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  • Peoria police ID 2 sex offenders

    The Peoria Police Department is releasing the following information pursuant to ARS 13-3825, the Community Notification on Sex Offenders Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to inform the public when the release of information will enhance public safety and protection.Jerry Park, 52, has moved into the 7500 block of West Desert Cove Avenue in Peoria. On April 2, 1997, Park was convicted in the Maricopa County Superior Court of exposing himself to a female child known to him. Park is a Level 2 offender.Gary Zinn, 60, has moved into the 7300 block of West Wethersfield Road in Peoria. On May 24, 1995, Zinn was convicted of lascivious conduct with a child under 16 years of age in the 17th Circuit Court, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Zinn is a Level 2 offender.The individuals who appear on this notification have been convicted of a sex offense which allows for community notification and requires registration with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The offenders have served the sentence imposed on them by the courts and have advised the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that they will be living at the location listed. The offenders are not wanted by the Peoria Police Department.It is a violation of ARS 13-1202 to use this information to threaten, intimidate or harass sex offenders. Citizens who violate this law will be subject to prosecution. If you have information regarding current criminal activity on any offender, call 623-773-8311.

  • PD: 3 men force entry into Glendale apartment

    GLENDALE- Officials are investigating after a home invasion in Glendale.Glendale police said three armed men forced entry into an apartment near 59th Avenue and Olive Avenue.According to the police, the suspects demanded money from the victims before leaving in a black SUV.There were three adults and two children home at the time of the home invasion. An adult was treated for minor injuries, no one else was injured.A description of the suspects are unknown at this time.

  • Assault rifle found off freeway in Glendale

    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say a loaded assault rifle found alongside a freeway was accidentally left there by a Glendale man. A Phoenix television station reports a passer-by spotted the AR-15 in a gutter while driving Saturday morning on the Loop 101 east of 75th Avenue. They say the driver, who happens to be a firearms instructor, alerted the Arizona Department of Public Safety. DPS made contact with the owner, a Glendale firefighter. No criminal charges have been filed, according to the report on KTVK. Glendale police say there is no need for their involvement since the firefighter was off-duty and it was his personal weapon.

  • Golfers fire holes-in-one

    The following holes-in-one were reported to the Daily News-Sun:• Lorraine Charles used a 5-wood on Jan. 19 to ace the 134-yard 15th hole at Quail Run Golf Course in Sun City.• Jim Conley used a driver on Jan. 7 to ace the 176-yard 11th hole at Lakes West Golf Course in Sun City. His playing partners were Dave Pedersen, Doug Barton, Allan Walczak and Terry Kjartanson. It was Conley’s second overall hole-in-one.• Larry Olson used a 6-iron on Jan. 9 to ace the 172-yard 13th hole at Echo Mesa Golf Course in Sun City West.• Sandra Duncan used a 7-iron on Jan. 11 to ace the 107-yard 16th hole at Echo Mesa.• Byron Volk used a 5-hybrid on Jan. 16 to ace the 166-yard 14th hole at Desert Trails Golf Course in Sun City West.

  • Benevilla sets next Grandparents Raising Grandchildren workshop

    Benevilla announced the next Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Workshop will be Simple Effective Strategies for Dealing with Angry Kids.It will take place 2 p.m. Feb. 7 on the main Benevilla campus located at the Hellen & John M. Jacobs Independence Plaza, 16752 N. Greasewood St. in Surprise.The workshop is designed to help grandparents raising grandchildren develop strategies to reduce children’s yelling, screaming and angry explosive outbursts. Organizers say the workshop will help participants:• Recognize anger and its possible causes and solutions.• Uncover hidden challenges that may be sabotaging the ability to build a happy, respectful relationship with a grandchild.• Obtain proven strategies, tips and techniques to regain a peaceful home and relationship.

  • Liberty Buick drives into first place

    Liberty Buick improved to 2-0 Thursday and moved atop the softball standings in the Sun Cities Central League.Two other teams remain undefeated — the Daily News-Sun and Wanderlust Travel are each 1-0.Liberty Buick 17Hayden Flooring 9Gary Zeman went 4-for-4 with a pair of triples and Liberty Buick pulled away with a seven-run sixth inning.Dan Burke and Brent Hall each went 4-for-4 while Mike Carr, Tom Dellopoulos, Willie Doby and Don Spotts each had three hits in the win.

