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Franklin, Grevers strike USA swim gold; Lochte misses podium

Yannick Agnel dealt another crushing blow to Ryan Lochte and everyone else in the supposed Race of the Century at the London Olympics on Monday.
Missy Franklin restored American swim hopes with a gutty performance in the backstroke.

Matt Grevers kept the gold medals coming for the red, white and blue.
Franklin, a 17-year-old from Colorado and best hope for the U.S. program in the post-Michael Phelps era, bounced back from a semifinal race with just a 13-minute break, rallying to win the 100-meter back for the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career.

Australia’s Emily Seebohm, the top qualifier, led at the turn and was under world-record pace, but Franklin showed a remarkable finishing kick — especially since she had just raced in the semis of the 200 free. With her arms twirling, the 6-foot-1 swimmer passed the Aussie in the final 25 meters and lunged toward the wall for a winning time of 58.33 seconds.
She broke into a big smile but was clearly exhausted, her head dropping back against the wall. Seebohm settled for silver in 58.68 and Japan’s Aya Terakawa took bronze in 58.83.
Agnel showed that his brilliant swim on the Olympic relay was no fluke. The towering Frenchman did it again in the 200 free, leading from start to finish in perhaps the most star-studded race of these games — even without Phelps, who passed up a chance to defend his Olympic title.
That might have been a good move by Phelps. It was hard to see anyone beating Agnel on this night, as he pulled away to win by a full body length in 1 minute, 43.14 seconds. There were gold medalists galore in the field, but no one came close to challenging the Frenchman, who steadily pulled away, looking just as strong at the end as he did at the beginning.
South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan and China’s Sun Yang tied for the silver in 1:44.93. But reigning world champion Lochte, who seemed poised to have a huge Olympics on the opening night of the games, has now put up two disappointing performances. He faded to fourth, missing out on the podium along with world-record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany.
Just when things were looking really grim for the powerful American team — Phelps shut out of the medal in his first London race, the relay loss, Lochte’s disappointments — Franklin came through and Grevers added another gold in rat-a-tat fashion, rallying on the return lap to win the men’s 100 backstroke.
For good measure, Nick Thomas made it a 1-2 finish for the Americans, touching for silver in 52.92. The bronze went to Japan’s Ryosuke Irie in 52.97, while France’s Camille Lacourt, who led at the turn under world-record pace, faded to fourth.
Still, the first three days have produced three gold medals for the French, the most they’ve ever won at the Olympic pool. And there’s still five days to go.

Olympic swimming: Agnel wins again as Ryan Lochte misses out

byAdrian Moorhouse 
Olympic gold medallist and BBC pundit

"I hope the French President is still here and he will be delighted with that. Angle is head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field. To win by that distance doesn't happen often especially in this event. That's two medals for him now which is a fantastic achievement."

France's Yannick Agnel won his second gold of London 2012, taking victory in the men's 200m freestyle as American Ryan Lochte could only finish fourth.

Agnel, who also helped France win the 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday, led from the front and finished two metres clear in one minute, 43.14 seconds.

South Korea's Park Taehwan and China's Sun Yang shared the silver, while Britain's Robbie Renwick was sixth.

"If I keep going, in four years I might get a medal," Renwick said.

"It was a solid performance so I couldn't ask for much more. I can't believe it went so fast but it was a good race for me.

"The home support was amazing."

Agnel's gold was France's third in the Aquatics Centre and it underlined the 20-year-old's supreme talent. Once he eked out a gap, he swam away from his rivals and although Lochte was second after 150m, the American faded down the final length.

Park, who had slipped behind 400m individual medley winner Lochte, finished strongly as Sun broke through to share second place.

Ryan Lochte may be speedy... but this 16-year-old Chinese girl is even quicker!

By David Williams, Katherine Faulkner and Hugo Gye
Bizarre scenes as swimming prodigy smashes world record and even beats U.S. champ's time over last 50 metres.

Ryan Lochte knocked Olympic icon Michael Phelps off his perch on Saturday with a brilliant performance to win the men's 400m individual medley.

But just minutes later, in the women's version of the event, a 16-year-old Chinese prodigy performed an even more amazing feat as she smashed the world record and left her competitors far behind.

Ye Shiwen posted such a good time that her final 50m was in fact faster than Lochte's performance in the men's event, at just 28.93 seconds.

Her achievement was so unprecedented that it even led some broadcasters to question whether Ye had benefited from underhand practices.
Record breaker: Ye Shiwen knocked five seconds off her personal best and broke the world record by more than a second as she stormed to gold in the 400m individual medley

Record breaker: Ye Shiwen knocked five seconds off her personal best and broke the world record by more than a second as she stormed to gold in the 400m individual medley.

