The Government Refi Program Banks In Texas Don't Want You To Know About

HARP Gives Homeowners a Once In A Lifetime Mortgage Bailout

A forgotten mortgage stimulus program that was passed by Obama to help the middle class has been uncovered. The program is called HARP, which stands for the Home Affordable Refinance Program. The program itself is totally free, and gives homeowners a once in a lifetime mortgage bailout. Like most government benefits this program will expire, but there is still time left for up to 700,000 qualified homeowners to take advantage. It's important that homeowners
don't wait though as the program will expire this year.
Calculate your new house payment and see if you qualify from our lenders »

HARP eliminates mortgage payments, reduces what homeowners owe, lowers interest rates
HARP is a program with no downside. HARP doesn't add any cost to your refi because it's a totally free government program, and it helps qualified homeowners get better, more affordable mortgages. Homeowners have used HARP to eliminate up to 15 years of mortgage payments, cut their interest rates in half, or even to just simply lower their monthly payments and save up to $3,000 a year.
How To Get A HARP Loan

To help homeowners find banks that offer HARP refinances, services such as LowerMyBills are available. LowerMyBills is a completely free service that many homeowners love because it helps them easily compare multiple lenders at once. It only takes about three minutes to use their easy online form, and their network of lenders can help you calculate your new house payment and see if you qualify for HARP

Why isn't everyone using this refi plan? Here's why...

Banks don't want homeowners to know about it because they hate what this program could do to them. HARP helps homeowners refinance at today's historically low rates and switch to 15 year fixed rate mortgages. That helps homeowners save up to $190,000, which means homeowners who use HARP could take as much as $190,000 out of banks pockets and put it back into theirs.

Source:Lowerbills.com

McDonald's to nix artificial preservatives from McNuggets

McDonald's believes it can make happier meals for its customers by removing certain ingredients from its McNuggets and hamburger buns.

The company said as of Monday it's chicken nuggets and several breakfast menu items no longer have artificial preservatives. And McDonald's plans to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from all its hamburger buns by the end of August.

 

Both changes are coming to all 14,000 of its U.S. stores, McDonald's (MCD) said.

Artificial ingredients have been targeted by consumer advocacy and regulatory groups raising flags about health risks.

The additives have been linked to health risks including cancer, hormone imbalances and infertility.

There are still artificial ingredients in other McDonald's menu items, but a spokesperson said that figuring out a way to remove it from the food chain's mega-popular chicken nuggets was a priority. The company has been developing the new preservative-free recipe since earlier this year at a lab in Seattle.

Removing high fructose corn syrup from its buns is another bid to make its meals healthier. The ingredient has long been used as a cheap sweetener in sodas, candy and other foods has been linked to obesity.

McDonald's USA president Mike Andres said there are more changes on the way, and the company recognizes that "more than ever, people care about their food -- where it comes form, what goes into it and how it's prepared."

This is the latest bid by a food company aimed at easing consumers' concerns about food safety and quality. Companies ranging from Subway and Pizza Hut, to General Mills and Tyson have promised changes like nixing meat from animals raised on antibiotics, cutting out potentially harmful ingredients and using eggs from cage-free chickens.

McDonald's promised in March 2015 to stop using meat from chickens that have been exposed to most antibiotics, and the company said Monday that initiative is now complete -- a year ahead of schedule.

It's also promised to use only cage-free eggs by 2025, and McDonald's is testing other measures like using fresh beef instead of frozen patties.

Souce:CNN.com

Thousands of Indian workers face 'food crisis' in Saudi Arabia

India is rushing aid to thousands of its citizens in Saudi Arabia who are running short of food after losing their jobs.

The Indian consulate in Jeddah said it distributed 15,475 kilograms (34,100 pounds) of food including eggs, spices and salt over the weekend. It said it was trying to reach all affected Indians "to help them overcome this crisis."

 

Sushma Swaraj, India's Minister of External Affairs, said that a large number Indians in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had lost their jobs, and were owed wages by their employers. Many are now stuck in camps for migrant workers.

"I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food," Swaraj said on Twitter. She said more than 10,000 Indians in the country were facing a "food crisis" and dispatched one of her deputies to the country.

Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, said Tuesday that initial number was an approximation, and that 7,700 Indian workers in 20 camps were affected by the crisis.

There are roughly 3 million Indians employed in Saudi Arabia, which depends on foreign workers to fill jobs in its services, manufacturing and construction sectors.

Low oil prices have slashed economic growth and forced the Saudi government to cut spending. In April, the government announced an ambitious plan to break its dependence on oil but that won't happen for years.

India's representative in Jeddah, Muhammad Noor Rahman Sheikh, said 2,500 of the affected workers had been employed by Saudi Oger Company, a construction firm.

Workers at one of the camps told CNNMoney that their bosses at Oger stopped showing up to work about seven months ago, and they had heard nothing from the company since.

Conditions at the camp are bleak: Trash collection has stopped, and there's no electricity. The workers get water from the mosque across the street. Police are stationed outside after protests erupted in recent weeks.

The workers cannot leave Saudi Arabia because the company holds their passports.

Sheikh said the workers' situation became more dire after the company stopped providing food about 10 days ago.

A source familiar with the circumstances said some of the abandoned construction projects were Saudi government contracts.

Oger representatives were not immediately available for comment. Saudi government officials contacted by CNNMoney said they would look into questions about the situation, but had no immediate response.

Related: How much more oil can the Saudis really pump?

Falling oil revenue has also put pressure on the country's biggest businesses.

Earlier this year, labor protests erupted after the Binladin Group, a massive construction company founded by the father of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, reportedly laid off at least 50,000 employees.

Source:Cnn.com

 

Pope Francis creates commission to study history of female deacons

CNN)Pope Francis has created a commission to study the historical role of female deacons in the Catholic Church, the Vatican's press office said Monday.

The commission was first promised by the Pope after a meeting with a group of nuns on May 12. He said the Vatican should study the question of ordaining women as deacons, answering a call that women, particularly in the United States, have been asking the church to address for decades.
"Pope Francis expressed his intention to establish an official commission that could study the question" of the diaconate of women, "especially with regard to the first ages of the Church," the Vatican's statement said.
"After intense prayer and mature reflection, Pope Francis has decided to institute the Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women."
Deacons can perform many of the same functions as priests, including preach, celebrate marriages, lead funeral services and run parishes. They cannot hear confessions or consecrate the Eucharist, and only married or celibate men over age 35 are eligible for the diaconate. There are about 18,000 deacons in the United States, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the Bible, St. Paul mentions least one woman, Phoebe, who served the early church, possibly as a deaconess. But it's not clear how her role compares to modern deacons, a question the new commission will likely consider. The debate is controversial because it could open the door for women into the Catholic Church's all-male clergy.
This is the third church commission appointed to study the historical role of women deacons since 1992. Both commissions took several years to complete their work and neither led to changes in the church. The more recent report, released in 2002, said the question of ordaining women as deacons was a matter of discernment for church leaders, though few in the Vatican have shown a willingness to push forward.
Pope Francis himself seemed to cast doubt on whether his new commission could make major changes, either, telling journalists that he was surprised by media reports in May that suggested otherwise,
"They said: 'The Church opens the door to deaconesses.' Really? I am a bit angry because this is not telling the truth of things," Francis said in June.
Despite his popularity, the Pope has disappointed many American women by shutting down debates on women's ordination and warning them not to "fall into the trap of feminism."
To date, Francis has praised the "feminine genius" but has not carried through on vague promises to appoint more women to leadership positions.
"Francis' theological imagination makes it impossible for women to achieve equal decision-making power and sacramental authority in this church," wrote Jamie L. Manson, an editor at National Catholic Reporter. "And it's time we faced it."

An American on new commission

Pope Francis has appointed Jesuit Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer president of the new commission, is composed of six women and six men from academic institutions around the world.
 
One of the appointees, Professor Phyllis Zagano of Hofstra University, is an American who has written in favor of female deacons.
Last year, she penned a piece for the Harvard Divinity Bulletin called "Ordain Catholic Women as Deacons."
"(H)istory documents women ordained to the diaconate from the earliest centuries of Christianity to the Middle Ages, when the diaconate faded as a separate order," Zagano wrote.
"As priests absorbed the work of deacons, ordination to the diaconate became simply a step in the cursus honorum on the way to priesthood. Fewer and fewer women -- mostly monastic abbesses -- were ordained as deacons, primarily for service within their own convents."
The Women's Ordination Conference issued a statement that month saying "until women are included in all decision-making structures and as priests and bishops of the church, equality remains painfully denied."
Source:CNN.com

Middle school: The new high school for moms

(CNN)If you had to guess what are the most difficult years for a mother, what might you say?

Infancy? Sure, dealing with a newborn is beyond stressful, as you try to figure out how to care for an infant and adjust to a new role all on zero sleep. It would be no surprise if those years were the most taxing. But I -- and probably many of you reading this -- would guess adolescence, namely the high school years, which I might add I am already dreading.
But it turns out the most stressful time for moms is middle school, at least according to a new study by Arizona State University researchers published in the January issue of Developmental Psychology.
"I was a little taken aback to see that apparently preadolescence is the new adolescence or junior high school or middle school is the new high school," said Suniya Luthar, one of the study's co-authors and a professor of psychology at Arizona State University.
The study involved analyzing surveys from more than 2,200 well-educated moms across the country (more than 80% had a college or graduate degree), with children ranging in age from infant to adult. Researchers then compared how mothers who only have children in one age group (infant, preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school and adult) rated their feelings about their lives.
Across the board, mothers of only middle-school-age children reported the highest levels of stress, loneliness and emptiness, and also the lowest levels of life satisfaction and fulfillment. Mothers of infants and adults were found to be the most satisfied, Luthar said.
This probably shouldn't be a surprise. Think about what's happening to children in middle school: raging hormones, changing bodies and brains, exposure to peer pressure and risky behaviors like experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and a clash between a desire to be independent, but still feeling dependent on Mom and Dad.
"You see this person who is almost but not quite grown-up physically, saying at one moment, 'Leave me alone. I've got this figured out. Let me do it my way,' or 'Don't ask me questions,' and so on, and on the other hand, they (are) crushed in tears, and looking to you for comfort just like a child. They might cry like the children they used to be, but being able to actually comfort them is nowhere near as easy," said Luthar, who is also professor emerita at Columbia University's Teachers College.

'It's like I woke up with an alien'

What makes this so hard for parents is that the changes often happen so quickly, said Cynthia Tobias, co-author of the book "Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You." which involved interviews with hundreds of middle school students across the country.
"For a lot of parents, it's just almost overnight. You hear a lot of times, they'll say, 'It's like I woke up with an alien this morning. Yesterday I had a child who loved to snuggle. Today I have a kid who can't even stand to be around me,' " said Tobias.
The biggest conflicts come when parents don't realize their children are starting to see themselves as young adults and don't respond accordingly, said Sue Acuña, who co-wrote "Middle School: The Inside Story" with Tobias, and who has been teaching middle school for more than 20 years.
"When the parents try to treat them as if they're still 8 or 9 years old, there's pushback ... and that catches the parents off guard and then sometimes they panic, 'Oh no. This is what I've always feared in adolescence,' and they come down harder instead of softer," said Acuña, who also writes a blog on middle school.
Michelle Icard has been working with middle school children and teachers for over 10 years and developed a special middle school curriculum targeting boys and one targeting girls that is used at schools around the country.
Michelle Icard is author of "Middle School Makeover."
 
"I see these moms ... you can read it on their face," said Icard, who is also author of "Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years." "They're highly stressed. They're nervous. They don't know what to do."
Icard said parents would benefit by knowing the facts about middle school, how children are going through what she calls "the middle school construction project" as they start to develop a new body, new brain and new identity around age 11.
 
"If you know that, for example, your kid has to create an identity apart from you when they are in middle school so that they can form healthy relationships with people in the future, it makes it a little easier to bear so it's not for nothing that your kid is separating and relying on their peers. That's how they figure out their way in the world," said Icard, founder of the blog Michelle in the Middle.
At the same time our children are going through this "perfect storm" of changes, said Icard, many moms are kind of going through "a middle age construction project."
For moms who chose to stay at home during the elementary school years, this might be the time when they consider going back into the work force, which can be stressful. Mothers are also adjusting to getting older themselves and feeling a bit superfluous, no longer being the center of their child's lives. Some research also shows that marital satisfaction is lower during the teenage years versus the years after a child is born.
For all these reasons, Icard suggested moms make sure they have a passion, hobby or something that they enjoy for themselves when their children are in middle school. "You'll be modeling good self-care for your kid and when things get really tumultuous and they're illogical and they're unpredictable, you have something to dive into that makes you happy and that does a lot for stress reduction."

The 'Botox brow'

What parents might not realize is that their children may act like they don't want a relationship with them during the middle school years but they really do, said Tobias and Acuña, who heard over and over again from children who wanted their parents to be involved in their lives.
Cynthia Tobias (left) and Sue Acuña, co-authors of "Middle School: The Inside Story"
 
The quandary is that on the one hand, kids will say their mom is always asking them questions such as who are they texting, but on the other hand, they'll say their mom never wants to know what's going on in their lives and never listens, said Acuña.
"I say to them, 'Well, do you want your parents asking questions or not?' " she said. Their reply? "Well, they just have to know when it's a good time to ask a question."
I can hear mothers of middle school children screaming at this very moment: How are we supposed to know when it's a good time to ask a question?
Acuña, who has three sons, all now in their 20s, described how she would find one of her sons during the middle school years slumped in his bedroom with the door open. She'd walk by and ask if he was OK. Then she'd say, "Is this where I'm supposed to be concerned parent and talk to you or is there where I'm supposed to give you your space?"
Her son would usually say he was alright, but then as soon as she started to walk away, he'd say something like, "It's just that I don't understand why people act the way they do," she said. That was her cue to slink back into his room, sit on the floor and be prepared to listen.
Icard, who has an eighth-grader and a sophomore in high school, said mothers should learn how to listen and become more neutral in their responses by adopting what she called a "Botox brow."
"I say to parents. You don't actually have to get Botox. ... but you have to have that look like your brow doesn't wrinkle," she said.
"Studies show that kids cannot read facial expressions and their default is thinking you're angry when you're not," she said. "So adopt a 'Botox brow' and have a really neutral face when you're talking to your kid. You'll be surprised how much your kid opens up to you and starts coming to talk to you more."
Middle-schoolers often feel their parents don't take them seriously and sometimes we, as parents, don't, said Tobias, who along with Acuña put together free guides for parents, including "The No-No List" for talking to kids in middle school.
 
"We'll catch ourselves saying, 'Oh for heaven's sake, wait until you're old enough and you have to pay a mortgage and then you're going to think it's no big deal,' but to them, their whole world right now is middle school so they can't even think in terms of what we're talking to them about sometimes," said Tobias, who taught high school for eight years and has written 13 books about learning styles and strong-willed children. "So I think they just want a little chance to be heard. They want to be understood and listened to and they want to make sure that we do take them seriously."

The importance of not giving up

Acuña, who teaches eighth grade, said parents should also realize other communication mistakes they often make with their middle-schoolers, such as interrupting them or finishing their stories. Think how you would feel if someone did that to you as an adult, she said. That is how a child will feel.
The most successful kids, she said, in her experience, are the kids who feel their parents have their back no matter what and that even if they mess up, their parents will be supportive.
She described her parent-teacher conferences, which are led by the student presenting his or her work to the parent. "The successful kids, they'll tell their parents, 'Yes, I messed up here. This is what I'm going to do to work on it' and their parents are very supportive," she said. "The anxious kids are the ones who when they say to their parents, 'Well, here's a test I didn't do well on,' the parents go off on them. ... The parents are upset and critical and (say), 'Well you are going to be grounded for that.' These are the kids who are afraid to take risks because they don't feel that their parents will support them."
Figuring out how to talk to your tween or teen and how involved to be could make even the most relaxed parent a tad crazy, but the bottom line from the middle school experts I talked with is that parents should do everything in their power to resist the urge to toss up their hands and give up.
"The parents have this tendency to just (say), 'Fine. You don't want to talk. Just don't talk,' and walk away," said Tobias, who has twin 24-year-old sons. "But the kids themselves, they told us over and over, 'We do want to keep a relationship with our parents. There's so much going on we just can't do it. We hope that they don't walk away.' "
Middle school is not a time to "tread water and wait out until they go through it," said Acuña. "It's not just a phase they're going through. There are some key things happening and it's a really important time to develop a relationship that will carry you through the teen years and into young adulthood."
Luthar, the researcher and psychology professor who has two kids of her own, ages 21 and 25, agreed and also urged mothers to reach out to other moms of middle-schoolers for support.
"If ever there were truth to the saying, 'It takes a village,' it's now," she said. "It's not it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to raise a preteen."
Source:CNN.com

Kristen Stewart opens up about her girlfriend

In an interview with Elle magazine, the 26-year-old actress discussed her relationship with film producer Alicia Cargile for the first time saying, "I'm really in love with my girlfriend."