  • Teenage boy dies from head injuries in zip line accident

    PAYSON, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say a 15-year-old boy has died from injuries he suffered while using a zip line east of Payson. Coconino County sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair says the Phoenix-area boy suffered head trauma in the accident Saturday. The boy was pronounced dead at the Payson Regional Medical Center. Blair says the boy had been participating in the activity with a Boy Scouts troop at a private residence in Forest Lakes. Authorities have not released his identity.

  • Snowstorm threatens to paralyze the crowded Northeast U.S.

    NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of millions of people along the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor rushed to get home and settle in Monday as a fearsome storm swirled in with the potential for hurricane-force winds and 1 to 3 feet of snow that could paralyze the Northeast for days. Snow was coating cars and building up on sidewalks and roadways in New York City by evening, and flurries were flying in Boston. Forecasters said the storm would build into a blizzard, and the brunt of it would hit late Monday and into Tuesday. As the snow got heavier, much of the region rushed to shut down. More than 6,500 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark. "It's going to be ridiculous out there, frightening," said postal deliveryman Peter Hovey, standing on a snowy commuter train platform in White Plains, New York. All too aware that big snowstorms can make or break politicians, governors and mayors moved quickly to declare emergencies and order the shutdown of streets and highways to prevent travelers from getting stranded and to enable plows and emergency vehicles to get through. "This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warned. He urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: "People have to make smart decisions from this point on." Commuters like Sameer Navi. 27, of Long Island, were following the advice. Navi, who works for Citigroup in Manhattan, said he takes the Long Island Rail Road every day and left work early Monday after warnings by local officials to get home before the brunt of the storm. "I did leave earlier than usual," he said. "Penn Station less crowded than I thought it would be so I'm guessing people left earlier or didn't go to work today." Up to now, this has been a largely snow-free winter in the urban Northeast. But this storm threatened to make up the difference in a single blow. Boston was expected to get 2 to 3 feet of snow, New York 1½ to 2 feet and Philadelphia more than a foot. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions. Forecasters warned that the wind could gust to 75 mph or more along the Massachusetts coast and up 50 mph farther inland. New York City's subways and buses planned to shut down by 11 p.m. In Massachusetts, ferry service to Martha's Vineyard was greatly curtailed and to Nantucket was suspended. Commuter railroads across the Northeast announced plans to stop running overnight, and most flights out of the region's major airports were canceled. Authorities banned travel on all streets and highways in New York City and on Long Island and warned that violators could be fined $300. Even food deliveries were off-limits on the streets of takeout-friendly Manhattan. The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island also slapped restrictions on nonessential travel. "We learned the lesson the hard way," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, referring to instances in which motorists got stranded in the snow for 24 hours or more. Nicole Coelho, a nanny from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, stocked up on macaroni and cheese, frozen pizzas and milk at a supermarket. "I'm going to make sure to charge up my cellphone, and I have a good book I haven't gotten around to reading yet," she said. Shopping cart gridlock descended on Fairway, the gourmet grocery on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The meat shelves were all but bare, customers shoved past each other and outside on Broadway the checkout line stretched for a block as the wind and snow picked up. Store employees said it was busier than Christmastime. Ben Shickel went grocery shopping in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and found shelves had been cleaned out. "We're used to these big snowstorms in New England, but 2 to 3 feet all at once and 50 to 60 mph winds? That's a different story," he said. Last minute shoppers filed into the Jersey City ShopRite Monday evening, looking to stock up before the brunt of the storm hit. "I heard it's supposed to be snowing for two days straight, so we plan on staying inside and munching," said 18-year old Christian Waiters, who serves in the military. On Wall Street, however, the New York Stock Exchange stayed open and said it would operate normally Tuesday as well. Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion, particularly in New Jersey and on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Officials in New Jersey shore towns warned people to move their cars off the streets and away from the water. Utility companies across the region put additional crews on standby to deal with anticipated power outages. The storm posed one of the biggest tests yet for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who has been in office for less than three weeks. He warned residents to prepare for power outages and roads that are "very hard, if not impossible, to navigate." The storm interrupted jury selection in the Boston Marathon bombing case and forced a postponement in opening statements in the murder trial of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez in Fall River, Massachusetts. The Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots got out of town just in time, leaving from Logan Airport around midday for Phoenix, where the temperature will reach the high 60s. The Washington area was expecting only a couple of inches of snow. But the House postponed votes scheduled for Monday night because lawmakers were having difficulty flying back to the nation's capital after the weekend.

