iPhone 6 ‘touch disease’ a boon to fixit shops

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There's a design glitch in some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models that leaves a flashing gray bar at the top of the screen. It won't go away and it disables the touchscreen function of the phone.

It's a flaw that's annoying hundreds of iPhone users.

Jessa Jones, who owns iPad Rehab in Honeoye Falls, is among scores of independent gadget repair shops across the country receiving an increase in orders to fix the gray bar issue.

She calls the glitch the "Touch IC Disease."

Jones explained to ifixit.org, a gadget repair news blog, that the glitch is likely because the integrated circuit chip that controls the touchscreen function in an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus isn't always connected to the phone's main motherboard. The chips are supposed to lay on a group of solder balls and the solder balls are also connected to the phone's motherboard.

In previous versions of the iPhone, the motherboard-solder balls-circuit chip sandwich is held together by a strong, thin layer of metal so nothing will bend out of place. In the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the metal layer is replaced by a black sticker.

Jones said she believes iPhone users sometimes bend their phone — for example when they have it in their back pocket — separating the chip from the solder balls and the sticker doesn't provide enough resistance against the bend.

Jones said the glitch isn't present in older versions of the iPhone. Overall, the issue is affecting 20% of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, Jones said

Still, the glitch has created an uptick for Jones.

Jones' business started in 2013 when she began repairing devices in her dining room. The company moved into a dedicated facility in December and the operation is now staffed with a business manager, a shipping manager and two other repair specialists. Jones also has a one-person shop in Jacksonville, Fla.

Since April, Jones said her company has received eight to 10 iPhones with the flashing gray bar issue every day. Before April, her company would get perhaps two per week.

"We're on a treadmill with this stuff," she said, adding that she's not sure if the uptick will mean growing her operation even more.

The phones come from all over the world, Jones said. Most of the phones come from people whose Apple warranty on their phone has expired.

Jones said she repairs the issue, for $200, by replacing the integrated circuit chip, soldering on a metal layer to cover the chip, then mailing it back to the customer.

"That really seems to help with the long-term robustness of the repair," she told the news blog.

Jones said she tries to share her repair tips on the Apple Support Community forums, but officials with the company delete her posts.

Attempts to contact Apple by phone for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Source:USA Today.com

'The system is broken' and EpiPens are just the tip of the iceberg

Think the EpiPen price hike is scary? That's just the tip of the iceberg

Everyone is mad at Mylan for passing off massive price hikes for its EpiPen allergy treatment, but it’s far from the worst bad guy in the field. Eleven other drugmakers have off-the-charts prices, well beyond what we're seeing with Mylan (which, by the way, just offered some discounts after the firestorm of feedback to the price increase). Each of these drug companies prices are so high they were able to keep 25 cents of every dollar in revenue after paying operating costs. Cha-ching! Remember when Martin Shkreli, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, orchestrated a 5,000% price hike on the medication used to treat a parasitic disease that affects AIDS patients and pregnant women? He weighed in, too

Souce:USA Today.com

Italian hamlets may never rebuild after deadly earthquake

ILLICA, Italy — The Italian government already has vowed to rebuild the picturesque medieval town of Amatrice after Wednesday's earthquake leveled many of the homes of its 3,000 residents. But the tiny hamlets nearby like Illica may not be so lucky.

The long valley of destruction includes more than two dozen villages with 200 or fewer residents, and they may never fully recover.

“I don’t know what will happen to a place like Illica,” said Stefano Carosi, a civil protection official working near the village, nine miles north of Amatrice. It is home to just four families, with a total population of less than 50. One house collapsed, killing two people, and most of the other buildings suffered visible structural damage from the quake.

“Some of these villages may become abandoned, just because the effort to rebuild them and make them safe will be higher than it’s worth,” Carosi said.

Government officials said Thursday they were focused on rescuing survivors and making damaged buildings secure, not on the long-term viability of the tiny hamlets.

Still, some Illica residents vowed they would stay.

“I came back to Illica 20 years ago after living 21 years in the U.S., in Indiana,” said Franco Micozzi, 54, who grew up near Illica. “The earthquake knocked me out of my bed and onto the floor, but it won’t make me leave my home.”

Source:USA Today.com

Homeland Security investigating Leslie Jones website hack

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it is investigating the hack of Leslie Jones' website that revealed several private details of the actress-comedian's life.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of Homeland Security, said Thursday that its New York office is looking into the breach that exposed the driver's license, passport and intimate photos of the Saturday Night Live star, along with hateful and racist images.

ICE Public Affairs Officer Rachael Yong Yow said the agency does not release information related to active investigations. Jones' website was taken offline after the hack was exposed Wednesday.

The Ghostbusters actress was also targeted on Twitter last month with a barrage of racial slurs and obscene photos. She called on the social networking service to do more to curb harassment, and Twitter banned several users as a result.

In recent years, Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and Kate Upton have been among Hollywood actresses who've had stolen nude images of themselves posted online.

No charges have been filed against those who hacked and posted images of Lawrence, Upton and numerous other celebrities in a massive dump of intimate images of celebrities in August 2014.

Two men were recently convicted after federal prosecutors charged them with hacking into the accounts of several celebrities and stealing images and other personal information. However, neither of the men, Andrew Helton of Astoria, Oregon, or Ryan Collins of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are suspected of posting the stolen images online.

Helton was sentenced to six months in federal prison in July, half of the sentence prosecutors had sought. Helton pleaded guilty to stealing 161 nude or explicit photos from 13 people, including unidentified celebrities, and said his arrest forced him to confront his mental health issues. He is due to report to prison in October.

Collins' sentencing date has not been set.

Johansson, Kunis and Aguilera were hacked by a Florida man, Christopher Chaney, who used publicly available information to obtain access to the email accounts of more than 50 people in the entertainment industry. Chaney was sentenced to 10 years and remains in a low-security federal prison in Mississippi.

"I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed," Johansson said in a tearful videotaped statement played in court before Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in December 2012.

Private information and images of celebrities are frequent targets for hackers. In 2012 a site posted credit reports, Social Security numbers and other financial info on celebrities, including Jay Z and his wife Beyonce, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher and many others.

Source:USA Today.com

At least 247 dead as quake rocks central Italy

ROME — A powerful earthquake toppled homes, churches and shops in a wide swath of medieval towns in central Italy Wednesday, killing at least 247 people and injuring hundreds of others, according to Italy's civil protection agency.

Dozens more were missing or feared dead from the magnitude-6.2 earthquake and a series of aftershocks that jolted Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche, three regions 80 to 100 miles northeast of Rome.

Rescue teams using bulldozers, and aided by townspeople with their bare hands, were still poring through the piles of rock, metal and wood late Wednesday looking for possible survivors. Police near the town of Ascoli said they could hear cries for help from under the rubble but lacked the heavy equipment to move the rocks, according the RAI radio.

“We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars, and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything,” civil protection worker Andrea Gentili told the Associated Press.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi spoke Wednesday evening in the provincial capital of Rieti after flying over the Le Marche region and visiting first responders and survivors the picturesque town of Amatrice, one of the hardest hit.

There was no immediate or exact breakdown of the death toll, but the Italian news agency ANSA earlier reported at least 35 dead in Amatrice, 11 in Accumoli, near Rieti, and 17 in the province of Ascoli Piceno, which includes Pescara del Tronto. Renzi reported 35 dead in Le Marche.

Fabrizio Curcio, director of Italy’s civil protection agency, activated national emergency procedures. He said the quake was on par with one in L'Aquilla in 2009 that left more than 300 people dead.

The Vatican sent a six-man team from the Vatican City fire squad to Amatrice. A statement said the decision was taken as a “sign of the pope’s concrete proximity to the people affected by the quake."

Mayor Sergio Pirozzi of Amatrice told the AP that rescue teams were trying to reach all 69 hamlets around his town. “Half of the town doesn’t exist anymore,”  he told RAI-TV. “People are stuck underneath the rubble. Houses are no longer there.”

Amatrice is perhaps best known as the home of spaghetti all’amatriciana, a hearty dish of pasta made with bacon-like bits of cured pork jowl, pecorino cheese and tomato.The town was set to host its 50th spaghetti festival Saturday.

The first quake struck around 3:30 a.m., collapsing walls and ceilings of homes and trapping people as they slept. It was followed by at least 11 temblors in what the seismological center described as a “high aftershock rate.”

Pirozzi said the quake also knocked out power to the community, hampering communications with emergency responders. The remote town was virtually cut off after a bridge connecting it to the rest of the region was damaged.

A geologist in Poland says that earthquake was caused by the slow but constant under-surface movement of the African Plate toward Europe. Jerzy Zaba of the Silesian University in Katowice, in southern Poland, said Wednesday that a wedge-shaped front of the African Plate is pressing into the Eurasian Plate in the Adriatic Sea region and pushes into the neighboring regions, like Italy’s Apennine Mountains.

The tension that accumulates leads to a sudden release in the form of under-surface rock movement that causes earth tremors.

Zaba told Polish PAP agency that the African Plate is moving northwards at the speed of up to 2 inches a year.

The most deadly Italian earthquake in the 20th century struck in 1908, when a quake followed by a tsunami killed about 80,000 people in Reggio Calabria and Sicily.

Source:USA Today.com

Police find missing car of 2 slain nuns

JACKSON, Miss. — Authorities said they've found a car missing from the home of the two nuns found stabbed to death in their Mississippi home Thursday morning.

Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said the blue Toyota Corolla was found abandoned on a secluded street barely a mile from where Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill were found dead Thursday.

Strain said police found the car, apparently undamaged, about 6:45 p.m. CT. Strain said the car was being towed to a state crime lab near Jackson for analysis. He said police hadn't determined when the vehicle was abandoned.

Jonell Payton, right, comforts Lisa Dew, outside the

Jonell Payton, right, comforts Lisa Dew, outside the Durant home of two slain Catholic nuns Thursday.The nuns worked as nurses at the Lexington Medical Clinic, where Dew was the office manager. Dew and a Durant police officer discovered their bodies inside the house after both nuns did not report for work. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Sister Paula Merrill, a nurse practitioner with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, and Sister Margaret Held, a nurse practitioner with the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, helped treat thousands of patients a year at the Lexington Medical Clinic, regardless of their ability to pay.

“They were earthly angels with hearts of pure gold," said Rosalind McChriston-Williams, a nurse who worked with them at UMMC Holmes County.

The Rev. Greg Plata, who serves as priest at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, praised the pair. “These were the two sweetest sisters you could imagine. It’s so senseless.”

The clinic is expected to remain closed for several days before reopening to patients next week.

“They have touched lives all the way out to Kosciusko,” said Queen Armstrong, a registered nurse with UMMC Holmes County. “Every town, they have touched someone’s life.”

If people needed help, “they would go above and beyond, whether you needed medicine or to keep your lights on,” she said. “That’s how they cared for people. The community has lost two great ladies.”

Dr. Elias Abboud, who owns the clinic, called their deaths “a loss to the community. They were loved by everybody.”

Jamie Sample, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle

Jamie Sample, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Lexington, Miss., sits in the shade in Durant, Miss., and shows a smartphone photograph taken last December 2015, of Sisters Paula Merrill, left, and Margaret Held. The two nuns who worked as nurses, and lived in Durant, Miss., were found slain in their home Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. There were signs of a break-in and their vehicle was missing. (Photo: Courtesy Sample family via AP)

Poor areas, such as Holmes County, “need people with compassion,” he said. “For them, it was a passion and a love for people, a love for the needy.”

The nuns raised funds to cover the costs for poor patients and the uninsured, he said. “They would treat them for free.”

The nurse practitioners “would really go the extra mile with patients,” he said. “They would get them free samples and call the drug companies to get them insulin.”

In addition, the nuns regularly distributed books, school supplies and many other items to the needy, according to church officials.

“These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi. They absolutely loved the people in their community,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. “We mourn with the people of Lexington and Durant and we pray for the Sisters of Charity, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the families left behind.”

Both nuns lived together in a house in Durant on Castalian Springs Road, and that is where their bodies were found Thursday. Authorities suspect robbery may have been the motive.

Local police officers leave the Durant home of two

Local police officers leave the Durant home of two slain Catholic nuns who worked as nurses at the Lexington Medical Clinic, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The clinic office manager and a Durant police officer discovered their bodies inside the house after both nuns did not report for work. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

 

Plata said their bodies were transported to the state Crime Lab, where pathologists are expected to conduct autopsies.

Durant police and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are investigating.

Warren Strain, a spokesman for MBI, said after the nuns failed to show up for work Thursday morning, a co-worker checked on them at 10:30 a.m., discovering their bodies and contacting police.

A native of Massachusetts, Merrill moved in 1981 to Mississippi, where she had lived and worked since.

Nun Paula Merrill, left, was a nurse practitioner in

Nun Paula Merrill, left, was a nurse practitioner in Holmes County. (Photo: From Sisters of Charity video)

 

She referred to her patients as the “communion of saints” and liked to share the quote: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Sister Audrey Peterson, who worked with Held and Merrill in Mississippi, said the nurse practitioners rented the little house in Durant. “They were outdoor people,” she said. “They had a garden and grew things and shared with their neighbors.”

She praised them as “two very, very special, gentle ladies whose total commitment was being present to the poor. They were working with the absolute poorest of the poor.”

In an interview with the Sisters of Charity, Held talked about treating patients in Holmes County, where more than 40% live in poverty. “What really appalls me is 60% of the children live in poverty.”

Nun Margaret Held was a nurse practitioners in Holmes

Nun Margaret Held was a nurse practitioners in Holmes County. (Photo: From Sisters of Charity video)

 

That poverty has health consequences, including diabetes and high blood pressure, Merrill explained. “Many people can’t afford the (insurance) premiums. They make minimum wage.”

Many patients come to them from surrounding counties because “we are the only ones that will see them,” she said.

Those in the Catholic community knew the two nurse practitioners as sisters, but patients referred to them as “their doctors,” Armstrong said.

Her voice began to break. “They were loved by the community,” she said. “They were loved by me and my family.”

Source:USA Today.com

Investors Move Next Door, Unsettling a Black Beachside Enclave

William Pickens III has spent most of his 80 summers in Sag Harbor Hills, a beach community of modest bungalows on the edge of the Hamptons. His grade-school principal built the house across the street; his family doctor lived two doors down. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were his house guests. Those were the people who came to Sag Harbor Hills.

About a year and a half ago he noticed a change.

There were new buyers, and they were different. They did not mix much, and they identified themselves by names like 81 Harvest Holdings L.L.C. or 45 Hillside Holdings L.L.C.

“I don’t know Mr. and Mrs. L.L.C.,” Mr. Pickens said. “But I know the family on either side of them, because I grew up with them. But who the hell is L.L.C.?”

Photo

 

A sign at one of three entrances to the enclave, which became home to a robust African-American working class after World War II. Credit Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

“It’s worrisome,” he added. “May not be illegal, but it’s worrisome.”

Sag Harbor Hills and its neighboring subdivisions in the Long Island village of Sag Harbor, Ninevah and Azurest, are uncommon among American beach communities. After World War II, when Sag Harbor was home to a robust African-American working class, developers offered parcels in an undeveloped swath of town for $1,000 or less. Black families bought in, creating three adjoining communities linked by dirt roads. Two nearby subdivisions, Eastville and Chatfield’s Hill, also attracted black home buyers. As in other black enclaves of segregated communities, laborers lived next to professionals and high rollers. For many it was a world of their own, a decompression zone — home in a way that even their city residences might not be, because it had been built by people like them.

The racial makeup kept home prices down. White buyers tended to choose other parts of Sag Harbor.

That is changing. As house prices in the Hamptons soar, Sag Harbor Hills and its neighbors are now luring investors looking for bargains.

A lawyer named Bruce F. Bronster, backed by investors, has bought at least nine properties in the three communities, each registered to a different L.L.C. Others have followed. In November, residents received a mass email saying a buyer was willing to pay up to $600,000 in cash for houses — was anyone interested?

“It feels like a hostile takeover,” Beverly Granger, a retired dentist, said, adding that strangers have come onto her property to post offers to buy. “People are very aggressively buying up properties and wanting to put bigger homes that are out of character for the community. It just feels different.”

Photo

 

Beverly Granger, a retired dentist, lives in a home in Sag Harbor Hills that belonged to her parents. “It feels like a hostile takeover,” she said of the recent wave of investors. Credit Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

On a recent afternoon, the shaded ranch houses and small lots gave Sag Harbor Hills the feel of a quiet suburb, shaggy in a few spots, embellished with home additions in others, all leading to a ribbon of bayside beach. Neighbors waved as they passed one another on the street.

Because banks in the 1950s and 1960s would not lend money in African-American areas, the homes that went up were small. So family life took shape outdoors, among neighbors, said Ms. Granger, who has spent summers in Sag Harbor Hills since 1950s.

“There was no television,” Ms. Granger said, describing life in the hamlet. “You got a little bit of radio. And so you really went in the homes to sleep and eat, and the rest of the time you were outside doing things.” Neighbors watched one another’s children, she said. Houses tended to stay within families or among friends; turnover was rare.

With the arrival of celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, the restaurateur B. Smith and Allan Houston of the New York Knicks, the communities rivaled Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard as a vacation mecca for successful African-Americans. Colson Whitehead, writing about the summers of the black elite in his novel “Sag Harbor,” described an oasis apart from his white prep school. “We fit in there,” he wrote.

At a village trustees’ meeting this month, residents faced off. Mr. Bronster was seeking approval to build a house of 5,300 square feet on several combined lots, the biggest in an area where the median house size is 1,378 square feet. Neighbors, including a group called Save Sag Harbor, which formed to keep big-box stores out of downtown, came ready to oppose him.

Mr. Bronster brought backup to the small-town gathering.

“He brought his architect, he brought a land-use attorney and some other attorney, and he had aerial photographs and professionally done graphs,” said Victoria Sharp, a former director of the AIDS center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.

“If Bronster was putting up a house of 4,000 square feet, people would be fine with that,” Ms. Sharp said. “But putting up a house of 53 hundred square feet represents a tipping point. The next one is 55, and the next one is 59. And he’s got big money behind him and is going to make this neighborhood what it never has been.”

Like others interviewed for this article, Ms. Sharp, who is white, said the tensions were not racial. She said that since moving to Sag Harbor Hills from another neighborhood in the village last February, she has been welcomed into her neighbors’ homes. “It’s exactly why I moved here,” she said. In 14 years in her previous house, she was never invited to a neighbor’s party. “There’s a real sense of community here. And that’s about, unfortunately, to be interrupted.”

Photo

 

A woman preparing to relax on a beach in Sag Harbor Hills. Residents spoke of close ties between neighbors and a sense of history that they fear could soon be lost. Credit Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

Mr. Bronster said he had no intention of changing the community’s atmosphere. He, too, was drawn by the neighborly feel, he said.

“I’m especially appreciative of the history of the neighborhood, how it was started, what it means to the residents who live there and how that has enabled the community to develop a very warm and gregarious and welcoming sense,” he said. “That’s why I want to be there.” He added that he was developing dilapidated houses to rent to “year-round families that want to be part of the community.”

An even bigger house, of 5,900 square feet, has been proposed for four combined lots that belong to Robert Kapito, the president of the investment firm BlackRock, who is also one of Mr. Bronster’s investors. Mr. Kapito earned more than $20 million last year, according to company filings. Final approval for the two houses is pending.

Renee Simons, who lives next to the site of Mr. Kapito’s proposed house, said that she felt dismissed by the newcomers, and at odds with some neighbors, who hope the new houses will raise the value of their homes.

Photo

 

Kennedy Scott (carrying hula hoop) at the beach with her family for her seventh birthday. Credit Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

“It feels like us versus them, which is not healthy,” Ms. Simons said. “It’s not what I come here for. There’s such an increase in contention now.”

“We’re on defense,” she said. “So then you get called a rabble-rouser.”

Dianne McMillan Brannen, a real estate agent who has lived in Ninevah for 25 years, said she worried about a domino effect: investors combining lots to build bigger houses, which drives up sales prices, which tempts more families to sell, until eventually a historically rare African-American haven looks like just another upscale beach resort. In the last year, she said, 13 houses have been sold to builders or investors, compared with the usual four or five.

“An identity is the most important thing that could be lost,” Ms. Brannen said. “This area is not always going to be African-American. You could have 250 homes, and it would be an entirely different set of people here. And those sets of people are not going to regard it as we have regarded it. And they’re not going to have a story to tell about what’s happened previously. And unless we tell that story, it’ll go away.”

Mr. Pickens, whose grandfather was an early field secretary of the N.A.A.C.P., said he welcomed newcomers, whatever their race, but not investors or people with four or five houses and no commitment to the community.

“This is sort of reverse integration,” he said. “That’s fine, that’s the American way. But there are 5,000 miles of coastline in America, and five are commanded and owned by blacks. So we treasure what we own. That begins to disappear. Think about that. So that’s what we’re dealing with. And once you leave here, you can’t afford to come back.”

Of the newcomers, he asked: “Do they really want to be here or do they want to see us out of here? I’m for integration, I’m not for elimination.”

Source: NY times.com

Gene Tests Identify Breast Cancer Patients Who Can Skip Chemotherapy, Study Says

When is it safe for a woman with breast cancer to skip chemotherapy?

A new study helps answer that question, based on a test of gene activity in tumors. It found that nearly half of women with early-stage breast cancer who would traditionally receive chemo can avoid it, with little risk of the cancer coming back or spreading in the next five years.

The so-called genomic test measures the activity of genes that control the growth and spread of cancer, and can identify women with a low risk of recurrence and therefore little to gain from chemo.

“More and more evidence is mounting that there is a substantial number of women with breast cancer who will not need chemotherapy to do well,” said Dr. Rachel A. Freedman, a breast cancer oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She was not involved in the study.

The researchers estimated that their findings, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, would apply to 35,000 to 40,000 women a year in the United States, and 60,000 to 70,000 in Europe. They are patients with early disease who because of tumor size, cancerous lymph nodes and other factors would normally be prescribed chemo.

Genomic tests, which doctors have been using for about 10 years in some breast cancer patients, are part of a growing effort to spare women from chemo and its harsh side effects whenever it is safe to do so. But the decision to forgo a potentially lifesaving treatment is never taken lightly, and doctors have been eager for more data to make sure they are on the right path.

The new study is one of the largest and most rigorous trials of genomic testing, and offers reassurance to doctors and patients that the technology can be trusted to help identify patients who do not need chemo. But an editorial accompanying the report said the study was not the final word, and additional research now underway would provide more clarity. Although women who skipped chemo had low recurrence rates, their rates were slightly higher than those of women who had chemo.