Source: CNN

 

Celebs and fans mourn with Toya Wright

(CNN)The deaths of reality TV star Toya Wright's two brothers have led to a flood of condolences on social media.

Ryan "Rudy" Johnson and Josh Johnson were fatally shot shortly after midnight Saturday in New Orleans.
New Orleans police told CNN they were called to an area just north of the French Quarter and found two males with multiple gunshot wounds inside a car. The pair died at the scene, police said.
Investigators said they have not determined a motive for the killings.
Wright, who is the ex-wife of rapper Lil Wayne, appeared on two BET series, "Tiny & Toya" and "Toya: A Family Affair."
On Sunday, Wright shared a photo of her slain brothers with the caption "Help me Lord. I will never understand this. #stoptheviolence #ineverfeltpainlikethisbefore #riptomybrothers #icantbelievethis #prayformyfamily."
Several fans and celebrities reached out to Wright via social media. Her former co-star, Tameka "Tiny" Harris and her husband, rapper T.I. Harris tweeted "RIP bros. For us to really have an argument in the BLM movement WE MUST show that Black Lives Matter to Us!!!!! We All WE GOT!!!! My family's condolences."
The tragedy even elicited a response from Wright's former rival, singer K. Michelle. The two women had long feuded over issues with Wright's estranged husband, Mickey "Memphitz" Wright, who K. Michelle used to date. (The couple is currently featured on WE tv's "Marriage Bootcamp.")
"Nobody deserves that type of pain. We may never be best friend but U are my sister in Christ. I pray for u and your whole family," K. Michelle tweeted.
Wright has an extended family of siblings. Many of them were featured on her former series, "Toya: A Family Affair."
In 2011, the New Orleans native talked about her close family in a promo for the show.
"You will see how family oriented I am," she said. "How much I really love my family, and how much I do in my power just to keep us together as a family."
Souce:CNN.com

Top 'Nigerian prince' email scammer arrested

Scam letters in Nigeria are nothing new.

They’re commonly known as the 419, says Sam Olukoya, a journalist based in Lagos.

Part of the reason why the malware-hacked emails are so popular in Nigeria is because they’re inexpensive to construct. With almost 61% of the Nigerian population in poverty, it also makes for easy money.

“There are so many people trying to make a business out of this. It’s quite a thriving business. One, it’s so easy to establish you just need a few hundred dollars to buy a computer, to buy internet, to buy data and that’s business,” Olukoya says.

Despite the frequency of scamming emails in Nigeria, one skillful con artist stands out. The head of a multinational network was arrested Monday in the capital of Nigeria’s River State, Port Harcourt.

The network was headed by a 40-year-old Nigerian known as "Mike." The network, composed of over 40 individuals spread across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa, was behind global scams worth more than $60 million.

“You can understand how elaborate this type of scam is, if somebody has made $60 million, that doesn’t come easy,” Olukoya says.

“He’s believed to have hacked into the accounts of some medium- and small-scale establishments and using that to ask people to pay money to accounts which he controlled,” Olukoya explains. “These people were assuming that these accounts belonged to the companies they have been dealing with.”

His operations used malware to take over systems, fake email accounts to ask businesses for money and romance scams. According to Interpol’s website, it is believed that one fraudulent transaction by Mike and his associates landed them $1.5 million.

Even though Nigeria isn’t the only country to conduct advance-fee frauds, 51% of it comes from the western African country, according to a Microsoft report.

Across the internet, these scamming emails are known as the subject of a meme: the Nigerian Prince, a common type of social engineering scheme that includes a so-called Nigerian royal figure soliciting the reader to transfer thousands of dollars with the promise that they will reward them with a larger sum in the end.

Here’s how one would start, according to the Washington Post:

 

DEAR SIR, I am Prince Kufour Otumfuo the elder son of the late King Otumfuo Opoku ware II whose demise occur following a brief illness. Before the death of my father, King Otumfuo Opoku ware II, I was authorised and officially known as the next successor and beneficiary of my father's property according to African Traditional rite. …

Olukoya receives these types of emails every day. One text message asked him to call a number to "reactivate" his ATM card for a bank account he didn't own. He recognized it as a scam, but others aren't so lucky.

"I imagine that so many people would have called the same number. What he would have done was he would have been able to get the details on the card," Olukoya says. "When he gets the details, he will definitely empty their bank account."

Source:USA Today.com

CVS stock up on increased earnings outlook

Drug-store giant CVS Health's second-quarter profit declined, largely due to paying down debt, but Wall Street welcomed the company's increased adjusted earnings forecast.

The company posted net income of $0.9 billion, down 27.3% compared to a year earlier. Profit would have increased without a $542 million payment to extinguish debt.

CVS posted earnings-per-share of 86 cents, below S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst estimates of $1.18, which had not taken into account the effect of the debt payments.

More importantly, the company raised its full-year adjusted earnings-per-share estimate from a previous range of $5.73 to $5.89 to a new range of $5.81 to $5.89.

CVS stock jumped 0.6% to $94.02 in pre-market trading.

"I'm very pleased with our solid second quarter results across the enterprise," CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement.

The nation's largest drug store chain recorded a 17.6% increase in net revenue for the quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, to $43.7 billion. Pharmacy network claims jumped 22.6%, fueling most of the revenue uptick.

The revenue performance fell short of S&P estimates of $44.3 billion.

CVS opened 20 new drug stores, closed 10 and relocated nine during the quarter. It had 9,652 locations, including pharmacies inside Target stores, as of June 30.

Source:USA Today.com

With rules suspended, intersex athlete to take center stage at Rio Olympics

Caster Semenya is a South African runner who could emerge as one of the most compelling figures of the Rio Olympic Games. She is favored to win gold at 800 meters while perhaps breaking track’s longest-standing world record, even as her stunning speed is leading to uncomfortable controversy at the uncertain intersection of gender and athletics — and of human rights and athletic fairness.

Semenya has never said she is intersex — a word preferred to the stigmatizing hermaphrodite — but speculation follows her around the globe, her private parts a mortifying matter of public debate. (Intersex is an umbrella term for people who are born with sex characteristics “that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies,” according to a definition by the human rights arm of the United Nations.)

Track observers believe Semenya is hyperandrogenous, meaning her body naturally produces high amounts of testosterone, the hormone that helps build muscle, endurance and speed. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), track and field’s governing body, has rules limiting the amount of naturally occurring functional testosterone allowed for female athletes. But today those limits are in limbo.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended them last summer, citing insufficient evidence that high levels give female athletes a boost in performance. The IAAF has until next summer to make a case for its regulations or the court will abolish them. The Rio Games, meantime, fall during an interregnum where the rules don’t apply.

“This is a huge human rights victory,” intersex studies expert Joanna Harper tells USA TODAY Sports, “but sports, not so much.”

Harper, chief medical physicist of radiation oncology at Providence Portland (Ore.) Medical Center, means that some intersex athletes may have hormone-fueled advantages over other female competitors in Rio.

Maria José Martínez-Patiño refers to it as a “free-for-all.” She was the world’s most famous intersex athlete in the mid-1980s when, as an elite hurdler for Spain, so-called gender testing found that she had XY chromosomes. She soon learned that her outwardly female form hid internal testes. She lost her place on the national team, her scholarship, her fiancé, her privacy, her sense of self.

“Everything taken away,” Martínez-Patiño says in Spanish, “as if I never existed.”

Maria José Martínez-Patiño sees gender testing from

Maria José Martínez-Patiño sees gender testing from two different lenses, one as a former athlete who fought major adversity and now as a professor and advisor to the International Olympic Committee. (Photo: Courtesy of Maria José Martínez-Patiño)

 

Today she is a professor of science education and sport at Spain’s University of Vigo and an advisor to the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission. And she is strongly in favor of the since-suspended limits on testosterone.

“The reality of sports is someone will always have an advantage,” she says. “It’s very difficult to establish who has it and who does not. We need to have a rule that applies to everybody.”

Martínez-Patiño testified in favor of the IAAF’s upper limits before the arbitration court. That case was brought by Dutee Chand, India’s first female sprinter in 36 years to qualify for the Olympics 100 meters. She was suspended for high levels of testosterone in 2014 — echoes of Martínez-Patiño, who won an appeal of her own decades ago.

Martínez-Patiño was dismissed from the Spanish team ahead of the 1988 Seoul Games because of her sex chromatin test. She appealed based on a condition called complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, which prevents her body from responding to testosterone, negating any advantage. She won her appeal and regained her status. But she failed to make the 1992 Spanish Olympic team; her moment had passed.

Indian athlete Dutee Chand qualified for the Olympics

Indian athlete Dutee Chand qualified for the Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued a landmark ruling that challenged her suspension for hyperandrogenism. (Photo: Rafiq Maqbool, AP)

“It’d be easy to believe because of the difficulties of that past that I would be opposed to any rules,” Martínez-Patiño says. “That’s not the case. That would not be fair, not be ethical. I understand the positions of other people. I am in favor of rules.”

The difficulty, she says, is balancing the human rights of intersex athletes with the competitive rights of other athletes.

British marathoner Paula Radcliffe made news this month when she said on the BBC that if Semenya is guaranteed to win the 800 “then it’s no longer sport.” She later said in a statement that audio snippets did not capture the complexity of her overall point: “I tried to get across how difficult and complicated the situation is and how finding a solution where nobody gets hurt is pretty much impossible.”

The IAAF said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports that it does not comment on individual athletes: “On Hyperandrogenism Regulations the IAAF has publically confirmed that its regulations were suspended for two years by CAS in 2015 until more evidence is provided as to the precise degree of performance advantage that hyperandrogenic female athletes enjoy over athletes with normal testosterone levels.”

South African track officials did not respond to attempts for comment.

Chance to break world record

Semenya won the 800 meters at the 2009 world championships when she was 18. Her time of 1:55.45 was among the fastest in history. Competitors raised questions. One called her a man. Word leaked that she had elevated levels of testosterone. She was subjected to unfair and unseemly comments.

The IAAF’s and IOC’s vague policies on gender verification at the time considered testosterone levels, though that was only part of it. After Semenya’s case, the IAAF developed a rule that specified female athletes could not compete with functional testosterone levels above 10 nanomoles per liter, an upper limit determined to be three times higher than 99% of the women who had competed at recent world championships.

The IOC adopted the IAAF rule in time for the London Games, where Semenya won silver at 800 meters, behind Russia’s Mariya Savinova, since caught in her nation’s state-sponsored doping scandal. Semenya was performing at an elite level, but well shy of the promise of her astonishing performances in 2009. Harper says short of surgery that medication — typically Spironolactone and external estrogen — is the most likely way to reduce naturally high testosterone levels.

South Africa's Caster Semenya has been subjected to

South Africa's Caster Semenya has been subjected to invasive and embarrassing gender tests because of her muscular build and blazing speed. (Photo: Anja Niedringhaus, AP)

 

Last year, Semenya failed to advance past the semifinals in the 800 at the world championships. This year Semenya is improving markedly. She won the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter runs — all on the same day — at the South African championships. Her time of 1:55.33 in the 800 this month is the world’s best since 2008.

That’s why Harper believes Semenya is now competing with elevated levels of testosterone, calling her “untouchable” and suggesting her 200 splits and lordly demeanor on the track make her a near-certain bet to win the Olympic 800, with a chance to break the world record of 1:53.28 set in 1983 by Jarmila Kratochvilova of what was then Czechoslovakia. (Allegations of doping against Kratochvilova were never proven.)

Eric Vilain, human genetics professor and chief of medical genetics at UCLA, says biological testing can differentiate between natural testosterone produced by an intersex athlete and injected testosterone from doping

“It was clear the IOC was shocked by the ruling of the CAS,” says Vilain, who attended an IOC-hosted meeting on the issue in May. “It was an absolutely unexpected outcome.”

Harper watched in person as attorneys argued Chand’s CAS case in Switzerland. “We were all shocked,” Harper says, at the outcome.

Unfair to transgender athletes?

If intersex athletes produce testosterone naturally, how is that different from other genetic advantages in sports — height in basketball, for instance, or long arms in swimming?

“We allow certain amounts of advantage” in sports, Harper says, “but not overwhelming advantage. For instance, left-handed baseball players against right-handed baseball players. But we don’t let 200-pound boxers get in the ring with 100-pound boxers. At some point, advantages become too great and we need two categories.”

Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and intersex studies

Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and intersex studies expert, believes intersex athletes will be a "huge" story at the Rio Olympic Games. (Photo: Getty Images)

That’s why sports are divided into men’s and women’s.

“The reason why women can’t excel against men is a testosterone-based advantage,” Harper says. “The essence of dividing sport is largely based on the testosterone advantage. Using a testosterone-based divide (for women’s sports) is the best that we can do. It’s a compromise of trying to protect female athletes and also giving intersex and transgender athletes the chance to compete. There’s no perfect solution. It’s very difficult. It’s absolutely not the same case as being a very tall or very fast athlete.”

Harper, who identifies as a transgender woman, became interested in intersex and transgender studies after starting hormone replacement therapy — a testosterone blocker and estrogen — that caused her running times to dwindle. She says as a transgender woman she has taken the same medications that an intersex athlete would take to lower testosterone levels.

Transgender athletes who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the Rio Games without gender reassignment surgery. However, they are required to maintain certain testosterone levels, while intersex athletes do not have such restrictions.

“If you were born female, then any natural advantage is perfectly legal,” Harper says of Rio. “There’s no testing, no regulations.”

UCLA’s Vilain sees that as an unfair contradiction. “I’d fully expect a transgender athlete to challenge the rule,” he says.

If the CAS reinstates the IAAF rule next year, intersex athletes will once again face surgery or medication to alter their bodies in order to compete. That’s what Chand’s attorneys and gender activists argue is fundamentally unfair.

'A good mistake'

Martínez-Patiño’s gender test came at the 1985 World University Games. Three decades later, sports officials find themselves still struggling to define gender and detect advantage. Martínez-Patiño says her experiences as an athlete, trainer, TV commentator, scientist and professor give her a unique perspective on all this.

“I had everything taken from me, but now I have regained everything and more,” she says. “I see this through the passage of time, as someone who can see both sides — both as a scientist and someone who was affected by (gender testing). … I think this is why I’m on the medical commission, because I have such a wide perspective, perhaps way more than people who have (only a) medical point of view. I believe my opinion has a heavier weight.”

Maria José Martínez-Patiño, left, says she feels a

Maria José Martínez-Patiño, left, says she feels a connection to Olympians Caster Semenya, middle, and Dutee Chand, right. (Photo: Courtesy of Maria José Martínez-Patiño/AP/USA TODAY Sports)

 

The arc of her life’s story is remarkable. “I’ve gained everything back with my position on the medical commission,” she says, voice choking with emotion. “If I had been an American, they would have made a movie about me.”

She feels a bond with Semenya and Chand. “We are three different women, at different times in history, with three different perspectives,” she says. “All three of us have been stigmatized.”

Martínez-Patiño expects an “astonishing” performance from Semenya in Rio — and controversy to match it. She sees a silver lining in all this. Instead of trial by error — which is how Harper characterizes the IAAF’s and IOC’s efforts over the past three decades — Martínez-Patiño sees Rio as “trial by fire.”

She expects these Games to provide a roadmap on how to determine rules and regulations on hyperandrongenism — by showing the world how it works without regulation.

“I have a double perspective,” Martínez-Patiño says. “The rules have basically been removed. This also provides a marvelous test. It gives us a chance to leave theory aside and focus on the practical, based on what happens in Rio. There are women from more than 200 countries and it’s very difficult to establish rules that satisfy everybody. We get to see what happens when the rules are suspended. Human beings learn from good and bad mistakes.

“This is a good mistake.”

Source:USA Today

NL West a two-team race again as Giants, Dodgers load up at trade deadline

The emotion in the voice of San Francisco Giants general manager Bobby Evans was palpable as he spoke of the players the club had moved in two deadline-beating deals Monday that brought in left-handed pitchers Matt Moore and Will Smith.

An organization that prides itself in taking care of its own had traded away homegrown third baseman Matt Duffy, 2015 No. 1 draft pick Phil Bickford and infielder Lucius Fox, an international free agent signed a year ago for a $6 million bonus.

“I still think this is more of a game than a business,’’ Evans said somberly, “but today it feels a lot more like a business.’’

Still, after the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off a major swap with the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Josh Reddick and lefty starter Rich Hill earlier in the day, there was no way the Giants were going to sit still, not with their lead in the NL West having shrunk from 6½ games to two.

So they swung a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for Moore, who bolsters a rotation that had wobbled with a 5.72 ERA during a 2-11 stretch after the All-Star Game, and sent Bickford and minor-league catcher Andrew Susac to the Milwaukee Brewers for Smith.