  • New Jersey's Christie launches political action committee

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken his firmest step yet toward running for president, launching an organization that allows him to raise money for a potential 2016 campaign. Opening the political action committee allows Christie to begin to hire staffers, build the foundations of a campaign operation and travel across the country as he weighs a final decision on a run. He's not expected to announce a final decision until spring. The organization, called Leadership Matters for America, was widely expected and comes not long after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced in December a similar organization. Bush's move kicked off an aggressive race to lock down establishment donors and may have drawn 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney into the race. Christie was named the new group's honorary chairman. A mission statement on the organization's website echoes themes that Christie has focused in recent speeches, including remarks Saturday in Iowa to conservative activists. "America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us. Why? Because leadership matters," the mission statement reads. Asked what the launch said about his presidential aspirations at a storm briefing in Newark Monday, Christie appeared to distance himself from the effort. "It says that there are a group of people who want to be supportive of me continuing to look at the problems in the country. And so I'm happy that they want to do that, I'm honored that they've asked me to be the honorary chair of it, and it'll proceed as it proceeds, and we'll see. But nothing more than that," he said, referring another question directly to the committee. Christie is expected to hit the fundraising circuit soon, with events in big money states like New York, Connecticut, Florida and California. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has been in the GOP's presidential discussion since 2012, when he passed on the race and was later considered by Romney as a potential running mate. He's proven himself as a capable fundraiser as chair of the Republican Governors Association, but is still hampered by the pending federal investigation into accusations that former staff members and appointees created traffic jams as political payback against the Democratic mayor of a New York suburb by blocking access lanes to the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. In the past several months, Christie has courted donors, convened late-night briefing sessions on foreign policy and made repeated visits to early-voting states. His PAC's early hires include fundraisers and operators with presidential campaign experience. Ray Washburne, who recently stepped down from his post as finance chair of the Republican National Committee, will serve the same roll for the Christie PAC. Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association while Christie was chair last year will be a senior adviser, as will Christie's longtime political hand, Mike DuHaime. Cam Henderson, who has worked on the state's Superstorm Sandy rebuilding effort, will serve as finance director, while James Garcia, Romney's national field director in 2012, will be political director. Paige Hahn, the RGA's outgoing finance director, will play a role on the finance team. Matt Mowers, a former Christie aide who is stepping down from his job as executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party at the end of the month, will work in that early-voting state, while Phil Valenziano, who served as political director for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad re-election campaign, will help lead Christie's team there. Paperwork for the group was filed on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, DuHaime said. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the PAC was created.

  • Death-row inmate who wants no further appeals may get exam

    KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) — A mental-competency exam may be conducted for a 44-year-old Arizona death row inmate who wants no further appeals in his case stemming from the 2006 beating death of his 14-year-old niece in Kingman. Brad Lee Nelson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of Amber Leann Graff. The Arizona Supreme Court in 2012 decided an automatic appeal by upholding Nelson's conviction and sentence. Nelson is now asking to represent himself, not have any further appeals and accept his death sentence. Judge Richard Weiss of Mohave County Superior Court last week ordered prosecution and defense attorneys to file arguments by Feb. 20 on whether Nelson must have a mental health exam. The development was first reported by the Mohave Valley Daily News (http://goo.gl/rYcKgf ). Nelson was caring for his niece and a 13-year-old nephew in a Kingman motel room while the children's mother, Nelson's half-sister, was in the hospital. According to the state Supreme Court's account of the case, on the day of the killing, Nelson walked to a store and bought a rubber mallet. He returned to the room and struck the niece in the head with the mallet and covered her up, while the nephew slept. The girl was found bleeding from the forehead and naked from the waist down, and her pants and socks had DNA from her and Nelson. Nelson was charged with murder and child molestation. During Nelson's trial, the judge granted a defense motion for acquittal on the child molestation charge after the medical examiner determined there was no evidence of sexual penetration. In an effort to spare Nelson a death sentence, his attorneys acknowledged he killed the girl but said it was not premeditated. However, the jury convicted Nelson of premeditated first-degree murder and then determined that he should be sentenced to death. There was evidence that Nelson, who was 36 at the time of the killing, was infatuated with his niece. He wrote her a letter indicating that about nine months before the killing, the Kingman Daily Miner reported.