BBC presenter Clare Balding asked former British Olympian Mark Foster, who was in the studio as a pundit: ‘How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?’

Chinese swimming has previously been tainted by drug scandals – another 16-year-old world champion tested positive for doping last month – but Foster sought to play down any suggestion of cheating.

    Disappointment for Phelps again as France beats men's swimming relay team but Dana Vollmer takes America's second gold in the pool with world record
    Ryan Lochte BANNED from showing signature stars and stripes smile on the podium to collect America's first gold medal
    The Dreamy Team! Michelle Obama gets touchy-feely with Kobe Bryant and men's basketball team after rout of France
    Outrage after U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach gets 'sucker punched' in the eye by Colombian opponent at Games
    Shock as top U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber fails to make final after edged out by Olympic teammates
    Benny Hill and bikinis... it's bonkers but brilliant! Beach volleyball hits Horse Guards Parade (and comes with a very strange soundtrack)
    The Royal seal of approval: Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne turn out to support Zara as she makes her Olympic Games debut
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He said: ‘It was a five-second best time and it was the way she did it as well. Bearing in mind she is 16 years of age, and when you are young you do some big best times… it can be done.’

Miss Balding’s question provoked a storm among BBC viewers on Twitter, with many praising her for daring to even hint at the possibility of cheating, but many criticising her for tainting the Chinese swimmer’s achievement and some even calling for her sacking.

Phelps loses his golden touch as French win relay

By Julian Linden | Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) - The days when everything Michael Phelps touched turned to gold have now officially gone.

At the London Olympics on Sunday, he did everything he could to win but suffered his second defeat in as many days when the American team gambled and lost.

In an extraordinary reversal of fortunes, France beat the United States in the final of the men's 4x100 meters freestyle, coming from a seemingly hopeless position to take the gold in a heart-stopping finish.

Four years ago, Phelps won an unprecedented eight golds in Beijing, including the men's relay when Jason Lezak famously mowed down Alain Bernard on the last lap.

This time, it was the French that got their hands on the wall first when Yannick Agnel unleashed an incredible anchor leg to reel in Ryan Lochte, who was called into the American team for the final ahead of Lezak and the other sprint specialists who contested the heats.

France won a second gold at America's expense on Sunday when Camille Muffat fought off a ferocious challenge from Allison Schmitt to win the 400 freestyle final in four minutes, 01.45 seconds.

Muffat had to draw on all her reserves of strength to win the grueling eight-lap race as Schmitt, who trains alongside Phelps in Baltimore, desperately tried to catch her only to end up with the silver medal.

Britain's Rebecca Adlington, the Beijing champion, finished strongly to get the bronze, giving the home-nation their first medal in London's Aquatic Centre on an electrifying night that produced two world records.

Dana Vollmer ended a lifetime of frustration and serious battles with her health to win the 100 butterfly gold and break another of the supposedly untouchable world records set during the 2009 world championships in Rome at the height of the bodysuit controversy.

The American, who used to take a defibrillator to her races because of a heart condition, swam like a woman possessed, powering to victory in 55.98 seconds, slicing 0.08 off the previous mark set by Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom.

China's Lu Ying finished second while Australia's Alicia Coutts, a relay gold medalist on Saturday, was third despite vomiting halfway through the race.

South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh broke the world record to win the 100m breaststroke final.

Van der Burgh charged through the first lap at breakneck speed then gulping air, he held off his pursuers in the last length to reach the wall in 58.46 seconds.

His time trimmed 0.12 seconds off the previous world record of 58.58 set by Australia's Brenton Rickard in Rome, who could only manage sixth.

Australia's Christian Sprenger took the silver medal while American Brendan Hansen was third as an exhausted van der Burgh celebrated becoming the first South African man to win an individual Olympic swimming title by laying down on the lane ropes and staring at the wave-shaped ceiling.

Phelps and Lochte did not compete in the 100 freestyle at the U.S. trials but were fast-tracked into the team for the final even though there were some doubts about both of them.

Phelps finished out of the medals in Saturday's 400 individual medley, won by Lochte, who normally does not swim in the sprint relay and had to back up less than an hour after competing in the semi-finals of the 200 freestyle.

The lone consolation for Phelps was that he collected his first silver medal in four appearances at the Olympics.

With his 14 golds and two bronzes, he has a total of 17, just one short of the all-time record.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Lochte wins 400m IM in blowout; Phelps finishes 4th

LONDON (AP) — Ryan Lochte turned his much-anticipated duel with Michael Phelps into a blowout, pulling away to win the Olympic 400-meter individual medley by more than 3 seconds Saturday night. Even more stunning: Phelps didn't win any medal at all.