The results of the study will be of most use for cases that have fallen into a gray zone, when the disease is in an early stage but has some anatomical features that suggest it may be aggressive. But the genomic test says it is low risk.

“We all see these patients in our practice all the time,” Dr. Freedman said. “What do you do with that person?”

The study involved women with early cases of the most common type of breast cancer: hormone-sensitive tumors that test negative for a receptor called her2. In the United States, about three quarters of breast cancers are that type.

Early stage in the study referred to Stage 1 or 2, meaning the tumors were generally no bigger than five centimeters and had spread to no more than three lymph nodes. The study was done in Europe, where “early stage” includes somewhat larger tumors than would be included in the United States.

More than half of the breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed at early stages.

The research involved 6,693 women with early-stage breast cancer at 112 hospitals in nine European countries. The study was paid for by grants from governments, drug companies and charitable groups. Agendia, the company that markets MammaPrint, did the testing at no cost.

The women had the usual initial treatments — surgery, hormonal therapy and radiation. Then, researchers determined whether each woman had a high or low risk of recurrence based on genomic testing and on clinical features like tumor size and number of positive lymph nodes. Sometimes, the clinical and genomic risks did not match.

MammaPrint looks at the activity of 70 genes. In a low-risk tumor, 50 genes are turned off and 20 are active, according to Laura J. van ’t Veer, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco who was an author of the study and a developer of the test. In high-risk cases, 50 genes are on and 20 off.

The researchers were especially interested in the women — about a quarter of those in the study — who seemed to have a high clinical risk but a low genomic risk.

Dr. Fatima Cardoso, an author of the study and a breast oncologist at Champalimaud Clinical Center in Lisbon, said that traditionally, women with early cancer but a high clinical risk were usually given chemotherapy. She said that doctors knew that not all would benefit from it, but gave it to all anyway to err on the side of caution, because they could not identify which women did not really need it.

The main goal of the study was to find out whether women with a high clinical risk but a low genomic risk could safely forgo chemo.

There were 1,550 women with high clinical risk and low genomic risk. They were assigned at random to be treated according to their genomic risk or their clinical risk. So some received chemotherapy, and others did not. Then the researchers watched to see if any had distant spread of the cancer to other organs, which is often fatal.

After five years, among those who did not receive chemotherapy, 94.4 percent had no distant spread. Those who received chemo fared slightly better: 95.9 percent had no distant spread.

“We have to continue to follow these patients and see what happens at 10 years,” Dr. Cardoso said.

But given the small difference so far, the researchers said that it was safe for women with early disease and high clinical risk, but low genomic risk, to skip chemotherapy. The findings, they said, mean that 46 percent of women with early-stage disease who are thought to be at high clinical risk may be able to skip chemo.

An editorial accompanying the article praised the research but sounded a note of caution. The authors, Dr. Clifford A. Hudis and Dr. Maura N. Dickler, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said that the study was not large enough to be sure that the 1.5-percentage-point difference would hold up statistically.

The editorial also noted that other studies of genomic tests had identified groups of women in whom the five-year recurrence risk was only 1 percent, and asked what level of risk was acceptable. Patients’ attitudes also differ.

Dr. Freedman said some women wanted no part of chemo, even if it offered a significant benefit. But, she added, “others line up at the door for almost no benefit, just so they can have peace of mind.”

Source:NY Times.com

Simple Rules for Healthy Eating

Over the past few months, I’ve written a number of times on how nutrition recommendations are seldom supported by science. I’ve argued that what many people are telling you may be inaccurate. In response, many of you have asked me what nutrition recommendations should say.

It’s much easier, unfortunately, to tell you what not to do. But here at The Upshot, we don’t avoid the hard questions. So I’m going to put myself on the line. Below are the general rules I live by. They’re the ones I share with patients, with friends and with family. They’re the ones I support as a pediatrician and a health services researcher. But I acknowledge up front that they may apply only to healthy people without metabolic disorders (me, for instance, as far as I know).

These suggestions are also not supported by the scientific weight of rigorous randomized controlled trials, because little in nutrition is. I’ve inserted links to back them up with the available evidence. They are not “laws” and should not be treated as such. No specific nutrients will be demonized, and none will be held up as miracles. But these recommendations make sense to me, and they’ve helped me immensely.

Full disclosure: I did not invent most of these. I’ve developed them from reading the work of others, including what may be the most impressive “official” nutritional guidelines, those of Brazil, as well as from earlier suggestions from readers, as in this great NYT interactive graphic. It captures readers’ responses to food rules by Michael Pollan. He is, of course, the promulgator of the well-known advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

1. Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods. These include fruits and vegetables. But they also include meat, fish, poultry and eggs that haven’t been processed. In other words, when buying food at the market, focus on things that have not been been cooked, prepared or altered in any way. Brown rice over white rice. Whole grains over refined grains. You’re far better off eating two apples than drinking the same 27 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce glass of apple juice.

1b. Eat lightly processed foods less often. You’re not going to make everything yourself. Pasta, for instance, is going to be bought already prepared. You’re not going to grind your own flour or extract your own oil. These are meant to be eaten along with unprocessed foods, but try to eat less of them.

1c. Eat heavily processed foods even less often. There’s little high-quality evidence that even the most processed foods are dangerous. But keep your consumption of them to a minimum, because they can make it too easy to stuff in calories. Such foods include bread, chips, cookies and cereals. In epidemiologic studies, heavily processed meats are often associated with worse health outcomes, but that evidence should be taken with a grain of salt (not literally), as I’ve written about before.

 

2. Eat as much home-cooked food as possible, which should be prepared according to Rule 1. Eating at home allows you to avoid processed ingredients more easily. It allows you full control over what you eat, and allows you to choose the flavors you prefer. You’re much less likely to stuff yourself silly if you eat home-cooked food. I’m not saying this is easy. Behavioral change takes repetition and practice. It also, unfortunately, takes time.

3. Use salt and fats, including butter and oil, as needed in food preparation. Things like salt and fat aren’t the enemy. They are often necessary in the preparation of tasty, satisfying food. The key here is moderation. Use what you need. Seasoning is often what makes vegetables taste good. Don’t be afraid of them, but don’t go crazy with them either.

4. When you do eat out, try to eat at restaurants that follow the same rules. Ideally, you should eat at restaurants that are creating all of their items from completely unprocessed foods. Lots and lots of restaurants do. Follow Rule 1 even while out to dinner. Some processing is going to be fine, but try to keep it to a minimum.

5. Drink mostly water, but some alcohol, coffee and other beverages are fine. As I’ve pointed out before, you can find a study to show that everything either prevents or causes cancer — alcohol and coffee included. But my take is that the preponderance of evidence supports the inclusion of a moderate consumption of most beverages.

6. Treat all beverages with calories in them as you would alcohol. This includes every drink with calories, including milk. They’re fine in moderation, but keep them to a minimum. You can have them because you like them, but you shouldn’t consume them as if you need them.

7. Eat with other people, especially people you care about, as often as possible. This has benefits even outside those of nutrition. It will make you more likely to cook. It will most likely make you eat more slowly. It will also make you happy.

I’ve avoided treating any food like the devil. Many nutrition experts do, and it may turn out they’re right, but at this point I think the jury is still out. I’ve therefore tried not to tell you to avoid anything completely. My experience tells me that total abstinence rarely works, although anecdotes exist to support that practice. I think you’ll find that many other diets and recommendations work under these rules. These are much more flexible and, I hope, reasonable than what some might prescribe.

All of these rules are subtly trying to get you to be more conscious of what you’re eating. It’s far too easy these days to consume more than you think you are, or more than you really need, especially when eating out. I’ve found that it’s impossible to tell any one person how much they should be eating. People have varying requirements, and it’s important for all of them to listen to their bodies to know when they should eat, and when they should stop.

One other thing: Don’t judge what others eat. One of my closest friends has been avoiding carbohydrates for months, and has seen remarkable results. Another was a pescatarian — a person whose only meat dishes are fish — for a year and was very happy with that. I, on the other hand, avoid no food groups in particular.

People are very different. Some may have real problems consuming even the smallest amount of carbohydrates. Others may be intolerant of certain foods because of allergies or sensitivities. It will most likely take a bit of experimentation, on an individual level, to find the actual diet within these recommendations that works for you. But the above rules should allow for a wide variety of foods and for remaining healthy. At least, I hope so.

Source:NY times.com

 

Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson is Hollywood's Highest-Paid Actor, Says Forbes

Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson is rock solid at the box office — so much that he is Hollywood’s highest-paid actor.

The star of the forthcoming "Fast 8" earned an estimated $64.5 million in the last 12 months, according to Forbes — more than double what he made last year. Matt Damon, who placed third, with $55 million, saw a 120 percent increase over last year’s earnings, thanks in large part to his starring role in the box office hit "The Martian."

Jackie Chan came in second, with $61 million. Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp round out the top five.

Robert Downey Jr. topped last year's list of top earners for the third consecutive year, with $80 million. This year, he drops to eighth, with less than half those earnings.

Jennifer Lawrence Tops Forbes' List of Highest Paid Actresses
Taylor Swift Tops Forbes' Highest-Earning Celebrities List

"The Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence earlier this week topped Forbes' list of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses, with $46 million.

Earnings are estimated based on paydays, endorsement deals and other earnings for acting during the year. Here are the 10 highest-earning actors, according to Forbes:

1. Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, $64.5 million
2. Jackie Chan, $61 million 3. Matt Damon, $55 million 4. Tom Cruise, $53 million 5. Johnny Depp, $48 million 6. Ben Affleck, $43 million
7. Vin Diesel, $35 million
8. Shan Rukh Khan, Bollywood star, $33 million (tie) 8. Robert Downey Jr., $33 million (tie) 10. Akshay Kumar, Bollywood star, $31.5 million (tie) 10. Brad Pitt, $31.5 million (tie)

Source:Yahoo.com

Abedin, Weiner separating after new sexting allegations

Washington (CNN)Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin announced Monday that she and former US Rep. Anthony Weiner are separating after new reports surfaced that he sent sexually suggestive photos again.

"After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband. Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy," Abedin said in a statement Monday.
Abedin was "furious and sickened" by the picture of Weiner and their 4-year-old son, Jordan, according to two people close to the family. The sources said she did not know about it or details of the latest sexting exchange until this weekend.
Weiner, who torpedoed his own political career five years ago with a sexting scandal and whose wife is Clinton's closest adviser, deleted his Twitter account after the latest report surfaced.
A Donald Trump supporter told the New York Post that the two of them exchanged racy photos over the course of about a year, including one exchange where she alleges that he sexted her with his son apparently sleeping next to him.
"Someone just climbed into my bed," Weiner allegedly wrote in a message, sent July 31, 2015, according to the Post.
He then is alleged to have sent a picture of a barechested man with white boxers and a bulge, while a small child is asleep beside him.
"Your do realize you can see you(r) Weiner in that pic??" the woman replied, according to the Post.
Abedin and Weiner had been distant and "heading on a path apart" for a few months, but she was reluctant to leave, according to the two sources close to the family. Her faith is a big part of that, as she has told friends and even Vogue magazine, and she knew it would draw headlines.
Weiner was with her and Jordan this weekend in the Hamptons, but left Monday morning. Abedin spoke with several close friends Sunday night and early Monday morning before deciding to announce a separation.
"She did not want this to be another distraction for Hillary," one friend said.
CNN has reached out to Weiner for comment.
The Republican presidential nominee weighed in on the incident on Monday, saying Abedin made a "wise decision," but said Weiner's proximity to Clinton could possibly have compromised classified information.
"I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information," Trump said in a statement. "Who knows what he learned and who he told? It's just another example of Hillary Clinton's bad judgment."
A pair of news outlets, NY1 and The New York Daily News, both suspended or moved to cut ties with Weiner Monday.
"Anthony Weiner is on indefinite leave from the station," a NY1 spokesman told CNN's Dylan Byers. Weiner was a frequent guest on the New York news channel's "Inside City Hall" program. And the New York Daily News said it would no longer run his columns.
The New York Times asked Weiner recently if he had sexted anyone recently. He deflected at the time, saying "I'm not going to go down the path of talking about any of that," before changing the topic to Trump.
Photos published by The New York Post late Sunday show the man completely and others feature Weiner's face, but the photo of the boy has been partially blurred out, and the woman's face is blurred out in her photos.
The Post, which did not completely identify the woman, said she provided 12 selfies from Weiner. The paper described her as a 40-something divorced woman from the West.
Abedin and Weiner have been "essentially" separated for months, a close friend to Abedin said after she officially announced their separation on Monday.
The clearest sign of this: Abedin had recently not been wearing a wedding ring, a fact that did not go unnoticed by people inside and around the Clinton campaign.
Abedin has long been one of Clinton's closest aides, matched only by Cheryl Mills in her access and relationship with the woman who could be the next president. And Abedin herself has been thrust in the middle of the race, as questions about whether she helped Clinton Foundation donors gain special access have arisen recently, with a spate of new email releases.
Abedin is Clinton's most well known aide. While Clinton works the ropeline after events, Abedin is always close behind and Clinton supporters regularly ask the aide for selfies with her, much like they do with the candidate.
Weiner's relationship with Abedin is scrutinized during a recent documentary on his unsuccessful 2013 bid for a political comeback during the New York City mayoral primary.
He resigned from Congress in 2011 after he accidentally posted a lewd photo of himself on his Twitter account. In the midst of Weiner's first sexting scandal, it became known that his wife was expecting their first child.
Two years later he was caught again, sexting with an aspiring porn star from southwest Indiana named Sydney Leathers. During his run for mayor, Weiner, had adopted the online pseudonym "Carlos Danger."
As of about 7:35 a.m. ET, Weiner's Twitter page had been taken down.
Weiner is alleged, in a separate New York Post article, to have been baited last month into a racy online chat with a Republican operative he thought was a young woman.
Source:Cnn.com

Madonna gives fans the shock of a lifetime

(CNN)Madonna really is the coolest.

The Material Girl surprised 400 fans Wednesday who were attending the 25th anniversary screening of her 1991 documentary, "Madonna: Truth or Dare."
The singer, wearing a fire-engine red, off-the-shoulder dress, was beaming when she showed up at the Museum of Modern Art.
The documentary followed Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. The film originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991, and went on to become the highest-grossing documentary at the time.
Madonna took to Instagram to share the special moment with her seven million fans: "Surreal Moment! At the MOMA!! So nice to watch a film in a museum. So many freedoms we take for granted that we did not have then. Thank you Alek Keshishian. We changed history with this film.!"
Source:CNN.com

Gene Wilder, star of 'Willy Wonka,' dead at 83

(CNN)Gene Wilder, who brought a wild-eyed desperation to a series of memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, has died, his lawyer, Eric Weissmann, said.

He was 83.
Wilder is best known for his collaborations with director Mel Brooks, starring as the stressed-out Leo Bloom in Brooks' breakout 1967 film "The Producers," and later in the monster movie spoof "Young Frankenstein." He also portrayed a boozing gunslinger in "Blazing Saddles."
For many people, Wilder might be best remembered for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," playing the mysterious candy tycoon in the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl's book.
In a statement to CNN on Monday, Brooks called Wilder "one of the truly great talents of our time."
"He blessed every film we did with his magic and he blessed me with his friendship," Brooks wrote.

Story highlights

  • Gene Wilder has died, his lawyer confirms to CNN
  • The actor, who played the title role in 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' was 83
 

(CNN)Gene Wilder, who brought a wild-eyed desperation to a series of memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, has died, his lawyer, Eric Weissmann, said.

 
Wilder chose not to disclose his illness, the statement added.
"He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world," Walker-Pearlman said.

Mars simulation crew 'return to Earth' after 365 days in isolation

(CNN)A crew of intrepid astronauts have emerged after a year on Mars... kind of.

Six scientists spent 365 days in a geodesic dome set in a Mars-like environment 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. The simulated habitat was located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii.
The experiment, the longest of its type ever conducted, was designed to test crew cohesion and performance in isolation. It forms an important part of any real mission to Mars as journeys to the red planet will take upwards of six months, before any surface missions even begin, and astronauts will have to spend long periods of time together in a claustrophobic space.

Mars simulation crew 'return to Earth' after 365 days in isolation

 
 
 
Mock Mars crew returns to civilization after one year 01:02

Story highlights

  • Six crew members spent 365 days in a Mars simulation in Hawaii
  • The experiment was intended to study the effects of isolation
 

(CNN)A crew of intrepid astronauts have emerged after a year on Mars... kind of.

Six scientists spent 365 days in a geodesic dome set in a Mars-like environment 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. The simulated habitat was located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii.
The experiment, the longest of its type ever conducted, was designed to test crew cohesion and performance in isolation. It forms an important part of any real mission to Mars as journeys to the red planet will take upwards of six months, before any surface missions even begin, and astronauts will have to spend long periods of time together in a claustrophobic space.
 
"The UH research going on up here is just super vital when it comes to picking crews, figuring out how people are going to actually work on different kinds of missions, and sort of the human factors element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you are actually looking at," Tristan Bassingthwaighte, who served as the crew's architect, said in a statement.
"We're proud to be helping NASA reduce or remove the barriers to long-duration space exploration," said University of Hawaii professor Kim Binsted, the project's principle investigator.

Future colonizers

Interest in Mars is at its highest in years, thanks in part to the success of the book and film "The Martian," and to boosting from private entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, whose SpaceX hopes to launch a manned-mission to the planet by 2024.
The University of Hawaii experiment, which is funded by NASA, is the third so far conducted. Previous missions lasted four and eight months, respectively.
A similar experiment has also been conducted by the European Space Agency, in Concordia, Antarctica, and in Moscow, where crew members warned of sleep and psychological issues.
"I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome," Cyprien Verseux said after emerging from the Hawaiian Mars.
Fellow crewmember Christiane Heinicke added she was amazed she could draw water from the "little greenhouse construct" in their simulated environment. She said that the success of this experiment suggested that it might even be possible to use similar methods to get water on Mars, which is notorious for being completely dry.
The University of Hawaii is currently recruiting for crew members to take part in its next two missions, scheduled to begin in 2017 and 2018.
Source:CNN.com

Sleep apnea's CPAP machine doesn't cut heart risks, study says

(CNN)A new study might tempt some sleep apnea patients to unplug their machines. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, does not reduce the risk of heart attacks or other cardiovascular emergencies in sleep apnea patients with heart disease, the researchers say.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes breathing pauses, sometimes 30 times or more each hour, during sleep. Men are twice as likely to have it, according to the Mayo Clinic. "Since it reduces the brief awakenings caused by the sleep-disordered breathing, individuals have less fragmented sleep and consequently feel more refreshed upon awaking and more alert throughout the day," explained Dr. Clete Kushida, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine who did not contribute to the current study.
A common treatment for sleep apnea, CPAP therapy includes a small machine that supplies a sleeper with constant and steady air pressure through a mask or nose piece.
Despite the disappointing study results, CPAP is still "worthwhile," said Dr. Doug McEvoy, the principal investigator. He explained in a news release that patients using CPAP "are much less sleepy and depressed, and their productivity and quality of life is enhanced." The New England Journal of Medicine published the study results on Sunday.

Head-to-head comparison

Up to 60% of patients with cardiovascular disease also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Previous small-scale studies have showed that some CPAP patients are less likely to suffer a cardiovascular complication, and other studies have showed that nightly CPAP use lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow in patients.
One 2005 study including hundreds of men found three times as many fatal heart attacks and strokes over a 10-year period among those who did not use CPAP compared with those who did. Notably, only some of the participants had existing heart problems going into the study.
To test how effective CPAP was in reducing cardiovascular events among patients with cardiovascular disease, McEvoy and his colleagues designed the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints (SAVE) study.
An "event," as defined by the researchers, would include a heart attack, stroke, mini-stroke, hospitalization for heart failure or death from any cardiovascular cause.
The team recruited 2,717 patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea from 89 medical centers in seven countries. Most of the participants were older (about 61 years old), overweight, snorers and male; all had coronary artery or cerebrovascular disease. McEvoy, a professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and his team randomly divided patients into two groups: One group received usual care alone, and the other received usual care plus CPAP.
"Usual care" consisted of advice on healthy sleep habits and lifestyle changes along with cardiovascular risk management.
The researchers discovered that 42% of the patients assigned to CPAP used the machines for an average of four or more hours each night, though the overall average duration was 3.3 hours per night. Importantly, their sleep apnea severity decreased from 29 breath pauses per hour to four.
However, in terms of cardiovascular emergencies, the patients using CPAP in addition to following a usual care plan showed no differences from the usual care-only patients after more than three years, on average. Specifically, 17% of patients in the CPAP group and 15.4% in the usual-care group had some kind of serious heart event.
"It's not clear why CPAP treatment did not improve cardiovascular outcomes," McEvoy said.

Some wins

An editorial accompanying the study suggested that since McEvoy and his colleagues recruited participants from a variety of geographic locations, limited resources in some places may have reduced some patients' ability to stick with the CPAP program.
Still, there were clear wins: CPAP significantly reduced snoring and daytime sleepiness and improved quality of life and mood. In fact, work attendance improved among patients using CPAP.
Past studies have shown that obstructive sleep apnea can negatively impact attention, memory, learning and overall intellectual function. A new, unrelated review of recent research found that CPAP improved verbal memory after just two to three months of use, while using CPAP for six hours a night offered even more intellectual function benefits. Those included included improvements in attention and visual memory, as well.
"The evidence is strong," said Dr. Charles Davies, lead author of the review and a neurologist at Carle Neuroscience Institute who specializes in sleep medicine. Davies looked at scientific studies performed over the past few years, which used the latest and most validated tests. In one of the studies, the researchers compared CPAP with sham CPAP, in which participants used a machine that did not provide enough pressure to be effective, and found improvements in intellectual abilities after just two months of CPAP use for about four hours a night. In particular, participants sharpened their abilities to quickly shift their focus and concentrate.
Though the current study showed CPAP as ineffective with heart health risks, it still provides many benefits, including an uptick in mood and, some patients would say, a little white noise that can be helpful for many sleepers. Check with your doctor before unplugging.
 
Source:CNN.com
 

How to pay less for your prescription drugs, legally

(CNN)Even a not-so-pricey drug can add up to a nightmare expense when it needs to be refilled every month.