  • Police: Phoenix woman accused of producing child pornography

    PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix woman is being held without bond after being accused of producing child pornography and distributing it online. Phoenix police say 26-year-old Roxanne Christine Chapin was arrested on suspicion of one count of child molestation, two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Chapin didn't have an attorney at her initial court appearance Monday. Investigators from the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force say they intercepted images of a toddler being sexually abused that allegedly were sent from Chapin's north Phoenix home. They say two children — ages 3 and 6 — were taken from the home last Friday night. The task force is led by Phoenix police, but consists of investigators from municipal, county, state and federal agencies.

  • VA to create unified framework with 5 service regions

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department said Monday it is creating a single regional framework that divides the sprawling agency into five clearly marked regions. The new framework is part of a larger reorganization that VA leaders say will bring a singular focus on customer service to an agency that serves 22 million veterans, including more than 6 million who receive health care each year from the VA's 970 hospitals or clinics. The VA now has nine organizational maps and at least a dozen websites, many with their own usernames and passwords, as it provides services ranging from health care to disability benefits, home loans and cemetery plots. VA Secretary Robert McDonald calls the current structure confusing and difficult to navigate for veterans and their families. "We want every veteran to have a seamless, integrated and responsive VA customer-service experience every time" they interact with the agency, McDonald said in a news release Monday. The regional framework is part of a reorganization announced last fall called "MyVA" that is designed to provide veterans with a positive customer service experience, regardless of whether they use the department's website, call their local VA office or walk into a clinic. The VA has been under intense scrutiny since last year, following reports that dozens of veterans died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital, and that appointment records were manipulated to hide the delays. A report by the department's inspector general said workers falsified waitlists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care and bonuses for managers who falsely appeared to meet on-time goals. The inspector general's office identified 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix, but said officials could not "conclusively assert" that the delays caused the deaths. McDonald, a former CEO of consumer giant Procter & Gamble, took over the VA last year after former Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over the wait-list scandal. The uproar led to a new law overhauling the VA and making it easier to fire senior executives. McDonald has vowed to make it easier for veterans to navigate the VA and its website and gain access to their earned care and benefits. The "MyVA" restructuring will include hiring a chief customer service officer focused on veterans. Bob Snyder, executive director of the MyVA program management, said it was not clear how the regional framework would affect the 21 regional health networks that form the backbone of the Veterans Health Administration, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans, including 6 million who use services each year. "They will have better coordination because they will have a common map," Snyder said, acknowledging that details have yet to be worked out. The new regional boundaries are set to be completed this summer.

Class of 2015 signs or selects college teams

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  • Melissa Rivers files lawsuit in mother Joan Rivers' death