"It was just a crappy race," Phelps said. "I felt fine the first 200, then I don't know. They just swam a better race than me, a smarter race than me, and were better prepared than me. That's why they're on the medal stand."

After barely qualifying for the evening final in a performance that hinted at trouble ahead, Phelps struggled to a fourth-place finish and was denied his 17th career Olympic medal. When it was done, he could barely pull himself out of the pool.

Lochte took the gold with a time of 4 minutes, 5.18 seconds. Brazil's Thiago Pereira (4:08.86) settled for silver, while Japan's Kosuke Hagino (4:08.94) claimed the bronze — beating Phelps by a fairly comfortable 34-hundredths of a second for the last spot on the podium.

It was the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, when Phelps was a 15-year-old unknown who qualified in just one event, that he didn't win at least a bronze in an Olympic race. Since then, he was 16-of-16 — 14 golds and two bronzes.

Lochte climbed out of the pool with a big smile, waving to the crowd and looking about a fresh as he did at the start. He had predicted this would be his year and, for the first race of the Olympics at least, he was right on the mark.
"I think I'm kind of in shock right now," he said. As for Phelps, "I know he gave it everything he had. That's all you can ask for."

Phelps was trying to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics. He'll have three more chances at a threepeat before he's done in London, having also won the 200 individual medley, plus the 100 and 200 butterfly, at Athens and Beijing.

But this was shocking, totally out of character for a swimmer who won six gold medals in Athens, then a record eight in Beijing to break Mark Spitz's Olympic record.

Phelps fell behind right from the start in the butterfly, his trademark stroke. From there, it was all Lochte. He stretched his margin in the backstroke and breaststroke, then cruised to the gold in the freestyle, a good three body lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

"It's frustrating, that's all I can say. It's pretty upsetting," Phelps said. "The biggest thing now is to try to look forward. I have a bunch of other races, and hopefully we can finish a lot better than how we started."
China claimed a couple of gold medals on the opening night of swimming at the Olympic Aquatic Centre.

Sixteen-year-old Ye Shiwen set a world record in the women's 400 individual medley — only the third mark to fall 
since high-tech bodysuits were banned at the end of 2009. She won in 4:28.43, breaking the mark of 4:29.45 by Australia's Stephanie Rice at the 2008 Beijing Games. American Elizabeth Beisel took silver and China's Li Xuanxu grabbed the bronze.

Sun Yang flirted with a world record in the men's 400 freestyle. He took gold in 3:40.14, just off the mark of 3:40.07 by Germany's Paul Biedermann in a rubberized suit three years ago. South Korea's Park Tae-hwan was the silver medalist in 3:42.06, fortunate even to take part after initially being disqualified for a false start in the prelims. The ruling was overturned by governing body FINA a couple of hours later on appeal. Peter Vanderkaay of the U.S. won the bronze in 3:44.69.

Phelps' close call in the morning prelims put him in an already uncustomary position — swimming on the outside in the No. 8 lane. He only had one swimmer next to him and no idea what Lochte and the others in the middle of the pool were doing.

Not that it would have mattered.

"I don't think the lane had anything to do with it," Phelps said. "I just couldn't really put myself in a good spot for that race. It's frustrating for sure. ... It's just really frustrating to start off on a bad note like this."

Phelps still has six more events to swim in London, plenty of time to make up for his dismal start. He remains two behind the most medals won by any Olympian — Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's mark of 18.

Phelps put himself in position to swim another eight events with his performance at the U.S. trials, but he decided to drop the 200-meter freestyle, feeling one less race would give his body a better chance to recover and improve his performance in the other events.

Now, he may be regretting that decision.

The 400 IM was an event he has dominated, but he dropped it from his program after setting a world record in Beijing four years ago (4:03.84), vowing never to swim it again.

He should had stuck with that pledge. Clearly, Phelps didn't leave himself enough time to get back in the kind of shape he needed to win the brutal race, having only brought it back earlier this year.

"I was lucky to get in," he said, referring to his slow time in the morning. "I had a chance to put myself in a spot to start off on a good note and didn't do it."

Lochte gave the Americans their first gold medal of the London Games and put himself in position to fulfill the promise he showed at last year's world championships, where he won five golds and beat Phelps in their two head-to-head meetings.

The friendly rivals have one more showdown in London, in the 200 individual medley. Phelps edged Lochte in that race during the U.S. Olympics trials, but Lochte appears to be on top of his game when it really counts.
About a half-hour after the race, the laid-back Floridian returned to the medal podium to receive the fourth gold medal of his career.