The $600 price tag on EpiPens, $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C drug Sovaldi and the $750-per-pill price increase on the AIDS drug Daraprim have spurred outrage over pharmaceutical drug costs. To get prescription medicines for less, many people try these six tricks.

Free samples

Some patients request free samples from their doctors to help reduce drug costs, according to the Food and Drug Administration website. From the physician's perspective, this is an easy way to ease a patient's concerns. After all, pharmaceutical companies give free samples of brand-name drugs -- usually the new, expensive ones -- to doctors as a promotional tool, so those doctors usually have no problem passing them on to their patients.
However, free samples are intended to allow patients to evaluate the side effects of a new drug for a couple of weeks before actually buying it, according to the FDA. So samples, by definition, provide only a temporary fix.

Generic drugs

Many people ask either their doctors or their pharmacists to swap out a brand prescription for a cheaper generic alternative. Generics are variations on the expensive name-brand drugs that have lost patent protection.
"Whereas the average cost of a name-brand prescription was $268 in 2011, it was only about $33 for a generic drug," noted the National Center for Policy Analysis (PDF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization.
Naturally, many people make good use of these lower prices. According Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, an industry representative for drug makers, "generic utilization rates are nearly 90%."
Getting the best price on a drug may require an extra step beyond simply asking. Often, pharmacies offer discounts on generics for those who buy in bulk, such as when you purchase a three-month supply of your medication all at once. You may also need to explain any special circumstances, such as being a student or a senior, and it helps to simply request the lowest price possible.
The major chain pharmacies also offer discount generic-drug programs, which you usually pay a small fee to join. You also need to provide them with personal information (that may be sold to marketing companies). If you have a chronic illness and know that many refills are down the road, the fee and divulged data may be worth it to you.
Though generic drugs may appear to be more cost-efficient, they may not be as low-cost as consumers anticipate. For instance, the National Center for Policy Analysis found that half of all generic drugs increased in price over a one-year period ending in July 2014, with some rising in price dramatically: Eighteen percent of generic drugs rose in price by 25% or more, while some increased by more than 100%.
Another potential downside with generics is a slight difference in formulation, which may equal a big difference in side effects. Though the brand name is easy to tolerate, you might get a headache, say, when taking the generic. However, in some cases, the reverse is true, and some patients tolerate the generic better than the brand-name.

Prescription drug coupons

These coupons market discounts and rebates on out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays directly to the consumer. They are available from various sources, including doctors' offices, marketing pamphlets and online. Typically, consumers sign up online for virtual drug discount cards and then do a web search and print out an eCoupon to be used at a pharmacy.
Non-manufacturer websites actively promote eCoupons and drug discount card services using Facebook promotional pages, Twitter and even YouTube videos.
The free app and website GoodRx allows consumers to search, shop for and download coupons from their own cell phone or computer. Basically, you print out a card or coupon, go to the pharmacy and present it for either a reduced cost or reimbursement.
What may be misleading about coupons is that you may end up paying more or being reimbursed less than you expected, said Timothy K. Mackey, director of the Global Health Policy Institute at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
As Mackey explained, zero-pay coupons may seem generous on the part of pharmaceutical companies, but ultimately, insurers end up paying what you do not. To offset costs, insurers eventually change their coverage limits or raise the co-pay on certain drugs in order to pass the costs back to consumers.
Even more, whenever you apply online for a discount card or coupon, what is written into the terms and conditions is data collection: The pharmaceutical company is gathering marketing data on what you think and your demographics, which can be used or sold.
While most of us perceive these subsidized consumer copays as a discount, they're really a whole ecosystem of brand recognition, brand loyalty and data generation for marketing, said Mackey. Consumers need to be careful when using coupons, keeping abreast of any changes in terms and prices. Though at first a coupon supplies a discount, a generic may come on market some time later, so you may continue buying the discounted brand when a much cheaper generic is available.
A recent behind-the-curtain program was launched by Physicians Interactive: eCoupon automatically searches for and delivers any applicable prescription drug coupons for you directly to your pharmacy. That may sound wonderful, but according to Mackey, it's just another direct-to-consumer advertising scheme.
Essentially, the system checks coupon availability for any medication prescribed by your doctor, checks your personal eligibility and then automatically sends a coupon for you directly to your pharmacy. Leveraging and linking your electronic health records to prescribing systems, this smart system "target markets" you at the point of sale.

Patient assistance programs

Commonly referred to as PAPs, these pharmaceutical drug company programs offer free or reduced-cost medications to low-income, underinsured or uninsured individuals.
Because each medication may have its own PAP and eligibility requirements, signing up for these programs is "onerous," according to Mackey.
"Every company has its own eligibility criteria for PAPs, and, in most cases, US citizenship and some proof of income, such as tax records or a record of social security benefits, are required," according to the FDA. PAP forms also require a doctor's signature.
PatientAssistance.com, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, provides consumers with a searchable database of thousands of PAPs, allowing you to browse by brand name, generic drug name or pharmaceutical company name. There's also the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a website that provides access to more than 275 public and private PAPs, including more than 150 programs offered by drug companies. It also shows people how to contact Medicare and other government programs.
"We in the research community don't see them as terribly effective, but we don't have data on this," Mackey added. "We don't know the impact they have."

Comparison shopping

Prescription drug prices are not set in stone and can vary greatly among pharmacies and retail stores. The indie drugstore may offer a better price than the big chain. Prices can even vary between locations of the same chain.
To help you find the best price, there are a variety of websites and apps. One website, BlinkHealth, offers online prices with the security of brick-and-mortar oversight; with this site, you can search for drugs and pay cut-rate prices online and then pick up your prescription at a nearby pharmacy.
LowestMed, a freebie, helps you compare prescription drug prices at local stores. Type in the name of your drug, and this app, which claims it will find discounts as high as 85%, will compare prices in your area. Prescription Saver, another free app, performs nearly the same service, with the added benefit of giving directions to the nearest cost-saving pharmacy.
The OTC Plus, designed by board-certified doctors, is essentially a matchmaking app joining an over-the-counter medication to a list of your particular symptoms. This free app also shows you how to read medicine labels and sends coupons to your cell phone.
Finally, the big-time players such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid each have free apps for customers. These help customers fill and refill prescriptions and show weekly discounts on pharmaceutical prices.

Online pharmacies

"In January 1999, Soma.com became the first pharmacy to operate via the Internet and sell medicines directly to the consumer," Mackey noted in a paper published this year. Today, an estimated 35,000 online pharmacies operate globally.
Digital drugstores may work to your benefit ... or deliver death directly to your door via UPS.
"If you go to online pharmacies, there's a host of drugs they sell," said Mackey, who noted among the plethora of available options are "products you shouldn't be able to get," such as drugs in critical shortage, vaccines and controlled substances.
Make no mistake that excellent online pharmacies exist, selling FDA-approved medications to people with prescriptions. To verify a website, the FDA recommends looking for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Seal and then visiting the website to confirm.
Mackey suggests Legitscript, an internet security company that uses computational methods to determine whether a particular site is complying with laws and regulations.
In the virtual world, you cannot trust that an online pharmacy with an address in Saskatchewan, Canada, is real. You need to check a pharmacy's legitimacy; otherwise, you may unknowingly purchase counterfeit drugs or real drugs that have expired.
"You're taking a risk," said Mackey, "Expired or counterfeit, the drug's not going to be effective when you use it." For a drug intended to be life-saving -- such as an EpiPen -- unless it's the real deal, you could die.
"The reason online pharmacies exist is because there's a demand," Mackey said.
Source:CNN.com

10 Secrets to Brighter, Whiter Teeth

Want Brighter, Whiter Teeth?

Have your pearly whites lost their luster because of dingy gray or yellow stains? Stained teeth can occur as we age, but some common foods, drinks, and even mouthwashes can stain teeth. Do-it-yourself remedies can help whiten teeth, and avoiding substances that stain teeth can stop further discoloration. Use these secrets to whiter teeth to restore your bright smile.

Do-It-Yourself Teeth Whitening

You may be able to get rid of superficial stains by yourself. A number of at-home tooth-whitening products -- kits, strips, toothpastes, and rinses-- may lighten stains. There are even some old-fashioned remedies you can try. Tooth-whitening products available on drugstore shelves use mild bleach to brighten yellow teeth. Toothpastes use abrasives and chemicals to remove surface stains. For deep stains, you may need a dentist's help.

Tooth-Whitening Kits

A home tooth-whitening kit contains carbamide peroxide, a bleach that can remove both deep and surface stains and actually changes your natural tooth color. If you have coffee-stained teeth, a tooth-bleaching kit can help. With some kits, you apply a peroxide-based gel (with a small brush) to the surface of your teeth. In other kits, the gel is in a tray that molds to the teeth. The tray must be worn daily (for 30 to 45 minutes) for a week or more.

Home Whitening Strips

Tooth-whitening strips will help get rid of tooth stains. These strips are very thin, virtually invisible, and are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. You wear them a few minutes daily for a week or more. Results are visible in just a few days, and last at least a year. The results with strips are not as dramatic as with whitening kits, but the strips are easy to use and pretty much foolproof.

Home Whitening Strips

Tooth-whitening strips will help get rid of tooth stains. These strips are very thin, virtually invisible, and are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. You wear them a few minutes daily for a week or more. Results are visible in just a few days, and last at least a year. The results with strips are not as dramatic as with whitening kits, but the strips are easy to use and pretty much foolproof.

Home Remedies for Whiter Teeth

Some people still prefer the age-old home remedy of baking soda and a toothbrush to gently whiten teeth at home. Also, some foods such as celery, apples, pears, and carrots trigger lots of saliva, which helps wash away food debris on your teeth. Chewing sugarless gum is a tooth-cleansing action and also triggers saliva. A bonus from all that saliva: It neutralizes the acid that causes tooth decay. With teeth, more saliva is better all around.

Tooth Whitening and Dental Work

Approach tooth whitening with caution if you have lots of dental veneers, bonding, fillings, crowns, and bridges. Bleach will not lighten these manufactured teeth -- meaning they will stand out among your newly whitened natural teeth. In order to match your whiter teeth, you may need to investigate new dental work, including veneers or bonding.

Preventing Teeth Stains

As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away. The underlying layer, called dentin, is yellower. That's why it's important to try to avoid staining teeth in the first place, especially after whitening. If you take care with foods and drinks that discolor teeth, the results of whitening may last up to one year. Whitening teeth too often could make them look translucent and blue, so you'll want to maintain your new smile.

To Keep Teeth White, Don't Light Up

Not only is it bad for your health, smoking is one of the worst offenders when it comes to staining teeth. Tobacco causes brown stains that penetrate the grooves and pits of tooth enamel. Tobacco stains can be hard to remove by brushing alone. The longer you smoke, the more entrenched the stains become. Smoking also causes bad breath and gingivitis (gum disease), and increases the risk of most types of cancer.

Source:WebMD.com

 

Police: Ithaca student fatally stabbed in 'large fight' at Cornell

(CNN)One Ithaca College student was killed and another was injured after being stabbed during a "large fight" on the nearby Cornell University campus early Sunday in Ithaca, New York, officials from both schools said.

Cornell University Police were called to the intersection in front of Olin Hall, which houses Cornell's school of chemical and biomolecular engineering, just before 2 a.m. There, they found two men had been stabbed, according to a police news release.
Police say the fight broke out after a student-organized event at Cornell, according to a statement from Ithaca College.
Several hundred college-age students attended the event at Willard Straight Hall, the student union, a short walk from the site of the stabbings, and physical altercations broke out after the event, Ithaca police said.
Police did not name the event. The only events on the student union's calendar late Saturday were movie screenings. There were no events Sunday before 8 a.m.
First responders treated the victims, and police recovered the weapon used, the news release said. Efforts to obtain information on the suspect are ongoing, police said.
One victim was sent to a local hospital for treatment of "serious injuries," while the other was flown to Upstate Medical Center, a regional trauma center, to be treated for several stab wounds.
Ithaca College President Tom Rochon confirmed both victims were students at the school, a couple of miles south of Cornell. He also confirmed that one of the students died at Cayuga Medical Center, while the student flown to the trauma center was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Ithaca police identified the dead student as Anthony Nazaire, 19, of Brooklyn. He was a sophomore studying business administration, Rochon said.
"He graduated from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School, and at (Ithaca College) he was a member of the executive board of Brothers4Brothers, a student organization dedicated to empowering men of color on our campus," Rochon's statement said.
Ithaca police have asked the school not to release the name of the injured student, the statement said.
The injured student was released after treatment, the Ithaca Police Department said. A homicide investigation is underway. Because there were many motorists and pedestrians in the area at the time, anyone who witnessed the fight at the Ivy League school or captured it on cell phone video is encouraged to contact Ithaca police.
"I hope you will hold these students -- along with their families, friends, classmates, and professors -- in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult and tragic time," Rochon's statement said.
A campus-wide gathering is slated for 4 p.m. on Monday in Ithaca College's Muller Chapel.
"There is nothing more important than the safety of our community; as such, this incident is deeply disturbing," said Ryan Lombardi, Cornell's vice president for student and campus life, in a statement posted online. "Please be sure to take care of yourselves and each other throughout the coming days."
Source:CNN.com

49ers OC “would anticipate” Kaepernick on roster in Week One

On Sunday, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that quarterback Colin Kaepernick “has a very, very big uphill battle to make” the 49ers for reasons outside of his choice not to stand for the playing of the national anthem.

Glazer reported the 49ers believe Kaepernick is “regressing as a player” and he said he would be “shocked” if Kaepernick was on the team through the entire season. On Monday, 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins was asked about Kaepernick’s chances of making the 53-man roster to start the year.

“I would anticipate that, but it’s not, you know, that’s not where we’re at right now,” Modkins said, via the Sacramento Bee. “We’re getting ready for the Chargers right now and he’ll be there. So I don’t anticipate that not being the case.”

The 49ers haven’t made any announcement about who their starting quarterback will be in Week One and coach Chip Kelly said that the Niners “plan on playing him this week” in San Diego, which could make for an interesting scene given how many current and former members of the armed services are in and around the city.

Kaepernick will be making $11.9 million this year whether he makes the 49ers or not, which gives the 49ers reason to want to keep him around unless they think there’s no way he can help the football team. Given Glazer’s report, it would seem at least some in the organization are ready to make that call but it remains to be seen if the team goes that route or not.

ESPN.com

Report: Sacramento Kings reach one-year deal with Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson said that wherever he signed, “they’re going to get me for cheaper than I feel I’m worth … I feel like I’m overlooked in free agency.”

That lucky team — at least in Lawson’s mind — is the Sacramento Kings.

They have reached a one-year deal with him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Lawson bounced between Houston and Indiana last season, and struggled at both stops — he shot 39.3 percent last season with a far wbelow replacement lever PER of 9.7. He was better in Indiana than Houston.

Lawson also brings the baggage of a couple of DUIs in recent years and a reputation as a partier — including showing up to practice with alcohol on his breath. That hurt is free agent prospects, and is something Lawson denied to The Undefeated.

But I’m not a person out here like everyone thinks that I’m drunk all day. No, I don’t do that. A lot of my friends, we go out and celebrate. But I’m not that person in the morning getting drunk before practice. I think there is a big misconception about what everybody thinks. That’s what I basically tell them. I keep it honest.

The Kings will start Darren Collison at the point, but Lawson should get a decent run as a backup. Lawson is a solid playmaker and has a spot up shot, when he is right.

What the 28-year-old Lawson also will get is another chance — he hasn’t impressed in his past few stops and if that doesn’t change his NBA career could end soon.

Source:ESPN.com

Zuckerberg may debut 'Jarvis' AI assistant next month

SAN FRANCISCO - Next month, Mark Zuckerberg hopes to offer the world a glimpse at his pet project, a face- and voice-recognition system that allows the Facebook CEO to command his home environment much like the fictional Tony Stark orders around Jarvis in Iron Man.

And his wife, Priscilla Chan, might not be thrilled.

"I got it to this point where now I can control the lights, I can control the gates, I can control the temperature — much to the chagrin of my wife, who now cannot control the temperature because it is programmed to only listen to my voice," Zuckerberg told a packed audience in Rome, the CEO's latest town hall Q and A session.

"I'll give her access once I'm done," he joked.

The artificial intelligence software powering the system - part of a personal challenge Zuckerberg set for himself earlier in the year - is a by-product of Facebook's strategic mission to improve the social network's ability to better identify faces in photos and videos that are relevant to users.

AI is part of the company's three-pillar vision that includes developing augmented and virtual reality devices (Facebook owns Oculus Rift) and extending access to the internet far and wide (the company's Internet.org project aims to use lasers and drones to extend connectivity to remote areas).

AI is also on the front burner at companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple, all of whom hope to leverage the deep learning capabilities of modern computers to create a non-dystopian future where people get help with personal and professional tasks from machines. Many experts predict that self-driving cars will be the first AI-powered robots to interact with humans on a mass scale.

Zuckerberg, who during his Italian holiday also met with Pope Francis, told the crowd that his front gate is programmed to open as soon as it detects his voice or face.

"There's some state of the art AI in there," he said. "It's been awesome to get a chance to work with our engineers at Facebook and really see on a day to day experience what they're doing and how far advanced the work is that they're doing. It's been a really cool experience so far, and I'm looking forward to showing it off next month."

Source:USA Today.com

Jacob Wetterling: Remains of missing Minnesota boy found, authorities say

(CNN)The remains of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy abducted from a rural road 27 years ago, have been found, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office said Saturday in a news release.

"The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains as Wetterling's earlier today," the release said.
The release didn't say if anybody has been charged. The sheriff's office said investigators will evaluate new evidence and "expect to be in a position to provide more detailed information early next week."
The abduction of the 11-year-old boy led to the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, which requires states to maintain sex offender registries and guidelines.
Unnamed sources told CNN affiliate WCCO and the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper that a suspect in Wetterling's disappearance led the FBI to remains that are now being tested for DNA.
Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mother who became an advocate for families of missing children, told CNN in a text, "Our hearts are broken. There are no words." She declined further comment.
Jacob disappeared on a dark road in central Minnesota on the night of October 22, 1989.
Jacob had been at home with his two younger siblings, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8, and Jacob's friend Aaron Larsen, 11, while Patty and Jerry Wetterling attended a dinner party about 20 minutes away.
Wetterling, who lived in rural St. Joseph, his brother and a friend were coming home from a convenience store on bikes and a scooter when a man wearing a stocking mask and holding a gun approached.
The man asked the boys their ages, grabbed Jacob and told the others to run into the woods or else he'd shoot, Jacob's father has said, recounting what his other son told police.
The case garnered worldwide attention and was recently featured on the CNN series "The Hunt with John Walsh."
As news of the disappearance spread, FBI agents and National Guard troops descended on St. Joseph to aid in the search.
Tens of thousands of tips surfaced in the weeks that followed, but none led to an arrest or, until now, discovery of the boy's remains.
In October 2015, authorities announced a development: Child pornography suspect Danny James Heinrich, 52, was questioned in the abduction.
Investigators interviewed Heinrich about Jacob's disappearance, according to Andrew M. Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota. Heinrich denied any involvement in the disappearance, authorities said.
At that time, no charges were filed in the Wetterling case.

Mother becomes advocate

Since her son's kidnapping, Patty Wetterling helped create the sex offender registry for Minnesota and subsequently for the nation.
She also helped build Team HOPE -- Help Offering Parents Empowerment -- a parent-to-parent mentoring program for mothers and fathers in similar situations.
"Most parents know nothing about child abduction, so when it happens you just scramble for what's out there," Wetterling said in 2014.
Jacob would have turned 38 in February.
"Jacob was a fun, active, athletic, kind, 11-year-old boy who loved peanut butter and football," his mother wrote in 2014. "He was most known for his sense of fairness."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement saying, "Today, we continue to offer our love and support, as the Wetterling family finally brings their son home to rest."
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, a foundation that provides education on the exploitation of children, said Saturday: "We are in deep grief. We didn't want Jacob's story to end this way."
Source:CNN.com

Earthquake rattles Oklahoma, six neighboring states

(CNN)The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is telling operators to shut down 35 disposal wells that may have played a role in a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook at least six states Saturday, Gov. Mary Fallin said.

The disposal wells, which are linked to fracking and other industries that need to dispose of toxic waste water by injecting it deep into the earth, have recently drawn concern that they may actually induce earthquakes.
"This is a mandatory directive," Fallin said.
The commission, which regulates fuel, oil, gas, public utilities and transportation industries, is investigating to determine the epicenter of the quake that hit Pawnee, said commission spokesman Matt Skinner.
The Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating, Fallin said.
Skinner says earthquakes in Oklahoma are generally not directly caused by fracking, but rather by pressure from the disposal wells, which are used by the industry to get rid of the toxic waste water that comes out of the earth along with oil and gas.
"The disposal wells dispose into the state's deepest formation, the Arbuckle formation, which is right above what we call the basement," Skinner said. The basement is above where the critical faults lie that shift and make earthquakes."
Those disposal wells within five miles of the 10-mile section of the fault in question are to be shut down within seven days, and all the other wells must be shut down within 10 days, Fallin said.