    NEW YORK (AP) — While Joan Rivers lay sedated in a Manhattan clinic, her doctors performed unauthorized medical procedures, snapped a selfie with the comedian and failed to act as her vital signs deteriorated, according to a malpractice lawsuit filed Monday by her daughter, Melissa. The 81-year-old comedian and star of "Fashion Police" on E! died Sept. 4, days after she went in for a routine endoscopy at Yorkville Endoscopy on Manhattan's Upper East Side and stopped breathing. The lawsuit filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court paints a picture of a careless, cocky staff of doctors who ran roughshod over Rivers while she was unconscious, and it suggests that she died because of their incompetence. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Melissa Rivers said in a statement that filing the lawsuit was one of the most difficult decisions she had to make. "What ultimately guided me was my unwavering belief that no family should ever have to go through what my mother, Cooper and I have been through," she said, referring to her son. "The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behavior is shocking and frankly, almost incomprehensible." She said her mother deserved better. The city's medical examiner found that Joan Rivers died of brain damage due to lack of oxygen after she stopped breathing during the endoscopy. Her death was classified as a therapeutic complication. The classification is not commonly used; more deaths are certified as accidents, homicides, suicides or natural causes. Negligence was not suspected. Had it been, it would have been listed as a contributing cause. A statement from Yorkville said it wasn't appropriate to comment on the lawsuit. "The Rivers family has, as it has always had, our deepest sympathies and condolences," the statement said. "The 51 physicians, nurses and staff who currently work at Yorkville remain firmly committed to providing the highest quality of care to their patients." The lawsuit alleges that the doctors mishandled the endoscopy and performed another medical procedure called a laryngoscopy on Rivers' vocal cords without consent. When the anesthesiologist expressed concern over what the procedure would do to Rivers' ability to breathe, she was told she was being "paranoid" by the gastroenterologist performing the endoscopy, Dr. Lawrence Cohen, the suit said. He has since resigned. Rivers' private ear, nose and throat specialist, Gwen Korovin, was introduced as an observer in the operating room but instead performed two procedures though she wasn't cleared to work at the clinic, the lawsuit said. Rivers crashed during the second — after Cohen snapped pictures of Rivers, and with Korovin, saying later he thought Rivers would want to see them, the suit said. Korovin then left the operating room to avoid being caught, according to the suit. A message left with Korovin's attorney wasn't returned. Calls to her office and Cohen's office and home rang unanswered. "To put it mildly, we are not just disappointed by the acts and omissions leading to the death of Joan Rivers, but we are outraged by the lack of care and concern for Ms. Rivers on the part of her treating physicians and the endoscopy center where the treatment was rendered," said Melissa Rivers' attorneys, Jeffrey Bloom and Ben Rubinowitz. An investigation ordered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the clinic made several errors, including failing to keep proper medication records and snapping the cellphone photos. It also found the clinic failed to get informed consent for every procedure performed and failed to record Rivers' weight before the administration of sedation medication. The clinic submitted a lengthy plan for fixes, but the changes weren't good enough and the federal agency said it would revoke accreditation unless the clinic was in better compliance by March 2. Yorkville said it was working with the agency.

  • 'Birdman' tops SAG Awards, Redmayne upsets Keaton

    The backstage farce "Birdman" topped the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Award, winning best ensemble cast, even though its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne in the most outstanding actor category. Keaton led the "Birdman" cast, including Emma Stone, Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis, in accepting the top honor from the acting guild, calling the profession "the ultimate team sport." "Every time I turned around, I ran into another tremendous actor," said Keaton. Oscar favorites Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons cemented their front-runner status in a ceremony that often serves as a kind of preview to the Academy Awards. But Redmayne's win for his performance as Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" was a slight surprise, especially since Keaton's performance as an egotistical, paranoid Hollywood has-been trying to mount a comeback on Broadway is in many ways an ode to acting. Redmayne dedicated his SAG award — "this very wonderful skinny man," he said looking down at his blue statuette — to sufferers and victims of ALS. Moore, widely considered the best-actress favorite, won most outstanding supporting actress for "Still Alice," in which she plays an academic with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Accepting the award, she recalled an early lesson on the soap opera "As the World Turns," in which she played twin sisters, good and evil. "Then I realized it was super boring to act by myself," said Moore. Accepting the award for most outstanding supporting actor for his performance as a domineering jazz teacher in "Whiplash," Simmons thanked all 49 actors who appear in the drama. "All of us actors are supporting actors," said Simmons, a veteran character actor. "Each of us is essential, completely crucial to the story because if there's one false moment, the train comes off the rails." "Boyhood" star Patricia Arquette added the latest in a string of awards Sunday, taking the supporting actress honor for her performance, filmed over the course of 12 years. "I can't tell you what this means to me," said Arquette. "I'm a fourth-generation actor. My family has been committed to acting for over a century, through feast or famine." Because actors make up the largest portion of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the SAG Awards are also considered one of the most telling Oscar previews. Individually acting winners usually mirror each other exactly, or very nearly. Last year, the top four winners — Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong'o, Jared Leto — all went on to win Academy Awards after first scooping up SAG awards. The predictive powers of the SAGs have been more checkered in matching its top award with eventual best-picture Oscar winners. In the last six years, SAG best-ensemble and Academy Award best-picture winners have lined up three times ("Argo," ''The King's Speech" and "Slumdog Millionaire"), while diverging just as often. Last year, the actors chose "American Hustle" over eventual Oscar winner "12 Years a Slave"; in 2011, they picked "The Help" over "The Artist"; and in 2009, "Inglourious Basterds" defeated "The Hurt Locker." Sunday's show kicked things off with a pair of wins for the Netflix prison series "Orange Is the New Black," honoring it as best ensemble in a comedy and naming Uza Abuda most outstanding actress in a comedy series. Abuda won over a number of veteran stars, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Veep") and Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie"). Best ensemble cast in a drama series went to "Downton Abbey," the second time the series has won the category. On Saturday night, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman" took the top award from the Producers Guild Awards, suggesting it may be formidable competition to the perceived front-runner, Richard Linklater's "Boyhood." The last seven PGA winners have also won best picture at the Academy Awards. Two actors who usually reside on the big screen won the SAG awards for performances in a miniseries or TV movie: Mark Ruffalo (for HBO's "A Normal Heart") and Frances McDormand (for HBO's "Olive Kitteredge"). Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards"), William H. Macy ("Shameless") and Viola Davis ("How to Get Away With Murder") also collected awards. Davis thanked the producers of the legal dram "for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old, dark-skinned African American woman who looks me." Debbie Reynolds, the "Singin' in the Rain" star, was honored with the SAG lifetime achievement award, which her daughter, Carrie Fisher, presented. The 82-year-old Reynolds embarrassed Fischer with a story, recalling that her bun in the famous musical led her to warn her daughter ahead of playing Princess Leia in "Star Wars." "I said, 'Well, Carrie, be careful of any weird hairdos,'" said Reynolds. "So luckily George gave her two buns." She also remembered 1964's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." "In that movie I got to sing a wonderful song 'I Ain't Down Yet,'" said Reynolds. "Well, I ain't."