Even with the Colorado Rockies’ recent surge, the Giants and Dodgers have reasserted themselves as the class of the NL West, two longtime rivals with deep pockets and a fierce competitiveness. No other club has won the NL West since the Arizona Diamondbacks claimed the crown in 2011, and Monday’s moves confirm this as a two-team race once again.

Under the stewardship of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who arrived in October 2014, the Dodgers have been stockpiling prospects and building what some in the industry regard as the top farm system in the game.

With an injury-wracked roster and a fan base clamoring for the franchise’s first championship since 1988, they turned three of those youngsters – minor-league right-handers Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton – into two veterans who should make an immediate impact.

Reddick is sporting a career-high .816 on-base plus slugging percentage and will dislodge Yasiel Puig from right field, while Hill will join a rotation devastated by injuries as soon as the blister in his left middle finger has healed, probably later this week.

There were conflicting news media reports about why Puig did not join the Dodgers on their Monday flight to Denver, but indications are he will be optioned to the minors. As of press time, Dodgers officials had not commented on his whereabouts.

Reddick, who averaged 19 homers over the previous four seasons despite battling injuries, is seen as an offensive upgrade over Puig, whose production has diminished every year since his smashing debut season in 2013. Puig has never matched the 19 home runs he hit that year and his OPS has dwindled from .925 to his current .706.

Despite Puig’s offensive decline and the absence of staff ace Clayton Kershaw and fellow lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, Los Angeles has more than held its own in the NL West race, going 15-9 in July to trim four games from the Giants’ lead.

But while San Francisco is starting to get some of its own injured mainstays back, most notably Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, the Dodgers continue to hemorrhage players. The latest to get hurt is right-hander Bud Norris, who left Sunday’s start with an upper-back injury, leaving the rotation with three healthy starters.

That’s why the addition of Hill was critical, especially in light of the uncertainty regarding Kershaw’s return from a herniated disk in his back. In between missing time with a groin strain and the blister, Hill was sensational with the A’s, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and holding batters to a .201 average.

The Dodgers managed to fortify themselves with two rentals – both Hill and Reddick are eligible for free agency after the season – while retaining top prospects like Julio Urias, Jose De Leon and Alex Verdugo.

The Giants, on the other hand, gave up two top-five prospects from a system that is not as deep in exchange for major leaguers with three more years of team control each. Smith should strengthen a bullpen that has been under fire because of its NL-high 18 blown saves, although it performed admirably in two weekend wins over the Washington Nationals.

Moore is the bigger catch, an experienced but still young (27) starter who is in his first full season following Tommy John elbow surgery and has fared particularly well in recent weeks, registering a 2.39 ERA and holding batters to a .199 average over his last nine outings.

He joins a rotation headed by All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto that could present matchup problems for any contenders, and especially the Dodgers, who have a lefty-heavy lineup. The Giants and Dodgers have nine games left this season, including six in the final two weeks of the season.

“You certainly don’t make a move at the deadline focused necessarily on one club, but it’s just the nature of the game that there’s so many good left-handed hitters out there,’’ Evans said of picking up the two lefties. “We have to make sure our bullpen’s prepared to face them.’’

Source:USA Today.com

Drake, Kanye West announce joint album at OVO Fest

wo of rap's biggest names are joining forces for a new album.

During Drake's OVO Fest in Toronto, Kanye West made a surprise appearance, dropping another big announcement on the crowd.

“Toronto, I got one question for you ... Is you all ready for this album? " he asked the audience. "I’m not talking about Pablo. I’m not talking about Views. I want to ask y’all, y’all ready for this album?”

The two rappers both had albums come out earlier this year — West's The Life of Pablo in February and Drake's Views in April.

To clear up any confusion about West's announcement, Drake also came on stage to confirm a new collaborative album.

“What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?” he told the crowd. “That’s what he was asking.”

The real question — will the album come out via Apple Music or TIDAL? Both rappers have kept their recent releases exclusive to their platform of choice (West and TIDAL, Drake and Apple), and Drake was one of the names West called out on Twitter to help resolve the beef between the two services.

Source:USA Today.com

Facebook challenges Twitter with new Olympics features

Facebook announced on Monday a slew of new features tailored to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. It is an effort to play into the biggest event in global sports, of course—but it’s also a competitive play against Twitter, which has jumped all-in on sports very recently and inked deals with the four biggest US leagues to live-stream games.

The first two features relate to profile pictures. The first, called Profile Frames, allows you to show the utmost enthusiasm for your country of choice by adding a frame around your profile picture. It puts the country’s flag and the Rio 2016 logo below your photo; it basically looks like a Snapchat filter.

The second feature has to be done through the separate mobile app MSQRD, a face-swapping tool Facebook acquired in March. During the Olympics, if you use the app to share photos or live-broadcast video, the flag of your choice can appear on your face like a mask. The filters will be available starting August 3.

The flag face filter from MSQRD.
flag face filter from MSQRD

The last feature is the most extensive: From August 1-5, Facebook will serve up an Olympics-related greeting in your News Feed. The greeting gives the option to click through to a page of “dynamic Olympic content” curated by Facebook, personalized to you, including news, “conversations,” live video and more. It will send out the greetings again during the Closing Ceremony on August 21.

It will be interesting to see if users enjoy or even notice the Olympics greeting content. Facebook has been adding more sports features recently, like Sports Stadium, which was billed as a place for live sports chat but is difficult to find and has failed to generate buzz.

Despite Facebook’s efforts, Twitter in many ways, for now, is the apparent leader for live, in-the-moment sports discussion. Its new deals with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL to live-stream games (the package details differ in each case) will only add to that reputation.

Almost every social platform has been seeking to rack up engagement around the Summer Olympics. NBC and Snapchat, for example, have partnered up to show live “stories” from Rio. But with so many logistical problems on the ground, and a number of big-name athletes dropping out, it’s unclear whether Facebook and Twitter will see as much excitement as they have in the past.

Source: Yahoo.com

Chad Johnson left Browns camp after three days because coaching is 'tough'

Former NFL receiver Chad Johnson lobbied his way on Twitter to an unofficial NFL coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns. It appears that Johnson may have already called it quits. Turns out that coaching isn’t easy. According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, Johnson left camp on Monday to take care of some business. Head coach Hue Jax revealed that Johnson seemed surprised at how difficult coaching was — even from an unofficial capacity. Cleveland started its training camp on Friday. Jax is unsure if Johnson will return to the team. Johnson was at camp to informally work with a group of draft picks. He tweeted on Saturday that coaching brings the best 14-hour work days.

Source: Yahoo.com

Why Did No One Tell Drivers About This New Cheap Gas Rule?

Texas consumers beware – recent studies indicate that drivers are unfairly paying too much for auto insurance, and it's time someone took a stand.

Are you aware that your insurance could go up in the next few months just because the price of gas has dropped? In addition, if you are currently insured and live in a qualified ZIP code you may get an extremely high discount. Probably not…as car insurance companies want you to be left in the dark.

For a long time, there was no easy way to compare quotes from all of these huge car insurance companies. You had to check one site, then jump to another and enter all of your information all over again. Drivers were stuck doing all the work to save money. Now, all that has changed. Thanks to Provide Savings™, the information you need to save can be found in one place. Just like Expedia or Orbitz saves you money on travel and flights, Provide Savings™ saves you money on car insurance.

What exactly do you need to do? Here is one easy rule to follow.

You have to compare quotes. Don’t even consider buying car insurance without doing this first. After all the results we came across, we just couldn’t believe how many drivers have been overpaying. And with free services like Provide Savings™, comparing quotes today so that you aren’t accidentally costing yourself money is a breeze.

Facebook two face

Drivers don’t always realize that car insurance agents make money from your premiums. So, the higher your rate, the more money the agent receives. This system makes it difficult to determine if you are getting a fair price. Fortunately, a lot of smart drivers out there figured out just how to cut down their insurance bill by using free internet tools to get honest and fair quotes.

It’s really no wonder that with so many drivers saving money, services like these are gaining momentum. Our research found that Provide Savings™ is one of the most popular and effective services out there, giving consumers the lowest rates with trusted tools.

We want to thank Provide Savings™ for all of their help in offering an easy-to-use and free service to give drivers across the United States a convenient way to save money. Just imagine what you could do with the money you save!

Source:Yahoo.com

Uber sells its China business to big local rival

Uber has a new strategy in China: If you can't beat them, join them.

Uber is selling its China operations to rival Didi Chuxing, a landmark deal that ends the ride-hailing company's quest to dominate one of the world's largest markets.

 

"Didi has been a fierce competitor," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a Facebook (FB, Tech30) post. "Sustainably serving China's cities, and the riders and drivers who live in them, is only possible with profitability."

In exchange for its China business, Uber will receive a stake of almost 18% in Didi and become its largest shareholder. Didi will have a minority stake in Uber.

Cheng Wei, the founder of Didi Chuxing, will join the board of Uber. Kalanick, meanwhile, will join Didi's board. News reports put the value of the combined Chinese firm at $35 billion.

The new relationship is potentially complicated by an existing partnership between Didi and Lyft -- Uber's biggest U.S competitor.

In September 2015, Lyft struck up a strategic partnership with Didi, making it easier for foreign users to hail rides. U.S. customers visiting China can use the Lyft app and pay in U.S. dollars. Chinese travelers can do the same in the U.S. using Didi's app. In December 2015, the partnership was expanded to include GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia, and Ola in India, an effort to combine forces to compete against Uber. As part of the deal, Didi invested $100 million into Lyft.

It's unclear whether the acquisition of Uber's China operations will impact Didi's partnership with Lyft.

Lyft sent a statement to CNNMoney on Monday that suggests it could.

"We always believed Didi had a big advantage in China because of the regulatory environment," reads the statement. "The recent policy changes are exactly why we did not invest in the region. Over the next few weeks, we will evaluate our partnership with Didi."

Didi and Uber did not immediately respond to request for comment on this matter.

Uber launched in China in 2013, and its operations have since expanded to roughly 60 cities. The market was a top priority for Kalanick, who made frequent visits to China and poured billions of dollars into the country.

Related: 530,000 steel and coal workers are now driving for Didi Chuxing

But China was a tough market to crack -- especially in the face of stiff opposition from Didi. In February, Kalanick said that Uber was losing $1 billion a year in China.

Both companies burned through investment funds by subsidizing drivers and prices in an effort to capture more of the market. But new regulations announced last week essentially banned the use of subsidies, adding new pressure on the business model.

Didi Chuxing is the product of a merger between two homegrown ride-hailing companies: Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, which joined forces in 2015 in a move to counter Uber.

The combined firm, which has been renamed Didi Chuxing, raised $7 billion in its most recent fundraising round, including $1 billion from Apple. (AAPL, Tech30) It also has the backing of Chinese tech giants like Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) and Tencent (TCEHY).

Related: Meet the people behind Didi Chuxing

This is the latest in a string of moves by foreign companies to separate their China business units. Yum! Brands, (YUM) which operates popular fast food chains KFC and Pizza Hut, plans to spin off its China unit as a separate, publicly traded company later this year.

McDonald's (MCD) is also reportedly looking to sell its Chinese operations.

Source:CNN.com

Election hit-list? Politicians' unsolved killings mar South African campaign

adysmith, South Africa (CNN)The killing happened in broad daylight.

It was Mandela Day, a day many South Africans dedicate to helping others.
Khanyisile Ngobesi-Sibisi's car was full of blankets to donate to charity, but as she drove around a bend near the edge of this small town, a white car pulled up alongside her convoy.
"She was following me from behind. I heard the first gunshot; not knowing my mother had been shot. Then I heard the second gunshot," says Zhamokhule, her 18-year-old son.
Two gunmen shot Khanyisile eight times through the driver's side door and window, according to witnesses.
"I can't explain the feeling I was having," Zhamokhule says. "I was shocked by disbelief that my mother had been shot."
Zhamokhule applied pressure to his mother's multiple wounds, but to no avail; she died at the scene.

Bright future cut short

Khanyisile was a popular figure in Ladysmith -- a teacher at the local primary school, and a life-long member of the African National Congress (ANC).
Many here saw a bright future for her.
She was standing as a Ladysmith councilor in South Africa's upcoming election, and her face smiles proudly down from the election posters still hanging on the street where she was murdered.
"Vote ANC," they read.
"My mother told me that someone warned her not to go to the Mandela Day event," says Zhamokhule.
Ladysmith's indoor stadium is packed with hundreds of mourners clad in the ANC's traditional colors: green, black and gold.
A relative of Khanyisile steps up to the microphone, "Yes, some of you are mourning, but some of you are celebrating. Because you did this."

ANC politicians targeted

Khanyisile was just the latest victim in a series of unsolved murders of ANC politicians in KwaZulu-Natal.
The ANC's final rally in Johannesburg. Many polls suggest the ANC could face a stern test in the upcoming election
 
In the run-up to this election, more than a dozen politicians have been killed in this province: shot while watching TV; killed taking their children to school; ambushed on the way home from political meetings.
Not a single case has been solved.
"We are making progress. It just takes time," says Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi a spokesman for the Hawks, the country's specialized investigation division.
Several former investigators from South Africa's police told CNN that ANC members could be killing rivals to access elected government positions. The positions can mean access to corrupt wealth, they said.
Even the ANC's leadership admits the party is wracked by factional infighting.
"These killings are just the tip of the iceberg, people are killed when people can't be coerced by other means," says David Bruce, an independent researcher who studies violent crime.
"It says a lot about how politics takes place and politics is organized. Access to political office is not just a means of making a living. It is a way of establishing and maintaining networks of patronage," he says.

Kickbacks and corruption

Corruption watchdogs blame so-called "tenderpreneurs" -- individual councilors who get kickbacks for awarding dodgy government contracts -- for fueling corruption at the local level.
All of the country's political parties, including the ANC, say they are committed to stamping out corruption.
The factional fighting is embarrassing for the party that has ruled South Africa since the country's first democratic election in 1994.
Many believe that they face their sternest test yet in Wednesday's local government elections.
Polling has consistently shown that the ANC could lose ground, or even lose power in key cities like Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and even Africa's business hub, Johannesburg.
Campaigning has been a tough fight between the ruling party and the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), a liberal party that has tried to broaden its appeal to traditional ANC voters.
The ANC has lost support in certain key urban areas to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by charismatic populist Julius Malema.

History of violence

A series of corruption scandals involving President Jacob Zuma and a moribund economy has hurt the ANC's election campaign.
But in much of KwaZulu-Natal, the party is expected win with relative ease.
That makes the killings here even more disturbing for ANC politicians who have lived through darker times.
In the late 1980s and early '90s, supporters of the ANC and rival Inkatha Freedom Party were locked in a virtual war for support, with the hidden hand of South Africa's apartheid security services.
Thousands died in that struggle for supremacy.
"We have gone through serious violence in [KwaZulu-Natal]," says ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala."We had reached a point where we thought that such things were no more, would not happen again."
This time the killings seem to be within their ranks.
Source: CNN.com

Could this soap stop malaria?

(CNN)It's just a little sting, so slight often the victim doesn't even feel it.

But it's administered by the most dangerous animal in the world -- the female anopheles mosquito.
This insect sinking its mouth into human flesh to feed its unborn children killed 438,000 people in 2015 alone -- 90% of those fatalities were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For this region, malaria is still a crippling burden, estimated to cost countries such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo up to 1.3% of their GDP, according to the Malaria Consortium.
So imagine if this issue could be wiped out by a simple bar of soap.
That's what a Burkina Faso start-up is proposing.

A bar of soap

Faso Soap is the brainchild of Moctar Dembélé, of Burkina Faso, and Gérard Niyondiko, of Burundi.
Comprised of Shea butter, lemongrass, African marigold and other natural resources that are plentiful in Burkina Faso, it is designed to leave an insect-repelling odor on the user's skin after washing.
It could be used to prevent against a wide range of mosquito-transmitted conditions -- perhaps eventually even Zika.
"Soap is one product you can find in all African family homes, no matter how poor they are," Niyondiko tells CNN. "Most people wash in the evening and you want to be protected before you go to bed at night."
The majority of Africans, he adds, do not have access or the financial means to buy expensive repellents.

Suds that stick around

Getting people to use the soap, the team knew, would be easy -- but making it effective after it has been rinsed off would be hard.
 
"When you use soap, you tend to rinse it off. So part of the effects of Faso Soap would be thrown away," says Franck Langevin, campaigns director for the Ouagadougou-based outfit.
"We decided to combine the latest cosmetic technology with natural repellent ingredients ... we put the natural ingredients into micro-capsules around 100 to 150 micrometers in size, embedded in the soap. These are small enough to stick onto the skin's pores.
"After the soap is rinsed, the capsules remain and gradually break and release the repellent little by little over a six to eight hour period."

