things in my head at home, all the time assuming that for example my wife was thinking or feeling something without asking her or checking in. I was living in sort of a delusional land for a while."
He says he felt frustrated about how to develop more intimacy in their relationship. Things got so bad that his second wife asked him to move out of the house.
"It was really a horrible experience," says the man, now 71. "It was lonely. I could be in my head all I wanted but it was deafening silence, lack of any kind of closeness... that actually helped me define what I really wanted primarily in my life, which was my relationship with my wife."
That was more than 20 years ago. It was a turning point that saved his marriage.
He and his wife went to a marriage counselor, but that wasn't enough to bring him out of his shell. Nor was one-on-one counseling.
So a therapist, psychiatrist Dr. Rob Garfield, recommended he join his "Friendship Lab," a therapeutic group of 5 to 7 men who learn how to become more comfortable opening up about their problems. They meet every other week with Garfield and his co-therapist, Jake Kriger, at the Men's Resource Center in Philadelphia. The two developed this model of group therapy 20 years ago.
"These are the same guys in their own community that can be functioning fairly well but personally feel disconnected," says Garfield, author of the 2015 book, "Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship."
Several of the men in the group have been members for more than 10 years. It helps participants learn to trust one another, communicate and open up.
Garfield says this physician who suffered from isolation is far from alone. He finds that many men, middle-aged and older, are a product of generations of male "coding."
"This is the way we're supposed to be: emotionally restrained, keeping things close to the vest, being in control, independent, competitive," he says. "These start from the time we're kids, as early as the age of three, and are reinforced through adulthood: the boy code, the guy code."
Garfield himself had great difficulty opening up decades ago. He went through a divorce and was starting a new career in his twenties.
"In men's group, it really accelerates their progress because they're getting support and actually hearing themselves kind of mirrored by other men, who on the surface look pretty good but are going through the same things," he says.
The Philadelphia physician, who asked that his name be withheld out of privacy concerns, has been a part of the friendship lab for 20 years.
"It's just a main venue that's safe for expression for anything that you wanted to bring up with the idea that you're not going to be judged, you're going to be heard, that you're going to get honest feedback from guys that you know, respect and like," he says.
"I didn't tend to have sustained relationships with men that would allow me to get into a lot of this personal information. I never had problems per se relating from a guy to a guy. As far as relating some of these issues, there wasn't really anybody I would trust. That I could tell them about anything that was on my mind."
Garfield, who teaches in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, designed a national survey in 2012 with a research group looking at the friendships of 380 men from a variety of age groups, races and ethnicities.
"Most guys have friends. In general the research shows men have as many friendships as women have but the quality is often very different. If a guy tells you he has a good friend, he may see them once every 3 to 5 years," says Garfield.
"What they wanted was more emotional intimacy in friendships to be able to express their feelings more."
Some men might also worry they will lose their romantic partner's respect by being too "soft." Garfield disagrees.
"My experience in getting feedback from women is that it's a relief. They're not thinking this guy is turning into a wimp," he says. "He's actually present and accounted for. He's showing up."
Dr. Garfield says one of his roles in the Friendship Lab is to help steer the men to talk using a language of emotion.
"Some men are actually able to do this fairly easily. Other men have to learn words like sad or shocked or hurt, these kinds of feeling words that actually put them in touch with raw emotions that they're feeling," says Garfield.
Garfield says the price of not opening up is not just profound depression but illness as well. Some men come to the group complaining of gastrointestinal problems or other issues like drinking too much.
"Many of these guys have physical kinds of problems that they don't really understand is connected with their isolation," says Garfield.
The Philadelphia physician says it took months to begin to trust others in the group, but after years that included annual sailing or other bonding day trips, he began to open up knowing that what they said in group was confidential and safe.
"The group itself is brutally honest. We're very interested in not discussing fluff in any way or small talk, and if someone is having a hard time expressing where they are, for whatever reason, it becomes pretty apparent because you've been working with these people for years. There's no hesitancy to call somebody else out to say listen, 'This really is not you. You're really being inhibited. What's going on?'"
Today the 71-year-old says he truly has happiness in his life because of this group.
"This is the best I've ever felt, which is really good. I feel more like a whole person rather than a shadow," he says.
"I felt grateful that they were giving me honest feedback so I could get out of my head and more into the reality of what was going on in my life. I think it was like peeling away sort of an onion, a little bit at a time."
Source: CNN.com
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Doctor uses iPad to conduct remote surgery in Gaza

(CNN)In countries ravaged by conflict, providing international medical expertise on the ground can be almost impossible.