  • Depp indulges inner clown in charmless ‘Mortdecai’

    Los Angeles (AP) • Any film credited with its own “mustache wrangler” really should have been much more fun than Johnny Depp’s latest misfiring action-comedy.Mostly set in contemporary England, but aiming for the zingy retro feel of a vintage Peter Sellers or Terry-Thomas feature from the Swinging Sixties, “Mortdecai” is an anachronistic mess that never succeeds in re-creating the breezy tone or snappy rhythm of the classic caper movies that it aims to pastiche. Despite a heavyweight cast and the solid directing skills of A-list screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park,” “Panic Room,” “Spider-Man”), this charmless farce ends up as another black mark on Depp’s recent track record of patchy pet projects.“Mortdecai” is based on the first in a series of irreverent comic novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, a British author of Italian and Slovenian heritage. Published in the 1970s, the books chronicle the amoral antics of aristocratic British art dealer Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp), who is aided on his drink-sodden adventures by his thuggish but resourceful and sexually irresistible manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany).Depp plays Mortdecai as a human Looney Tunes character, a snobbish playboy narcissist so enamored of his comically absurd new mustache that he risks driving his disapproving wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), to divorce. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in his grand, stately home, the disreputable gap-toothed rogue spots a chance to escape financial ruin when a rare Goya canvas goes missing after a lethal robbery. Grudgingly recruited for his art-world expertise by suave MI5 agent and longtime love rival Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor), Mortdecai jets off around the globe on a mission to find the stolen painting and exploit the priceless secret rumored to be hidden on its reverse side.Depp is known for channeling real role models into his characters, often drawing on his musician heroes, most famously Keith Richards in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. In his accent and mannerisms, Charlie Mortdecai appears to owe a heavy debt to the small-screen creations of Depp’s friend, the British TV comedian Paul Whitehouse. Depp has previously guested on Whitehouse’s long-running BBC sketch comedy “The Fast Show,” and frequently offers him supporting roles in his film projects, including this one. Here he plays Mortdecai’s colorfully foul-mouthed car mechanic, who also has a shady sideline fencing stolen artworks.“Mortdecai” is stuffed with star names and classic farce ingredients, but its fatal flaw is an almost surreal lack of jokes. The main players spend almost every scene mugging desperately for the camera, milking every possible lowbrow sexual innuendo and clumsy slapstick mishap in novice screenwriter Eric Aronson’s thin script. Ironically, these overcooked performances are often more hindrance than help when the occasional funny line arises.