Wearing diamond-studded grillz in his mouth and lime-green sneakers on the feet that powered him through the water faster than anyone else, Lochte strolled around the deck kissing his medal while Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" played over the loudspeaker.

Phelps was nowhere to be found.

Dana Vollmer wins Olympic swimming gold for Team USA, sets world record

Dana Vollmer became the first U.S. female swimmer to strike gold in London, dominating the field in the 100 butterfly to finish in 55.98 and set a new world record in the sprint event.
It was the first individual Olympic gold for the 24-year-old from Syracuse. She previously won a relay gold in the 2004 Games in the 4x200 freestyle relay. One year earlier, she underwent surgery to correct an issue that caused her to have a rapid heartbeat.
Vollmer had a disastrous 2008 U.S. trials. She was favored to make the team in multiple events, but finished out of the medals in her four events. In the 50 and 100 freestyle events, she failed to qualify for the finals. The ease with which she won her only individual race at these Olympics is a testament to the mental strides she's made since that poor showing in Omaha.
Silver medalist Lu Ying of China finished nearly one full second behind.
Vollmer will also swim the 4x200 freestyle relay later in the Games.

Gun carrying man ends stabbing spree at Salt Lake grocery store

Reported by: Don Hudson
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A citizen with a gun stopped a knife wielding man as he began stabbing people Thursday evening at the downtown Salt Lake City Smith's store.

Police say the suspect purchased a knife inside the store and then turned it into a weapon. Smith's employee Dorothy Espinoza says, "He pulled it out and stood outside the Smiths in the foyer. And just started stabbing people and yelling you killed my people. You killed my people."

Espinoza says, the knife wielding man seriously injured two people. "There is blood all over. One got stabbed in the stomach and got stabbed in the head and held his hands and got stabbed all over the arms."

Then, before the suspect could find another victim - a citizen with a gun stopped the madness. "A guy pulled gun on him and told him to drop his weapon or he would shoot him. So, he dropped his weapon and the people from Smith's grabbed him."

By the time officers arrived the suspect had been subdued by employees and shoppers. Police had high praise for gun carrying man who ended the hysteria. Lt. Brian Purvis said, "This was a volatile situation that could have gotten worse. We can only assume from what we saw it could have gotten worse. He was definitely in the right place at the right time."

Dozens of other shoppers, who too could have become victims, are also thankful for the gun carrying man. And many, like Danylle Julian, are still in shock from the experience. "Scary actually. Really scary. Five minutes before I walk out to my car. It could have been me."

Police say right now they have no idea what caused the suspect to go on the dangerous rampage. (We will update as soon as we learn new information.)

So far, police have not released the names of the suspect, the victims or the man who pulled the gun. 