Controversial disposal method

Oil and gas drillers and other industries use the disposal wells to inject toxic waste water deep into the earth, which raises questions about possible pollution of the water supply. The wells are used to dispose of fracking waste.
Fluid injection is a controversial tactic tied to hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique known as "fracking" that has dramatically increased U.S. oil and gas production by using water pressure to force oil out of underground pools. When oil and gas is pumped out of the ground, salty water often flows out with it. This water, which can also contain heavy metals and other pollutants, is typically injected under high pressure back into disposal wells -- a practice that the geological agency has said can induce earthquakes.
Saturday's earthquake, which some people described as the most powerful in memory, rendered six buildings in Pawnee Nation uninhabitable, Fallin said. Rural Pawnee County and the city of Pawnee had at least six buildings damaged, with one homeowner suffering minor injuries, Fallin said.
The earthquake damaged at least one historic building in Pawnee, city officials told CNN.
"It's an old historical building about 100 years old. It's still standing but some of the outer layers of sandstone fell. It could be cosmetic damage. We don't know yet," said Pawnee Mayor Brad Sewell.
Fallin issued a declaration of emergency for Pawnee County to start the process of "helping individuals, families and businesses impacted by the earthquakes" and help them request any necessary assistance.
The earthquake was also felt in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska and Iowa, according to the US Geological Survey.
"A quake this size would shake for about 15 seconds and it was a shallow quake, about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) deep," said Randy Baldwin, a USGS geophysicist.
With earthquakes in the central and eastern United States, "the ground is softer, so the seismic waves have a much farther travel distance then an earthquake in California or Nevada," said another USGS geophysicist, Robert Sanders.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is checking bridges for damage and structural engineers are assessing building safety, according to Fallin. The governor also said no "concerning structural problems" in the state's highways and bridges have been found.
There have been a total of 11 earthquakes in the same area Saturday, the USGS said. The largest was at 7:02 a.m. (8:02 a.m. ET), with the preliminary 5.6 magnitude. The other quake magnitudes ranged from 2.7 to 3.6.
Despite minimal damage, the quake set off anxious speculation on social media.
But a March report released by the USGS showed that people in parts of Texas and Oklahoma now face similar ground-shaking risks from human-induced activity, such as fluid injection or extraction, as residents face from natural earthquakes in California.
The agency outlined the risk of these so-called "induced" earthquakes, noting that Oklahoma City and the surrounding region face a 5-12% chance of damage from an earthquake in 2016.
Seismic activity is also on the rise in certain energy-intensive states after a relatively stable period of about 30 years, according to the USGS report. Earthquake rates have "recently increased markedly" in multiple areas of the Central and Eastern United States, especially since 2010, the report said. Its 2014 model of seismic risks did not consider man-made quakes.
The agency said several damaging quakes have occurred recently near injection wells. For instance, a magnitude 5.6-earthquake caused minor injuries and damage to homes in 2011 near Prague, Oklahoma. Other tremors in these fracking regions include a 5.3-magnitude quake near Trinidad, Colorado, in 2011 and a 4.8-magnitude quake near Timpson, Texas, in 2012.
As to whether the injection wells are what causes the earthquakes, and this quake in particular, Skinner would only say, "There's all kinds of theories as to why it puts pressure on the basement faults, but somehow that is happening and we have taken many actions based on that."
Source:CNN.com

'Troubled individual:' Mother Teresa no saint to her critics

(CNN)When Pope Francis canonizes the late Mother Teresa at the Vatican on September 4th, she will officially be recognized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

For her followers, the title is a mere formality. They believe the world renowned humanitarian displayed saintly qualities throughout a life dedicated to serving the poor.
But saintly is not a word everyone uses for Mother Teresa. Her critics say she was anything but.

'Scene from World War 2'

Disillusioned former volunteer Hemley Gonzalez didn't meet her in person, but what he calls the "horrific remnants of her legacy" have left him deeply uncomfortable. After visiting the facilities she's responsible for starting, he feels only a "troubled individual" could have set them up.
After the financial crisis of 2008, Gonzalez took a break from his real estate business in Miami and headed to India, where he spent two months volunteering at Nirmal Hriday, a home for the dying run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta's (now Kolkata) crowded Kalighat area.
Gonzalez says he was appalled at the poor level of hygiene and medical care he saw there. He says the organization didn't vet him or the other volunteers. None, including himself, had any medical experience or received any training before working at the hospice.
He claims he saw nuns routinely reuse needles after washing them in tap water, that clothes -- sometimes soiled with urine and feces -- and cooking utensils were hand washed side by side in the same room.
Patients suffering from respiratory diseases had to bathe in freezing water because a single water heater wasn't barely enough for one bath, he says. And he claims there was not a single doctor or medically trained nurse at the hospice.
"It was a scene out of a World War II concentration camp," says Gonzalez. 
Gonzalez says attempts to raise a red flag or offer to install a water heater were always met with the same response by the nuns. "We don't do that here. This is the way Jesus wants it, they'd say," Gonzalez tells us.

Basic care for poorest of poor

Chhanda Chakraborti is part of a group of local Kolkata volunteers who has been associated with the Missionaries of Charity for over 25 years. She served at Nirmal Hriday for several years before Gonzalez did.
"All these claims are rubbish. These critics are actually lying," she says. "You go to Kalighat, people come in dying condition. Most of them regain their lives. How can they give life to a dying person while being careless with their health?"
What they do in the homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, says Sunita Kumar, a spokesperson for the group and a close friend of Mother Teresa, is offer basic care to the poorest of the poor.  
"She didn't want to start a five-star hospital or anything like that," she says.

Money trail

Critics say that's not an acceptable excuse.
Since the group receives millions of dollars in donations from around the world, they say they should use it to build hospitals, schools and to upgrade their facilities
It's true there's no transparency -- and very little information available -- on the group's bookkeeping. CNN's request to interview the current head of the organization was declined.
"The funds are coming," Sister Joan of Arc, head of the children's shelter in Kolkata, told CNN. "We can feed every hungry mouth every day. It's the miracle of love." Questions about funds are often met with a similar response.
That doesn't satisfy the critics. As a registered charity operating in over a 100 countries, they say there needs to be some accountability, as there is with groups such as The Red Cross or Oxfam.
"Why is this organization not being held to the same standard?" asks Gonzalez. "They get a free pass because of religion; they get a free pass because of the influence of the Vatican."

Christian conversions 

Mother Teresa's dogmatic views on abortions, contraception and divorce may have been welcomed by the socially restrained Vatican, but they have also been criticized in more progressive circles and put her at odds with the feminist movement.
"The funds are coming," Sister Joan of Arc, head of the children's shelter in Kolkata, told CNN. "We can feed every hungry mouth every day. It's the miracle of love." Questions about funds are often met with a similar response.
That doesn't satisfy the critics. As a registered charity operating in over a 100 countries, they say there needs to be some accountability, as there is with groups such as The Red Cross or Oxfam.
"Why is this organization not being held to the same standard?" asks Gonzalez. "They get a free pass because of religion; they get a free pass because of the influence of the Vatican."

Christian conversions 

Mother Teresa's dogmatic views on abortions, contraception and divorce may have been welcomed by the socially restrained Vatican, but they have also been criticized in more progressive circles and put her at odds with the feminist movement.
She raised some eyebrows when, during her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture after winning the prize in 1979, she said the "greatest destroyer of peace is abortion." 
Additionally, some critics accuse Mother Teresa of trying to convert those she served to Christianity.
This is something the Missionaries of Charity firmly rejects. "She looked after everybody in the same spirit, whether they were Muslim or Hindu or Sikh," says Kumar, who herself is Hindu and Sikh.
"When I used to go pray with her, she would say 'Sunita, come to the chapel and you sit the way you do for your prayers and I'll sit the way I do and we'll say our prayers,'" she says.

A miracle?

Even her path to sainthood has been controversial.
To become a saint, Pope Francis had to approve two miracles. One of them involved a rural woman, Monica Besra, who claims she was cured of cancer after praying to Mother Teresa.
Monica Besra prays in front of a portrait of Mother Teresa in 2003.
 
Monica says she was cured by Mother Teresa's blessings and not by doctor's treatment.
"I took doctors' medicines, threw up and was in a lot of pain. But when I prayed to Mother Teresa from my heart, Mother Teresa blessed me and now I am healthy," she told CNN. "My entire village and I am very happy that she is being made a saint."
However, critics dispute this version of events — they say it was modern medicine and not a miracle that healed her. And some doctors claim her tumor was a cyst caused by tuberculosis, rather than a cancerous tumor.
"Our organization does not believe in any kind of miracle," Prabir Ghosh, General Secretary of Science and Rationalists' Association of India, told CNN.
According to Ghosh, Monica Besra's husband said as much to him in 2003. Ghosh told CNN that he has him on video saying his wife was cured by medicine, rather than Mother Teresa.
In an interview with TIME magazine in 2002, Besra's husband also challenged the Vatican's claim. "It is much ado about nothing," he told TIME. "My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle."
However, Besra has since denied these statements. This week, he told CNN he stands by Mother Teresa's miracle and never made the comments to TIME.
Monica Besra sits with members of her family in her home village of Nakur at Manirampur, some 450kms north of Kolkata.
 

Museum of poverty, or place of service?

As these controversies rage on, life inside Mother Teresa's homes carries on as usual, with the same simplicity and routine that's been in place for decades.
According to Gonzalez, it's a "museum of poverty."  To some, it's a place of selfless service. 
A group of nuns will travel to the Vatican for the canonization ceremony in September, and those who remain in Kolkata will mark the day with prayers of thanks. 
For them and other devout followers around the world, Mother Teresa was and will forever be, a saint, and no amount of controversy can change that.
Source:CNN.com
 

Philippines President: Explosion that killed 14 was act of terrorism

(CNN)Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte visited a morgue early Saturday to pay respects to the 14 people killed hours earlier in an explosion at a crowded market in Davao City.

At least 71 people were injured in the attack on the popular market.
Duterte described the attack as an act of terrorism, and declared the nation in "a state of lawlessness," the official Philippines News Agency reported, authorizing the police and military to search cars and frisk people at checkpoints.
He said he had not declared martial law, according to PNA.
"We have to confront the ugly head of terrorism," Duterte said Friday, standing near the explosion site in his hometown. "We will take this as a police matter about terrorism."
The cause of the explosion, which happened around 10 p.m. ET Friday, is not known. But presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said components of a suspected improvised explosive device were found at the scene, according to CNN affiliate ABS-CBN.
CNN Map
 
 
 
 
 

Bloody crackdown on drugs

No group has claimed responsibility, but Duterte said it's possible the explosion "could be a reprisal" from extremists.
Philippine's National Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said he "assumes" the attack was carried out by the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City, was elected President in May. He campaigned on a no-nonsense approach to crime and launched an intense -- and deadly -- crackdown on drug dealers.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer's "Kill List" -- regarded as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes -- has recorded 832 deaths since Duterte assumed office June 30. Police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte's inauguration.
The government's heavy-handed tactics have drawn international criticism. Many public officials have been accused of being involved in the drug business.
And government troops have been battling Abu Sayyaf, which remains outside the country's sputtering peace process.
The group aims to establish an independent Islamic state on the southern island of Mindanao, where Davao City is located.
Abu Sayyaf is a violent extremist group that split from established Philippines separatist movement Moro National Liberation Front in 1991. It was formed by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who trained in the Middle East and reportedly met with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

'This is not a fascist state'

Duterte's spokesman said the constitution gives the President the power to "call out ... armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."
The President can only impose martial law in case of invasion or rebellion, the statement said.
Duterte said people should submit to searches and frisking at checkpoints for the sake of public safety.
"We know that this is not a fascist state. I cannot control the movement of the citizens of the city and every Filipino has the right to enter and leave Davao. It is unfortunate we cannot stop and frisk anybody for just any reason," he said.
Sara Duterte, the President's daughter and the mayor of Davao City, issued a statement urging all citizens to report suspicious activity to the authorities. She also sent a message to other officials.
"I would like to remind other officials to stay within the bounds of their official duties according to their position," she said. "Please leave me in peace to do my job and I'll leave you to focus on your own work."

'I am really scared'

Leonor Rala, a 19-year-old medical technology student at San Pedro College, told CNN she was in her dorm and about to go to bed when she heard an explosion.
She said she initially thought something had fallen on the roof of a neighboring building. She went down to survey the scene of the blast, about 100 yards from her dorm. Emergency teams were already in place.
"I am really scared to go out," she said. "The roads are closed and nobody's allowed to go out of the city. There are bomb threats everywhere and some of my schoolmates are victims of the explosion and now dead."
She continued: "We're very terrified because Davao City was known to be the safest city in the Philippines and a situation like this is very rare."
Witness Janoz Laquihon told CNN Philippines he was at the scene when the explosion happened.
"I saw some smoke. I thought it's just barbecue. A few minutes later ... a big blast."
Witness Father Jboy Gonzales told CNN Philippines that he saw more than 30 people being loaded onto ambulances.
"[A] lot of people are wounded, shocked, traumatized," he said.
Duterte made his name in politics as the mayor of Davao City. His term in office was noted for his hardline stance on drug crime that he has now incorporated into his national policies. It has resulted in more than 1,900 people being killed in a crackdown that has drawn criticism at home and abroad.
Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippines news website Rappler, said the blast occurred amid tensions surrounding Duterte's war on drugs as well as an ongoing peace process with Muslim militants in the southern Philippines.
SOURCE: CNN.com

British woman raped before suspected 'honor killing' in Pakistan, police say

(CNN)A British woman murdered in a suspected "honor killing" incident in Pakistan was raped before her death, Pakistani police say.

And a local policeman who first investigated the 28-year-old's death has been arrested on suspicion of suppressing evidence from witnesses and allowing key suspects to flee the country, Abubakar Khuda Bux, deputy inspector general of Lahore police told CNN.
Samia Shahid, from Bradford, England, was visiting family in the Jhelum district in Pakistan's northern Punjab province in July when she was killed.
Her relatives initially told local police she had a heart attack, but a post-mortem showed she had been strangled, Punjab police spokeswoman Nabeela Ghazanfar told CNN.
Shahid's former husband, Chaudhry Muhammad Shakeel, was held on suspicion of murder, and confessed last month to having strangled her to death with her scarf, Ghazanfar said. Shakeel was also Shahid's first cousin.
The dead woman's father, Chaudhary Shahid, has also been remanded on suspicion of having been an accessory to her murder, Ghazanfar said.
He is accused of having lured his daughter to Pakistan under false pretenses when she was murdered. Both men are expected to be formally charged at a court hearing next week.

Widower: 'I want justice'

Shahid's second husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam, told CNN he believed his wife was killed in a so-called honor killing, because her family disapproved of their marriage.
Slain Briton Samia Shahid and her second husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam.
 
He said his late wife's father had summoned her to Pakistan from Dubai, where the couple had been living for 16 months, by claiming to have been seriously unwell.
He said he believed his late wife's immediate family were aware of the plan to murder her.
"I'm devastated," he said, "I want justice for Samia. Women have their own rights and own will. They are not prisoners. Killing a daughter is not the solution."
The slain woman's mother and sister are believed to have left Pakistan and are wanted by police for questioning, Bux said.
Samia Shahid and her second husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam, had lived in Dubai for 16 months before her death.
 
British lawmaker Naz Shah, who was Shahid's local member of parliament, wrote to the Pakistani government in July asking for help to bring the perpetrators to justice.
On hearing that Shahid had been raped before being murdered, she told CNN: "This just adds to the depth of this crime and the levels of evilness. I'm pleased to hear the inspector in charge of the local police station has been arrested for allowing Samia's mother and sister to abscond."
Source:CNN.com

Obama and Xi Commit to Paris Climate Accord, Setting Aside Nations’ Rifts

HANGZHOU, China — President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed the world’s two largest economies to the Paris climate agreement here on Saturday, cementing their partnership on climate change and offering a rare display of harmony in a relationship that has become increasingly discordant.

On multiple fronts, like computer hacking and maritime security, ties between China and the United States have frayed during the seven and a half years of Mr. Obama’s presidency. The friction has worsened since the ascension of Mr. Xi as a powerful nationalist leader in 2013.

Yet the fact that he and Mr. Obama could set aside those tensions to work together yet again on a joint plan to reduce greenhouse gases attests to the pragmatic personal rapport they have built, as well as to the complexity of the broader United States-China relationship, a tangle of competing and congruent interests.

At a ceremony in this picturesque lakefront city, the two leaders hailed the adoption of the Paris agreement as critical to bringing it into force worldwide. Though widely expected as the next step in the legal process, the move could provide a boost to those who want to build momentum for further climate talks by bringing the December accord into effect as soon as possible.

Countries accounting for 55 percent of the world’s emissions must present formal ratification documents for that to happen, and together, China and the United States generate nearly 40 percent of the world’s emissions.

“Despite our differences on other issues, we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world,” Mr. Obama declared.

Mr. Xi praised the Paris agreement as a milestone, adding, “It was under Chinese leadership that much of this progress was made.”

From the moment he stepped off Air Force One on his final visit to Asia as president, Mr. Obama confronted a resurgent China, undaunted by his efforts to restore America’s presence in the region and poised to capitalize on his troubles in winning congressional passage of his ambitious regional trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mr. Obama’s chaotic welcome on the tarmac captured the mood on the eve of the G20 summit. There were arguments at the airport between White House aides and Chinese security officials who tried to keep back reporters. Shouting matches also broke out between Mr. Obama’s staff and guards over how many people were allowed into the state guesthouse where he and Mr. Xi later met.

In recent years, the Obama administration has sought to highlight cooperation on climate change, but China’s commitments, first made in 2014, have been less a concession to American pressure than a restatement of its own goals. They include a promise for China’s carbon emissions to reach a plateau or decline “around 2030,” but without any specific target for reductions like those Mr. Obama pledged for the United States (25 percent of 2005 levels by 2025). That means China has plenty of room to continue burning fossil fuels to power its economy.

“The story of the past eight years is not mainly the pivot or the rebalance; it is the very substantial increases in Chinese capacities since 2008,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, who helped formulate Mr. Obama’s Asia strategy as his chief China adviser in the first term.

“How has the U.S. dealt with that?” he added. “How has the U.S. confronted that?”

The Obama administration has experimented with a variety of approaches: pledging to respect China’s “core interests” in 2009; shifting in 2011 to a more assertive stance — verging on containment — as Mr. Obama articulated his pivot to Asia; then resisting China’s proposal in 2012 to embark on a new model of great-power relations.

To some critics, that was an inconsistent strategy — one that alternately cheered or sowed anxiety among American allies, and likewise alienated or emboldened China. Under Mr. Xi’s leadership, China has made aggressive claims to shoals and reefs in the South China Sea, picking fights with neighbors like the Philippines and Vietnam.

“This back and forth has, I think, exacerbated what was already a growing problem with a China that was already more assertive in the context of the financial crisis,” said Michael J. Green, who was the chief Asia adviser on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But the administration’s defenders, like Mr. Bader, argue that Mr. Obama was merely following in the tradition of presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, dating back to Richard M. Nixon. They have tried to manage China’s rise by drawing it into the international system and prodding it to accept rules of the road in trade, navigation and other areas.

However, China has dismissed a recent ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague that rebuked its aggressive reclamation of land on disputed shoals in the South China Sea and invalidated its historical claims to a large swath of those waters.

Mr. Obama was expected to press Mr. Xi to abide by the ruling in a meeting after the climate ceremony, less because he expected the Chinese leader to reverse himself than because the ruling is a vital predicate for undermining the legitimacy of China’s imperial claims.

Still, even after Mr. Obama deployed Navy ships to the Pacific, sent Marines to Australia and paid for greater access to the military bases of an old ally, the Philippines, China now has greater control of the South China Sea than it enjoyed at the start of his presidency.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Obama’s struggle to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership has stoked doubts about America’s economic staying power. The 12-nation pact, which excludes China, has become the centerpiece of the pivot to Asia. But it has fallen victim to election-year politics at home and now seems unlikely to pass, even in a lame-duck Congress.

Some of the nations that signed on, particularly Japan — America’s most important Asian ally and a nervous neighbor of China — have made political sacrifices by opening markets in order to meet the standards demanded by the United States. Failure to pass the trade pact, Asian diplomats and analysts said, would leave them feeling burned.

“The Japanese, living in an uncertain world, depending on an American nuclear umbrella, will have to say on trade: ‘The Americans could not follow through,’” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore said during a recent visit to Washington, standing next to Mr. Obama. “If it’s a matter of life and death, whom do I have to depend on?”

Mr. Obama and his chief trade negotiator, Michael B. Froman, understand the stakes. They plan a full-court press to sell the pact on this presidential trip — characterizing its passage as a litmus test of American leadership — in hopes that the message will echo back home.

“We are one vote away from cementing our leadership in Asia or ceding it to China,” Mr. Froman said in an interview in Beijing. “I’m not sure Congress wants to hand the keys to the castle to China.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is viewed in Asia as the handiwork of Mr. Obama in particular, especially since the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly backed it when she was Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, has renounced her support. If Congress fails to pass it, Asian diplomats said, China will emerge as a victor.

“It will be a political disaster and play into the Chinese narrative that China is a geopolitical fact, whereas the U.S. presence is the consequence of a geopolitical calculation which could change and thus is not reliable,” said Bilahari Kausikan, the ambassador at large for Singapore.

In practical terms, the United States would lose the chance to shape the economic future of the region, allowing China to forge ahead with its “Sino-centric economic order,” which includes a multibillion-dollar project to build a new Silk Road linking Asia to Europe.

Mr. Bader is among several American officials who are guardedly confident that the next presidential administration will find a way to win approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, perhaps by adding side agreements on contentious points. But he expressed concern that the South China Sea would be a chronic source of friction.

“The situation hasn’t stabilized,” Mr. Bader said. “Achieving that is beyond the capacity of the U.S. alone.”

China has extended its military reach there by building artificial islands with airfields, facilities that American commanders have said they regard as military bases. Although China appears to be taking stock of the situation since the unfavorable ruling in The Hague, Chinese military officials warn that they will continue with their building program in the waterway.

“China will never stop our construction,” the head of China’s navy, Adm. Wu Shengli, said in July.

Last month, China took delivery of a dredger, one of the biggest in its inventory, from a Dutch shipyard. The vessel would be suitable for dredging at Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef 150 miles from the Philippines.

China, some academics say, plans to create an extremely large artificial island that would complete a strategic triangle of bases in the sea.

“Obama is seen as reluctant to push back,” said Alan Dupont, a former defense intelligence analyst for the Australian government. “He has allowed China to militarize the islands in the South China Sea. The United States hasn’t put it at the top of its list.”

To reassure its allies, Mr. Dupont said, the United States would have to reinforce its military presence in the Pacific even further than it has under Mr. Obama’s pivot, or rebalance, as it has also been called.

“There has to be a rebalance plus,” he said.

Source:NY times.com

Seeking Support and Invoking Faith, Donald Trump Visits a Black Church for the First Time

DETROIT — Donald J. Trump, who has campaigned for president as a blunt provocateur, dismissing complaints of racial insensitivity as political correctness, took an uncharacteristic step on Saturday: He visited a black church for the first time and tried to blend in.

Flanked by a few black supporters, including Ben Carson, a former presidential candidate, and Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” Mr. Trump cut a subdued figure here at Great Faith Ministries International.

He beamed as congregants greeted him and swayed to the chords of the song “What a Mighty God We Serve.” Speaking softly, he invoked the civil rights movement and Abraham Lincoln. Donning a prayer shawl given to him by the church’s pastor, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Mr. Trump proclaimed, “I feel better already.”

Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular with black voters and perceived by many as hostile to their community. His company has faced accusations of discrimination against black tenants; he has alleged falsely in the past that President Obama was not born in the United States; and as a champion of aggressive policing, he has stirred indignation by caricaturing black neighborhoods as blighted by crime and economic despair.