  • S&P downgrades Russia credit rating to junk

    LONDON (AP) — Standard & Poor's rating agency on Monday downgraded Russia's credit grade by one notch to junk status, citing a weakened economic outlook. The agency dropped the rating to BB+ from BBB- as it sees the country's financial buffers at risk amid a slide in the country's currency and weakening revenue from oil exports. "In our view, the Russian Federation's monetary policy flexibility has weakened, as have its economic-growth prospects," it said. Russia's economy has been hit hard by the double impact of weaker prices for its energy exports as well as Western sanctions. The Russian currency tumbled on the downgrade, dropping nearly 7 percent to 68.5 rubles to the dollar. Standard & Poor's said that Russia's financial system is weakening, limiting room for maneuver for Russia's Central Bank. It said the bank "faces increasingly difficult monetary policy decisions," while also trying to preserve incentives for growth. The Russian economy is expected to contract by 4 to 5 percent this year for the first time since President Vladimir Putin took the helm in 2000. Capital outflows, which averaged $57 billion annually during 2009 to 2013, soared to $152 billion last year. "Stresses could mount for Russian corporations and banks that have foreign currency debt service requirements without a concomitant foreign currency revenue stream," the rating agency said. There was no immediate comment to the downgrade by the Russian government, which have sought to play down the anticipated move. Prior to the announcement, Putin had a meeting with Cabinet members on anti-crisis measures. He said the government should focus on cutting spending, keeping inflation under control and making sure that the country doesn't waste its hard currency reserves.

  • BP penalty trial dredges up gloomy images

    New Orleans • Images of oil-coated birds and testimony about “widespread sociocultural harm” opened the third phase of a trial to establish penalties BP must pay under the federal Clean Water Act for spilling millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.The government wants the oil giant to pay another $13.7 billion for harming not just the birds and fish, but the business climate and social fabric of coastal communities.The pollution caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion not only killed wildlife, but disrupted livelihoods and exacerbated economic inequality across the Gulf states, anthropologist Diane Austin testified this week.She based her findings on interviews with more than 1,300 people — not only fishermen who derive their living from the Gulf, but bankers and business owners of all kinds. Even florists described a sudden drop in orders after the spill, she said.Harm was widespread because so much of life along the coast depends on both fishing and energy production, both of which were upended while BP struggled for 87 days to cap the crude gushing from the undersea Macondo well.“People who work offshore often times also fish,” she said. “Grocery stores that provide food to commercial fishing vessels also provide to the offshore oil and gas industry ... When all of these economic sectors went down at the same time, it had a huge effect.”

  • Low gas prices, incentives change math for electric cars

    DETROIT (AP) — Drivers trying to calculate whether it's practical to own an electric car are facing a new math. U.S. gas prices have fallen more than $1 per gallon over the last 12 months, to a national average of $2.06, according to AAA. That makes electric cars — with their higher prices tags — a tougher sell. "Fuel savings are not top of mind to many consumers right now," says John Krafcik, president of the car shopping site TrueCar.com. Automakers have responded by slashing thousands of dollars off the sticker price of electrics. Incentives averaged $4,159 per electric car last year, up 68 percent from 2013, according to Kelley Blue Book. The average for all vehicles was $2,791. The discounting, combined with new vehicles such as the BMW i3, the electric Kia Soul and the Mercedes B Class, boosted sales of electrics 35 percent last year, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. But the gains came before gas prices plunged in the second half. So the discounting will likely continue. In January, the electric version of the Ford Focus was selling for an average of $25,168, or 16 percent lower than the sticker price of $29,995, according to TrueCar. Here's how the numbers break down: PRICE: Even with automaker's incentives, electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered cars because of the expensive batteries that run them. A gas-powered Focus, for example, currently sells for $9,300 less than the electric version. At current gas and electricity prices, it would take 27 years to pay off the premium for the electric version. If gas went back to $4 per gallon, it would take eight years. At the high end of the market is the Tesla Model S, which starts at $71,070. That's almost $15,500 more than the BMW 535i, a gas-powered competitor. Federal and local incentives can narrow the gap. New electric cars — whether bought or leased — qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and many states offer additional tax credits or other incentives. California offers a $2,500 cash rebate to electric car buyers, for example. With the federal tax credit, it would take five years to pay off the difference in price for an electric Focus at current fuel prices. Most electric buyers choose to lease, which lets them see the tax credit immediately because it's factored into their lease price. Nissan is currently offering the Leaf for $199 per month for 36 months. For the same amount, a driver could get a gas-powered Ford Escape SUV or a Honda Accord sedan; a Nissan Sentra small car leases for $149 per month. FUELING COST: Even when gas prices hover around $2, it's cheaper to charge an electric car. Residential electricity averages 12 cents per kilowatt hour nationally; at that price, it costs around $550 per year to charge the Nissan Leaf for 15,000 miles of driving. At $2.06 per gallon, it costs $950 per year to fill the similarly sized, gas-powered Sentra, which averages 33 mpg; at $4 per gallon, it would cost $1,816. But costs can vary. Model S drivers, for example, can use Tesla's network of free Superchargers, which can charge a Model S battery in a matter of minutes. Power companies may offer reduced rates to owners who charge their vehicles during off-peak hours. And some owners leave the grid altogether and power their electric cars with solar energy. RESALE VALUE: Electric cars don't hold their value well, in part because of their higher up-front cost. Incentives, which can inflate demand and cheapen a car's image, won't help. Consumers are also wary of new technology and are less willing to take a chance on used electric cars, despite battery warranties of up to eight years. Kelley Blue Book says electric cars have the lowest residual value of any segment, at around 20 percent of the purchase price after 60 months. Full-size trucks, by comparison, hold 50 percent of their value. RANGE: This is where the balance generally tilts in favor of gas-powered cars. A top-of-the-line Tesla can go up to 270 miles before it needs recharging, but most electric cars settle in the 80-mile range. Uncertainty about range and the spotty charging infrastructure have limited electric car sales to less than 1 percent of the U.S. market. But interested buyers could have more choices soon. Technology is rapidly improving, and both Tesla and General Motors are promising lower-priced cars with a 200-mile range by 2017. That might be just in time for rising gas prices.