The next step

In 2013, Dembélé and Niyondiko became the first African winners of the Global Social Venture Competition at the University of California Berkeley, winning $25,000.
Since then, Faso Soap has been partnering with organizations that have "competencies we don't", such as market-leading soap manufacturers in West Africa, NGOs including Doctors Without Borders for distribution opportunities, and taking their product through rigorous scientific testing so they can bring it to market.
"Once we have the hard scientific data on the soap and its effectiveness in preventing against malaria, we want to approach national and international entities for subsidies," Langevin says.
While markets such as Asia could be more profitable, the group are keenly focused on providing cheap access to the soap to those in need in Africa.
They have set a goal for Faso Soap to save 100,000 lives by 2018.

A possible protection against Zika?

The possibilities for Faso Soap don't end with malaria. Other mosquito transmitted diseases -- such as Zika -- could also be prevented by the product.
More research needs to be done in this area.
"Zika is transmitted by the Tiger mosquito, which looks the same but is actually very different. We need to know to what extent we can be effective with essential oils," says Langevin.
"For now, working on malaria is a big enough challenge -- it kills way more people than Zika.
"A child dies from malaria every two minutes."
Source:CNN.com

Strong: U.S. economy adds 255,000 jobs in July

America's job market remains one of the few bright spots in the economy.

The U.S. economy added 255,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate remained at 4.9%. It far surpassed expectations of economists surveyed by CNNMoney, who had predicted a gain of 182,000 jobs.

"Employment growth remains strong," says Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, a research firm.

So far this year, America has added about 1.3 million jobs. That's a healthy improvement but still a slightly slower pace than last year, when it had gained about 1.6 million jobs by this point. Job gains for May and June were revised up a bit too.

Wage growth continued to show signs of more momentum. Wages grew 2.6% compared to 2.2% the same time a year ago.

It's better, but still low: Prior to the recession, wages were growing at between 3% and 3.5%. It's one of the last areas of the economy to really turn in the right direction, and a major reason why American don't feel great about the economic recovery.

America continued to show it is increasingly focused on service industries like banking, health care and education, and less on sectors like manufacturing and mining.

Business services -- which includes a wide range of jobs such as computer designers and engineers -- led the pack with 70,000 news jobs. Health care, financial services and hospitality also gained more positions.

America's mining sector lost 6,000 jobs in July. Employment in construction and manufacturing was flat.

Related: Cheap oil has killed nearly 200,000 jobs

Experts caution that despite the strong numbers in July, job growth can't sustain this pace with unemployment so low.

"Jobs reports like this, where everything comes up smelling of roses, are very rare," says Joseph Lake, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, a New York firm. "This rate of job growth will not be sustained."

Outside the job market, warning signs are flashing. U.S. growth has been weak this year, averaging 1% in the first half. Many American companies, such as Ford (F), Kate Spade (KATE) and Office Depot (ODP), have reported disappointing earnings.

Americans are still spending at some stores and restaurants, but businesses have pulled back significantly. The decline in business spending is a key reason why growth is so low.

Source:CNN.com

 

Missing gay Syrian refugee found beheaded, mutilated in Turkey

(CNN)A gay refugee living in Turkey has been found brutally murdered, his body so mutilated his friends could only identify him by his pants, a local rights group said.

The man went missing on July 23 and was found two days later in the Yenikapi district of Istanbul.
He had previously been threatened, kidnapped and raped, according to Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (KAOS GL), a Turkish rights group. CNN is not naming the victim out of concern for his family's safety.
On Sunday, the man's housemates told KAOS GL that police called them to identify their friend's body.
"We identified him from his pants... They had cut (him) so violently. So violent that two knives had broken inside him. They had beheaded him. His upper body was beyond recognition," his friend said, whom CNN is not naming for safety reasons.
The refugee had been in Istanbul for about a year. It hasn't been confirmed whether he was killed for being gay. As of Friday, his killers had not been detained.
His housemates said this wasn't the first time the man had been kidnapped. He had been previously abducted about five months ago and taken to a forest, where he was beaten and raped.
"I am so scared. I feel like everyone is starting at me on the street... No one cares about us. They just talk. I get threats over the phone," another of his roommates told KAOS GL.
In June, a gay pride parade in Istanbul was interrupted by police with pepper spray and rubber pellets after 13 years of being allowed to march uninterrupted.

At the time, activists told CNN it was an attempt by President Tayyip Erdogan to appeal to his conservative base.

Source:USA Today

Nigeria's stranded football team rushing to Brazil

CNN)With just hours to spare, the Nigerian Olympic football team will travel to Brazil on Thursday to make its match against Japan in Manaus.

Thanks to a tab temporarily picked up by Delta Air Lines for the charter flight, the stranded team is expected to land in Brazil at 2 p.m. local time. This gives the team just enough time to clear customs and stretch before kickoff at 9 p.m.
Originally, the team was supposed to fly out July 29, manager Samson Siasia said. But an unpaid charter flight bill kept the team grounded in Atlanta, according to CNN Atlanta affiliate CBS 46.
"[The Nigerian Olympic football team] were stranded at the airport and almost not going to make their match against Japan," said Reese McCranie, director of policy and communications for Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The airport decided to work with Delta to make sure the team made its match on time, he said.
Delta has not only footed the check for a private charter flight for the team from Atlanta to Manaus, but the airline also has put the team up in a hotel for the night in Atlanta.
All this came down to a moment's notice, according to Delta.
"This is a special occasion, not only because it's the Olympics," Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. "Exactly 20 years ago, on this day, the Nigerian football team needed a miracle to beat Argentina to win the gold medal in Atlanta at the Olympics. Today, we are happy to help them with another miracle."
The Nigerian Football Federation posted a video of the historic moment in Atlanta on August 3, 1996, captioning the video: "Our Dream Team won gold in the football event of the Atlanta Olympic games #20YearsAgoInAtlanta.
The team told Delta it chose to train in Atlanta because of that gold win 20 years ago. In an interview with CNN when team members arrived to train in Atlanta, Siasia expressed his happiness at being in Atlanta and foreshadowed the team's difficulty in getting on a flight: "Well, we are here [Atlanta], that's a good thing ... we are having struggles here and there like every federation but the [Nigerian Football] Federation is behind us to make sure we are prepared well to the Olympics."
The Nigerian team is flying down on a charter that takes sports teams to their destinations. This makes the players happy, Siasia said. "The players will have more leg room and they will be able to sleep on their way to Manaus."
After the team rushes to get to their match on time Thursday, all bills will be paid back by the Nigerian Football Federation.
Source:CNN.com
 

Ex-CIA chief endorses Clinton, labels Trump 'threat to national security'

(CNN)Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in a New York Times op-ed Friday, praising the former secretary of state's qualifications and warning that GOP nominee Donald Trump "may well pose a threat to national security."

Morell, a 33-year veteran of the CIA who led the agency from 2010-2013, said that while in the past he has "always been silent about my preference for president," the high stakes of the 2016 election mean he can "no longer" withhold his opinion.
"On Nov. 8, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Between now and then, I will do everything I can to ensure she is elected as our 45th president," Morell wrote.
The former CIA chief said that "Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security."
"My training as an intelligence officer taught me to call it as I see it. This is what I did for the C.I.A. This is what I am doing now. Our nation will be much safer with Hillary Clinton as president."
He wrote, "In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief."
Morell also suggested that Trump is being played by Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump's vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated."
"In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation," Morell said.
Morell hailed Clinton for being "prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive, and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument," citing his time working with her when she was secretary of state. "I never saw her bring politics into the Situation Room," he wrote.
Trump's running mate Mike Pence, the Indiana governor, criticized Morell in an interview on NBC's "Today" Friday.
"Honestly, the comment by the former CIA official, I suppose this is the same CIA that told the president that ISIS was the JV team," Pence said.
He disputed Morell's characterization of Trump as unwittingly doing Russia's bidding.
"People that know Donald Trump know that he knows how to stand up and he knows how to stand strong, and standing up to Russian aggression is going to be really different under a Trump-Pence administration, and everybody knows that," Pence said.
Source:CNN.com

Trump floats Ivanka for Cabinet, prompting Clinton jab

(CNN)Hillary Clinton jabbed Donald Trump on Twitter after the GOP nominee answered a question about potential female cabinet members by naming his daughter, Ivanka, as a "popular" candidate.

Winking at a Mitt Romney gaffe from his 2012 presidential bid, Clinton wrote Thursday: "We know a guy with a binder, @realDonaldTrump. (He might not take your calls, though.)"
The Democratic nominee was referencing Romney's remarks during a 2012 presidential debate about gender equality, when he said he'd reviewed "binders full of women" for positions in his administration as governor of Massachusetts.
And Clinton was responding comments Trump made in an interview with "First Coast News" in Florida, when he was asked to list possible female candidates for cabinet positions if he were elected president. Trump responded during the interview by naming his daughter, Ivanka and declining to identify any other women who could be considered for roles.
"I want to know just as a female, who you would actually put into office as one of the first females in your cabinet?" asked Angelia Savage, a reporter with "First Coast News."
"Well there are so many different ones to choose, I can tell you everybody would say -- 'Put Ivanka in! Put Ivanka in!' You know that, right?" Trump said.
"She's very popular, she's done very well. And you know Ivanka very well. But there really are so many that are talented people, like you," he said to Savage, "You're so talented, I don't know if your viewers know that." The GOP nominee proceeded to joke about naming Savage to his cabinet.
Source:CNN.com

New security flaw in credit card chip system revealed

Computer researchers claim to have found yet another flaw in the upgrade to the chip-based credit cards in the United States.

The chip on these credit cards have been praised for making them nearly impossible to counterfeit. While the cards also contain a magnetic strip, that strip is supposed to tell the payment machine to use the chip.

 

But there's a relatively easy way to knock down that safeguard.

Computer security researchers at the payment technology company NCR demonstrated how credit card thieves can rewrite the magnetic stripe code to make it appear like a chipless card again. This allows them to keep counterfeiting -- just like they did before the nationwide switch to chip cards.

They presented their findings at the Black Hat computer security conference on Wednesday.

This claim of a glaring hole in EMV, the chip-based system, is possible because of the way many retailers are upgrading their payment machines: They're not encrypting the transaction.

"There's a common misperception EMV solves everything. It doesn't," Patrick Watson, one of the researchers, told CNNMoney.

On Thursday, a banking and retail industry group that monitors the EMV system cast doubt on the theory.

"If the data on the magnetic stripe is altered it might fool the terminal," said U.S. Payments Forum director Randy Vanderhoof. But on the back end, the system would "reject the transaction."

But the discovery of this possible flaw bolsters the retail industry's complaints against the upgrade, which was forced upon shops by banks.

The National Retail Federation has long complained about the upgrade, which is estimated to cost American retailers $25 billion.

This latest research shows that retailers could spend millions of dollars upgrading to EMV and still not protect their customers from a massive credit card theft like the Target and Home Depot hacks two years ago.

Adding to the problem, payment terminal makers keep producing machines that don't have the encryption by default.

And vendors who sell and install these machines at shops don't simply flip the switch and turn on encryption. Retailers have to pay extra for basic security.

The major machine makers, Verifone and Ingenico, both asserted they offer point-to-point encryption on retailer's machines -- but it's up to retailers and their partners to turn it on.

Currently, retailers focus on protecting the computer network that support their payment system. But that leaves the actual conversation between your credit card and the machine in plain text, readable to any hacker who breaks into the system.

It's a mistake, said Mike Weber, vice president at the IT auditing firm Coalfire.

"They're assuming the environment is okay," he said. It's not.

During their presentation, the NCR researchers advised shops to "encrypt everything" in a transaction. They also said consumers should pay with special apps on their phones and watches whenever the high tech option is available.

Source:CNN.com

Accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof beaten in jail

(CNN)Dylann Roof, accused of the racially motivated massacre of nine African American parishioners last year at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, was attacked and beaten Thursday by a black inmate in a South Carolina jail, authorities said.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon Jr. said that Roof, who is white, was out of his cell and on his way to the shower when the attack happened at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Although he was in protective custody, Roof, 22, was vulnerable because only one guard was in the area and he was fetching toilet tissue for another inmate, Cannon said. That allowed another inmate, 25-year-old Dwayne Stafford, time to run down the stairs from his cell in the protective custody unit and assault Roof with his fists, the sheriff said.
No weapons were involved in the attack and Roof was able to return to his cell after being treated, Cannon said.
"The detention officer responded quickly and separated the two," Cannon said. "The injuries that Roof received are relatively minor -- some bruising around the face and the back. It appears he was struck with a fist and nothing more serious than that."
Roof, who is being kept in protective custody because the nature of his alleged crimes could make him vulnerable to assault, said he did not want to press charges, Cannon said.
The attack brought praise on Twitter with calls for donations to Stafford's jail commissary account.

Accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof beaten in jail

Charleston church shooter assaulted in jail
 

 

 

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon Jr. said that Roof, who is white, was out of his cell and on his way to the shower when the attack happened at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Although he was in protective custody, Roof, 22, was vulnerable because only one guard was in the area and he was fetching toilet tissue for another inmate, Cannon said. That allowed another inmate, 25-year-old Dwayne Stafford, time to run down the stairs from his cell in the protective custody unit and assault Roof with his fists, the sheriff said.
No weapons were involved in the attack and Roof was able to return to his cell after being treated, Cannon said.
 
Charleston church gunman called a racist bigot
 
 

"The detention officer responded quickly and separated the two," Cannon said. "The injuries that Roof received are relatively minor -- some bruising around the face and the back. It appears he was struck with a fist and nothing more serious than that."

Roof, who is being kept in protective custody because the nature of his alleged crimes could make him vulnerable to assault, said he did not want to press charges, Cannon said.
The attack brought praise on Twitter with calls for donations to Stafford's jail commissary account.
Cannon gave no motivation for the beating. He said Stafford was able to attack Roof because guards had violated security procedures. Both guards weren't on the floor of the unit and Stafford's cell door was not checked to make sure it was secure before Roof was let out his cell, Cannon said.
Only one prisoner is allowed out of a cell at a time, Cannon said. Investigators are trying to determine how an electronic lock on Stafford's cell door failed to keep it locked, he said.
He said the attack is a "wake-up call" that officers must maintain vigilance in an environment where inmates can turn violent in an instant.
"We do things day in and day out and they become routine and as a result of that (officers) become complacent." Cannon said.
Roof faces the death penalty for the June 2015 shooting that killed nine people, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, at the historic black church, known as "Mother Emanuel" African Methodist Episcopal Church. After he was captured, Roof told authorities he wanted to start a race war with the killings.
Nine churchgoers, all African-American, were shot by Dylann Roof, who killed his victims because of their skin color.
 
On Monday his lawyers filed a legal challenge to the U.S. death penalty, saying it was "arbitrary and cruel" and therefore unconstitutional. They said Roof would drop the challenge if federal prosecutors abandon their decision to seek the death penalty and allow him to plead guilty and receive a sentence of life without parole.
Roof is charged with 33 federal offenses, including hate-crime charges for allegedly targeting his victims on the basis of their race and religion.
"The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in May, regarding prosecutors' efforts to pursue the death penalty.
Source:CNN.com

Are Rio's hospitals ready for the Olympics?

Rio de Janeiro (CNN)Sirens blaring, an ambulance peels out of the parking bay of a firehouse in southern Rio de Janeiro -- our car in hot pursuit.

We've been given access to Rio's First Emergency Response Battalion for the day, to see how prepared they are for medical emergencies during the upcoming Olympic Games.
We speed through crowded streets for some time, but then traffic strikes. We're stalled.
I check my watch. It's been 18 minutes since we left -- response time in most major cities in America is about nine minutes.
A couple of minutes later we arrive. But no, actually, we're lost. We've stopped because paramedics aren't completely sure where the patient is. Better directions are called in from dispatch and finally, success. It took 25 minutes from start to finish.
The victim, one of Rio's many homeless, is passed out on the street. "Did he fall?" the medics ask a woman standing nearby. "No, he just laid down and passed out," she replies.
Quickly, his head is padded and he's strapped onto a stretcher and wheeled over to the ambulance. There, medics attempt to revive him, doing all they can to avoid a trip to the hospital. This is one of the many ways Rio tries to ease the burden on overcrowded medical centers.
I soon see why.
"So these pictures show pretty much the five hospitals that they have dedicated for the Olympics. They have patients in the hallways. They have patients lying on the floor sometimes. It's a completely crazy situation," says Nelson Nahon, a doctor for Rio's regional Council for Medicine, a medical watchdog association called CREMERJ.
The pictures Nahon is showing me are startling. They remind me of makeshift medical shelters put in place after natural disasters. Patients on gurneys are shoved into every spare corner, lined up like dominoes.
"This is a picture of the red room -- the emergency patients," he says, gesturing to images CREMERJ has captured to illustrate the problem. "You can see the beds crammed next to each other, in row after row. So when the doctors walk in to see a patient, they have to put a bed aside, then put another bed aside, so that they can actually reach the patient."
Most disturbing is the site of a body bag lying in a bed next to other patients, waiting to be removed.
"This is a completely absurd situation, where a patient died and they put him inside this black bag next to others," says Nahon. "Normal procedure would be to take the deceased patient outside and then put him in the black bag and then forward him to wherever he should go."
Nahon tells me this type of overcrowding is common among Rio's public hospitals.
"Every day in Rio, we lack about 150 beds for emergency care," he says. "Intensive care is the same. They might even die in that period because they need intensive treatment and in the semi-intensive rooms they have, people who are supposed to stay there for 24 hours -- they stay for 15 days."
Nahon tells me this type of overcrowding is common among Rio's public hospitals.
"Every day in Rio, we lack about 150 beds for emergency care," he says. "Intensive care is the same. They might even die in that period because they need intensive treatment and in the semi-intensive rooms they have, people who are supposed to stay there for 24 hours -- they stay for 15 days."