In Detroit, Mr. Trump did not express regret for, or even acknowledge, the actions and remarks that had opened a gulf between him and black voters.

Instead, reading from prepared remarks, he hailed the Christian values and political contributions of black Americans and told his audience he cared about making their lives better.

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The Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump dons a prayer shawl given to him by Bishop Wayne T. Jackson at a service at the Great Faith Ministries International church in Detroit on Saturday. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

“I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that must still be made right,” Mr. Trump said, adding: “For any who are hurting: Things are going to turn around. Tomorrow will be better.”

Mr. Trump’s visit to the church concluded a week of fitful outreach to black and Hispanic voters, capping off a frenzied campaign schedule that took him to Mexico’s presidential palace, to a meeting in North Philadelphia with black leaders, and finally to Detroit.

Far more than a typical Republican presidential candidate, Mr. Trump faces a wall of opposition from nonwhite voters. He records virtually no support from black voters in the polls. Their resistance has emerged as one of the most important impediments to Mr. Trump’s candidacy, threatening to put several major swing states, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, entirely out of reach.

Mr. Trump’s appearance on Saturday, long billed by campaign aides as a pivotal opportunity to reintroduce himself to black voters, was swathed in uncertainty up to the last minute, as the Trump campaign and the pastor deliberated over whether the Republican nominee would actually speak at the church. Plans for stops in nearby neighborhoods were announced, then retracted; Mr. Trump ultimately paid a short visit to Mr. Carson’s childhood home before flying out of Detroit.

And a scheduled interview with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Trump’s host on Saturday, became a source of embarrassment when it was revealed that both the questions and Mr. Trump’s answers had been scripted in advance. Mr. Trump taped the television appearance before the church service on Saturday, and it is expected to air in the next few days on Mr. Jackson’s Christian cable network.

Mr. Jackson acknowledged offhand the unusual spectacle of Mr. Trump’s presence in his church. Introducing Mr. Trump, Mr. Jackson noted with a chuckle, “This is the first African-American church he’s been in.”

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Mr. Trump and Ben Carson visit Felicia Reese, the current owner of Mr. Carson’s childhood home, in Detroit. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Mr. Jackson had planned to let Mr. Trump speak for just one minute, but at a reception before the service, aides to Mr. Trump asked Mr. Jackson for more time, and he granted it.

“His people said, ‘Mr. Trump had already written this out and he really feels that if he can say it, it would really be a blessing because this is his heart,’” Mr. Jackson said in an interview.

In his relatively muted address, lasting roughly 10 minutes, Mr. Trump did not employ his typical heated language about urban crime or illegal immigration.

Instead, he offered praise for black Christians and called for a “civil rights agenda for our time,” including support for charter schools and new job growth.

And Mr. Trump, who has not made professions of faith a regular element of his campaign, called on Americans to “turn again to our Christian heritage to lift up the soul of our nation.”

Leaving the church, Mr. Trump made a stop at the former residence of Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has become one of Mr. Trump’s steadfast political allies. Bantering briefly with the current owner, Felicia Reese, Mr. Trump mused that the house must be a valuable property because Mr. Carson had lived there.

Ms. Manigault, who directs outreach efforts for the Trump campaign, told Ms. Reese that the campaign would send her a copy of Mr. Trump’s book of business advice, “The Art of the Deal.”

It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will make a more sustained bid to attract black support. His campaign advisers have routinely announced changes in strategy, and promised adjustments to Mr. Trump’s message and political style, only to have the candidate quickly lose interest and revert to form. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump followed up his surprise trip to Mexico City, where he expressed admiration for Mexican Americans, with an angry speech in Arizona denouncing illegal immigration and reiterating his pledge to wall off the southern border.

But for Mr. Trump, winning the presidency might be all but impossible without a reversal of fortune with black and Hispanic voters. While Republicans usually lose those constituencies by a wide margin, polls suggest Mr. Trump is on track for such a historic rout that he may be unable to make up the difference with white voters.

Mr. Jackson weathered some criticism for inviting Mr. Trump, and his own parishioners were split on Mr. Trump’s visit, with several expressing support for Mr. Jackson’s decision despite their own negative feelings about Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Candice Smith, 31, of Detroit, said she had been attending the church for 20 years and considered it a welcoming environment.

“We accept anybody,” said Ms. Smith, a cosmetologist. “We are kind of like an open church. Everybody is welcome to come.”

Jan Counts, 55, a computer designer, expressed skepticism of Mr. Trump’s intentions, and said it was too late for Mr. Trump to win his vote.

“I think he’s using the church,” said Mr. Counts, a congregant since 1993. “You can’t just change everything that you have been saying before and say something else and want me to believe that.”

Source:NY Times.com

Israel Seeking Police Recruits: Eager, and Arab

KIRYAT ATTA, Israel — The roll call was startling for a class preparing to take Israel’s police academy exam: Mohammad Hreib, Ghadeer Ghadeer, Munis Huwari and Arafat Hassanein, dressed like a hipster and named after the Palestinian leader, whom most Israeli Jews view as a terrorist.

“How did they even let you in?” an astonished colleague asked Mr. Hassanein, 20.

The unusual roster is the result of an Israeli push to recruit into its police force Arab Muslims, who are both vastly underrepresented in its ranks and vastly overrepresented among criminal suspects and victims.

Arab Muslims are currently 1.5 percent of the 30,000-member national police force, and the right-wing public security minister seeks to increase that number in three years by adding 1,350 new ones. Many would work in Arab cities and towns, where the ministry has promised to open 12 new police stations. (There are seven in such areas now, out of 70 across Israel.)

The deep-rooted tension between Israel’s police and its 1.7 million Arab citizens — about a fifth of the population — in some ways mirrors the flaring problems over race and policing in the United States. This spring and summer, the public security minister, Gilad Erdan, traveled to London and to New York — where Hispanics make up about 27 percent of the Police Department, African-Americans 15 percent and Asians nearly 7 percent — to study those cities’ experiences with diversifying and sensitizing their forces and with using body cameras to address complaints of police abuse.

“They are not going to disappear, and hopefully we are not, either,” Mr. Erdan said in an interview, referring to Arabs and Jews.

Alongside the recruitment drive, he promoted a rare long-serving Muslim officer to deputy commissioner, the second-highest rank on the force, holding him up as an example of how high an Arab could ascend in the force. The challenge, he acknowledged, is how to enlist this new population sensitively — to do it “for them and not against them.”

Many Palestinian citizens said they felt that Mr. Erdan was pressing forward with the recruitment of Arab officers because the violence that was wreaking havoc in their communities had begun to impact the wider Jewish society. They bitterly noted that Mr. Erdan’s plan was announced only after Nashat Melhem, an Arab-Israeli, opened fire on bar patrons in Tel Aviv on Jan. 1, ultimately killing three people. But Mr. Erdan denied that was the impetus for the plan, saying it had been in the works long before the attack.

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Building trust is his challenge. Many Arab citizens identify primarily as Palestinian, not Israeli, and see the conservative government, especially its security forces, as hostile to their interests. They are suspicious of a broader government program to invest $3.8 billion in infrastructure, education, housing and other services in Arab communities — an effort to better integrate the residents, who suffer more poverty and unemployment, into society.

The police recruitment has unleashed a particular conundrum for an Arab population that has not quite recovered since officers fatally shot a dozen Palestinian citizens of Israel and one from Gaza during violent demonstrations at the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. The feeling on the street is that the disproportionate violence afflicting Arab communities is the result of deliberate police neglect.

“The police don’t care for the Arabs,” said Amneh Freij, whose son Suhaib, 24, a professional soccer player, was fatally shot in January last year in Kafr Qasim. Adding to their sense of powerlessness, Ms. Freij’s husband, Mohammed, is the deputy mayor of Kafr Qasim, an Arab town of 22,000 in Israel. His position made no difference, they said.

Mr. Freij’s killer has not been caught. Had the victim been Jewish, Ms. Freij said as she wept in a recent interview, the police would have worked harder to find a suspect. “You would pluck him from between the eyelashes of the townspeople,” she said.

Mr. Erdan acknowledged the Freij family’s grief, and said having more Arabs on the force would help solve such cases in the future because they could better understand local crime structures and gather intelligence and evidence.

There are plenty of cases to work on. Mr. Erdan said 60 percent of Israel’s murders occurred in Arab communities, triple the Arab proportion of the population, along with more than 40 percent of traffic accidents. The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a group that promotes the coexistence of Palestinian and Jewish citizens, said an examination of prosecutions last year showed that Arabs were charged in 58 percent of all arsons, 47 percent of robberies, 32 percent of burglaries and 27 percent of drug-trafficking cases.

While Arab leaders are concerned about crime in their communities, they also complain that police use excessive force. In 2014, Arabs staged a daylong strike to protest the fatal shooting by officers of a 22-year-old as he retreated from their vehicle after banging on its windows with what looked like a knife, and this January, a young man was shot dead and his father beaten during a drug arrest.

And so the sight of an Arab in an Israeli police uniform is, still, visual shorthand for a collaborator, and many argue that the police need reform, not recruits. A popular Arab-Israeli website refused to run the police force’s recruitment commercials.

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Jamal Hakroush, the deputy commissioner of the Israeli police, lecturing academy recruits who, like him, are Arab Muslims. Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

“More police isn’t the solution. Changing the mentality of the police is,” said Ayman Odeh, who leads a bloc of Arab lawmakers in Israel’s Parliament.

Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, a co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, which has led its own initiative to improve relations between Arabs and the police, said there was a contradiction in a government that had been vocally hostile to Arabs while presenting a large budget to improve their lot.

“It’s this conflicting trend — very positive on one hand, very destructive on the other,” he said. The government “is unhelpful — I’m trying to be gentle here — in its rhetoric and action when it comes to the place and collective rights of the Palestinian minority.”

Since the recruitment initiative was announced in April, about 700 Arabs have applied to the police force. Jamal Hakroush, 59, the newly promoted deputy commissioner, said about 200 were expected to make it.

The first hurdle is the entrance exam, which many Arabs have struggled with because of its emphasis on Israeli civics and Hebrew, topics that often get short shrift in Arab-Israeli public school curriculums. So the police created special prep courses for potential recruits, including intensive Hebrew lessons, like the one that Mr. Hreib, Mr. Ghadeer, Mr. Huwari, and Mr. Hassanein took this summer.

These recruits will be bused together to exams, on the theory that they will do better in groups. For their physical exams, they are instructed in Arabic, not Hebrew.

The applicants in class here at an abandoned police barracks in northern Israel have a mix of motivations.

Ahmad Sarhan, 22, said he was inspired by a relative on the force. “My cousin was a shepherd. Now look at him: He has a house,” Mr. Sarhan said. “He has a future.”

Thekra Darwish, 22, said working as a policewoman would help her fight for equality for Arabs. “If we had a Palestinian state, we would serve that one,” she said with a shrug. “But we are here.”

Aisha Dahleh, 26, a social worker, wants to help resolve crimes plaguing her town. If selected, according to Commissioner Harkoush, she would be the first ever Israeli police officer who wears a Muslim head scarf.

“There will be those who say, ‘She is a girl, she is religious, she is an Arab, she is a Muslim — and she works with the state,’” Ms. Dahleh said. “But I know my goals.”

Mr. Hakroush is simultaneously leading a charm offensive with Arab mayors to raise support for the recruitment drive. On a recent day in Taibeh, a town with a particularly violent reputation, he met the mayor, Shuaa Mansour, inside his bulletproof office.

Over coffee and pastries, Mr. Mansour said he would reluctantly support the plan. “Whoever has an alternative to the police — bring it,” Mr. Mansour said. “We have no alternative.”

Guy Ben-Porat, a professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev who has researched race and policing, said that for decades, the Israeli police and Palestinian citizens mostly sidestepped each other, with tribal elders reconciling conflicts among Arabs instead. As the influence of such elders eroded in modernizing communities, some, like Kafr Qasim, organized their own security patrols.

These volunteer patrols functioned like neighborhood watch groups, mostly cracking down on young men speeding, blasting music and harassing teenage girls. But they could not prevent the killing of Suhaib Freij, even though he was the son of Kafr Qasim’s deputy mayor.

Mr. Freij, sitting in a living room crammed with his son’s soccer medals, was dubious about the prospects for change, but still offered a small voice of support for the new police initiative because, as he put it, “you have to try and try.”

“There are police now,” he noted, referring to a newish police station in Kafr Qasim, “and the incidents happen and happen and happen.”

Source:NY Times.com

Celebrity Answering Service Endures, Its Secrets Intact

The office of the Belles Receptionists & Answering Service hums with ringing phones and the polite greetings of operators in a small building on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan.

“Belles,” answered a receptionist the other day. “Yes, I’ll get that message to him. Have a lovely afternoon.” She scribbled the message onto a card and filed it with others.

An industrial-looking timepiece called a Remind-O-Timer sat on her desk. Metal pegs around its face can be flipped to set an alarm; the device hasn’t been used much since the service was founded in 1956, but Belles receptionists keep it around for sentimental reasons.

A bygone era looms over the office. A mass of telephone wires had been stripped from the walls; a dark rectangular outline remains. A battered box filled with hundreds of creased note cards illuminates personalities of the past and their quirks: “Do not test her line after 8 a.m.,” stresses the card of a Park Avenue client; “Ask for correct name spellings,” reads the card of a New York aristocrat. A dismantled telephone switchboard collects dust in a back room; the company retired it this year after one client, a holdout, finally agreed to upgrade an antiquated landline.

Six of these wood-paneled consoles once dominated the office, shaping the company’s culture for five decades.

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A picture from an old newspaper article on the wall at the Belles office in Manhattan shows the actress Judy Holliday, center, training with Mary Printz, left. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The office’s most visible relics, however, reflect its golden history. Dozens of framed, fading photos of former clients line the walls: Robert Redford. Al Pacino. Dolly Parton. Bianca Jagger. Art Carney. Dustin Hoffman. Kathleen Turner. Isabella Rossellini. Richard Dreyfuss. Liz Smith. Angela Lansbury. Swifty Lazar. Howard Cosell. Shirley MacLaine. Liza Minnelli.

The photos offer passage to an era when the Belles was the glamorous answering service to the stars, its number unlisted and passed on by referral only, its operators privy to secrets salacious or mundane. A 1977 issue of Cosmopolitan proclaimed it “the most famous answering service in the United States”; its celebrity had been established in 1956, with the opening of the Broadway musical “Bells Are Ringing,” which it inspired, starring Judy Holliday.

Recent interviews with those who witnessed the company’s celebrity period, when it was, for that matter, called Belles Celebrity, echoed the sentiment: If you weren’t on the Belles, you weren’t anybody.

You wouldn’t know it now, but once, six operators were seated here, elbow to elbow, night and day, inhaling packs of Winstons, taking calls and jotting notes, arms dancing across the machines as they plugged in and unplugged the cables.

Known as the girls, they handled their calls coolly amid the smoky pandemonium. Remarkably, this scene played out within the Belles offices until the early millennium. About 20 Belles receptionists were employed in its prime; only six work there now, four of them for long enough to remember the switchboard days. They are still called the girls. Nowadays there’s just one operator in the fluorescent-lit room for each shift.

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Dozens of framed, fading photos of former clients line the walls at Belles Receptionists & Answering Service. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The office may be a nostalgist’s dream, but operations have been modernized. Antiquated technology has been replaced, and the clientele is now of the conventional sort requiring a 24/7 answering service: law firms, doctors’ offices, elevator repair companies. Clients receive texts now, and the calling cards, replete with private (though outdated) celebrity information, may be shredded. An office redesign is planned. “Bring the place back up to code,” said the current owner, Roger Snyder, who bought the company in 2009.

But the Belles maintains one last stubborn and vital link to its past.

Ten or so star clients, skeptical of the merits of modern communications technology, loyally continue to use the service. They are referred to internally as “legacy clients,” and they include the Broadway giants Stephen Sondheim and John Kander, the fashion photographer Bruce Weber and the writer Nicholas Pileggi, whose wife, Nora Ephron, shared a line with him until her death in 2012.

“I couldn’t imagine not having Belles,” said Mr. Weber, adding that he doesn’t even trust hotels with wake-up calls, only the Belles.

“They do things Siri can’t do,” Mr. Pileggi said. “I don’t think of it as a horse-and-wagon thing.

“I think the Belles would prosper into this period, rather than fade away into a historic sunset, if only more people knew about what they can provide.”

The company is guarded about its legacy clients. I was left to deduce their identities through guesswork and the cooperation of skeptical publicists. (“You want to know if my client is still using a what?”) But names occasionally slipped during afternoons at the office.

“When we get a call from Sondheim, I instantly know it’s him,” said Mr. Snyder.

“He’s very direct,” a receptionist said.

Do they ever hear anything juicy?

“Oh, I’ve heard some good stuff,” another receptionist said. “We get the scoop first.”

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“We once had a big thing before the media broke it,” she said, offering only a tight smile when asked what it was.

Woody Allen was among the holdouts for years until he finally cut his line early in the new millennium. Still, he offered his recollections on the Belles in an email.

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Melissa Garcia, a Belles receptionist, in April. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

“I stayed with the Belles long after I needed an answering service because they were just a part of my NY life,” he wrote. “I would still be with them but our operation was streamlined and I could not really make an argument for them other than a sentimental one.”

Candice Bergen also offered some insight, in a call from her home in East Hampton. Ms. Bergen, who shared a line with her husband, the director Louis Malle, was elated to discover that the company still existed, and she had nearly as many questions as answers.

“Are the girls still there?” she asked.

“He’s still using them? Really?

“They’re everything that’s disappeared in life,” she said. “They do a romantic thing in a time that is virtually devoid of romance.”

Mr. Allen seemed to agree, calling the Belles “a colorful part of NY’s social life.”

“And while all the other answering services were all functional more or less but anonymous and bland,” he said, “the Belles like a movie star had a kind of intangible charisma.”

Before the dawn of voice mail, telephone answering services were a practical necessity. All walks of busy people used them, and they were fairly affordable. Average fees ran perhaps $20 a month. Mary Printz, the charismatic founder of the Belles, who died in her mid-80s in 2009, saw a niche in the allure of exclusivity. “I don’t want lawyers, plumbers, or electricians,” she would say. “I only want celebrities and millionaires.” As it happens, the Belles clients now include a plumber.

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A wooden timepiece called a Remind-O-Timer. Metal pegs around its face can be flipped to set an alarm. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The Belles began as a small operation in a Manhattan apartment jammed with rotary telephones, and it evolved into a sensation, acquiring 600 clients and at its peak making an estimated $2 million annually.

It was partly luck: One of Mrs. Printz’s earliest clients was the Broadway lyricist Adolph Green, who based Judy Holliday’s character in the “Bells Are Ringing,” a lovestruck telephone receptionist, on Mrs. Printz. Miss Holliday shadowed Mrs. Printz at the Belles offices to prepare; Mrs. Printz rebranded the company with a focus on celebrities after the show’s opening, and the word-of-mouth was instant. A poster for the hit musical’s 1960 movie adaptation, starring Dean Martin and Miss Holliday, still hangs in the Belles office. (“They all look like Judy Hollidays in my head,” Bruce Weber said of the receptionists.)

By the mid-1960s, the company’s glamorous association with Broadway and its alluring exclusivity had made it the premier service of its kind, and its receptionists had become the comforting voices, occasional psychiatrists and keepers of secrets to the stars.

“We were just star-struck girls,” said Florence Provinzano, 68, a former Belles receptionist who remembered taking calls for Robert Redford, Woody Allen and Candice Bergen. “We fell in love with the magic of the switchboards.” She recalled her heart jumping when, at 17, she was assigned the line Yul Brynner called on, and how hands were slapped away in the daily frenzy to pick up Rock Hudson’s calls.

Belles receptionists could become intimately engaged in their clients’ lives: dog walking, plant sitting, fish feeding, reading stock market quotes, reserving theater tickets, storing apartment keys, reminding clients of dinner appointments at Le Cirque or Maxwell’s Plum and maintaining discretion about marital strife and infidelities. “Divorce was good for business,” Ms. Provinzano said.

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Index cards were used to record personal notes on individual clients. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

“We knew when stuff was going down,” she continued. “We heard about Nixon resigning before it was on the TV. The phones were crazy when the Woody and Mia Farrow thing was happening.”

Days were rarely dull, and were typified by incidents that might seem impossible in today’s relentlessly managed culture of celebrity.

Noël Coward once called in despair in the middle of the night: He needed more Scotch to keep Marlene Dietrich entertained. But it was Sunday, and the liquor stores were closed. Mrs. Printz dispatched her husband to buy a bottle from a bartender and deliver it personally.

Swifty Lazar, the celebrated agent, offered Mrs. Printz a large sum to write a book about gossip she had gleaned. “What would I write about you?” she asked. Mr. Lazar, a Belles client, hung up.

The F.B.I. stormed the Belles to collect the messages of Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Mrs. Printz refused to hand them over. Or at least that’s the way Ms. Provinzano remembers it.

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A box of creased old index cards once used for clients. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The masterful bedside manner of Belles receptionists wasn’t accidental; it sprang directly from Mrs. Printz’s sassy and gregarious personality. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and had no qualms, for instance, about eliminating Burt Reynolds’s service after he accused the Belles of giving out his private number, or brusquely dismissing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. “Thank you for inquiring about our answering service,” Mrs. Printz wrote in a 1982 letter to Mrs. Onassis. “Handling volumes of prank calls is not possible for this organization. Calls of this nature could confine an operator to one line exclusively. We must give equal attention and consideration to all of our subscribers. Sorry we couldn’t be of help to you.”

Mrs. Printz (known to adoring clients as Ma Belle), was born in Grosse Pointe, Mich., in 1923, and moved to New York, where she married her second husband, a cocktail pianist named Bob Printz, when she was 26. (Mr. Printz died this summer.) She sought a job matching his nocturnal hours and before long found herself talking to strangers through a switchboard in a cramped room alongside other women wearing headsets. Realizing she was gifted at ingratiating herself with strangers, she later started what would become the Belles.

Her son, Joe Printz, remembered the pall cast over the family’s house when his parents bought their first answering machine in the early 1990s. “She knew it was a game changer,” he said. “She could see herself getting displaced.” The company lost hundreds of clients as the millennium progressed. “I remember the day she told me Woody was leaving,” Mr. Printz said. “She was so sad.”