Featured columns

  • Report name change before you file taxes

    Did you change your name last year? Did your dependent have a name change? If the answer to either question is yes, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration before you file your tax return with the IRS.This is important because the name on your tax return must match SSA records. If they don’t, you’re likely to get a letter from the IRS about the mismatch. And if you expect a refund, this may delay when you’ll get it.Be sure to contact SSA if:• You got married or divorced and you changed your name.• A dependent you claim had a name change. For example, this would apply if you adopted a child and that child’s last name changed.File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, with the SSA to let them know about a name change. You can get the form on SSA.gov by calling 800-772-1213 or at an SSA office.

  • Square up clubface to avoid dreaded ‘slice’

    How many of you hit a slice? Frustrating, isn’t it? A slice is a problem primarily because it doesn’t go anywhere.Basically, a slice is a weak shot. And the swing tendency that typically causes a slice also leads to glancing blows on the ball, which makes the shot weaker still.What causes a slice? When the face of the club is pointed in a direction other than the one the clubhead is traveling, the ball will curve in the direction the face is pointing. So if a right-handed golfer hits a slice, the face of the club is facing to the right of the path of the clubhead as it travels through the hitting area.What do you do that causes a slice? In a surprising number of cases, it could be that the release of your hands through the ball is fundamentally flawed. If you are committing this flaw, you cannot turn the ball to the left. So what is this fundamental mistake?Most right-handed people’s right hand dominates the swing. They employ their right hand in a way that causes the angle at the wrists to straighten and the club to pinwheel around the hands on the way down to the ball. The net result is the club passes the hands before impact with the ball. When that happens, the club starts coming up and to the inside of the target line before the ball is struck. This results in a glancing blow, and the ball goes off to the right.This hand action tends to “freeze” the clubface open, and the face is pointed to the right of the target line. So, glancing blow plus open face equals weak slice off to the right.

  • Does my loved one have Parkinson’s?

    Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of advice columns from Benevilla’s caregiver coach, Regina Thibideau.Dear Caregiver Coach: My husband has tremors in his hands frequently and now shuffles when he walks; my friends say it is the beginning of Parkinson’s. What other conditions might mimic some of the Parkinson’s symptoms and how do I know what it is?  — PerplexedDear Perplexed: First, only a medical doctor or a neurologist can accurately diagnose what is going on with your husband. And, your primary care doctor may in fact refer you to a neurologist if he or she thinks that is appropriate.  However, here is some information from the Northwest Parkinson’s Association which addresses this issue and describes other diseases which may have similar symptoms:“The most recognizable syndrome, at least to the public eye, may be what George H.W. Bush has: vascular Parkinsonism, which is essentially clotting in the brain caused by mini-strokes.Some other conditions include:

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