A startling contrast

When I step into the Americas Medical City Hospital, it's hard to imagine that I'm in the same country. The chaos of people desperate for care has been replaced with the busy, but quiet, hum of a hospital that I'm used to. It feels like a big city academic hospital back in the United States.
For the next few weeks, this hospital will be under the watch of Dr. Antonio Marttos, a trauma surgeon from the University of Miami.
A Brazilian native, Dr. Marttos has spent most of the past three years commuting back and forth from his home in Miami to ready the facility for the 2016 Olympic Games. He has been tasked with overseeing all trauma and emergency services during the Games. This includes the Olympic Village Polyclinic -- a mini hospital in the Olympic Village that provides everything from emergency services to dental care -- as well as the Americas Medical City facility, which is composed of two hospitals, one that will cater to athletes and the other to Olympic dignitaries and VIPs.
If someone needs to be rushed from the Olympic Village or the Polyclinic to the hospital, it should take approximately 12 minutes.
It's full-service healthcare that will be run by a staff of 5,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel -- many of whom will volunteer to do these jobs.
While many of the larger countries taking part in the Games come with their own medical teams, many smaller countries use this as an opportunity to get basic check-ups and preventative care.
Dr. Marttos tells me that in the event of an injury, a doctor needs to be on hand right away. "My role is to be sure my hospital has everything in place. We have protocols and guidelines," he said. "It looks like an American hospital, they have everything ready, like my hospital in Miami."
As a reporter, I've been talking a lot about Zika, Rio's notoriously dirty water and even threats of terrorism. When I ask him how much of a concern this is for him, he says his priority is the athletes. "How to take care of the injuries. Everything else, terrorism, is not under our control. Brazil got ready. They did a lot of training."
He adds, "I can say that for all the athletes, for all the people inside the venues, if they need us, we're going to be ready to take care of them."
Waiting times in public hospitals won't improve during Olympics.
 
As we tour the nearly 500-bed hospital, I can't help but think of just how starkly different this facility is compared to the pictures of the public hospitals that Dr. Nahon showed me: rooms filled to capacity, patients waiting for days for emergency services -- sometimes dying before being treated -- and the body bag next to a patient.
I ask Dr. Marttos what he thinks of the public hospital situation. He's very diplomatic and says that sometimes the physical infrastructure isn't the same as here. The walls may not be as nice, the equipment not quite as new, but that the quality of the doctors is the same.
He's optimistic that perhaps the work that he has put into the facility here will be a legacy for the care for future Brazilians.

More people turning to public hospitals

I'm back in the command center for Rio's Emergency Response Battalion, feeling the pulse of activity. More than a thousand people help keep the ambulances running and responding to emergencies 24 hours a day. The control board fills an entire wall, tracking minor to major injuries with color codes of blue, yellow and red.
Doctors, both military and civilian, triage the calls, making sure that everyone who gets an ambulance truly needs one. They cannot afford to waste efforts, especially with the extra stress of the Olympics.
Lt. Col. Carlos Sima shows me around his command center with pride, and puts a good face on their lackluster response time and the well-known overcrowding of the hospitals they deliver to.
"The economic crisis has made it very difficult," he tells me. "Even people who used to afford private hospitals are now going to public ones to save money."
I ask him what his biggest concern is during the upcoming Olympics, and hear a familiar refrain.
"A terrorist attack," he says quickly. "We don't have history with that. We are used to big accidents and the like, but because we don't have a history with terror, that would be of real concern."
Source:CNN.com

How 'Pokemon Go' is helping kids with autism and Asperger's

"He's willingly starting to go out and going to Pokestops, get Pokeballs and catch creatures, whereas he didn't have the interest to go outside before," Barnhill said. "He's not a go-outside-and-play kind of kid. But this game has enabled him to want to reach out to people and strike up conversations about creatures that they've caught."
The game's augmented-reality feature and method of rewarding players who go to Pokestops located at popular landmarks in their communities have led people to be more interactive than normal while playing video games.
Lenore Koppelman is the mother of 6-year-old Ralphie, who has autism and hyperlexia, which is associated with verbal language difficulties. She has also found "Pokemon Go" useful in helping her son socialize with other kids.
"They want to play 'Pokemon Go,' and so does he, so it gives them something in common to do. The kids are so fixated on catching Pokemon that they are concentrating on finding them more than they are concentrating on his behaviors like they usually do," Koppelman said. "As a result, he is finally finding himself in the middle of groups of kids he doesn't even know, being welcome to play with them."
Though no quantifiable research has been done on the effects of "Pokemon Go," Dr. James McPartland, director of Yale's Developmental Disabilities Clinic in the Child Study Center, says the game is appealing among kids with autism or Asperger's because of its consistency and structure.
"('Pokemon Go') involves a finite set of interesting characters that is consistent, stable. Kids with autism often like things that are like this that are list-based or concrete or fact-based," said McPartland, who doesn't treat Ian or Ralphie. "They're very good at learning about things and memorizing things, so not only is this a shared area of interest, it's an area in which the kinds of strengths with autism can shine."
According to Dr. Peter Faustino, a school psychologist in New York who doesn't work with Ian or Ralphie, it's the common interest that's helped spark changes in children with autism or Asperger's.
Faustino describes how he guides children with Asperger's or autism to adapt a "social hook," which he defines as "something that will sort of share an experience or a connection." Normally, he advises them to take an interest in sports or pop music. However, Pokemon's popularity proves to be an exception.
" 'Pokemon Go' seems to be making Pokemon mainstream and cool. So it's almost this reverse social hook that's really kind of exciting for some kids," Faustino said. "The other thing that seems to be going on is this opportunity to get outside, to be more interactive outside of the house. This seems to be offering that hook."
While "Pokemon Go" has had some positive effects on Ian and Ralphie, Dr. Fred Volkmar, a professor in Yale's Child Study Center, who does not treat either boy, also warns of possible pitfalls for kids on the autism spectrum.
"The problem with Pokemon is that kids can do it to a point where it interferes with learning about the world," Volkmar said. "If you can make it somewhat functional, it's fine. It's detrimental if it's the only thing they're interested in. If it helps the kid become more isolated, it's not good."
But McPartland, who has worked with Volkmar, advises that with careful monitoring, these detrimental effects could be avoided.
"I don't think there's anything intrinsically detrimental about 'Pokemon Go,' " McPartland said. "Any activity any child does should be monitored by a parent. And parents should say how much is appropriate and when is appropriate and with whom it's appropriate. Like anything else, if those things aren't monitored, issues could arise."
Ralphie's mom says the new interactions are priceless, and she's proud of the positive changes in her son.
"He seems happier. He's laughing more. He seems more confident," Koppelman said. "He fist-pumps and says 'Yes!' when he catches one and then gives people high-fives and shouts 'I did it!' His father and I are both proud of him and how far he has come in only a week's time."
Source:CNN.com

Brett Favre and Ken Stabler Linked by Toughness That Led Them to Canton

Toughness is etched in Ken Stabler's genetic code. He comes from a long line of soldiers and explorers stretching back centuries. If you want to understand his greatness, and why on Saturday he will enter the Hall of Fame, look at his past. 

On Stabler's mother's side, family members served in almost every military conflict in American history. They settled parts of the country, traveling by wagon train. Stabler's father earned a Bronze and Silver Star in Italy while fighting Nazis during World War II.

Stabler had a well-earned reputation as a partier, but beneath all of that, on the football field, was a pulse that rarely rose above the temperature of an ice cube. The more violent the encounter, the tighter the game, the more Stabler rose to the occasion. No one was cooler under pressure. Not Joe Montana. Not John Unitas. No one.

Toughness is etched in Brett Favre's genetic code, too. He didn't come from a long line of soldiers or explorers like Stabler. But he was carved from granite nonetheless. Like Stabler, Favre demonstrated an almost superhuman toughness, even for the violent sport of professional football.

Favre and Stabler will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and the irony that both men are entering the same year is undeniable. Favre and Stabler were, to me, the toughest men to ever play the position. Stabler was first and Favre second. (Terry Bradshaw is third.)

Stabler played in arguably the toughest era of all, the 1970s. Players were starting to get bigger and faster, steroids were creeping into the sport and there were few tangible player safety rules. It was the Wild West. Stabler was often brutalized. More than a few times, he was thrown on his head, flipped wrestling style. Or punched in the face. Or kicked. Or hit five seconds after the ball was thrown. Sometimes a flag was tossed. Sometimes it wasn't.

 

 
Associated Press

 

He'd get back up, refusing to stay on the ground. The violence took a toll on Stabler's body, but he always ignored the pain. He always just...played.

I've written a book on Stabler that will be published this fall, so I'm admittedly biased. But I've felt, for decades, that NFL history cannot be written without Stabler. Few players better illustrated the grit essential to play the sport. When hit, Stabler refused to stay on the ground; he only missed games when his body was truly broken.

We now know the true price Stabler paid. We also know this is a price many, if not all, NFL players will pay. That cost for greatness shouldn't be forgotten. But for now—right now—it's OK to focus solely on his place in football history.

Favre may be as close as we'll get to a modern-era Stabler. Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, one of the best defensive players I ever covered, said Favre was nearly impossible to rattle. Hit him, and Favre would pat you on the helmet.

Hit Favre really hard, and Favre would ask about the family. Good hit, he'd say, how are the kids?

Standing up to a pass rush wasn't the only thing that made Stabler and Favre unique. There are their smarts, their foibles, their raw abilities. But for me, their ability to play through pain and stay on the field was the greatest asset of both men.

Many will focus on Favre's gaudy statistics. The most important number, however, is this one: 321—the most consecutive starts in NFL history. The league has never seen anything like that. And it never will again.

The closest active player to Favre is Eli Manning at 194 consecutive starts. He'll never catch Favre. Matt Ryan is 10th at 103. Think about that for a second. Favre's consecutive start streak is three times as long as Ryan's and is over 100 more than Manning's.

 

 
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

 

No one will come close.

The increasing violence of the sport makes it impossible. But the determination to play through pain is what truly set Favre and his Hall of Fame predecessor apart.

"The biggest thing about Stabler," Hall of Famer Joe Greene once told me, "is that he never gave up.

"You'd hit him as hard as you could and he'd pop right back up," Greene explained.

Greene remembered once when he hit Stabler "and I thought for sure I broke him in half. He was on the ground for a minute and then looked at me and said, 'Nice hit, Joe.' That's the kind of competitor he was."

In one game during the Raiders' 1977 season, Cleveland defensive end Joe "Turkey" Jones, the brother of Ed "Too Tall" Jones, hit Stabler hard in the back of the neck after Stabler completed a deep pass downfield. Stabler never saw the hit coming. Those are the worst hits of all.

"Usually, when you're around people and think you might get hit," Snake said after the game, "you stay tensed up. But in this case, I'd already relaxed and was watching the flight of the ball when I got hit from behind."

Stabler was knocked unconscious for a few seconds because of the cheap shot.

"Told you we were going to get him," one of the Browns said. "Told you."

In one of many signs of the closeness of the Raiders, and the affection players had for Stabler, Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw decided he was going to get revenge on behalf of his quarterback. The next play after the hit on Stabler, Upshaw tracked Jones. Upshaw rammed his helmet into Jones' back. Jones had to be helped off the field. This was 1970s football. This was the era Stabler dominated.

 

 
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

 

In the locker room after the game, Stabler thanked Upshaw. "No one does that to you and gets away with it," Upshaw said.

The Raiders players knew that Stabler always gave everything, no matter the beating, and they in turn gave everything back to him.

It's perfect that Favre and Stabler enter together. No quarterbacks were tougher. None ever will be.

Source:Bleacher report.com

In Staying with OKC, Russell Westbrook Reveals More Than His Words Ever Have

or years we've debated and argued and probed the relationship between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, trying to decipher what they thought of each other and, more importantly, what they think of themselves.

Now we know.

What was downright unnatural and unseen in NBA history is now in the past: two MVP-caliber players coexisting happily in their overlapping primes, melding their egos, sharing the ball and avoiding killing each other…all while not winning a title.

After eight years of that unfulfilling stability, we have Durant going to that side and Westbrook staying on this side.

It makes sense in an NBA way.

If the results aren't there, stars usually opt to realign in order to shine brighter.

We expect and understand it, and the truth is that it does help us to see stars for who and what they are.

Westbrook agrees.

For all the breathless conclusions that Durant abandoned Westbrook and the automatic speculation that Westbrook wouldn't be able to deal with it, he is flat-out declaring his intention to win on his own by agreeing to a new contract with the Thunder, according to NBA sources.

It's something Thunder general manager Sam Presti trusted would happen, and Westbrook's boundless confidence made him duty-bound to try.

Don't be simplistic and think only of how much ball usage and stat production Westbrook will get out of this. He is a far more sophisticated thinker than most people believe, and he truly wants to see what he can do—for himself and for a franchise that has done right by him.

 

 
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

While Durant chose to play new-school ball on easy street with the nearly-sure-thing Golden State Warriors, Westbrook wants the colossal challenge of being an old-school main man saddled with the outsized responsibility to will an underdog team someplace no one expects it can go.

See how much we've learned about them already?

Separating them clarifies them.

Although he's averse to sharing his deeper truths and strongest convictions with the media, Westbrook has a voice on the basketball court, where he lets loose—and even in the locker room, where he is a funny, even sweet, influence. But if we accept that he doesn't care to open the window to his soul for strangers, we begin to understand what he is actually doing.

He is a person for whom actions speak louder than words.

Westbrook's public silence since Durant's July 4 decision to go to the Warriors was interpreted as a sign of anger or abandonment, because most don't envision Westbrook as a deep thinker who wanted to sort through his options and refrain from any emotional decisions.

Well, he didn't drive blindly and angrily right toward the basket. He also didn't take his ball and go home.

He collected his thoughts, appreciated how well-run the Thunder organization is and grew excited about guiding a young crew of Steven Adams (23), Victor Oladipo (24), Enes Kanter (24), Andre Roberson (24), Cameron Payne (21) and Domantas Sabonis (20).

 

 
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

 

And there is no stronger statement he could make than agreeing to stay in Oklahoma City at least through the next two seasons, giving him and the team a fair shot at seeing how formidable Adams and Oladipo can become with his help.

Even before Westbrook is forced to offer some explanation for himself in a news conference about his contract, we know more about him.   

His decision to stay speaks for itself. And his actions off the court already indicated he's not just some boiling-over pot of chili. He's a family guy, a low-key guy, the kind of guy who prefers to visit fashion and fame rather than be completely bound to that life.

Westbrook's choice just paints a clearer picture of his priorities.

It's not necessarily wrong given what he can accomplish by leaving, but Durant prioritized opportunity over loyalty. By staying, Westbrook is focused on his own sort of opportunity based on loyalty.

Westbrook has never been the clear leader of the Thunder, given that Durant was already with the franchise when Westbrook arrived in 2008.

The closest he got was in 2014-15, when Durant missed most of the season with injury. Westbrook went nuts—triple-doubles everywhere, his efficiency increasing rather than decreasing, even defensive improvement.

There are valid questions about how Westbrook is going to make the most of this now with Durant gone. Is Westbrook, deep down, a little scared he's going to get hurt taking this attack mentality to its fullest tilt?

Since Westbrook isn't apt to outline his plans through spoken word, we'll have to settle for seeing him in action. It's worth noting, though, that he has been preparing for this greater challenge in more ways than one his entire career.

 

 
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

Let's flash back to 2013, when Westbrook underwent the first of three surgeries in an eight-month span related to the repair of a torn meniscus in his right knee. He and the Thunder could have chosen to simply remove the meniscus, which would have had Westbrook back on the court sooner, but they decided to be painstakingly careful and preserve the cartilage for long-term effect, even though it made for a disjointed season.

And with Westbrook missing almost half the games, Durant turned it into his MVP season.

See how much we learn when they're apart?

Nothing will ever change how admirable their efforts to work together and keep the peace were, even if the results were not there.

Now that they've chosen real change, it makes sense—and it will be fascinating to watch at both ends.

Durant might be part of something legendary, while Westbrook finally gets to test his limits.