Mrs. Printz’s thoughts on the decline were recorded in an unreleased documentary. It boiled down to the fact that people didn’t trust others to be “in charge of their secrets” anymore, she says.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the people I had for years and years and years died, and most of the young people don’t want what we have to offer,” she says in the film. “This is still what’s left of a personalized business.”

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Small sticks of worn plastic, once used to jam a client’s switchboard service if their bill went unpaid. Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

“I have a feeling that this is going to come back some day, this kind of service,” she adds, “because people are fed up of getting a machine.”

Mrs. Printz eventually sold the Belles to Mr. Snyder, a former Marine who was helping to manage the company’s office building at the time.

“You’d think the history of the Belles would make people come out,” he said, “but it didn’t work that way.”

Mrs. Printz was picky about prospective buyers, Mr. Snyder said, and had requested his assurance on two things: “Keep the legacy intact, and take care of my girls.” Mr. Snyder had studied business at Columbia and saw the opportunity to revitalize a historic brand, but the transition ended up being far more agonizing than he’d expected.

The switchboards confounded him, the girls had not been girls for a long while, and the office walls were stained brown from decades of cigarette smoke. “They didn’t know how to use computers,” Mr. Snyder said. “No modern technology. There was no website. There were still typewriters.”

Thus began the Belles’ tardy transition to modernity. An early website Mr. Snyder designed stressing the company’s past was scrapped; receptionists were taught how to use computers; and the company dropped “Celebrity” from its name. He retired the switchboards: Three were thrown out, two were sold and the last was kept out of respect, he said.

Mr. Snyder can still slip into fascination with the time warp surrounding him. He retrieved a plastic jar filled with small sticks of worn plastic. “This is a plug,” he said, holding up a red one. “We used to use them to jam someone’s service if they hadn’t paid the bill.” He pushed it into an imaginary switchboard with a grin on his face.

He recently stood in front of the dismantled switchboard in his office’s back room. A box containing its gutted parts sat on a shelf.

“If you were to put a soul into this thing and it could talk, we would have some very interesting conversations. It could tell us some stories,” Mr. Snyder said. “But the times change and things change. That’s the cycle of life: We move on.”

Some bulbs on the switchboard, which once lit up when calls came in, were colored red. In later years, he explained, receptionists started marking the last few active personal lines with a red marker. “Eventually it came down to one,” he said. I asked who the holdout was.

“I can’t tell you,” he said.

I pressed him. He upheld the code of the Belles.

“I’m not saying,” he said with finality. “They’ve been with us a long time.”

Source:NY Times.com

How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone

SAN FRANCISCO — Want to invisibly spy on 10 iPhone owners without their knowledge? Gather their every keystroke, sound, message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like — just check out the company’s price list.

The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user’s location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device.

Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last month, security researchers caught its spyware trying to gain access to the iPhone of a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican journalist who wrote about corruption in the Mexican government.

Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The New York Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital surveillance industry operate. The emails and documents were provided by two people who have had dealings with the NSO Group but would not be named for fear of reprisals.

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group’s corporate mission statement is “Make the world a safe place.”

Ten people familiar with the company’s sales, who refused to be identified, said that the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to. An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export license.

But critics note that the company’s spyware has also been used to track journalists and human rights activists.

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“There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place.”

The NSO Group’s capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.

The NSO Group’s spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of three such flaws in Apple software — since fixed — when it was discovered by researchers last month.

The cyberarms industry typified by the NSO Group operates in a legal gray area, and it is often left to the companies to decide how far they are willing to dig into a target’s personal life and what governments they will do business with. Israel has strict export controls for digital weaponry, but the country has never barred the sale of NSO Group technology.

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The founders of NSO Group, Omri Lavie, left, and Shalev Hulio. Credit NSO Group

Since it is privately held, not much is known about the NSO Group’s finances, but its business is clearly growing. Two years ago, the NSO Group sold a controlling stake in its business to Francisco Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, for $120 million. Nearly a year later, Francisco Partners was exploring a sale of the company for 10 times that amount, according to two people approached by the firm but forbidden to speak about the discussions.

The company’s internal documents detail pitches to countries throughout Europe and multimillion-dollar contracts with Mexico, which paid the NSO Group more than $15 million for three projects over three years, according to internal NSO Group emails dated in 2013.

“Our intelligence systems are subject to Mexico’s relevant legislation and have legal authorization,” Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican embassy in Washington, said in an emailed statement. “They are not used against journalists or activists. All contracts with the federal government are done in accordance with the law.”

Zamir Dahbash, an NSO Group spokesman, said that the sale of its spyware was restricted to authorized governments and that it was used solely for criminal and terrorist investigations. He declined to comment on whether the company would cease selling to the U.A.E. and Mexico after last week’s disclosures.

For the last six years, the NSO Group’s main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones — including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems — without leaving a trace.

Among the Pegasus system’s capabilities, NSO Group contracts assert, are the abilities to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations. One capability that the NSO Group calls “room tap” can gather sounds in and around the room, using the phone’s own microphone.

Pegasus can use the camera to take snapshots or screen grabs. It can deny the phone access to certain websites and applications, and it can grab search histories or anything viewed with the phone’s web browser. And all of the data can be sent back to the agency’s server in real time.

In its commercial proposals, the NSO Group asserts that its tracking software and hardware can install itself in any number of ways, including “over the air stealth installation,” tailored text messages and emails, through public Wi-Fi hot spots rigged to secretly install NSO Group software, or the old-fashioned way, by spies in person.

Much like a traditional software company, the NSO Group prices its surveillance tools by the number of targets, starting with a flat $500,000 installation fee. To spy on 10 iPhone users, NSO charges government agencies $650,000; $650,000 for 10 Android users; $500,000 for five BlackBerry users; or $300,000 for five Symbian users — on top of the setup fee, according to one commercial proposal.

You can pay for more targets. One hundred additional targets will cost $800,000, 50 extra targets cost $500,000, 20 extra will cost $250,000 and 10 extra costs $150,000, according to an NSO Group commercial proposal. There is an annual system maintenance fee of 17 percent of the total price every year thereafter.

What that gets you, NSO Group documents say, is “unlimited access to a target’s mobile devices.” In short, the company says: You can “remotely and covertly collect information about your target’s relationships, location, phone calls, plans and activities — whenever and wherever they are.”

And, its proposal adds, “It leaves no traces whatsoever.”

Source:NY times.com

Samsung to Recall 2.5 Million Galaxy Note 7s Over Battery Fires

HONG KONG — A ubiquitous source of power in most modern technology, lithium-ion batteries keep cellphones, laptops, electric cars and airplanes running. They are also the source of many problems, with some overheating, catching fire and even exploding.

In a potentially damaging episode, Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, announced on Friday that it would recall its Galaxy Note 7 model after discovering a flaw in the battery cell that could result in fires. The company will replace 2.5 million phones sent to stores and consumers, in one of the industry’s largest recalls.

The recall puts Samsung, which has been trying to match the success of the Apple iPhone, in a precarious position.

The smartphone industry is grappling with slowing demand and intense competition. Samsung was regaining swagger with its high-end phone models, like the Note 7, in which the screens appear to spill off the side.

But the battery fires threaten to undermine Samsung’s efforts, giving an edge to Apple. The recall comes just days before Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of its iPhone.

The ultimate scale of the damage to Samsung’s reputation and finances will depend on how quickly the company deals with the issues and how costly they turn out to be. Along with the expense of fixing the phones, Samsung could face lost sales if consumers grow wary of its products.

Samsung said it expected that manufacturing replacement phones would take two weeks. Consumers who have already bought the phones will receive replacements before new phones go on sale, the company said. Samsung did not indicate the cost of the recall.

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“If you look at previous instances in tech history where there have been recalls, as long as it doesn’t drag on to the point that the company becomes the butt of a joke, then it should be minor,” said Bryan Ma, an analyst at IDC, a technology research firm.

“If it becomes like a Pinto, where you don’t want to buy it because it explodes, that would be a bad situation,” he said, referring to the 1971 Ford car that became famous for erupting in flames after rear-end collisions. “But I think they’ll get past it.”

Samsung said that, so far, 35 battery episodes involving the Note 7 had been registered. Reports of the problem first started to emerge online, as consumers posted photographs and videos of the charred remains of phones they said had burst into flames, usually while being recharged.

In one video, a customer shows a half-melted phone, and explains: “Came home after work, put it to charge for a little bit before I had class, went to put it on my waist, and it caught fire. Yep, brand new phone, not even two weeks old.”

Samsung said it thought the problem came from a “minute flaw” in the production of the batteries. Samsung would not name the supplier involved.

The recall covers 10 countries where the phones have been sold. Samsung said the recall would not affect China, since the models sold there used a battery from a different supplier.

“We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause in the market, but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest-quality products to our customers,” the company said in a statement. “We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible.”

The recall is a major blow to Samsung, which had just started to regain its competitive footing. The company faces pressures across its product line, with Apple on the high end and new Chinese brands on the lower end.

Samsung was gaining traction with the latest Galaxy phones. The phones’ smooth, tapered edges, which make them more comfortable to hold, have been a hit with consumers.

In the second quarter, Samsung’s global smartphone sales rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier while Apple’s fell 15 percent, giving Samsung 22.4 percent of the market compared to Apple’s 11.8 percent, according to IDC. While some of that growth came from Samsung’s lower-end phones, IDC said that a significant part had also come from new demand for its higher-end phones, which contributed a disproportionate amount of profit.

In a year that Samsung originally warned could be tough, the company has performed surprisingly well. In the most recent second quarter, the company said its operating profit rose 15 percent from a year earlier, to about $7 billion.

Samsung had high expectations for the latest Galaxy phone, which was released last month, to help continue the momentum.

The Note 7 is 5.7 inches from corner to corner, making it a large phone sometimes referred to as a phablet — a combination of phone and tablet. It sells in the United States for about $900 to $1,000 without subsidies from a wireless carrier.

The phones were released just ahead of Apple’s traditional release time in autumn, before the important holiday shopping season. Apple is set to show off its latest iPhone on Sept. 7. With the new iPhone, Apple is expected to make major upgrades to both the hardware and software, as it generally does every two years.

“You have to applaud Samsung for moving quickly,” said Ben Wood, mobile analyst at CCS Insight in Berlin. “But they can’t afford to miss the run up to the holiday season, so they have to fix this problem fast.”

Lightweight and powerful, lithium-ion batteries are the go-to for technology, since they don’t take up much room and can quickly recharge repeatedly without wearing out. But they are also far from perfect.

The batteries, which include volatile and flammable chemical compounds, can become unstable if overheated or punctured. If that happens, the battery can burst into flames or explode.

Dell in 2006 recalled more than four million batteries for its notebook computers. American aviation authorities in 2013 reviewed the design of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner after a number of incidents involving lithium-ion batteries and the plane’s electrical system. Tesla in 2014 had to reinforce the area protecting the batteries in its Model S after it became apparent that road debris striking the bottom of the car could cause a fire.

More recently, battery problems have cropped up with increasing frequency among lower-end devices. In America, airline companies began banning hoverboards from flights after it became apparent that some of the products would occasionally burst into flames. There have also been increased reports of e-cigarette batteries spontaneously detonating.

Analysts, in part, attribute the issues to the low standards and few regulations in the global electronics supply chain that sprawls across China. As smaller Chinese companies have jumped at opportunities to make their own devices, some have cut corners, leading to a number of problems, including the occasionally combusting battery.

For Samsung, the recall strikes at the heart of what has long been considered its greatest strength: its management of the supply chain.

Samsung owns the facilities that produce many of the components in its smartphones — including screens, chips and batteries. The system allows it to keep closer tabs on production.

Yet much like Apple, Samsung also manages a large network of suppliers.

That means it must coordinate the production of a high number of parts that come from factories in disparate places run on tight margins. It must also double-check the quality of each product, which can be exceptionally challenging given that production processes are complex and factories are sometimes known to sacrifice quality for profit.

“What’s surprising is this comes from Samsung, who have such prowess and competence in manufacturing and supply chain,” Mr. Ma of IDC said. “You would think this wouldn’t happen to a company like that, but somehow it slipped through.”

Source:NY Times.com

A Lobbyist Wrote the Bill. Will the Tobacco Industry Win Its E-Cigarette Fight?

WASHINGTON — The e-cigarette and cigar industries have enlisted high-profile lobbyists and influential congressional allies in an attempt to stop the Food and Drug Administration from retroactively examining their products for public health risks or banning them from the market.

The campaign targets a broad new rule that extends F.D.A. jurisdiction to include cigars, e-cigarettes and pipe and hookah tobacco.

The bipartisan effort has featured a former senator who did not register as a lobbyist before going to work for the cigar companies and a former Obama administration official, now a private consultant, who is trying to undo his earlier work reviewing the rule. In addition, one member of Congress introduced industry-written legislation without changing a word of it.

The battle shows how, nearly two decades after the $200 billion settlement between tobacco companies and state attorneys general to compensate the public for health consequences of smoking, the industry still wields extraordinary clout in Washington.

With its army of more than 75 lobbyists, tobacco-aligned companies have argued that the F.D.A.’s so-called Deeming Rule could hurt public health by forcing a large share of e-cigarette companies out of business.

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Keith Glenna, left, and Trevor Heidenreich worked on the production line at Johnson Creek Enterprises in Hartland, Wis., last month. The company makes fluid used in e-cigarettes. Credit Lauren Justice for The New York Times

“The F.D.A. has blatantly ignored evidence that our products improve people’s lives,” said Christian Berkey, chief executive of Johnson Creek Enterprises, one of the first companies to sell the e-liquid ingredient used in e-cigarettes and vaping products.

F.D.A. officials acknowledge that e-cigarettes, made out of tobacco-derived nicotine, are potentially less harmful than cigarettes. But they insist they must examine whether the electronic cigarettes or the liquid nicotine juices might contain toxic chemicals like diethylene glycol, an ingredient also used in antifreeze, or candy-like flavors contributing to the surge in the numbers of teenagers using e-cigarettes. They also want to examine the safety of the e-cig devices themselves after reports of battery-related burns.

“In the absence of science-based regulation of all tobacco products, the marketplace has been the wild, wild West,” said Mitch Zeller, the director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Tobacco Products, which is in charge of enforcing the new rule. “Companies were free to introduce any product they wanted, make any claim they wanted, and that is how we wound up with a 900 percent increase in high schoolers using e-cigarettes and as well as all these reports of exploding e-cigarette batteries and products that have caused burns and fires and disfigurement.”

The lobbying effort has been led by the Altria Group, the nation’s largest tobacco company, which has a growing e-cigarette unit.

Documents obtained by The New York Times show that Altria last year distributed draft legislation on Capitol Hill that would eliminate the new requirement that most e-cigarettes already on sale in the United States be evaluated retroactively to determine if they are “appropriate for the protection of public health.”

The proposal was endorsed by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which has its own e-cigarette unit, as well as the National Tobacco Company, a major seller of loose tobacco, and trade associations representing the cigar industry and convenience stores, the documents show.

Altria delivered its proposal, entitled “F.D.A. Deeming Clarification Act of 2015,” to Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma in April 2015, the documents show, even before the F.D.A. rule became final.

Just two weeks later, Mr. Cole, a Republican, introduced the bill — with the title and 245-word text pulled verbatim from the industry’s draft.

“Yes, we have shared our views with many policy makers, including Congressman Cole’s office,” David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, said in a written statement, after being presented with a copy of its “legislative language” draft and Mr. Cole’s resulting bill, which has 71 co-sponsors and is still pending in the House.

Separately, former Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, spent part of her first year after losing re-election pressing officials from the White House, State Department and F.D.A. on behalf of the cigar industry — even though records show she had not registered as a lobbyist as required by federal law, which Ms. Landrieu said was an oversight.

“This is my fault,” she said. “I’m calling my lawyer now to get it corrected.”

The electronic vapor industry — representing smaller companies that sell e-cigarettes that can be refilled with vapor juice — also has a lobbying contingent, buttressed by a highly motivated community of consumers and vape shops.

Mr. Cole, and Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Democrat of Georgia, who co-sponsored one of the tobacco-related measures originally drafted by Altria, said that the rule would bankrupt small businesses and curb the availability of e-cigarette options, which some use as a way to quit smoking.

“I don’t like regulating in the rearview mirror,” Mr. Cole said in an interview.

Mr. Bishop and Mr. Cole are also two of the top House recipients of tobacco industry campaign donations, with Mr. Bishop receiving $13,000 from Altria this election cycle and a total of at least $60,000 from the industry since 2004.

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Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said it was embarrassing that more than 70 lawmakers had signed on as co-sponsors of legislation that lobbyists from Altria and other industry groups originally wrote.

“For Congress to consider going backward in how we regulate the public health hazard is simply mind-boggling,” she said. “It wasn’t that long ago that tobacco companies were telling the public that cigarettes were not addictive and denying clear evidence that they caused cancer.”

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Mr. Cole speaking with reporters last year. Credit Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, who helped negotiate the 1998 tobacco settlement, said: “It is worse than spoiled kids who don’t get their way. It is bullies that don’t get their way and who are holding public health hostage.”

Industry executives and their allies on Capitol Hill dismiss such criticism, noting that they support provisions intended to prevent youths from buying and using e-cigarettes or cigars.

“The argument that it would make it more accessible to children is fallacious,” Mr. Bishop said.

The cigar industry lobbying pitch has gained the most traction in Congress.

Arguing that premium cigars are more of a recreational product with fewer health risks than cigarettes, the industry has been separately pushing members of Congress to enact legislation that would broadly exempt “premium cigars” from the new F.D.A. oversight. A bill to do so — also written in part by industry lobbyists — was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida. It has 20 co-sponsors, while an identical bill in the House has another 165 co-sponsors.

The industry lobbyists, in addition to Ms. Landrieu, include Paul DiNino, a former finance director of the Democratic National Committee and onetime senior aide to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. Mr. DiNino is assigned to enlist prominent Senate Democrats.

Mr. Reid, records show, contacted the White House on the industry’s behalf, with his spokeswoman explaining that cigar-oriented events are important to Las Vegas.

To target the House, the cigar industry hired former Representative James T. Walsh, Republican of New York, a former House Appropriations Committee member, who has implored lawmakers and their staffs to back the exemption for cigars.

Mr. Walsh and his lobbying partners from the firm K & L Gates drafted language that was inserted into a House Appropriations bill approved by the full committee in April that defines an exemption for a premium cigar and that would prohibit the F.D.A. from spending money in the 2017 fiscal year on enforcement provisions.

“My fingers are crossed,” Mr. Walsh said, about the prospects for getting the exemption.

Another critical assist came from Andrew Perraut, who until 2014 served as a desk officer at the Office of Management and Budget division that reviews major federal regulations, including the F.D.A.’s tobacco rule.

White House records show that he helped represent the Obama administration at more than a dozen meetings with outside parties, mostly pressing the government to ease the rule, before he was hired by a cigar-industry trade organization and by NJoy, a manufacturer of e-cigarettes.

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Former Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, before she left office in December 2014. She spent her first year out of office pressing government officials on behalf of the cigar industry. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Within less than a year, records show, Mr. Perraut was back at the Office of Management and Budget on the other side of the table.

Because Mr. Perraut was not a senior official and the regulation affects numerous industry players, federal revolving door rules did not apply, an agency spokeswoman said. Mr. Perraut said he was simply trying to help stop a “train wreck” that will be caused by the F.D.A. overreach.

Richard W. Painter, who served as the White House chief ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, said Mr. Perraut’s quick turnabout violated the spirit of President Obama’s ethics pledge, intended to prevent former aides from lobbying the executive branch.

“Even if it is not prohibited, it is just not appropriate,” he said.

Interest groups attempting to shape the debate also have financial patrons with a clear stake in the outcome.

Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group, and National Center for Public Policy Research, a pro-free market think tank, have come out against the F.D.A. rules, even as they receive funding from the e-cigarette and tobacco industry, including Altria and R.J. Reynolds, records show.

Jeff Stier, a scholar at the National Center for Public Policy Research, and Grover Norquist, from Americans for Tax Reform, both said they opposed the F.D.A. rule as bad policy.

The American Lung Association, which has spoken out in defense of the rule, accepts contributions from pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, which sell smoking-cessation products that could lose sales if e-cigarettes continue to gain market share, Mr. Stier added.

Erika Sward, an association lobbyist, while acknowledging the money her nonprofit group has received from companies that sell smoking-cessation treatments, said the criticism of her group is a diversionary tactic.

“For so many years the focus in fighting tobacco wars has been on the cigarette industry,” she said. “With historic declines in cigarette use, which is wonderful, what we are seeing is a surge in use in other tobacco products. And their push on Capitol Hill reflects this new clout.”

Source:NY Times.com

Source:NY Times.com

F.D.A. Bans Sale of Many Antibacterial Soaps, Saying Risks Outweigh Benefits

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of soaps containing certain antibacterial chemicals on Friday, saying industry had failed to prove they were safe to use over the long term or more effective than using ordinary soap and water.

In all the F.D.A. took action against 19 different chemicals and has given industry a year to take them out of their products. About 40 percent of soaps — including liquid hand soap and bar soap – contain the chemicals. Triclosan, mostly used in liquid soap, and triclocarban, in bar soaps, are by far the most common.

The rule applies only to consumer hand washes and soaps. Other products may still contain the chemicals. At least one toothpaste, Colgate Total, still does, but the F.D.A. says its maker proved that the benefits of using it — reducing plaque and gum disease — outweigh the risks.

The agency is also studying the safety and efficacy of hand sanitizers and wipes, and has asked companies for data on three active ingredients — alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol), isopropyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride — before issuing a final rule on them.

Public health experts applauded the rule, which came after years of mounting concerns that the antibacterial chemicals that go into everyday products are doing more harm than good. Experts have pushed the agency to regulate antimicrobial chemicals, warning that they risk scrambling hormones in children and promoting drug-resistant infections.

“It has boggled my mind why we were clinging to these compounds, and now that they are gone I feel liberated,” said Rolf Halden, a scientist at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, who has been tracking the issue for years. “They had absolutely no benefit but we kept them buzzing around us everywhere. They are in breast milk, in urine, in blood, in babies just born, in dust, in water.”

The agency first proposed the rule in 2013, when it told companies that unless they could prove that chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban did more good than harm, they would have to remove the products that contained them from the market. On Friday, the agency said that it was not convinced.

The F.D.A. has given industry more time to prove that an additional three chemicals are safe and effective — benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol. Products with those chemicals can stay on the market for now.