London: Olympic swimming begins with dramatic start

Associated Press / LONDON –  Michael Phelps almost failed to qualify Saturday for the final in the first of his seven events and Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan was reinstated after first being disqualified in a dramatic opening session of the London Olympics swimming program.
"That one didn't feel too good," Phelps said, after squeaking into the final in the 400-meter individual medley by a seven-hundredths of a second.
Park touched the wall first in his 400 freestyle heat and was surprised by his DQ, saying, "I don't know why" after he walked off the deck.
South Korea appealed to the swimming governing body FINA, which ruled to reinstate Park after reviewing video footage, a FINA official told The Associated Press. The official spoke anonymously because the decision had not been announced publicly yet.
Park and Phelps were not the only surprise of the morning at the Aquatics Centre, where Queen Elizabeth appeared briefly.
Paul Biedermann of Germany, the world record holder for the 200-meter freestyle, failed to make the final.
"That's the Olympics," said Canadian Ryan Cochrane, who barely made the 400 free final. "It's always a surprise, every single heat. You just have to focus on your own race."
Cochrane could miss out on the final later Saturday if Park is reinstated.
In Beijing, Park became South Korea's first swimming gold medalist and then won the world title in Shanghai last year.
Phelps, the two-time defending Olympic champion, won his 400 IM preliminary heat in 4 minutes, 13.33 seconds with a time that was well off his world record of 4:03.84 set four years ago in Beijing, when Phelps won a record eight gold medals.
But it was only good enough to secure the last spot in the evening final, when Phelps will swim in Lane 1 instead of the middle of the pool.
"The only thing that matters is just getting a spot in," he said. "You can't win the gold medal from the morning."
In the 400 IM, Kosuke Hagino of Japan led the way in 4:10.01, a national record. Chad le Clos of South Africa was second at 4:12.24, and Ryan Lochte of the United States advanced in third at 4:12.35.
Phelps' time was just fast enough to keep Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, the silver medalist in Beijing, out of the final. Cseh was ninth overall after leading Phelps during their heat before the American closed on the last lap of freestyle to beat him to the wall.
"I didn't expect those guys to go that fast in their heat," Phelps said. "I was slower this morning than I was four years ago."
Phelps' time in the grueling event that he had vowed not to swim again after Beijing took some of the luster off what was expected to be a showdown between him and Lochte for gold.
"You can't count him out," Lochte said of Phelps. "Even though he just squeaked in eighth, he's a racer. We're going to do everything we can to go 1-2 tonight."
Lochte, the bronze medalist in Beijing, has won the 400 IM at the last two world championships.
"My first race is always the worst one," he said. "I'm glad I got the cobwebs out."
Dana Vollmer had the fastest qualifying time in the 100 butterfly at 56.25 seconds, setting American and Olympic records, to lead 16 women into the evening semifinals.
"I'm really happy with how fast it was and I think it's only going to get faster," she said. "That's kind of a confidence-booster. I'm ready to go."
Lu Ying of China was second in 57.17 and Australian Alicia Coutts was third at 57.36. Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, the world record holder, was fourth at 57.45.
American Claire Donahue moved on in seventh, while British teammates Francesca Hall and Ellen Gandy were eighth and ninth, respectively.
Jess Schipper of Australia, the bronze medalist four years ago, was 24th and missed the semifinals by eight spots.
In the 400 free, Sun Yang of China qualified fastest in 3:45.07. American Peter Vanderkaay was second at 3:45.80, followed by his teammates Conor Dwyer in 3:46.24.
Biedermann washed out for the second straight Olympics. He didn't make it out of the heats in Beijing. He set the world record at the 2009 world meet in Rome at the height of the high-tech body suit craze. Those suits have since been banned.

Actress April Hernandez Castillo: Guest on the Deb & Tam Show Saturday Morning!

Dear Friends, 

Please join us tomorrow with our special guest, SAG Award-nominated actress April Hernandez Castillo.  She has appeared in numerous films and television programs, including her breakout performance in the critically acclaimed movie "Freedom Writers" with Hillary Swank; but perhaps her greatest role is as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse.
You will be inspired by her moving personal story of overcoming abuse and and turning adversity into a passion for helping others.  We will talk about how we can all find our voice, never be victimized, and be empowered to make a difference!

Join the conversation as we chat with April and discuss many other topics that affect our everyday lives.  We want to hear from you so call in at: 
877-243-7776.  The show is called "Your Voice" because it is all about you!

You can catch the show every Saturday from 8 am to 10 am MT (that's 7 am to 9 am PT) on KRKS 94.7 FM in Denver or streaming live on  AmericanWomenMedia.com and KRKS.com.
Deborah Flora and Tamara Colbert
For more information visit:http://www.americanwomenmedia.com/

Chick-fil-A chief spokesman Don Perry dies unexpectedly

By Tiffany Hsu
July 27, 2012, 12:09 p.m.
Don Perry, head spokesman for Chick-fil-A, has died.
The Atlanta-based company said Perry died "suddenly" Friday morning. Perry, who most recently was vice president of public relations, had worked with the chain for nearly 29 years, according to Chick-fil-A.
“He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him,” the company said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Local news outlets reported that Perry suffered a heart attack.
A spokesman with a third-party public relations company working with Chick-fil-A said he could not confirm the heart attack reports.
[Updated: 12:55 p.m.: "Don was an incredible friend, a consummate PR professional, and was absolutely in love with Chick-fil-A," said Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing at Chick-fil-A, in a statement. "His passing leaves a great hole in my life as well as the lives of everyone who worked with him."]
Last week, Perry helmed the company’s official response to the controversy that erupted after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage.
He sent out a statement that the company’s intent going forward was “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
Chick-fil-A planned on “not proactively being engaged in the dialog” on the issue, Perry wrote in an email with the statement.
The company’s policy, according to the statement he sent, “is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