Source:Bleacher report.com

Jimmy Fallon to host 2017 Golden Globes

(CNN)NBC has recruited a well-known face from inside the peacock family to host the next Golden Globes.

The network announced Jimmy Fallon will host the 2017 ceremony.
This will be Fallon's first award show hosting gig since the Emmy Awards in 2010.
"This is the most spontaneous and uninhibited award show on television, and Jimmy's playful, disarming comedic brilliance makes him the ideal host to enhance and elevate the sense of fun and irreverence that's made the Golden Globes one of the premier events of the entire broadcast year," wrote NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt in a statement.
Ricky Gervais hosted the show in 2016. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler served as co-hosts -- to great acclaim -- for three years prior.
The Globes mark the unofficial start of Hollywood's award season. The show will air January 8, 2017 on NBC.
Source:CNN.com

Mariah Carey invites you into her 'World' in new E! docuseries

(CNN)It's Mariah Carey's world and we're all just living in it.

That is, of course, the perception one would gain from seeing the singer promote her eight-episode E! docuseries at a panel during the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday.
The singer cracked jokes and earned laughs from a notoriously tough crowd of reporters as she promoted the upcoming series, which she billed as a documentary more than a garden variety reality show.
At one point, she even invited her glam squad on stage to give her a touch-up during the panel.
"I don't even know what reality is -- literally," she deadpanned.
"Mariah's World" will chronicle a busy time in the singer's life, following her as she preps for her first European tour in ten years and her wedding to Australian businessman James Packer.
It will also feature appearances from her 5-year-old twins, Moroccan, who she affectionately calls "Rock," and Monroe.
"They could have their own show because that's how funny they are," the singer said.
Appearances from ex-husband Nick Cannon might also be possible, but Carey said that remains to be seen, as the series is still being edited.
When a reporter mistakenly assumed Cannon would be on the series, Carey was quick to correct him.
"I didn't say that, darling," she said, as the audience laughed. "I said he came around -- I don't know what makes final cut."
Carey admitted the filming process was difficult to become accustomed to, saying she was "withholding" at first because she is "never sure who to trust." But she eventually opened up.
Whatever ends up on screen, the legendary singer hopes it's at the very least "entertaining."
"I don't know that anybody really knows the real me because if somebody sees me on TV ... it's not enough time to get to know somebody," she said. "My goal is for it to be a lasting piece of work for my fans."
With the show now almost behind her, the singer's focus remains on creating new music.
She said she's taking a "different approach" with her next record.
"Right now I'm just writing and recording and collaborating and then we'll see what the best of the best is," she said.

"Mariah's World" premieres Dec. 4.

Source:Cnn.com

Navigating Volatile Markets: What Investors Need To Know In 2016

Markets become volatile when investors harbor deep concerns about near-term trends and asset valuations. So far in 2016, concerns abound, including:

  • China’s slowdown and its implication on global growth
  • The depth and pace of the oil collapse
  • U.S. domestic concerns driven by the Fed, a slowdown in manufacturing and apprehension that the recovery cycle is nearing its end
  • Widespread geopolitical unrest, particularly in Europe
  • Hyper-connectivity across markets, amplifying the potential for swings

All of this is posing as a challenge for many investors, leading to uncertainty on how to best proceed and resulting in feelings of apprehension.

CBOEVolatilityIndex_final-updatedCautious Optimism

Despite the uncertainty, investors are cautiously optimistic, with the majority planning on staying the course. In fact 82 percent of global investors surveyed in CBRE’s Global Investors Intentions Survey said they were going to invest the same or more globally in 2016 compared to 2015. Additionally, the report found that more than $1.1 trillion of global capital will target real estate investments in 2016, which represents a significant increase over 2015 investments at $876 billion. Chris Brett, CBRE’s Head of International Investment in the UK, notes, “Despite investor concerns about the global economy, we see increasing amounts of capital moving globally in 2016 and beyond into commercial real estate.” Yet, the trepidation is causing investors to protect themselves, looking towards safe havens such as the U.S. According to research, 65 percent of investors are expecting to buy more assets in the Americas than they bought last year.

Keep Calm, Check Your Assumptions, And Carry On

Regardless of swings in global markets, those willing to maintain a thoughtful, long-term approach coupled with superior execution will be positioned for success. Peter Senst, President of CBRE Capital Markets in Canada affirms this reality, “Protect yourself from volatility. Embrace quality assets with quality rent rolls in quality locations. This is the time to make sure your balance sheet is fortified.”

Forbes.com

How The Best Paid CEOs Turn Corporations Into ATM Machines

What does pay have to do with CEO performance? Very little.

Best paid CEOs don’t perform as well as the worst paid CEOs, according to a recently published MSCI MSCI +% study.

What determines CEO performance, then?

Good luck, according to a study by Texas A&M Professor Markus Fitza. Most of CEO performance has a great deal to do with chance—to factors beyond the control of the CEO–and very little to do with CEO ability.

Published in the Strategic Management Journal, Fitza’s study uses performance data from the 1,500 largest U.S. firms from 1993 to 2012 to estimate the portion of firm performance that can be attributed to CEOs.

“Differences in the performance of a firm during the tenures of different CEOs can be caused by at least two things,” explains Fitza. “There are differences in CEO abilities as well as events that are outside of the CEO’s control – chance events.”

Fitza decided to look deeper into this chance factor. “I wanted to know how big the effect of chance on CEO performance might be.” Chance can have negative or positive effects on a firm’s performance, he notes. “For example, a scandal at a major competitor can help a firm, while an accident at an important supplier can have negative consequences. Over a long enough time period such effects tend to cancel out (a phenomenon called ‘regression to the mean’), thus it is unlikely that a firm is consistently high performing just because of chance events.”

The problem is that in nowadays most CEOs stay in office for about four years—not long enough for good and bad luck to even out. This means that good and bad luck—rather than ability–may have a big impact on CEO performance.

How big? Over 70%, according to Fitza’s findings!

This means that CEOs may take credit for success, which has to do more with good luck and less with ability, and go on to collect a generous compensation, turning corporations into ATM machines.

The trouble is that, unless fed by new revenues, ATM machines are running out of cash. That’s how “best CEO”s end up running broken companies, and shareholder end up holding the bag.

Source: Forbes.com

IRS Increases 'Marriage Penalty,' Unmarried Cohabitants To Get Twice The Mortgage Interest Deduction

There are a thousand good reasons to never get married: in-laws, divorce attorneys, and the inevitable ravages of age on one’s attractiveness come immediately to mind.

But there are also significant tax hits that come with getting hitched, or as they’ve collectively been coined, the “marriage penalty.” For example, the 28% tax bracket kicks in at $91,150 of income if you’re single, but at only $151,900 — an amount basic math tells you is less than double $91,150 — for married taxpayers. In addition, single taxpayers start to lose 3% of itemized deductions when adjusted gross income exceeds $258,250; married taxpayers, however, will lose itemized deductions once adjusted gross income exceeds only $309,900.

Late last week, the IRS exacerbated the marriage penalty by offering a very large reward for unmarried taxpayers who co-own a home: double the mortgage interest deduction available to married taxpayer.

In AOD 2016-02, the IRS acquiesced in the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Sophy v. Commissioner, in which the appeals court overturned a Tax Court decision and allowed a same-sex, unmarried, co-habiting couple to each deduct the mortgage interest on $1.1 million of acquisition and home equity debt. In reaching its conclusion, the Ninth Circuit determined that the mortgage interest limitation is meant to apply on a per-taxpayer, rather than a per-residence, basis. The AOD issued by the IRS confirms that the Service will follow this treatment.

Let’s take a look at what this means:

Mortgage Interest Deductions, In General

Section 163(h)(3) allows a deduction for qualified residence interest on up to $1,000,000 of acquisition indebtedness and $100,000 of home equity indebtedness. Should your mortgage balance (or balances, since the mortgage interest deduction is permitted on up to two homes) exceed the statutory limitations, the mortgage interest deduction is limited to the amount applicable to only $1,100,000 worth of debt.

Now assume for a moment that you and your non-spouse lifemate/bookie/Japanese body pillow go halfsies on your dream house, owning the home as joint tenants. And assume the total acquisition mortgage debt is $2,000,000 and the total home equity loan $200,000, making total debt $2,200,000, with each of you paying interest on only your $1,100,000 share of the debt.

Are each of you entitled to a full mortgage deduction — since you each paid interest on only $1,100,000 of debt, the maximum allowable under Section 163 — or is your mortgage deduction limited because the total debt on the house exceeds the $1,100,000 statutory limitation?

In 2012, the Tax Court concluded that the answer was the latter. In Sophy v. Commissioner, this issue was surprisingly addressed for the first time in the courts (it had previously been addressed with a similar conclusion in CCA 200911007), with the Tax Court holding that the $1,100,000 limitation must be applied on a per-residence basis.

Thus, in the above example, even though the joint tenants each paid mortgage interest on only the maximum allowable $1,100,000 of debt, each owner’s mortgage interest deduction would be limited under the holding in Sophy because the maximum amount of qualified residence debt on the house — regardless of the number of owners — is limited to $1,100,000. Assuming the joint tenants each paid $70,000 in interest, each owner’s limitation would be determined as follows:

$70,000 * $1,100,000 (statutory limitation)/$2,200,000 (total mortgage balance) = $35,000

Instead of each owner being entitled to a full $70,000 interest deduction, the Tax Court concluded that the mortgage interest deduction was limited for both because the total debt on the house exceeded the statutory limits. The court reached this conclusion after examining the structure of the statute and determining that the plain language required the applicable debt limitation to be applied on a per-residence basis:

Qualified residence interest is defined as “any interest which is paid or accrued during the taxable year on acquisition indebtedness with respect to any qualified residence of the taxpayer, or home equity indebtedness with respect to any qualified residence of the taxpayer.” Sec. 163(h)(3)(A)

The court then added, “The definitions of the terms ‘acquisition indebtedness’ and ‘home equity indebtedness’ establish that the indebtedness must be related to a qualified residence, and the repeated use of the phrases “with respect to a qualified residence” and “with respect to such residence” in the provisions discussed above focuses on the residence rather than the taxpayer.

Ninth Circuit Reverses

In an illustration of how multiple smart people can look at the same set of facts and reach a different conclusion, late last year the Ninth Circuit reversed the Tax Court’s holding, deciding instead that the $1,100,000 limitation on qualified debt is determined on a per-taxpayer, rather than a per-residence basis.

Key to the Ninth Circuit’s decision was the statute’s treatment of married taxpayers who file separate returns for purposes of deducting mortgage interest. Section 163(h)(3) provides that “in the case of” a married taxpayer who files a separate return, the $1,000,000 limit on qualified residence interest and $100,000 of home equity interest are reduced to $500,000 and $50,000 respectively. The Ninth Circuit placed great emphasis on the use of the phrase “in the case of,” noting that it suggests an exception to the general limitations, and that aside from that specific exception, married taxpayers filing separately should be treated identically to married taxpayers under Section 163.

The statute gives each separately filing spouse a separate debt limit of $550,000 so that, together, the two spouses are effectively entitled to a $1.1 million debt, the same amount allowed for single taxpayers. Thus, the point of the language was to treat two married taxpayers who file separately the same as married taxpayers or a single taxpayer, which indicates that the limitations are to be applied on a per-taxpayer, rather than a per-residence basis.

Lastly, the court reasoned that if the limitation is to be applied on a per-residence basis, there would be no need to impose a 1/2 limitation on married couples filing separately. If the limit were indeed intended to be $1,100,000 per house, then married couples who live together but file separately would be forced to split the limit; there would be no need to add additional language to the statute to accomplish that result. If the $1,100,000 limitation is to be applied on a per-taxpayer, basis, however, the limiting language would serve a purpose, as it would prevent a married couple who files separately from deducting interest on a total of $2,200,000 and get twice the benefit of a married couple who files jointly.

Impact

The impact of Sophy and the Service’s subsequent acquiescence are a bit muted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Windsor and its 2015 ruling in Obergfell, which together represent a seismic shift in the treatment of same-sex couples for federal tax purposes. Going forward, same-sex couples who are legally married under state law will no longer be forced to file as unmarried taxpayers; rather, any couple that is married under state law, same-sex or otherwise, will only be permitted to file married filing jointly or married filing separately. In other words: same-sex couples — welcome to the marriage penalty!!

Cohabitation, of course, is not limited to same-sex couples, and so the Service’s decision to allow each taxpayer who co-owns a house to claim an interest deduction on the full $1,100,000 of debt — provided they are not married filing separately — should be a welcome one for many.

Source:Forbes.com

Earnings Growth You Can Depend On

When so much seems so wrong to so many, why would any right-thinking soul own stocks? Everyone “knows” they’re too pricey. What would pull them up? A tractor!

Out back on my firm’s Washington State campus they were weed-whacking and uncovered a 1926 Farmall, an International Harvester model that revolutionized row-crop farming. Thanks to tiny, sharp-turning front wheels that meandered through rows nimbly, the Farmall turned a simple idea into big productivity gains, one of many that funneled us from half our labor in agriculture when my grandpa was young to under 1.5% now–while output grew vastly. While 1926 feels primitive, it’s just 24 years pre-my-time. Pretty new!

Technology deployers keep boosting productivity via clever ideas. Moore’s Law, Kryder’s Law, the Shannon-Hartley Theorem, Koomey’s Law and DNA technology all whiz along. Dreamers will fashion Farmall-like twists to spur upward-driving earnings growth. I’ve no clue who develops what or when long term. But it will happen. Bank on it.

If we buy out a good firm at 14 times stable earnings we get 7.1% forever (1/14)–reinvestable into growth at deferrable cap gains rates. Or we can lend lousy firms long-term cash at 5.9% pre-income-tax. What’s better? The buyout, of course. Compounding that spread becomes immense. Buying the global market captures that spread plus all future growth that Farmall-like gains assure.

 

This is the basic, valid logic for owning stocks long term. Nothing liquid beats it. Better stocks are better still. And you’re obviously better off short-to-intermediate term in an ongoing bull market. Here are five growing stocks I like now for this bull.

Recall January’s fears of China breaking. Yet the country grows, albeit at steadily slower rates, and its enormous size means GDP 5% real growth is about $1 trillion–huge. And that means more Baidu BIDU +3.05%, China’s Google equivalent. Its stock has stunk for 18 months. It stinks about every two years–then shines and should now. I keep saying big tech runs in spurts late in long bull markets. Why now? At 12 times my 2017 earnings estimate it’s been underloved too long and should respond to Chinese acceleration. It’s a great growth firm valued like a slow-growth one.

Source: Forbes.com

Driving While Distracted: What can be done to stop it?

(CNN)Two officers come to the door in the middle of the night to tell parents the unthinkable: Their teenage daughter has been killed in an accident.

They react as you would expect, with painful, guttural cries.
They then have to go down to the morgue to identify their beloved daughter while her friends and classmates prepare to say goodbye at a funeral service.
She was killed in a car accident in which teens were drinking and texting while behind the wheel.
But, thankfully, none of this is real.
It's all part of a program called Choices, with the message that every choice comes with a price. Created by the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana, the program is a community-wide effort involving all local law enforcement agencies and brings together nearly 200 high school students who participate in a mock crash and act out the consequences. The video is then shown in high schools throughout the community.

Driving While Distracted: What can be done to stop it?

distracted while driving pkg_00005514
 

 

 

 
 

 

 
Distracted while driving: Solutions beyond technology 02:01

Story highlights

  • In Louisiana, students role-play to see the consequences of distracted driving firsthand
  • 46 states ban texting and driving; 14 states ban handheld phone use behind the wheel

Check out the weeklong series "DWD: Driving While Distracted" online and watch the TV special on CNN on Saturday, August 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

(CNN)Two officers come to the door in the middle of the night to tell parents the unthinkable: Their teenage daughter has been killed in an accident.

They react as you would expect, with painful, guttural cries.
They then have to go down to the morgue to identify their beloved daughter while her friends and classmates prepare to say goodbye at a funeral service.
She was killed in a car accident in which teens were drinking and texting while behind the wheel.
But, thankfully, none of this is real.
It's all part of a program called Choices, with the message that every choice comes with a price. Created by the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana, the program is a community-wide effort involving all local law enforcement agencies and brings together nearly 200 high school students who participate in a mock crash and act out the consequences. The video is then shown in high schools throughout the community.
 
Jennifer Smith, founder of the advocacy group StopDistractions.org, lines up speakers for the program to share their real-life stories and losses from distracted driving. She says the realistic nature of the role-play makes it incredibly impactful.
"These kids ... put everything they have into it to make it seem real and to acting out these roles," said Smith, a mother of two who lost her mother to distracted driving in 2008.
"These kids take these roles seriously ... and to them, these are their friends. This is real. They see them go through" the tragedy, she said. "It's an amazing experience, and you leave there with these youth genuinely saying they want to change and they want to do better and they're going to stop their parents."