The American Cleaning Institute, a trade group, opposed the rule, saying the agency “has in its hands data that shows the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.” The group said manufacturers were continuing to work to provide even more science and research “to fill data gaps identified by the F.D.A.”

But some of the largest companies have already started removing the chemicals, in part a reaction to rising consumer concerns. Both Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble announced their intention to phase out the chemicals in their products before the rule was made final, said Dr. Theresa Michele, the director of the division of nonprescription drug products at the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Studies in animals have shown that triclosan and triclocarban can disrupt the normal development of the reproductive system and metabolism, and health experts warn that their effects could be the same in humans. The chemicals were originally used by surgeons to wash their hands before operations, and their use exploded in recent years as manufacturers added them to a variety of products, including mouthwash, laundry detergent, fabrics and baby pacifiers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemicals in the urine of three-quarters of Americans.

Dr. Halden began publishing findings on what appeared to be risks of triclocarban in 2004. He said it is an older chemical, part of the family of organochlorines, like DDT and hexachlorophene, some of which were eventually banned. Newer chemicals are much lighter on the environment, he said, but triclocarban takes a very long time to disappear. In one study in New York City, for example, his team found traces of it that dated back to the 1960s.

“It was still sitting there in Jamaica Bay near J.F.K. Airport,” he said. “This stuff makes no sense.”

Source:NYtimes.com

Serena Williams Sails Past Match Record in Grand Slam Tournament

Serena Williams had an image in mind when she designed her current tennis outfit. The fluorescent pink sleeves, she said, make her think of the superhero characters Wonder Woman and Superwoman.

It is an appropriate image for one of the greatest tennis players of all time, a player seemingly without peer as she topples one record after another.

Williams explained that the design of her sleeves — she wears black ones for night matches — was intended to evoke a character of power and strength who is also unafraid to exhibit a softer side.

There was little question of who she had in mind, although she acknowledged, with a satisfied nod, “It is me.”

With her 6-2, 6-1 victory Saturday over Johanna Larsson in the third round of the United States Open, Williams earned her 307th victory in Grand Slam singles events. That carries her past Martina Navratilova for most by a woman, and ties her with Roger Federer for the most by any player.

Seeded No. 1, Williams is one trophy away from winning her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, which would break a tie with Steffi Graf for the most championships in the Open era. (Margaret Court won 24 in a career that spanned both the amateur and Open eras.) If Williams wins this tournament, she will break a tie with Chris Evert for the most U.S. Open titles by claiming her seventh.

Williams said she had first learned at Wimbledon that she was close to passing Navratilova, and it had given her a new goal.

“It is actually a really good feeling,” she said Saturday. “To be up there with both men and women is something that’s super rare.”

Her next victory, which would push her past Federer’s total, would most likely generate more discussion about whether Williams is one of the best athletes, male or female, of all time. She welcomes the debate.

On Saturday, Williams expended almost as much energy playing advocate as she did in her hourlong win over Larsson. Williams argued that disparities persisted between the way male and female athletes were perceived and paid.

“I definitely think there is a difference between the way male and female athletes are treated,” she said. “I also believe that as a woman, we have still a lot to do and a lot to be going forward.”

Williams noted that female tennis players had been at the forefront of trying to achieve equality in their sport, and she said it was important for them to push for similar conditions for other female athletes.

“Tennis players were really fortunate to have pioneers like Billie Jean King and really take a stance for women in tennis,” Williams said. “I feel like we got really, really fortunate to have that. So now we’re able to benefit and still preach the message and have an easier time. Hopefully, that can work out for other females, as well.”

With her superhero sleeves and dominating performances, Williams may not be helpful to the other women in her draw when she is on court. In the fourth round, Williams will play the 52nd-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, who beat Shuai Zhang, 6-2, 7-5.

A victory by Williams in the next round could set up a quarterfinal match against the No. 5 seed Simona Halep, who faced a stern challenge Saturday from the No. 31 seed Timea Babos. Halep held on to win an emotional match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, and she will play the No. 11 seed Carla Suárez Navarro in the fourth round. The two have evenly split their 10 previous matches.

Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 4 seed, beat Caroline Garcia, 6-2, 6-3, and could be headed for a quarterfinal matchup with the No. 6 seed Venus Williams, who defeated Laura Siegemund, 6-1, 6-2, in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night.

All of them have aspirations to win the tournament, but with Serena Williams blazing through the draw almost effortlessly so far (she has lost only 15 games in three matches), the others have a considerable challenge to overcome.

Coming into the tournament, Serena Williams had some concerns about a sore right shoulder. But she says it is improving every day. Her fastest serve Saturday was fired at 121 miles per hour, and she faced only one break point against Larsson. She saved it.

Still, Serena Williams said she was not quite at her best.

“I don’t feel like I’m Serena out there yet,” she said. “But hopefully she’ll come around the second week.”

She might come wearing a cape.

Source:NY Times.com

Houston quickly becomes Playoff contender that can't be ignored

The hashtag — and if you didn’t already know it, it’s time — is #HTowntakeover. The Houston football program began using it shortly after Tom Herman arrived. At the time, it referenced the goal of owning their market.

But after a 33-23 ambush of Oklahoma, it might signal a whole lot more. Could Houston take over the entire system, crashing the College Football Playoff from the Group of Five?

That remains a long shot. But after notching a signature victory on a huge stage — and the Cougars’ second in a row, if we count that Peach Bowl victory against Florida State (the Playoff selection committee isn’t supposed to think about last year, but they’re humans, too) — they’ve forced their way into the initial conversation.

The Cougars must remain perfect, which would mean running the table in the American Athletic Conference and beating Louisville in November. They probably need help, with some chaos in Power Five conferences. And they probably need the Sooners to bounce back in a big way.

The Cougars won with a combination of good defense, big plays, some good fortune and some magic — a Kick Six, anyone? But however it happened, they left no doubt they belong. If they can keep going, well, Herman isn’t going to talk much about this, and for good reason. But last spring he laid out the theory. Or maybe laid down the gantlet.

“Hypothetically,” he told USA TODAY Sports, “in a situation (like Houston going unbeaten), if that team does not get invited to the four-team Playoff then the system is broken. Now, how that applies to us, I don’t know.”

We might find out. And could there be even larger implications, like an #HTowntakeover right into the Big 12.

Houston’s win is unlikely to hold much sway in the conference’s expansion consideration — but you figure it can’t hurt (unless, of course, you take the opposite view, that it shows how the Cougars as a Big 12 brand might hurt the league’s current members). It certainly won’t hurt Herman’s status with potential suitors, either, including the folks just up the road in College Station and Austin. As the Cougars keep winning, the pressure only grows on Kevin Sumlin and Charlie Strong to do the same.

As for Oklahoma, let’s stay away, at least for now, from the hot takes. The Sooners’ Playoff hopes were dented, yes. But if we’ve learned anything in the first two years of the format, it’s that one loss, especially early, doesn’t knock Power Five teams out (see Ohio State and Virginia Tech in 2014 or more inexplicably, Oklahoma and Texas last season).

The Sooners could rehab their image in two weeks, when Ohio State rolls into Norman, though they’ll need to play a whole lot better. As much as Houston made plays to win, the Sooners did plenty of things to lose. That doesn’t bode well for future success, but teams routinely morph into something better after season openers.

After Week 1, though, Oklahoma now has zero margin for error. That remains the same for Houston, which cannot afford a loss at any point.

But it’s time to start talking seriously about what the #HTowntakeover might really mean.

Source:USA today.com

Mark Sanchez signs with Cowboys after being cut by Broncos

Mark Sanchez has found his landing spot after being released by the Denver Broncos on Saturday.

Sanchez signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced.

The Cowboys were in the market for a quarterback after Tony Romo suffered a broken bone in his back, leaving rookie Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers as the only options at quarterback. Sanchez is expected to be Prescott's backup while Romo is out.

Sanchez became expendable in Denver after the Broncos named Trevor Siemian the team's starting quarterback on Monday.

When Sanchez was traded to the defending Super Bowl champions in March, the veteran appeared to be the prohibitive favorite to become Peyton Manning's successor. But Siemian, the second-year pro who has not thrown a pass in the regular season, had more experience in Broncos coach Gary Kubiak's system, and his steady play in preseason helped him seal the starting job.

After releasing Sanchez, the Broncos signed Austin Davis as a backup to join Siemian and first-round pick Paxton Lynch on the roster.

Source:USA Today.com

Current and former drivers, fans stand by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

ARLINGTON, S.C. — The Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt is faded and ripped across the bottom but still worn proudly by Tommy Carlson of Columbia, S.C.

Earnhardt Jr., still recovering from concussion issues and, as announced Friday, absent from Sprint Cup racing for the rest of the season, won’t race at Darlington in Sunday’s iconic Southern 500. His fans, however, still make up a significant slice of the speedway population.

They refuse to make the final turn into the garage.

“We were hoping he would be back by now,” Carlson said. “But we’re still here for the 88 car and those guys. It would be great to see it in victory lane again. It will be again, for sure, when Junior is back.”

For the first time since 1979, the Southern 500 field will take the green flag without Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the lineup. Earnhardt Sr. raced in the 500 for the first time in 1978 but missed the ’79 race after being injured in a crash at Pocono Raceway (David Pearson replaced Earnhardt in that race and won it).

Earnhardt Jr. has not missed a Darlington race since his first full-time season in 2000.

Earnhardt's long-term future has been a topic of discussion in NASCAR circles since he revealed his latest concussion-related issues this summer. He hasn’t raced since July 9, and Hendrick Motorsports revealed Friday that he will sit out the rest of this season with a plan to return to driving in February 2017.

I want to see him back as soon as possible, but health comes first and they feel like this is the right thing for him to do and that is what he needs to do to try to get better. and we will hope to see him back in Daytona in February,” said Chase Elliott, Earnhardt's teammate. “I think that is a good goal to shoot for, and being 110 percent for something like that there is no need in taking a big risk.”

Doctors have not released Earnhardt to drive. He has said he continues to have vision and balance problems.

“We want to see him back, but we want him back full-bore,” said Earnhardt fan Brian Hawkins of Charleston, S.C., as he set up a campsite in the Darlington infield. “It’s tough to see him go through all this. I know he wants to be back in the car, and that’s where we want him. But his health is the most important thing.”

Retired NASCAR driver Ricky Craven, now an ESPN racing analyst, battled concussion-related issues during his driving career and has been in communication with Earnhardt during his recovery.

“I didn’t expect him back until at least October, but I was relieved to hear that he’ll stay out a while,” Craven told USA Today Sports Saturday. “I feel like it’s the right decision on many levels. I understand to some degree the challenges he’s facing.”

Craven said his conversations with Earnhardt have been “very, very candid and revealing. He’s been brutally honest.”

Craven stepped out of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 1998 after wrestling with concussion issues. He returned to driving to win a pair of Sprint Cup races.

“Within a few weeks of stepping out of the 25 [Hendrick] car, I sold my airplane,” Craven said. “An airplane means a lot to people in racing. I sold it because I was extremely insecure and was willing to acknowledge that I might never race again. Thank God I did.”

Craven said he hasn’t discussed that possibility with Earnhardt, “but I know he’s thought about it. It’s part of this.”

Jeff Gordon, a seven-time winner at Darlington, is scheduled to replace Earnhardt in Sunday’s race. Gordon and Alex Bowman will share Earnhardt's ride for the rest of the season.

Earnhardt has shared much of his recovery with fans through social media and press conferences. He, team owner Rick Hendrick and Dr. Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program, which is treating Earnhardt, are scheduled to participate in a press conference at the track before Sunday’s race.

“I have a lot of respect for him and what he has gone through and being able to stand up and be honest about everything,” Elliott said. “That is tough. I don’t care who you are, that is a hard thing to do when you are going through something like that. He stood up and has been just really, really honest, which I think is awesome. It shows the kind of person that he is and how can you not support that and pull for him to get back as soon as possible.”

Source:USA.Today.com

Texas high school shooting: 1 dead, attorney says

CNN One person is dead after a shooting Thursday morning at Alpine High School in western Texas, a county attorney said.

Details about the shooting at the school in Alpine, a community of about 6,500 people roughly 200 miles southeast of El Paso, were thin. The Brewster County Sheriff's Office initially said one person was shot and two shooters were believed to be on the loose.
Brewster County Attorney J. Steve Houston said one person had died, and that the shooting happened in the school's band hall. Details on who died weren't immediately available.
The school, which has about 280 students, initially was placed on lockdown, the school district said. But students were being evacuated by 9:40 a.m. CT, the Alpine Avalanche newspaper said on its Facebook page.
In a post reporting the evacuation, the Avalanche included an image of people gathering outside, along a street.
Source:CNN.com

Child suicide attempts on the rise in besieged Syrian town, group warns

(CNN)The besieged Syrian town of Madaya has seen a "worrying increase" in child suicide attempts as the long war takes its toll, a rights group warned.

At least six children and teens -- the youngest a 12-year-old girl -- and seven young adults have attempted suicide in the past two months, Save the Children said in a statement.
There were almost no cases before the siege started, according to the nongovernmental organization.
"The children are psychologically crushed and tired. When we do activities like singing with them, they don't react at all, they don't laugh like they would normally," a teacher in the western Syrian town is quoted as saying in the report.
"They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food."
Hundreds of people are "suffering from psychological problems and mental illness, including severe depression and paranoia, often brought on or exacerbated by the conditions they are living in," the statement said. The crisis is worsened by a lack of mental health resources.
The report comes on the heels of a UNICEF report, "Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children," which states that almost 50 million children around the world are refugees or migrants.
Madaya, a town of 40,000 people northwest of the capital of Damascus, has been under siege since July last year, cut off by forces of both the Syrian government and Hezbollah, its Lebanese ally. It is also peppered with landmines, thwarting aid efforts.
Alongside mental health issues, children in the town are suffering from a lack of "even basic medical treatment." The NGO adds that there are reports of a serious meningitis outbreak.
"The long siege of Madaya and other towns is taking its toll on people's minds as well as their bodies," said Sonia Khush, Syria director for Save the Children.
"The pressure of living under these conditions for years on end without respite is too much to bear, especially for children. There are more than 250,000 children living under siege in Syria and while they are resilient, we see the signs of trauma and distress every day."
Madaya came to prominence this year when dozens of residents reportedly died from hunger and malnutrition, according to local activists.
At the time, the United Nations said it had received "credible reports" of people dying of starvation and that Syria had agreed to allow aid convoys into it and other besieged cities.
For a period, aid access was opened up and convoys of food and medicines were allowed to enter. But the siege has tightened again recent months, with no humanitarian relief allowed in since April, according to the NGO.
The use of starvation as a weapon in Syria is "a war crime," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in January after U.N. convoys arrived in Syrian towns to deliver food to malnourished residents.
"U.N. teams have witnessed scenes that haunt the soul," Ban said. "The elderly and children, men and women, who were little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk, and utterly desperate for the slightest morsel."
Syria's civil war is not only one of the bloodiest conflicts in the world today, it's also one of the most complicated.
It started as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, and later descended into a civil war that has left 400,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
Source:CNN.com

Four Oakland police officers fired in wake of sex scandal

(CNN)Four police officers in Oakland, California, have been fired for involvement in a department-wide sex scandal, Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a press conference Wednesday.

An additional seven officers were suspended without pay, and another is receiving counseling, according to CNN affiliate KRON4.
The four Oakland Police Department officers who were terminated also face charges of attempted sexual assault, lewd conduct in public, assisting in the crime of prostitution, being untruthful to investigators, and failing to report a violation of law for not disclosing that a minor had sexual contact with police.
The seven suspended officers are accused of accessing a law enforcement database for personal gain, failing to report a violation of the law, and bringing disrepute to the department.
Schaaf said at the press conference that the firings and suspensions send "a loud and clear message that we hold our officers to nothing but the highest standards of professionalism and integrity."
The punishments bring some resolution to the scandal that began last fall with the suicide of OPD officer Brendan O'Brien. Officials say an investigation into his death uncovered disturbing allegations.
An 18-year-old former prostitute alleged she had sex with O'Brien, as well as with a number of other officers from the department and officers from nearby jurisdictions.
The young woman, who goes by the pseudonym Celeste Guap, said it all started when she was 17 years old and became romantically involved with O'Brien, who she credits with saving her from a dangerous pimp.
"He saved me when I was 17," Guap told CNN in a phone conversation. "Instead of taking me to jail, we just kind of started something there, you know."
O'Brian, she said, later introduced her to other officers who became customers.
As the investigation widened, other officers became embroiled in the scandal. Ultimately, four police chiefs resigned and 28 officers across five departments were alleged to have had sexual contact with Guap.

Multiple relationships

Some of the officers paid to have sex, Guap said. Others exchanged confidential information, such as tipping her off about prostitution stings, for sexual favors.
Of the 28 officers, Guap said 14 were from the Oakland Police Department. The others included five Richmond police officers, several Alameda County Sherriff's deputies, a Livermore police officer and a Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy.
The Oakland Police Department is no stranger to scandal. Since 2003 a federal monitor has been in place to ensure the department complies with a negotiated settlement agreement stemming from a police corruption scandal.
Officers had been accused of planting evidence and assaulting suspects. No accused officers were ever convicted, but one officer fled prosecution and to this day remains at large. The city paid out more than $10 million to more than 100 plaintiffs and agreed to make reforms, eventually ending up under federal monitoring.
Wednesday's announcements were "about making department-wide changes," Schaaf said.
"We see you, we are here for you, we are here to help you," she added, addressing victims of sexual abuse in the city.
Source:CNN.com
 

Tim Tebow to Mets: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

It appears Tim Tebow will get the last laugh when it comes to his nascent baseball career. The former NFL quarterback and the New York Mets agreed to a minor league contract Thursday.

The Mets announced the deal, noting that Tebow will participate in the instructional league. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the agreement. 

"This decision was strictly driven by baseball," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters after the announcement. "This was not driven by marketing considerations."

Alderson called Tebow "a classic player development opportunity for us," comparing him to Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, adding that "the idea that any one player has no chance to make it to MLB, I reject."

Tebow will start in the instructional league on Sept. 18, per Marc Carig of Newsday, with Alderson noting that Tebow "won't be available every day" due to his commitments with ESPN.

"This is something I don’t take for granted and I am excited about," Tebow said at the press conference. "I'm looking forward to getting to work."

When asked about his expectations for success, Tebow said he "would consider success giving it everything I have.”

Tebow, 29, held an open tryout Aug. 30 in front of scouts from 28 of the 30 MLB teams. Playing in a simulated game, Tebow flashed raw power and left some scouts impressed—though, in Tebowian fashion, opinions were split.

"It was a complete waste of time," an American League scout told USA Today's Josh Peter. "It was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player. He tried. He tried. That's the best I can say. He is crazy strong, and could run well in one direction, but that's it. He only had one good throw of all his throws."

"That was big power," another scout, who had a more positive outlook, told Peter. "He was mishitting the ball out of the park."

While few walked out of the tryout thinking they were stumbling on a potential superstar, one thing became clear: Tebow was getting signed.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that eight teams were trying to bring in Tebow. The Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays emerged as the likeliest potential suitors. Atlanta was particularly aggressive, even courting Tebow publicly.

Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reported that the "Tebow field was narrowed to five teams" before he signed with the Mets, adding that "interest was significant."

"He has demonstrated more than rudimentary baseball skills." Alderson said of Tebow. "We think he can be a baseball player."

"Whatever Tim decides, the fact that he wants to play baseball is good for the game," Braves general manager John Coppolella said, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com. "It's similar to when Michael Jordan or others have wanted to play. It's positive to draw this kind of interest to the game and make it a story because it's good for baseball."

Of course, this isn't quite on M.J.'s level. Jordan was coming off a three-peat, was the best player in basketball and the most famous athlete on the planet. There will never be a comparable moment to when Jordan left the Bulls.

Tebow, by contrast, wasn't able to stick on an NFL roster after his run with the New York Jets in 2012. He had seemingly settled into a broadcasting role, which included well-received turns on the SEC Network and even a stint on Good Morning America.

Tebow said the following of baseball, per Peter:

This is something I love to do, and I think when you have that mindset, it lets you be free to just go out there and compete. It lets you be free to do what a lot of people think you can't do. When you don't have that (fear), it lets you be able to be free to pursue life and what you're passionate about, not what other people think you should do.

Tebow hasn't played competitive baseball since high school, but we've learned we can never count him out.

Source:CNN.com

Colin Kaepernick Talks National Anthem Protest, President Obama, Role on 49ers

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is focused on making the biggest possible impact both on the football field and off it in the coming months as he continues to embrace the cause behind his national anthem protest during the NFL preseason.

The 28-year-old 49ers backup spoke with reporters about a wide range of topics Wednesday, including sitting behind Blaine Gabbert on the depth chart. He understands things can change in the blink of an eye, so he's staying ready.

"I have to wait my time and work," Kaepernick said. "I've been in this position before. Last time I was in this position, I ended up in the Super Bowl, so I continue to work and prepare for when that next opportunity comes."

He added: "That's ultimately Chip [Kelly's] decision. All I can do is focus on myself at this point and make sure I'm getting better."

Of course, the headlines Kaepernick has made so far this season haven't had much to do with his role as a quarterback. His decision to sit or kneel during the United States national anthem has led to a wide-ranging national debate about the issue.

He explained to Steve Wyche of NFL.com last month that he knew there were risks involved with the choice, but he moved forward with the protest anyway.

"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," Kaepernick said. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

On Wednesday, he talked about the next step in the process now that the initial wave of outrage and support is passing.

"I've had a lot of conversations with [activists and leaders] about how to address your issues practically and what reasonable solutions that we feel can be implemented, whether it's legislation or in the community, and make sure these changes are happening," Kaepernick said.

He also admitted that getting support from President Barack Obama, who stated Monday the quarterback "cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about," was helpful in his efforts to fight racial injustice:

He's someone that also realizes there are many issues that need to be addressed and need changing in this country. The initial shock of what the protest was about and the significance of that was lost in the action and the message wasn't really addressed. I think that was great that he came out and supported the message that we do need to make changes in these areas.

Now the focus shifts to Monday night, when the 49ers are scheduled to open their season with a nationally televised clash against the Los Angeles Rams.

ESPN originally did not plan to show the game's national anthem. The ESPN Public Editor reported that outlook has changed, however, with the network likely airing the moment live on ESPN2 and addressing it during the earlier game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.

Source:CNN.com

Shaq Won't Enter Springfield a Perfect Player, but as the Player He Wanted to Be

Because he was blessed with something we weren't, Shaquille O'Neal knew something we didn't.