Skydiver Fearless Felix jumps from 18 miles up

AP Aerospace Writer
Skydiver "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner has done it again.
On Wednesday, Baumgartner took another stratospheric leap, this time from an altitude of more than 18 miles - an estimated 96,640 feet, nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners. He landed safely near Roswell, N.M. His top speed was an estimated 536 mph, said Brian Utley, an official observer on site.
It's the second test jump for Baumgartner from such extreme heights and a personal best. He's aiming for a record-breaking jump from 125,000 feet, or 23 miles, in another month. He hopes to go supersonic then, breaking the speed of sound with just his body.
"It has always been a dream of mine," Baumgartner said in a statement following Wednesday's feat. "Only one more step to go."
Longtime record-holder Joe Kittinger jumped from 102,800 feet - 19.5 miles - in 1960 for the Air Force. Kittinger monitored Wednesday's dry run from a mini Mission Control in Roswell.
As he did in March, the 43-year-old Austrian ascended alone in an enclosed capsule lifted by a giant helium balloon that took off from Roswell. He wore a full-pressure suit equipped with parachutes and an oxygen supply - there's virtually no atmosphere that far up.
It took about 1 1/2 hours to reach his target altitude. He was in free fall for an estimated three minutes and 48 seconds before opening his parachutes.
"It felt completely different at 90,000 feet," Baumgartner noted. "There is no control when you exit the capsule. There is no way to get stable."
In March, Baumgartner jumped from 71,581 feet, more than 13 miles, saluting before stepping from the capsule. Bad weather earlier this week delayed the second test jump until Wednesday.
NASA is paying close attention to this Red Bull-funded project dubbed Stratos, short for stratosphere. The space agency wants to learn all it can about potential escape systems for future rocketships.
Baumgartner won't come close to space, even on the ultimate jump that's planned for late August or early September. Space officially begins at 100 kilometers, or 62 miles - more than 328,000 feet.
Baumgartner, a former military parachutist and extreme athlete, has jumped more than 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as from skyscrapers and landmarks, including the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.
Kittinger, who turns 84 on Friday, was an Air Force captain when he made his historic jump for what was called Project Excelsior. He reached 614 mph on that dive, equivalent to Mach 0.9, just shy of the sound barrier.
Baumgartner expects to accelerate to 690 mph on his final plunge.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: http://tinyurl.com/2dsnn6

Elton John praises George W. Bush and ‘conservative American politicians’

By Nicholas Ballasy   
Elton John praised former President George W. Bush and “conservative American politicians” for pledging billions of dollars to “save the lives of Africans with HIV.” He also credited hip-hop artist Jay-Z with starting a “domino effect” in the African-American community to support gay marriage.

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV. Think of all the love. Think of where we’d be without it, nowhere, that’s where. We’d be nowhere at all,” John said at the International AIDS conference in Washington on Monday.

“Thanks to all this compassion, thanks to all this love, more than 8 million people are on treatment. Thanks to people who have chosen to care and to act, we can see an end to this epidemic on the horizon.”

The Grammy award winner also addressed what he called “changes of attitude” toward same-sex marriage, especially in the African-American community.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the most amazing speech and then the vice president made a speech, then the president endorsed gay marriage and then Jay-Z, who’s one of the most respected artists in his field in the world made an incredible statement supporting gay marriage and saying any criminalizing and discriminatory behavior in the world is wrong,” he said.

“For him to have said that, as an African-American and as a hugely respected person, it meant that the dominos fell. Three days later the NAACP said yes and then Colin Powell said yes and then Frank Ocean the hip hop singer said yes. It was like a domino effect.”

Elton John also said AIDS advocates need a role model.

“We haven’t had one since Magic Johnson. We need people to say it is okay to be HIV positive. Look at me. I’m leading this life. I’m okay. People treat me good. We need to move forward in that respect,” he said.

Follow Nicholas on Twitter

George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) Dead at 74

George Jefferson Dead

Another African American entertainer has passed away in 2012.

According to TMZ:
Sherman Hemsley, the actor who made the character George Jefferson famous in “The Jeffersons,” has died, El Paso cops tell TMZ.
Hemsley died at his home in El Paso, Texas. 
Hemsley, who was 74, became famous during his appearances on “All in the Family.”  The spin-off, “The Jeffersons” was a monster hit.  He also starred in the TV show, “Amen.”  He was also a professional singer and even released the single in 1989, “Ain’t that A Kick in the Head.”
Hemsley had no wife and no kids.
It’s unclear how he died.

Three heroes died in Aurora taking bullets for their girlfriends

In final acts of valor, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves used their bodies to shield their girlfriends as accused madman James Holmes turned the Aurora cineplex into a shooting gallery.

Jon Blunk and his girlfriend Jansen Young, whose life was saved when Blunk threw himself on top of her in the hail of gunfire at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Three survivors of the Colorado movie-theater massacre escaped with minor wounds, but were left with broken hearts because their heroic boyfriends died saving them.

In final acts of valor, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves used their bodies to shield their girlfriends as accused madman James Holmes turned the Aurora cineplex into a shooting gallery.