'Wow, that's me. I'm guilty of it'

Seeing the pain caused by distracted driving is one way to try to change behavior, experts believe. That's been the motivation behind AT&T's It Can Wait campaign, which is now in its sixth year.

The campaign's latest video, called "Close to Home," moves beyond texting and driving and showcases a mother looking at a photo on Facebook before a horrific crash. The video has been viewed more than 25 million times online, according to an AT&T representative

"So many people would be able to just see themselves ... in that work and say, 'Wow, that's me. I'm guilty of it. I've done that once or twice. I'm not the person who texts and drives, but I've hit a like button on Facebook for a quick second,' " said Sandra Howard, assistant vice president, advertising at AT&T. "And the ability to see yourself in that message was important."
AT&T also takes its distracted driving simulator, which showcases how quickly things can go wrong behind the wheel when you glance at your phone or try to text, to high schools across the country. We talked to students at Walt Whitman High School in Long Island, New York, after they took a spin on the simulator.
"It puts you in a real situation," one student said. "You hear stories about it, but nothing scares you like experiencing it yourself."
According to research by AT&T, prior to spending time on the driving simulator, 42% of the participants said they text and drive, and 58% committed to never texting and driving going forward. After the driving simulator, 86% of participants said they would never text and drive.
"The biggest 'a-ha' is that as soon as you make it relevant, as soon as they understand it can happen to them or it happened to someone else just like them, just their age, just as responsible as they are, just as much of a great citizen, if you will, as they are, then that's when it really does hit home," Howard said.

The success of high-visibility enforcement

Education is one part of the solution, advocates say, so are laws against distracted driving. Currently, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws banning texting and driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration. Four states -- Texas, Montanta, Arizona and Missouri -- do not have statewide anti-texting laws. Fourteen states, along with the nation's capital, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, make it a crime to use a handheld device while driving.
"We know that education affects some people, that they will change their behavior once they have knowledge and information about risk," said Deborah Hersman, president and chief executive officer of the National Safety Council. "We know that other people will wait until there are laws, and they'll say, 'OK, well, if it's against the law, then I won't do it,' but then there are still other folks who have to get caught and have to have the fear of getting caught so they'll move when there are high-visibility enforcement campaigns."
Hersman said the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducted trial programs in New York and Connecticut in which officers set up checkpoints to stop people from using their phones while driving. Both locations saw a one-third drop in cell phone use and textting behind the wheel after their pilot programs, she said.
"The enforcement folks ... are not trying to hide. They're actually trying to be very visible. They want you to see them, and if that's a deterrent, that's a benefit," she said.

Changing the stigma

What's also needed, experts and victims of distracted driving say, is changing the stigma. Decades ago, people would drink and drive and not think anything of it. That is not the same case today.
"People respect that drinking and driving is dangerous," said Matt Boeve, whose wife, Andrea, was killed by a distracted driver in 2014. "Now, we just have to know that phones are [dangerous] too and take responsibility for our actions, just like we take responsibility for buckling in our kids and not getting behind the wheel impaired."
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Scott Tibbitts, founder of a technology called Groove, which he hopes can help bring an end to distracted driving, said we need to see a societal change where using your phone while driving is viewed as a very socially unacceptable thing to do.
"What we are looking for is: 'You are an idiot if you text and drive,' " said Tibbitts, founder and chief executive officer of the startup Katasi. "I mean, you are just a moron, a jerk, and create that context that ... the ones in high school [that] are the studs are the ones that don't ever pick up their phone when they are driving. ... It is not cool to text and drive."
Source:Cnn.com
 

China vs. USA Basketball: Live Score, Highlights for Summer Olympics 2016

China scored the first basket of the game against the United States, taking a 2-0 lead.

That was the high mark of its evening.

Behind 25 points from Kevin Durant, Team USA dismantled China, 119-62, in Olympic Group Play in Brazil on Saturday night.

The United States used a swarming defense to force China into 24 turnovers. As a matter of fact, China had more turnovers than made shots (20).

Durant was one of four American players in double figures.

DeMarcus Cousins added 17 points, and Paul George and Kyrie Irving followed with 15 and 12, respectively.

The U.S. shot 51.4 percent from the floor, knocking down 10 three-pointers and going 33-of-45 from the free-throw line.

They also outrebounded China, 51-30.

Former NBA player Yi Jianlian led China with 25 points. No other Chinese player reached double figures.

.Source: CNN.com

Delta's big headache - Day 2

The travel woes aren't over yet for Delta passengers.

A day after the airline canceled 1,000 flights, Delta said it canceled another 250 flights from Tuesday's schedule. And about 200 morning departures are expected to be delayed.

 

"We are still operating in recovery mode," said Dave Holtz, a senior vice president at the world's second-largest airline.

The outage Monday grounded Delta (DAL) flights for at least six hours, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers around the globe.

The airline is scrambling to redeploy crews and aircraft as the impact of the outage rippled through the system. Experts said it will be Wednesday, at best, before the schedule can be back to normal.

he airline is offering refunds to passengers on canceled or "significantly delayed" flights. It also said passengers whose flights are canceled or delayed more than three hours will get $200 travel vouchers for future flights. Delta will also waive change fees for any passenger originally booked for Monday or Tuesday.

Aviation experts said the outage and subsequent problems will likely cost Delta tens of millions of dollars.

Related: What stranded Delta fliers are getting

Delta said the problem was set off by a power outage at its Atlanta hub and the failure of key systems to switch over to backup power.

The company said it's continuing to investigate what exactly went wrong.

Source: CNN.com

Fox News staff feared Roger Ailes was monitoring them

Until recently, getting Fox News employees to talk could be tough.

Before former host Gretchen Carlson accused her boss, now former-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment, and before reports started pouring forward about Ailes' alleged record of improper behavior, the network was infamous for keeping a tight lid on its inner-workings.

 

The reason for that may have had more to do with fear than loyalty: According to six current and former employees, many Fox News hosts, on-air personalities and producers have long feared that Ailes had tapped their phones and was monitoring their conversations.

"We all believe our phones are tapped and that we are monitored," one Fox News personality told CNNMoney, echoing the fears of others who asked not to be quoted.

"People definitely felt that the clicks on the line were coming from the inside," said another.

For years, the majority of Fox News sources who have spoken with this reporter have requested that correspondence be done in person, over a personal phone line or through a personal email account in order to ensure that they weren't leaving behind a trail of evidence.

Related: Fox News voice not changing despite Ailes' departure, but questions linger

Still, none of these sources said they had any concrete evidence that their phone conversations or email correspondence had been monitored. Rather, they spoke of a fear that they described as pervasive throughout the company.

The staffers' suspicions have become newly relevant after a New York Magazine report that Ailes used his company's budget "to hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives" to go after his enemies.

Citing a senior Fox source, New York's Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes had hired consultants "to conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted, both inside and outside the company."

Some legal scholars believe that, if true, any money spent on Ailes' backroom operation -- known to insiders as "the Black Room" -- could represent a shareholder and even legal problem for 21st Century Fox. ("As a general rule it is an actionable breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty for a corporate executive to use company funds for personal purposes," Lynn Stout, the Distinguished Professor of Corporate & Business Law at Cornell University, recently told CNNMoney.)

Related: Roger Ailes' alleged use of Fox funds raises liability questions

Whatever the case, the fear that Ailes was monitoring his staff helps to explain how the organization managed to keep its secrets so close to the chest, and why staffers are now starting to speak more freely following Ailes' departure.

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Cnn.com

Walmart buying Jet.com for $3.3 billion to take on Amazon

Watch out, Amazon.

Walmart (WMT) announced Monday that it has agreed to buy Jet.com, a much-hyped e-commerce site trying to take on Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) directly, for $3 billion in cash, with another $300 million in stock kicked in for good measure.

 

The deal may help Walmart reinvigorate growth in its online shopping business, which has slowed in recent quarters. Meanwhile, Amazon's overall sales have rocketed above $100 billion annually.

"Walmart.com will grow faster, the seamless shopping experience we're pursuing will happen quicker, and we'll enable the Jet brand to be even more successful in a shorter period of time," Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, said in a statement.

Jet.com launched in July 2015 and worked to differentiate itself through bulk buying. Customers are encouraged to add various tagged items to their shopping carts, which can be shipped more cheaply in the same box from a nearby vendor. Those savings are then passed on to the customer.

The startup's CEO, Marc Lore, isn't new to building businesses that get snapped up by bigger rivals: he sold Diapers.com to Amazon in 2010 for more than $500 million.

Walmart intends to maintain the Jet brand to target younger shoppers, while making use of its proprietary technology to help bundle together shopping items bring down logistics costs.

Related: 15 Questions with Marc Lore

Lore raised hundreds of millions in venture funding in a bold push to take on Amazon directly through aggressive marketing and steep discounts.

Lore's bet was that online shopping will be such a large market that even coming in second place to Amazon would prove to be an incredible business opportunity.

He also worked to differentiate Jet from Amazon in a more subtle way: by creating a happier workplace culture where all employees received equity in the company.

Jet says it has "set out to make shopping more transparent, more efficient, and at the same time, a little more fun," according to its website.

It only serves customers in the United States.

"We want to be laser-focused," Lore told CNNMoney in 2015.

The move is the latest bit of deal-making from Walmart.

In June, the retailer said it would buy about 5% of leading Chinese e-commerce company JD.com, an investment worth about $1.5 billion. As part of the deal, Walmart is selling its own Chinese e-commerce site, Yihaodian, to JD.

Walmart's CEO telegraphed the need for a change in its ecommerce strategy after the company reported its first quarter earnings, which revealed online sales grew just 7% year-over-year.

"Growth here is too slow," CEO Doug McMillon said at the time.

Source:CNN.com

GE Appliances wants to turn your design ideas into new products

In Louisville, Kentucky, just about anyone can walk into GE Appliances' new innovation hub and pitch an idea for what could become the company's next big product.

GE Appliances, once a unit of General Electric (GE) before it was sold to Haier in January, has a 35,000-sq.-ft. microfactory called FirstBuild that serves as a public space where product ideas are crowdsourced. The best suggestions are ultimately developed by its engineers and sold.

 

Wayne Davis, the commercial leader at FirstBuild who leads its marketing and sales efforts, told CNNMoney the concept was born to kickstart innovation quickly, cheaply and efficiently in the home appliance category.

"The ideas can come from anywhere, the local community, independent inventors, home enthusiasts, students, our own FirstBuild team of employees, even other GE Appliances employees," said Davis.

And if you don't live anywhere near the facility, it's possible to become a free FirstBuild member and submit an idea online.

All ideas are ultimately funneled through the site and voted on by its members. Those that bubble to the top are then built, manufactured (first in small quantities) and sold online.

There's a nice monetary incentive thrown in for inventors, too: You earn between $500 and $2,500 for a winning concept, in addition to a royalty of up to 0.5% of sales. If a product takes off with consumers, it could potentially get added to GE Appliances' larger product portfolio.

Since the initiative launched in July 2014, FirstBuild has grown to 9,700 registered users and has had over 1,000 ideas submitted online. The microfactory itself has seen 20,000 visits by 6,000 - 8,000 people so far.

FirstBuild is similar in some ways to Quirky, a community-led invention platform that crowdsourced ideas for smart home products.

GE Appliances' former parent GE partnered with Quirky in 2013 and opened up its vault of thousands of patents to the Quirky community to help generate new consumer product ideas.

However, the startup eventually went bankrupt in 2015.

When asked about Quirky, Davis responded: "The only similarity we see between the two is the community aspect of the platforms and the voting process to determine which ideas to pursue."

Unlike Quirky, FirstBuild is a subsidiary of GE Appliances. "We fully own it," he added.

In addition, FirstBuild is focused only on innovative home appliances, while Quirky's submissions spanned many product categories.

Firstbuild manufacturing

Anyone can use FirstBuild's microfactory to design and develop an idea.

 

FirstBuild's 22 employees -- most of whom are engineers -- work on building out the ideas that come through the platform.

But it's doing so on a much smaller scale compared to the other five factories run by GE Appliances, which largely develops refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers, cooking products and water heaters. While GE Appliances' employs 12,000 workers worldwide and its average factory is about 800,000-sq-ft in size, FirstBuild's operation is pretty lean in comparison.

To start, manufacturing is nimble. "We can make small batches of a product in a fraction of the time and cost," Davis said.

"Mass manufacturing is about making millions of something," he added. "But on the flip side, how do you make just one to 1,000 units of a breakthrough product without significant investment?"

Related: These high schoolers are manufacturing airplane parts

The microfactory has launched more than 16 products in two years, and five have been permanently added to GE Appliances' portfolio.

One recent addition is the Prisma Cold Brew coffeemaker, which cuts coffee's cold brewing time to just 10 minutes from 12 to 24 hours. The product will hit the market in 2017.

firstbuild prisma cold brew

FirstBuild platform developed the Prisma Cold Brew cofee machine.

Another is the Opal Nugget Ice Machine. Nugget ice is the small, pellet-shaped and crunchy ice commonly used by fast food chains like Sonic.

"Nugget ice is very popular in the south," said Davis. "We researched and learned that consumers really wanted a counter-top machine in their homes that could easily make it."

Consumers can buy the product next month on FirstBuild's website.

firstbuild opal nugget

The Opal Nugget ice machine

The FirstBuild community also created an indoor pizza oven called GE Monogram Pizza Oven, which will arrive in stores this fall.

While these products may not be household names yet, FirstBuild is empowering people to speak up about products they want to see developed and ultimately buy.

"FirstBuild is already taking on disruptive ideas for home appliances and matching them to a need in the marketplace," said Davis.

Source:CNN.com

Millennials: Avoid these 5 financial mistakes

I'm in my early 20s and want to get a head start on financial success, but I don't want to make mistakes that could prevent me from achieving my goal. What do you suggest? --K.T., North Carolina

My first suggestion is to lighten up a little. It's smart to want to get off on the right foot in your financial life. But your 20s is also a time to have some fun, explore different paths and leave yourself open to serendipity. If you get too hung up about making a wrong move, you could miss out on satisfying and rewarding experiences. Besides, making and then rebounding from mistakes is an important way to learn and grow.

 

That said, it's also true that some mistakes can inflict far deeper and longer-lasting financial damage than others, even if they don't seem so dangerous at first glance.

Below are five financial faux pas with the capacity to seriously undermine your economic prospects. Avoid these major missteps, and you'll dramatically increase your chances of achieving financial success.

Mistake #1: Getting A Late Start On Saving.

More than any other single error, I'd say this is the one that prevents people from attaining at least a measure of financial security. For example, in a recent survey of retirees by Pentegra Retirement Services 39% of those polled said they regretted not having started saving sooner, and 63% said the most important advice they could offer to people starting out would be to get an early start on saving.

The oldsters know what they're talking about. A 25-year-old earning $30,000 who saves 10% of salary a year would have a nest egg of just over $620,000 at 65, assuming 2% annual raises and a 6% annual return on investments. If that person holds off just five years, the size of the nest egg falls by almost $140,000. Waiting 10 years shrinks it by more than $250,000.

To see for yourself how putting off saving for even a few years (as well as not saving enough) can stunt your financial prospects, check out this Will You Have Enough To Retire? calculator.

Fortunately, this error can be easily sidestepped. If you have a 401(k) where you work, sign up for it and contribute at least enough to take full advantage of any company matching funds.

Related: Are you behind on retirement saving?

If you don't have access to a 401(k), open a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA account at a mutual fund company and fund via automatic monthly transfers from your checking account.

While you're at it, accumulate an emergency fund of at least three months' worth of living expenses in a savings account so you'll have a cushion to fall back on in the event of a job layoff or unexpected expenses.

The main point, though, is to get into the habit of saving regularly and maintain that regimen throughout your working life.

Mistake #2: Taking on unnecessary debt.

Sometimes it makes sense to borrow -- say, to buy a house, purchase a car or finance an education that can increase your earning power. But it's the debt we take on to maintain a lifestyle that exceeds our earning power that gets us in trouble.

And make no mistake, paying down debt can strain your budget. According to NerdWallet's latest annual survey on consumer debt, the average household is shelling out more than $6,650 in interest payments alone per year.

Related: When will I be debt-free?

Before you borrow, ask yourself: Is this something you truly must have? And if the answer is yes, then ask: Could you get by with a less expensive version of it? And finally, consider whether the monthly principal and interest payments you'll make for years might be put to better use going into savings and investment accounts that can grow in value and provide a cushion against economic setbacks.

Mistake #3: Buying into Wall Street's 'investing is complicated' mantra.

The message investors get from many Wall Street firms boils down to this: You need to watch the financial markets constantly, spread your money among all sorts of arcane and complex investments and be ready at a moment's notice to dump what you own for new investments. And, of course, to pull off all this successfully, you need their help, for which you must pay a handsome price.