But a new software, called Proximie, is enabling surgeons to provide help from wherever they are in the world, all through the screen of an iPad.
"I see on my screen the surgical feed that is being captured by the camera in Gaza and I'm able to draw on my screen the incision that needs to be done," says Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, Head of Plastic Surgery at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

"Like being in the room"

Abu-Sitta has already used the Proximie software to lead two operations in the Gaza strip from his base in Beirut. From hundreds of miles away he showed colleagues how to negotiate a blast injury and operate on a congenital anomaly affecting the hand.
The software means that surgeons can demonstrate -- in real time -- the actions needing to be taken on the front line.
The procedure uses two smart phones or tablets connected to the internet which show a live camera feed of the operation. The surgeon sees this, and then marks on their device where to make incisions.
"That drawing shows up on my colleague's screen in Gaza and he follows my drawings by making the incisions where they appear on the screen," says Dr. Abu-Sitta, "It really is the equivalent of being there in the room with them."
With two thirds of the world's population lacking access to safe surgery, the time is ripe to develop new techniques to reach more remote areas.

A helping hand

Being able to watch surgery in progress could also make it a useful training aid.
"We want to be the platform for medical students to really engage in surgery," says Proximie co-founder Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram. "Historically the old viewing galleries that happened in surgery where students could come in and learn and watch, they don't exist anymore.
"Surgery is very visual. You can read it in a book if you want but it's not the same as watching it live, so this is where our platform really fits in."
According to Peter Kim, Vice President of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Proximie could be a positive addition to the range of other products using cameras and video for real-time sharing.
 
"I think the need and effort to share best practice and dissipate very siloed experiences in medicine should be supported," says Kim. "Those involved should be applauded for their effort but if it is a product with cost attached to it, the value must be clearly articulated."
Previously, Abu-Sitta and his staff were trying to help overseas surgeons by sending them audio recordings, photos and X-rays using the online messenger WhatsApp. But the new software is far more interactive, providing detailed images and patient information throughout the surgery.
"We wanted to push the idea that with only the minimum hardware, and minimum infrastructure you can still pull it off," says Abu-Sitta, "With just two tablets, iPad to iPad, we're able to perform this surgery."
Whether it's used for education or to conduct delicate surgeries in conflict zones, internet enabled software such as Proximie could be the future of surgery.
Source: Cnn.com
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Report: Signals detected from EgyptAir Flight 804 in Mediterranean

(CNN)Airbus has detected signals from the Mediterranean Sea where EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed last week, Egypt's state-run Al Ahram news agency reported Thursday.

The signals were emitted by the plane's emergency locator transmitter, a device that can manually or automatically activate at impact and will usually send a distress signal.
Having the signals dramatically decreases the search area to a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) radius.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was at 37,000 feet when it lost contact above the Mediterranean early on May 19, shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek airspace and enter Egyptian airspace.
So far, some debris from the plane -- including life vests, personal belongings and parts of wreckage -- has been recovered. But the search is ongoing for the critical parts of the plane, including the fuselage, flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

Signals from plane device?

The signals from the emergency locator transmitter, as reportedly identified by Airbus, are different from the pings emitted by the "black boxes."
The plane has three emergency locator transmitters, one of which is in the tail, where the flight data recorders are.
It wasn't clear where the emergency transmitting device had been located within the plane.
Al Ahram reported that Airbus sent the information to the Egyptian authorities, who then relayed the information to the search and rescue units.
Airbus would not comment when asked about the signals, saying: "We are supporting the parties in charge of the investigation and we can't comment, nor do we contribute to any kind of speculation."
The signals from emergency locator transmitters can be picked up by satellite. It is not immediately clear when Airbus received these signals, but they are more commonly identified a few hours after impact -- not a few days after impact.
Source: CNN.com
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Warriors know Game 7 back home for Finals trip won't be easy

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

''I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough,'' Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. ''I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game.''