Blunk’s girlfriend, Jansen Young; McQuinn’s girlfriend, Samantha Yowler; and Teves’ gal pal Amanda Lindgren made it out of the bloodbath — but they would have been killed had it not been for the loves of their lives.

“He’s a hero, and he’ll never be forgotten,” a tearful Jansen Young told the Daily News of Blunk. “Jon took a bullet for me.”

She was too distraught to speak more, but her mother called Blunk, 25, who had two young children from a previous relationship, “a gentleman.”

“He was loving, the kind of guy you want your daughter to be with, and ultimately, she’s alive because of this, because he protected her,” Shellie Young said.

She said Blunk, a security guard, had served in the Navy and had recently filled out papers to reenlist with a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. “To her, he was a hero anyway because he wanted to serve his country,” she said of her daughter, who was left with shrapnel wounds to her side. “He said that all the time: ‘I was born to serve my country.’”

Jansen Young, 21, said Blunk took her to see Friday’s midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” to celebrate her graduation from veterinarian school. As the black-clad killer burst into the theater and unleashed tear gas and a torrent of indiscriminate gunfire, Blunk selflessly protected his girlfriend.

He pushed Jansen on the ground and under her seat, then threw his body on top of her, the mother said. “He was 6-feet-2, in incredible shape, which is why he was able to push her down under the seats of the theater,” the mother said. “He pushed her down on the floor and laid down on top of her and he died there.”

Alex Teves pushed his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, to the floor to shield her when bullets began flying in the movie theater and was struck himself.

She said her daughter instantly fell in love with Blunk when they met at a local mall, where he worked as a security guard. “She just plain fell in love with his good looks,” the mother said. “She walked up and handed him a piece of paper and said, ‘Here’s my number.’”

“She just found it incredible that someone would spend eight years of their life in the Navy.”

Blunk’s estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, 26, of Reno, Nev., said he died fulfilling a lifelong dream. “He always wanted to be a superhero, he’s wanting to save someone or do something greater,” said the mother of Blunk’s kids, Hailey, 4, and Maximus, 2.

Blunk was scheduled to travel to Reno Saturday to see his children and resolve some marital issues, she said. “My daughter can’t comprehend it, and keeps wanting to call him,” said Chantel Blunk. “I try to tell her that her daddy loves her and will always be there.”

Randall Blunk, 47, of Reno, said his son had served in the Navy for more than five years, mostly aboard the Nimitz in the Persian Gulf. “He’s a badass. That’s just how he was. He’s not afraid,” Randall Blunk, who raised his son as a single father, told The News. “I love my boy, I just loved him.”

Jansen Young told her mother she could feel Blunk holding her tight as chaos reigned in the movie theater. She said she heard a woman nearby screaming, “I’ve been shot!” and recalled the “boom, boom, boom” of gunfire and smelling gunpowder.

“There was kind of a break in between each gunshot,” Jansen told the “Today” show. “Every gunshot, I was like, ‘This is it . . . I’m done for.’ Jon gave me one good push against that concrete again and then . . . I didn’t really feel his arms against my back anymore but I knew he was still there.”

When the shooting subsided, she realized Blunk was shot. “I started shaking him and saying, ‘Jon, Jon, we have to go . . . it’s time for us to get out of here,’” she said, adding that she tried to pull Blunk by the shoulder, but he didn’t move.

Equally heroic was the 24-year-old Teves, who hurled his girlfriend to the floor as bullets whizzed through the theater.

“He pushed her to the floor to save her and he ended up getting a bullet,” said his aunt, Barbara Slivinske, 57. “He was gonna hit the floor himself, but he never made it.”

Heroic Matt McQuinn, 26, and his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, who is recovering from a gunshot to her knee.

Samantha Yowler had a similar story of horror and heroism about her boyfriend, Matt McQuinn, whose last living act was to shield her from death. Yowler, 26, survived with a gunshot wound to the knee and is in fair condition after undergoing surgery.

McQuinn’s family credited his quick actions for saving Samantha’s life. Witnesses said he dove on top of his girlfriend as the shooting started and that Samantha’s brother, Nick, who was also in the theater, helped get her out of harm’s way. Nick Yowler was unharmed in the shooting.

“Both the Yowler and McQuinn families thank everyone for their concerns, thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the McQuinns’ lawyer, Robert Scott, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Matt perished from the injuries he sustained during the tragic events that unfolded . . . and went home to be with his maker.”

McQuinn, 27, and Yowler met at a Target store in Springfield, Ohio, where they worked. They transferred to a Target in Aurora last November.