Nonsense. No one, not even market pros, can consistently outguess the financial markets. And research by University of California at Berkeley finance professor Terrance Odean shows that trying to do so by frequent trading is more likely to hurt than enhance your returns.

You're much better off with a less-is-more approach: build a basic portfolio of broadly diversified stock and bond funds that matches the level of risk you're willing to take -- and then, aside from occasional rebalancing, stick with that portfolio regardless of what the market is doing. This risk tolerance-asset allocation questionnaire can help you arrive at a blend of stocks and bonds that makes sense for you.

Mistake #4: Overpaying for financial help.

Whether it's the annual expenses you pay to a mutual fund manager or the fees you shell out to an adviser to help you choose the right funds and provide other financial advice, the fact is that paying more than you have to drags down the returns you earn and makes it harder for your savings to grow. Which is why it makes sense to hold the line on such costs as much as possible.

When it comes to investments, the easiest way to rein in expenses is to stick as much as possible to low-cost index funds and ETFs. Doing so can easily save you upwards of 1% a year compared with the typical stock mutual fund.

Related: How much are 401(k) fees costing me?

If you feel you need to work with a financial adviser, make sure you know in advance exactly what you'll pay, what specific services you'll get for your dough -- and comparison shop to make sure the fees the adviser you're considering are competitive.

Other options are hiring an adviser on an hourly basis instead of paying a percentage of assets or signing up with a "robo-adviser," an online service that uses algorithms to provide inexpensive investing advice.

Mistake #5: Failing to monitor your progress.

You don't have to (and shouldn't) constantly obsess about money matters. But neither can you just set a course and then assume all will be fine going forward. You need to periodically review your finances -- say, once a year or so -- to ensure you're making headway.

The most comprehensive gauge of whether you're making progress is to track your net worth -- that is, the difference between the value of your assets and liabilities, or what you own vs. what you owe.

Powered by SmartAsset.com

Net worth: How do I stack up?

If you're saving regularly and investing sensibly, over time your net worth should grow. If it's stagnating, it may be a sign that you're not saving enough, not investing your savings sensibly or taking on too much debt.

You can estimate your net worth using this simple net worth calculator. By doing this calculation every year and comparing the results to those of previous years, you can easily see whether your net worth is growing.

To assess other aspects of your finances -- such as whether your current saving and investing regimen has you on a path to a secure retirement -- check out these five online tools, all of which are free.

Clearly, there are also many positive steps you can take to enhance your prospects, one of the biggest being to nurture your career so that you can earn (and save) more during your working years. But good defense still counts for a lot. And if you avoid making the five mistakes above, you will dramatically improve your odds of achieving the financial success you seek.

Source:CNN.com

'SNL' loses two major cast members ahead of new season

Los Angeles (CNN)"Saturday Night Live" is losing two of its familiar faces.

Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah will not be returning to the long-running sketch series, NBC confirms to CNN. TVLine first reported the news.
Killam and Pharoah have both been on the series for six seasons.
Killam is best known for playing characters like Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey. He also played presidential nominee Donald Trump for a period of time last season before handing the role back over to Darrell Hammond, who played Trump previously.
Pharoah was known for his portrayals of President Barack Obama and Will Smith, and earned rave reviews for his take on former presidential candidate Ben Carson.
In an interview with Uproxx, Killam seemed taken aback by NBC's decision not to pick up his contract for the upcoming season.
"I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren't going to pick up my contract," he said in an interview with the publication. "I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home."
Killam is working on his directorial debut, "Why We're Killing Gunther."
Killam admits that the post-production on the film would have had some cross over with his "SNL" commitments, but he was unsure whether that played a role in his contract being terminated a year early.
Ultimately, he sounded grateful.
"I set out to be on 'SNL' and I got to do that and I did very well," he said. "And I love and adore and will forever have close ties and tight bonds with the brilliant, smartest, funniest people I've ever met in my life. So, I have no gripes at all. I am so, so, so lucky to have been given the time I've been given."
"SNL" will return for Season 42 this fall.
Source:CNN.com

Mariah Carey to guest star on 'Empire'

Los Angeles (CNN)"Empire" has booked what could be its biggest musical guest star to date.

Fox announced Monday that Mariah Carey has officially been recruited to guest star in an October episode of the network hit.
Carey will play a character named Kitty, "a mega-superstar who comes to 'Empire' to collaborate with Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) on an explosive new song," according to a press release from Fox.
The casting comes about one year after executive producer Lee Daniels first publicly said he hoped to have Carey appear on the show, which stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.
In its first two seasons "Empire" has made it a habit of pulling in big names in music to play guest characters. Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz and Xzibit have all appeared. Pitbull, Timbaland and Ne-Yo have also appeared as themselves.
"Empire" season 3 premieres Sept. 21.
In other guest star news from Fox announced on Monday during its day at the Television Critics Association press tour: Amy Schumer will lend her voice to all of the network's animated shows on Sept. 25.
Fox also announced a "New Girl"/"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" crossover and the first-ever one-hour "Simpsons" episode.
And Twentieth Century Fox TV touted a new deal struck with "Hamilton" director Thomas Kail. He will establish a production company under the company's umbrella and develop TV projects for both broadcast and cable.
Kail recently helmed Fox's "Grease: Live" and won a Tony for his work on "Hamilton."
Source:CNN.com

Kanye West apologizes to Beck, Bruno Mars

(CNN)Kanye West is on an apology spree.

In a series of tweets, West reached out to singers Beck and Bruno Mars to express remorse over his well-documented disses.
"I would like to publicly apologize to Beck. I'm sorry Beck," West tweeted Thursday night.

Beyonce backer

West turned heads -- and not in a good way -- when he briefly went on stage after Beck won a Grammy for Album of the Year. In an interview after the show this month, West asked Beck "to respect artistry" and give the award to Beyonce.
Though West did not grab Beck's microphone like he's done in the past, his brief stunt was similar to a 2009 incident when he stormed the stage during the VMAs and declared Beyonce should have won an award instead of Taylor Swift.
West and Swift appeared to put it behind them, hugging it out at this month's Grammys.

Bruno props

Bruno Mars got more than an apology Thursday.
"I used to hate on him but I really respect what he does as an artist," West tweeted.
West then asked him to sing a hook on a song that he co-produced.
There was no immediate response from Bruno Mars or Beck.
Source:CNN.com

Couple married 63 years die minutes apart in same room

(CNN)It's said that love is the strongest force in the world. If that's true, then a married couple from South Dakota proves that not even death is strong enough to keep loved ones apart.

A funeral will be held in Platte, South Dakota, on Monday for a couple married for more than six decades who died just minutes apart on the same day and in the same room.
Henry and Jeanette De Lange both died on July 31, just 20 minutes apart in their room at a nursing home.
The De Langes had been married for 63 years.

'A beautiful act of God'

Lee De Lange, one of their sons, told CNN affiliate KSFY there was a divine quality to having both parents pass at nearly the same time.
"We're calling it a beautiful act of God's providential love and mercy," he said. "You don't pray for it because it seems mean but you couldn't ask for anything more beautiful."
Jeanette De Lange, 87 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, died first at 5:10 p.m. Family gathered with her was reading the Bible at the time.
"We read Psalm 103. We didn't quite get done," said Lee De Lange. "She passed away very, very peacefully. Incredibly peacefully."

'Gone to heaven'

Lee said his brother told his father, 86 and fighting prostate cancer, "mom's gone to heaven" and that he didn't have to fight anymore. He could let go and join her if he wished, the son added.
Twenty minutes later, at 5:30 p.m., Henry De Lange did just that. His children remember him briefly opening his eyes and looking at his wife before he died.

Holding hands

Of course this isn't the first time that a married couple has passed away on the same day.
Earlier this summer George and Ora Lee Rodriguez, married for 58 years, died a few hours apart at their home in San Antonio, surrounded by family -- and holding each other's hands.
Source:CNN.com

Russian Yulia Efimova breaks down in tears after losing to Lilly King

RIO DE JANEIRO — Russian drug cheat Yulia Efimova had an extraordinary tearful meltdown minutes after she finished behind fierce rival Lilly King of the USA in a dramatic 100-meter breaststroke final.

Efimova initially held her emotions in check after King beat her to the line and celebrated wildly alongside her. But after completing a round of television interviews the Russian wept uncontrollably when she saw agent Anna Mitkova across a barrier in the media interview area.

 USA TODAY Sports. "It is not fair. She is not a criminal and she competed because she was allowed to compete."

Said Efimova: “All the stuff that happened with me was unbelievable. I am happy to be here and racing finally. That is what is best. Try to understand me if you switch your and my side.

“I have once made mistakes and been banned for six months. The second time it was not my mistake.

"For me it is very hard to swim. These few weeks have been crazy."

Source:USA Today.com

 

Tim Tebow set to pursue pro baseball career

Tim Tebow is serious about his professional sports rebirth as a baseball player and his representatives said the former NFL quarterback's workout for major league scouts won't be a sideshow.

Tebow has trained for the last several months in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Los Angeles at a sport he hasn't played regularly for more than a decade. Tebow has served an ESPN broadcaster since his three-season NFL career ended with the New York Jets at the conclusion of 2012 season.

"This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth," Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports and other outlets. "I have seen Tim’s workouts and people inside and outside the industry – scouts, executives, players and fans – will be impressed by his talent. As an agent, I have a genuine respect for how hard it is to succeed at the game of baseball and a true admiration for those who possess the talent to play it at the Major League level. Tim's tool set is real."

Former major league catcher Chad Moeller has trained Tebow at this baseball school in Scottsdale and said in a statement that Tebow "has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues."

“I am beyond impressed with Tim’s athleticism and swing and it goes without saying that he has shown a high level of discipline and strong work ethic," Moeller said. "I see bat speed and power and real baseball talent. I truly believe Tim has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the Major Leagues, and based on what I have seen over the past two months, it could happen relatively quickly."

Tebow will hold a workout where all 30 major league teams will be invited to observe within the next month, according to a person with knowledge of the session who is not authorized to speak publicly.

Tebow hasn’t played baseball on a regular basis since 2004 as a junior in high school, where he  hit .494 at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Some scouts noticed Tebow’s baseball talents more than a decade ago.

Boston Red Sox area scout Tom Kotchman was with the Los Angeles Angels when he attempted to get Tebow to choose baseball over football.

“We wanted to draft him, but he never sent back his information card,” Kotchman told WEEI-AM. “Who knows if it got to him, and if it did we just never got it back. Otherwise we were going to take him.”

Red Sox scout Stephen Hargett told the radio station that Tebow’s decision not play baseball as a senior made it clear football was the focus. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and two national titles at Florida.

"He had a strong arm and had a lot of power. If he would have been there his senior year he definitely would have had a good chance to be drafted," Hargett, said "œHe had leverage to his swing. He had some natural loft. He had some good power. He was a good athlete. He had had enough arm for that position. He was a left-handed hitter with strength and some size."

Source: USA today.com

Second Olympic boxer arrested after sexual assault accusations

RIO DE JANEIRO — A second Olympic boxer has been accused by a housekeeper in the athletes' village of sexual assault.

Jonas Junis, a 22-year-old boxer from Namibia who was the country's flag bearer during the opening ceremony, was accused by a maid of grabbing her, kissing her forcefully, and then offering her money to have sexual relations with him, according to a report from O Globo. Brazilian police arrested him after the maid reported the alleged incident to the police. He is expected to be transferred to the sprawling Bangu prison complex in Rio's far west zone, where Brazilian suspects accused of petty and violent crimes await trials and carry out their sentences.

Olympic officials confirmed on Monday that Junis was arrested, but said they could not comment on the specific charges he's facing or the investigation by local police. Rio's civil police confirmed in a statement he was arrested on rape charges. Brazilian law considers any non-consensual sexual act as rape. 

If convicted, Junis could face six to 10 years in prison.

"Brazilian law needs to be respected and this is something that we have to agree on," said Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. "What we need to do is make sure that all the legal procedures are being followed and we understand that they have."

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said security has been paramount at the Olympic Village, a collection of high-rise apartments near the main Olympic Park where most of the 11,000 athletes competing in the Games are staying.

"Security is very tight at the village, in terms of entry and exit," Adams said. "Security is being tightened all the way through."

Female maids interviewed by USA TODAY Sports as they left work expressed skepticism about the security offered to women who work inside, as maids often enter into athletes' rooms with the guests present and  are unable to communicate in their languages.

"We have no security. We go into the room and the guest could be there. And people generally fetishize women from Rio," said Maria Lucia, an employee of the Olympic Village's cleaning staff, as she left the premises to catch a ride home. She said that the locals hired to work as cleaning staff, often women and from working-class backgrounds, feel sensitive about speaking up and that they can be "easier to take advantage of."

Jessyk, who works on the cleaning staff and asked to only use her first name for fear of reprisal, said she had "nothing to complain about" in the sector where she works, but that she also thought women should not be required to go into guests' rooms alone without a superior looking on or security in the hallway. Two other maids told USA Today said they were prohibited by their employer from speaking with the press.

Junis' arrest follows a similar incident last week, when boxer Hassan Saada from Morocco was accused of sexual assault by two maids in the athletes' village. The female employees accused the athlete of thrusting his body against one of them, attempting to kiss her and groping a maid's breasts. Saada is also being detained in the Bangu prison complex.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA)  released a statement that said it has confidence that Brazilian authorities will handle the case of the Namibian boxer appropriately and would not comment further.

Source:USA Today.com

Led by Michael Phelps, U.S. men win gold in 400 freestyle relay

RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Phelps' eyes glistened, but no tears came. Not like his younger teammates, who had never won a medal like this before.

No, Phelps smiled and laughed, and he raised his fists in triumph. He'd done this 18 times before, let a gold medal fall against his chest as The Star-Spangled Banner played.

But even so, this 19th gold medal felt different. And special. It was the first one his son, Boomer, got to see, even though the 3-month-old most certainly won't remember it.

Phelps, 31, turned in a terrific second leg of the Americans' 4x100 freestyle relay, giving his teammates a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Fellow Olympic veteran Nathan Adrian held off the furious French to anchor the U.S. and clinch the Americans' first gold medal in this event in a major international meet since 2009.

In a most exhilarating fashion, in front of a raucous crowd that had already witnessed three broken world records earlier Sunday night, the U.S. men earned an unexpected gold in their first Olympic relay of these Rio Games with a time of 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds. Caeleb Dressel led off with a strong 48.10-second leg, before the greatest Olympian of all time gave America its lead.

Ryan Held contributed the third leg, and a strong close by anchor Adrian in 46.97 secured victory. France took silver, and Australia came from behind to pass Russia for bronze.

“It felt good to get, after my last 400 free relay of my career, this thing around my neck,” Phelps said, glancing down and touching his gold medal. “It feels good to get it back.”

The U.S. men have medaled in every relay event in every Olympics in which they’ve competed. But, due to a rather embarrassing performance a year ago at the world championships in Kazan, Russia — in which a Phelps-less lineup did not even qualify for the final — that relay streak was in real jeopardy.

The world had done more than simply catch up to the American sprinters; it had surpassed them. The Aussies. The Russians. The French.

Yet the U.S. swim team would not give up one of its greatest sources of pride, its relay prowess, without a fight.

“It’s been tough,” Adrian said. “We’re a country that’s so deep in the sprints. We can send 16 guys that are 49-lows up all day every day, but it takes something special to have four guys who are going to be splitting under 48, or 48 low as leadoff.

“We’ve had the depth, but we haven’t had those four guys together at the same time in the same place.”

The first piece to the puzzle was adding Phelps to the mix. He didn't swim the 100 free at the Olympic trials six weeks ago, so he felt he had to prove his worth to his teammates and not just get hand-picked by the head U.S. men’s coach who just happens to be his longtime personal coach. He wanted to earn the spot — by swimming a time trial last week.

“He proved that he belonged there,” Adrian said. “He obviously proved that he definitely belonged there. He’s the first to say that if he wasn’t in a place to step up and throw an amazing leg down, he would be the first to step down. He’s 100% a team player.

“Seeing what he did throughout training camp — his freestyle was on fire. We knew. We knew.”

Phelps said his 47.12 split was the fastest relay split he’d ever swam in his career, and that he’s happy that he’s starting to close out the final Olympics of his career the way he wants, with gold. Not silver. Not bronze.

It’s fitting that’s the case, Adrian said, considering that's part of the reason Phelps was selected to be the U.S. Olympic team’s flag bearer at the Games’ opening ceremony to begin with. Adrian, one of the swim team’s captains, was the representative sent to the flag bearer nomination meeting.

“I remember saying, ‘Michael Phelps has set a precedent. Every time we walk on the pool deck, we’re expected to win gold. That’s what he’s done to the Olympic movement,’ ” Adrian said. “We couldn’t be more proud to get up there and do it. That’s what every young American sprinter dreams of doing, winning gold in that 4x100 meter freestyle relay.”

Source:USA Today.com