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered ''We ain't going home!'' - and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

''We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse,'' Kerr said. ''One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out.''

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

''It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher,'' Curry said. ''Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win.''

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

''Lot of people probably counted us out,'' Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

''This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it,'' Durant said Sunday. ''Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it.''

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

''We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game,'' Donovan said. ''We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group.''

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

''I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going,'' he said. ''I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7.''

Source: Yahoo Sports

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Joe Thornton explains the mysteries of his Stanley Cup beard

PITTSBURGH – Like the other natural wonders of the modern world, Joe Thornton’s beard has to be witnessed in person to truly appreciate its grandeur. 

The sheer mass of it. The waterfall of gray that streaks down the center, making it appear as though he attempted to sing with a mouth full of milk. The way it frays off on the edges, sweeping off in various directions like the tidal tail of a galaxy.

Somewhere behind it lurks the San Jose Sharks star.

Somewhere.

“My brother John always has a huge beard. So I kinda follow in his and Burnsie’s footsteps,” said Thornton of his epically bearded teammate, Brent Burns. “I got two mentors that have a bigger one than me.”

Burns said that in the last couple of years, his beard has “taken off a little bit,” having not shaved for 10 months.

“Jumbo’s got a good one too,” he said. “The ‘ol Dodge racing stripe.”

Burns said he has a collection of items that have allowed him to keep the beard looking good and free of, say, vermin. Like a Jedi to his apprentice, he’s passed on that knowledge to Thornton.

“Burnsie helps me. He gets me all the oils, the combs. In the morning you get up and oil it and comb it. And then at night, you have to oil it a little bit and comb it,” said Thornton. “It looks pretty. But it’s hard work.”

It’s been quite a transformation for Thornton, considering how he looked in his younger years:

Do he think he looks better with the beard?

“Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty.

In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it.

“We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said.

Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best.

“It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.”

We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example.

If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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Do he think he looks better with the beard? “Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty. In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it. “We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said. Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best. “It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.” We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example. If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.

BERLIN (AP) -- A top member of a rising German nationalist party drew sharp criticism Sunday for reportedly saying that many people wouldn't want Jerome Boateng, a key player on Germany's national soccer team whose father was born in Ghana, as their neighbor.

 

Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of Alternative for Germany, was quoted as telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper: ''People find him good as a footballer. But they don't want to have a Boateng as their neighbor.'' The newspaper's front-page headline was ''Gauland insults Boateng.''

Germany's national team has long reflected varied ethnic backgrounds. Berlin-born Bayern Munich defender Boateng, who played his 58th game for Germany against Slovakia later Sunday, was a mainstay of the 2014 World Cup-winning team. Boateng is on Germany's squad for the 2016 European Championship, which kicks off June 10 in France.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the comment ''unacceptable.'' He wrote on Twitter: ''Anyone who talks like this unmasks himself, and not just as a bad neighbor.''

Anti-immigration talk has helped Alternative for Germany, or AfD, to surge in polls over recent months as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Germany. Other parties have struggled to find ways to counter its appeal to protest voters.

In a statement, Gauland said he ''never insulted Mr. Boateng.'' He said that, in a confidential background conversation, he ''described some people's attitudes'' but did not himself comment on Boateng.

''Of course we can be proud of our national team,'' he added. The newspaper rejected Gauland's account of the conversation.

AfD leader Frauke Petry told the Bild daily that Gauland couldn't remember whether he had made the comment.

''Independently of that, I apologize to Mr. Boateng for the impression that has arisen,'' she said.

Julia Kloeckner, a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, brushed aside Gauland's explanation and said it fits a pattern of AfD behavior. ''Provoke first, then qualify. The AfD model,'' she said on Twitter.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Bild that Gauland's reported comment ''shows that Gauland is not just against foreigners but against the good things about Germany: modernity, openness and liberality.'' He called AfD ''anti-German.''

Fans at Sunday's match in Augsburg unfurled a banner reading ''Jerome be our neighbor!''

Fellow Germany defender Benedikt Hoewedes posted pictures of himself with Boateng on Twitter and wrote: ''If you want to win titles for Germany, you need neighbors like him.''

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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