“He was a great outgoing person,” a co-worker at the Colorado Target told The News. “We lost a great person and we still can’t picture or realize that he’s gone.”

Co-worker Shelly Aquino said she works closely with Yowler, who was to help her open the store Saturday morning. She said she cried when she opened the store on her own. “This morning was very hard, but I need to work,” Aquino said. She said she last spoke to Yowler Thursday afternoon.

“The last hug we gave each other was on Thursday. She’s a great person, she’s very responsible ... she doesn’t hesitate to help out.”

With Corinne Lestch and Natalie Musumeci

Joe Peterno Staute Taken Down!

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The famed statue of Joe Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday as the NCAA announced it would be issuing sanctions against the university whose top officials were accused in a scathing report of burying child sex abuse allegations against a now-convicted retired assistant.
Workers lifted the 7-foot-tall statue off its base and used a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium as the 100 to 150 students watched, some chanting, "We are Penn State."
The university announced earlier Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.
Meanwhile, the NCAA said that that it would levy "corrective and punitive measures" against Penn State over the Sandusky scandal. The organization announced Sunday that it would spell out the sanctions on Monday but disclosed no details.
NCAA President Mark Emmert hasn't ruled out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the scandal, adding that he had "never seen anything as egregious."
The Paterno family issued a statement only hours later saying the statue's removal "does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community."
"We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth," said the family, which vowed its own investigation following the release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The family called the report "the equivalent of an indictment — a charging document written by a prosecutor — and an incomplete and unofficial one at that."
Paterno's widow, Sue, and two of the Paternos' children visited the statue Friday as students and fans lined up to get their pictures taken with the landmark. The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."
"I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse," Erickson said in a statement.
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp. Workers then used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to lower it onto a flat-bed truck that rolled into stadium garage bay about 100 feet away.
Many of those watching the removal stared in disbelief and at least one woman wept, while others expressed anger at the decision.
"I think it was an act of cowardice on the part of the university," Mary Trometter of Williamsport, who wore a shirt bearing Joe Paterno's image. She said she felt betrayed by university officials, saying they promised openness but said nothing about the decision until just before the removal work began.
Dozens later gathered to watch and listen to the sound of sawing, scraping and shoveling as white-helmeted workers behind tarpaulins removed Paterno's name and various plaques from the walls behind where the statue had stood. Shortly before midday, all that appeared to remain was the bare concrete and stone.
Much of the work was hidden by blue tarps strung across temporary chain link fences while barricades kept observers on the other side of the street. Few watching said they understood the decision and feared what kind of punishment the NCAA would pile on.
Derek Leonard, 31, a university construction project coordinator who grew up in the area, said the construction workers on the project told him it was like watching a funeral when the statue was lowered onto the truck and then rolled away. He didn't completely agree with the decision but worried more that the NCAA would shut down the football program.
"It's going to kill our town," he said.
Richard Hill, 67, West Chester, a Penn State alumnus, said, "If you punish the football program or Joe Paterno — they're tied together — this town is going to suffer. The revenue does an awful lot to keep this town viable and lively."
Colby Walk, 40, who grew up in the Penn State area, wondered why an NCAA punishment was necessary, given the criminal charges, officials fired or forced out, Paterno's death and now the statue's removal.
"It's kind like we already have the death penalty," he said, referring to the worry that the NCAA would shut down the Penn State football program.

Diane Byerly, who traveled from Harrisburg in the morning when she heard the statue was coming down, wondered if the university was trying to make a symbolic gesture in hopes of lessening the NCAA's penalty.
"Maybe it was an olive branch," said Byerly, 63, a onetime season ticket holder whose father and son went to Penn State. "Maybe they'll go softer on us."
The university president said Paterno's name will remain on the campus library because it "symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University."
The statue's sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said he was upset to hear that the statue had been taken down.
"It's like a whole part of me is coming down. It's just an incredibly emotional process," he said.
"When things quiet down, if they do quiet down, I hope they don't remove it permanently or destroy it," Di Maria said. "His legacy should not be completely obliterated and thrown out. ... He was a good man. It wasn't that he was an evil person. He made a mistake."
The bronze sculpture had been a rallying point for students and alumni outraged over Paterno's firing four days after Sandusky's Nov. 5 arrest — and grief-stricken over the Hall of Fame coach's Jan. 22 death at age 85.
But it turned into a target for critics after Freeh's report alleged a cover-up by Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.
Paterno's family, along with attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz, vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile. Curley and Schultz await trial on charges of failing to report child abuse and lying to a grand jury but maintain their innocence. Spanier hasn't been charged.
Joe Paterno photos by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2012
Associated Press writer Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.