In body, he was basketball perfection.

As O'Neal understood, such a blessing is a curse.

Hopes, dreams, expectations and demands for him would never be reasonable—and they never were. People never would and never will ever say he overachieved in his field.

That's what O'Neal accepted to make enough peace with his potential to accomplish what he did. He was different from the typical nose-to-the-grindstone success story, and he was OK with that. In fact…

In mind, he was basketball imperfection.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

He could've used that mind to expand his game, take better care of his body, be a better teammate. He could've tried harder, obviously, to make a few more of the 6,466 (!) free throws he missed in NBA games.

That stuff is grounds for criticism when we want our athletic heroes to be worthy of idolizing and imitating. Yet in his own way, that was the right path for O'Neal to find the balance that every life coach or mountaintop guru preaches for us.

O'Neal was one of the greatest players of all time, better than almost everyone he's joining in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Not the best, but one of them because he concentrated on his strengths more than his weaknesses.

The drawbacks of being a perfectionist are real. That may be a shrewd way to characterize yourself when asked what about your flaws in a job interview. But the truth, many believe, is that being a perfectionist is linked with heightened anxiety and lowered self-esteem.

O'Neal was not a perfectionist, and that worked for him. With that mentality came a type of freedom that few athletes enjoy.

And he sure enjoyed his career on his terms.

He had a nameplate above his Los Angeles Lakers locker at The Forum and Staples Center that read "IDGAF" rather than "O'NEAL." He wanted a reminder to be himself rather than what others wanted for him. (He would tell the kids it was an acronym for "I Dominate Games Forever" instead of the alternate truth: "I Don't Give a F--k.")

He carved out an attainable definition of greatness that he could easily achieve: being the "most dominant" player rather than the "best." It was an ideal fit so he could feel good about himself even when not really trying his hardest.

 

 
PAUL BUCK/Getty Images
Shaquille O'Neal ranks among the top eight all time in scoring, field-goal percentage, blocks and offensive rebounds.

 

He truly believed in and would willingly explain that approach, which jibed with his idea of taking it slowly through the regular season and building gradually toward a playoff payoff. Of course, the way he explained it was with an R-rated undertone and a sparkle in his eye.

He had a lot of fun off the court. The Lakers scheduled practice times with O'Neal's road-city party hangovers in mind. His bold declarations and creative word play were regular entertainment (when he wasn't glumly muttering: "Write what you see" after Kobe Bryant would hijack the offense).

He would spice up any random moment in time by putting someone up against a wall and frisking him for his police training or by picking someone up in his arms or over his head or any other way he could imagine. (Weird confession: I actually felt more secure in Shaq's bear-hug in front of his locker as he hopped us up and down as if we were on some tandem pogo stick than when he had my face up against the wall and I was blind to what scheme he might be hatching behind me besides the expected faux-handcuffing. This was even though the Shaq pogo stick happened when he was wearing only underwear.)

He set an unattainable bar for everyone else with his unique ability to "flip the switch" when he wanted to play better. The reasons he would get fired up might be that Michael Doleac looked at him the wrong way or Luc Longley had three rings or Dikembe Mutombo was whining about elbows—and the beast would be unleashed.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

It wasn't until Yao Ming had some success against him—and got public recognition for it—that O'Neal tried half as hard as Yao did going head-to-head. O'Neal wasn't a natural born killer and didn't aspire to become one.

As such, he lived his career with a freedom that killer competitors never find.

O'Neal was never trapped by single-mindedness or imprisoned by the gym.

He played to his strengths.

The problem with that is no one's self-awareness is perfect. O'Neal valued his strengths as a rapper or entertainer more than his strengths as a rebounder or shot-blocker. It was only because Phil Jackson set specific goals for O'Neal to attain in those areas to go with his scoring thirst that O'Neal put it all together for his one NBA MVP award in 1999-2000.

And it wasn't clear in the locker room moments after beating the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals that year whether O'Neal was more excited about his first championship or that he could finally reveal to some of us his latest nickname for himself.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Shaq celebrates his first NBA title, after dispatching the Pacers in 2000.

 

"The Big Deporter," O'Neal announced, beaming with pride.

It was beyond clever: He had eliminated foreign-born centers Rik Smits, Arvydas Sabonis, Longley and Vlade Divac during the Lakers' playoff run.

Around the same time, amid the champagne and streamers at Staples Center, Bryant was talking up his plan to go on to win 10 NBA titles.

Each approach has its merits, for sure. But it's fair to say that one mindset worked for Bryant while another worked for O'Neal.

Of course, we imagine the incomparable greatness that would've been O'Neal with greater work ethic and determination. It might have made for the ultimate confluence of basketball forces—beyond a powerhouse.

An absolute machine.

Except then he wouldn't have been a human being at all.

Therein lies the deal-breaker for O'Neal, who wanted above all to bring joy and light into his life and others'.

Fellow inductees Allen Iverson and Yao inspired in their ways, too; Iverson with his pound-for-pound presence and Yao with his global imprint. They were true to themselves, but no one was more so than O'Neal.

That is the crux of the "IDAGF" spirit.

 

 
Barry Gossage/Getty Images
O'Neal helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 1995 before leaving for the Lakers after the '95-96 season.

 

Being a perfectionist is for the uptight, overstressed people who aren't having as much fun as he is. Being a terrible free-throw shooter made him relatable to the world in exactly the way he wanted—outstanding in his field but not without a touch of human frailty.

He embraced the Superman comparison…but only because of the Kryptonite.

As long as Superman wasn't perfect, Shaq didn't have to be either.

Being super came easily enough.

Source:CNN.com

15 years after 9/11, unwelcome spotlight returns to Islam

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. — In the shock and horror that besieged the country after the attacks by Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, many American Muslims — like everyone, mourning a lost sense of peace — withstood abuse, even assaults, and felt suddenly thrust into defending their 1,400-year-old religion.

Across the country, Muslim men were attacked, some fatally. Women in headscarves were harassed, and mosques and Muslim businesses were vandalized.

That sense of dread, reinforced by renewed bias attacks and a new, freely expressed distrust of Islam and its adherents, has returned 15 years after al-Qaida dramatically changed American culture and politics. While many political leaders decry such attacks and voice support for Muslim neighbors, others are using language that critics say stokes fear and makes Muslims feel they are not welcome here.

Yet if the climate sometimes feels uncomfortably similar to those trying days after 9/11, something else has changed 15 years later: Muslim Americans from diverse backgrounds and nationalities are more organized, more involved in their communities and in politics, and more outspoken in calling out bias.

That kind of mobilization has helped to steadily improve relations since 9/11, especially in New Jersey, said Mohamed Younes, a Franklin Lakes resident and president of the American Muslim Union. In 2001, people knew little about Islam, he said. Now, at least in the state, there are stronger bonds and more understanding.

Still, civil rights groups around the country are reporting an uptick in hate crimes targeting Muslims that, while not as numerous as attacks in the aftermath of Sept. 11, are stoking new unease in a growing American Muslim population.

 

There were 174 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence last year, including shootings and bombings, up about 13 percent from the year before, according to a report published by The Bridge Initiative, a Muslim-Christian relations center at Georgetown University. The FBI in 2001 tallied 481 bias incidents against Muslims.

Khitam Mustafa, a 43-year-old Clifton woman, is convinced she was the target of spontaneous hatred in an incident in a strip mall parking lot in December. Mustafa, wearing a hijab, the headscarf Muslim women wear in an expression of modesty, was pulling into a parking space when a man she’d never seen before peered into her window. When she rolled down the window to ask what was the matter, he unleashed a torrent of verbal abuse, cursing her religion and shouting “go back to your country,” she said.

She was so rattled she called police, though no charges materialized. Mustafa reflected recently on that incident and put it into a larger context.

“All the things on TV and the way they’re making us seem — I feel like it’s a horrible nightmare,” she said. She lamented the freely spoken distrust and misinformation about Muslims and Islam — singling out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, from doubts he has raised about their loyalty to his discredited claims that they celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11.

Making matters worse, the rhetoric comes amid a series of horrific new terrorist attacks carried out in Islam’s name in the U.S. and worldwide, from San Bernardino, to Orlando, to France.

“Everywhere you go, people look at you,” Mustafa said “It’s different. Now we have Trump bashing us on TV. We have Trump claiming he saw Muslims cheering after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

In the days after 9/11, when some Americans turned their anger toward Muslim neighbors, elected leaders came to their defense. Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, declared his respect for the city’s Muslim communities and urged residents “not to engage in any form of group blame or group hatred.”

President George W. Bush, in a speech at a mosque days after the attacks, said Muslims had made “incredibly valuable contributions to our country” and urged that they be treated with respect. Those who lash out at them, he said, “represent the worst of humankind.

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”

A decade and a half later, some politicians are adopting a different tone in discussing Islam. In March, Trump told CNN that “I think Islam hates us.” He has repeatedly called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Also-rans in the Republican primary followed suit, with one, Ben Carson, saying a Muslim would be unfit to serve as president, and Ted Cruz calling for police patrols of “Muslim neighborhoods.”

That kind of speech has broken down taboos about expressing fear and distrust of Islam, potentially making Muslims more vulnerable to acts of violence, said Engy Abdelkhader, a professor and senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative.

“[Trump] does so in such a public way that’s amplified, perhaps inadvertently, by news media, and it is impacting people around the country,” said Abdelkhader. “It falls on people’s ears in different ways. Some find it repulsive, but for others it may give them a green light that what he’s saying is right.”

There may be an unexpected consequence for purveyors of anti-Muslim speech, one expert said.

James Sues, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said harsh political rhetoric can have a reverse effect: He said he’s received reports about people “who are reaching out to Muslims they see in public with a helping hand, saying hi and being friendly.”

Those people, he said, are “hearing that kind of talk from someone running for president and are embarrassed by it and feeling empathy with Muslims.”

After 9/11, some Muslim Americans said they were so fearful that they ventured from their homes only when they had to. Not so anymore. With the scrutiny of Muslims, the diverse faith group has become organized and outspoken.

Muslim civic and religious groups are holding news conferences, staging anti-terror prayer vigils and interfaith events, and meeting with law enforcement to act against bias and show that they are as American as the next person. They’re bombarding media with condemnations of terrorism after all attacks, including those in the U.S., France, Iraq and Pakistan that targeted non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Groups have held voter registration drives. Some have run for office. In North Jersey, both Teaneck and Prospect Park have Muslim mayors, and Muslims serve or are seeking seats on councils and school boards in Paterson, North Bergen, Passaic, Paramus and Clifton.

Americans this summer cheered a Muslim American fencer for the U.S. Olympic team, who wore a hijab beneath her wire-mesh protective mask.

The most well-known rebuke of anti-Muslim political speech came last month, when Khizr and Ghazala Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention about their son, a United States Army captain who was killed in Iraq trying to protect other U.S. soldiers.

“Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims,” Khizr Khan said. “Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”

When Trump criticized his wife’s silence and suggested she wasn’t allowed to speak, she fired back in an op-ed, and thousands of Muslim women launched a social media campaign with the hashtag “can you hear me now.”

The Khans’ speech summoned tears of pride among many American Muslims, but it also brought tremendous national empathy. This time the backlash was against Trump — even from members of his own party — as people decried his criticism of a Gold Star mom.

Some people also are more likely to say something about bias incidents. Mustafa, the woman who said she was the target of a stranger’s wrath at a Clifton shopping center, called police and visited headquarters several times to file a complaint. When police ultimately determined there was no probable cause to file charges, Mustafa complained to city officials.

Although the incident was upsetting, Mustafa said it hasn’t changed how she lives.

“Sept. 11 we had to stay home because it was so bad,” she said. “People were scared to go out of the school, especially people who wore hijab.”

She added: “[Now] I’m not scared. I go anywhere.”

Source:USA Today.com

Apple cuts prices, boost storage on iPads

It's not just the iPhone that will shed its insufficient 16GB model.

Apple made changes to its iPad lineup, lowering the price on some models and moving to a minimum storage option of 32GB across the board, according to new details in the Apple Store.

The 16GB models of the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Mini 2 have all been replaced by 32GB versions, yet retain the same pricing. Meanwhile, the iPad Air 2 adds a 128GB model, while that same storage option for the Mini 4 gets bumped down in price by $100.

Select models of the iPad Pro will also see a price drop. The 128GB versions of both the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will see a price cut of $50, while the 256GB models shave $100 off the original price. The 32GB models will stay at $799.

During the third quarter, sales of the iPad were down compared to the same time period last year. One potential reason for the decline is more consumers are holding onto their tablets longer, compared to the two-year cycle often associated with smartphone upgrades.

On Wednesday, Apple introduce its next iPhone -- the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Pre-orders for the smartphones arrive on September 9, and will reach stores on September 16.

Source:USA Today.com

Sony launching $399 PS4 Pro in November

Sony announced Wednesday it will launch a Pro version of its PlayStation 4 video game console capable of running 4K and HDR content in November.

The PS4 Pro will be available for $399 on Nov. 10, just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season. It will feature a 1 terabyte hard drive and will continue to run standard console games. Andrew House, the president and global CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, encouraged developers to create games that could leverage 4K resolutions.

"We're introducing choice in the marketplace, enabling gamers to choose the PS4 model that meets their needs," said House in a statement Wednesday.

Several video games have been confirmed to support the higher resolutions of the PS4 Pro, including Activision blockbuster Call of Duty and the upcoming science fiction title Mass Effect: Andromeda from publisher Electronic Arts.

Meanwhile, Sony will also introduce a slimmer model of the PS4 next month at $299. It will replace the standard model available now to consumers. A future software update will add support for HDR content later this year.

The new consoles arrive as PlayStation continues to maintain its sales momentum. The device has topped 40 million in sales since launching in 2013, House said. In October, Sony makes the leap into virtual reality with its PlayStation VR platform.

However, Microsoft and its rival Xbox One video game console are ramping up efforts to close the gap with Sony. Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced the Xbox One S, a slimmer, lighter model that can run 4K and HDR content.

The company is also working on its own high-end Xbox, code-named Project Scorpio, which will allow the console to run virtual-reality devices.

Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS, says Sony needs to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging gaming market. "More connected devices are becoming capable games machines — not only smart devices but Android consoles and streaming set-top boxes," he says. "Consoles need to keep pushing the technology envelope to stay ahead of this competition."

Source:USA Today.com

Kanye West's New York Fashion Week show was a hot mess

After unveiling his Yeezy Season 3 collection during a concert/performance art piece in February, West debuted his Yeezy Season 4 line to  fans at New York Fashion Week and on Tidal on Wednesday. It's safe to say that the show — which featured models  fainting  in the hot sun and music that sounded like Finding Nemo's Dory talking to a whale — was not received as well as his last show. Here's what happened.

The beginning.

The livestream began shortly after 3 p.m. ET with the view of a cloudy New York skyline and the sounds of The Life of Pablo, the album West debuted at his last show. And then, the stream continued with that view (which got sunnier) and more Pablo tracks for an hour before the camera angle finally changed.

One hour in.

First, we saw a self-congratulatory reel of interviews with Kanye fans grateful for the opportunity to be connected with Tidal and see West's show. Then, it was back to the music and aerial views of New York City.

One hour and 30 minutes in.

The stream was silent for a few moments before some ambient music played. The muffled voices in the background of the track seem to indicate that the music is coming from inside the New York show. We still seem to be flying above the city.

One hour and 40 minutes in. 

The music continues with the sound of a woman bellowing over low-sounding instruments. (Sometimes it sounds like horns, sometimes strings or even synth. Whatever it is, it doesn't exactly sound pretty.

We land at Roosevelt Island, and see "multiracial" models in nude bodysuits, black and camouflage army jackets and white hoodies. A man unaffiliated with the production jumps in to assist a model who was about to fall.

One hour and 50 minutes in.

Kanye appears. Dressed in all black, the designer walks the catwalk, smiles and waves.

Two hours in.

The stream freezes and replays the interviews with Kanye fans from the hour-mark.

Two hours and 10 minutes in.

There are reports of women passing out. On the livestream, which is replaying earlier footage, models look miserable. West's Fade video star Teyana Taylor appears to be keeping it together on the catwalk while model Amina Blue struggles to walk in her heels and eventually takes them off. A few other models sit in the grass, looking exhausted.

Two hours and 20 minutes in.

Kanye is seen running offscreen.

Source:USA Today.com

Calvin Harris says 'all hell broke loose' after his break up with Taylor Swift

While Tom Hiddleston might very well be burning that I heart T.S. t-shirt, it wasn't that long ago that Taylor Swift was parting ways with another light-haired hunk, Calvin Harris. British GQ's choice for Patrón Tequila Solo Artist of the Year opened up to the mag about his relationship of more than a year with the singer/songwriter.

"The aftermath of the relationship was way more heavily publicized than the relationship itself," the DJ said. "When we were together, we were very careful for it not to be a media circus. She respected my feelings in that sense. I'm not good at being a celebrity."

However, Harris revealed that consideration evaporated once their relationship disintegrated.

"But when it ended, all hell broke loose," he said.

Previously, Harris said that Swift wanted to keep the fact she wrote the lyrics for This Is What You Came For a secret. However, in July, Swift's rep confirmed to PEOPLE that she collaborated on the song, which made Harris look like a liar for telling Ryan Seacrest the two probably wouldn't work together. Harris took to Twitter to stand up for himself.

"Now I see that Twitter thing as a result of me succumbing to pressure," he shared with the magazine. "It took me a minute to realize that none of that matters. I'm a positive guy."

Harris also said he and Swift ended things because their relationship turned out to be "the wrong situation."

Source:USA Today.com

Ryan Lochte agrees to serve 10-month suspension, other swimmers get four months

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte has agreed to serve a 10-month suspension due to his involvement in a gas station incident during the Rio Olympics.

He will also be ineligible for the 2017 world championship meet, and he will have to forfeit all United State Olympic Committee and USA Swimming medal funding for the gold medal he earned as part of the men's 4x200 freestyle relay in Rio.

Other sanctions against Lochte include no monthly stipend and no direct support or access to USOC training facilities during the suspension. Lochte will also have to perform 20 hours of community service.

"We accept the decision as believe it is in everyone’s best interest to move forward," Jeff Ostrow, Lochte's attorney, said in a statement sent exclusively to USA TODAY Sports. "Ryan is grateful to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Team and USA Swimming. He recognizes his lapse in judgment, and is looking forward to continuing his training, volunteer work with kids, and resuming his swimming career next year with an eye toward representing his country at the 2020 Olympic games in Japan.

"That said, in my opinion, while the collective sanctions appear to be harsh when considering what actually happened that day -  Ryan did not commit a crime, he did not put the public safety at risk, and he did not cheat in his sport - we will leave it to others to evaluate the appropriateness of the penalties."

The other three swimmers with Lochte that night at the gas station — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen — will be suspended from domestic and international USA Swimming national team competitions for four months. They too will lose their monthly stipends and access to USOC training facilities during that span.

All four swimmers will not be allowed to visit the White House alongside fellow U.S. Olympians, and all four are not permitted to attend USA Swimming's annual Golden Goggles event this year.

These disciplinary measures were announced by both the USOC and USA Swimming Thursday morning.

“As we have said previously, the behavior of these athletes was not acceptable. It unfairly maligned our hosts and diverted attention away from the historic achievements of Team USA,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “Each of the athletes has accepted responsibility for his actions and accepted the appropriate sanctions. We look forward to focusing our energy on the Paralympic Games and the incredible men and women representing our country in Rio.”

“During an otherwise extraordinary Olympic Games, a small group of athletes had lapses in judgement and conduct that are unacceptable and not consistent with our expectations."

"When Code of Conduct infractions occur, it’s our responsibility to take action that reflects the seriousness of what happened,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said. “Unfortunately, this storyline took attention away from the athletes who deserved it the most. These athletes took accountability for their mistakes and are committed to represent themselves and our country with the great character and distinction we expect.”

The incident at the gas station involved all four swimmers and occurred after a night of partying following the end of the Olympic swimming competition. Lochte's mother, Ileana, told USA TODAY Sports the next morning that her son had been robbed, which kickstarted a week-long news cycle that saw Lochte revise his account of what happened and acknowledge he exaggerated some details. But he stood by his story that he and his teammates were detained at gunpoint and forced to pay money so they could leave.

The details Lochte initially embellished — about a gun being cocked against his forehead, for example — drew the attention of Rio authorities, who met with the swimmers to take statements and begin their own investigation, which quickly morphed into Rio authorities alleging at a news conference that the swimmers had filed a false police report. Authorities later said that only Lochte and Jimmy Feigen had made false statements to police, and the other two, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were regarded as witnesses.

At the news conference, however, Rio authorities also offered an embellished account. Rio police chief Fernando Veloso characterized the athletes’ actions at the gas station as vandalism, alleging they had broken into the restroom and vandalized a soap dispenser and mirror. Those allegations heightened media portrayals of the four swimmers as obnoxious Americans behaving recklessly late at night in a foreign country and Lochte was pilloried in media reports around the world.

Veloso also defended the security guards drawing their weapons as necessary to protect themselves, though a witness told USA TODAY Sports the swimmers were “terrified” and the guards had pulled their guns when the swimmers tried to leave the scene without paying for alleged damage to an advertising sign.

A USA TODAY Sports investigation of witness accounts, official reports and surveillance videos supported Bentz’s claim that he did not see anyone vandalize the gas station restroom. It also concluded the framework of what Lochte said was true – the swimmers were in a taxi that was prevented from leaving the gas station by an armed man who flashed a badge and ordered them out of the car, and that they were held at gunpoint and forced to pay money, about $50, for damaging the sign. Video showed a security guard did aim his gun at Lochte’s head, though it was not “to the forehead,” as Lochte initially said. There was no evidence the swimmers entered the restroom, which was locked.

The swimmers said they had stopped at the gas station because they needed to urinate, and said they did so in bushes behind the building after finding the restroom locked.

Legal experts and a Brazilian judge also told USA TODAY Sports that the actions of the guards that night may have been illegal, as Brazilian law prohibits anyone from determining on their own the damages to property and using a weapon to collect payment.

All four swimmers eventually were able to leave Brazil by the end of the Olympics, though Bentz and Conger were first pulled off their planes for further questioning before they left and Feigen had to pay a $11,000 settlement to avoid charges before he could return home. Rio authorities say they will pursue a case against Lochte for filing a false police report, but Lochte’s legal team disputes that the swimmer made false statements to police.

Source:USA Today.com