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George Michael Dead at 53

Former Wham! singer and massively successful soul and pop solo vocalist dies "peacefully at home"

George Michael, the soulful British heartthrob who became a star in the Eighties as half of Wham! before earning critical acclaim as a solo artist, died Sunday at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, England. The cause of death was heart failure, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Michael was 53.

“Thames Valley Police were called to a property in Goring-on-Thames shortly before 2 p.m. Christmas Day," police said in a statement. "Sadly, a 53-year-old man was confirmed deceased at the scene. At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious."

"It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period," his rep said in a statement. "The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage."

Michael sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career. Wham! introduced the young American fans who'd loved Duran Duran to a pop sound more indebted to traditional R&B. Michael's subsequent solo career won over many of the same critics and listeners who'd previously dismissed him as a mere teenybop idol. But the singer's career would eventually be derailed for half a decade by legal battles with his label, as he also became known for incidents of actual and alleged public sexuality, and, for the past decade, a series of drug busts.

"I am in deep shock," Elton John wrote on Instagram. "I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans."
"I just saw the sad news about George Michael as I was heading for bed," Queen guitarist Brian May, 
who worked with the singer on 1992's Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, wrote on his site. "I don’t have the words. This year has cruelly taken so many fine people way too young. And George? That gentle boy? All that beautiful talent? Can't begin to compute this. RIP George. Sing with Freddie. And the Angels."

Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London on June 25th, 1963, the son of a Greek Cypriot restauranteur and an English dancer. He formed Wham! in 1981 with his school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, and the following year the duo's first single, "Young Guns (Go for It!)," released when Michael was just 19, was a smash U.K. hit, reaching Number Three there. Their debut album, Fantastic, served up three more Top Ten hits at home: "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" "Bad Boys" and "Club Tropicana."

"Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog," Ridgeley wrote on Twitter. "Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved."

International stardom soon followed. The first single from 1984's Make It Big was the energetically swinging "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," which went to Number One on both sides of the Atlantic. The torchy, saxophone-hooked ballad "Careless Whisper" and the desperate and danceable "Everything She Wants" also topped the charts. The group's follow-up, Music From the Edge of Heaven, wasn't the same commercial powerhouse, peaking at Number Ten in the U.S. But by then, Michael already had his eyes on solo success.

The singer’s 1987 solo debut, Faith, offered up a more mature and daring George Michael. "I Want Your Sex" sought to challenge taboos similar to Prince and Madonna, "Father Figure" offered a new depth of soul and the title track was a Bo Diddley-inspired rocker. Faith went to Number One in both the U.S. and UK, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide and winning a Grammy for Album of the Year. (Michael also won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for 1987's "I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)" with Aretha Franklin.)

Michael distanced himself even further from Wham! with 1990's Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, a Number Two U.S. album thanks to the somber ballad "Praying for Time" and the searching, funky career retrospective "Freedom '90." The latter video found Michael eschewing the traditional appearance of a singer in a video, opting instead to use supermodels, including Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, lip-syncing the song's lyrics.

Michael was disappointed with sales of Prejudice and sued Sony, claiming his label hadn't done enough to promote him. When the label refused to release his follow-up, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, Michael spent much of the decade out of action musically. He wouldn't release another album until 1996's Older. The album was a respectable success commercially, though failed to reclaim Michael to the superstar level he attained in the Eighties.

In 1998, Michael was arrested by a male undercover police officer for "engaging in a lewd act" in the men's room of a public park in Beverly Hills as part of a sting operation. Michael pleaded no contest, receiving a small fine and a sentence of community service. He would subsequently satirize the incident in his video for the song "Outside," which featured men in police uniforms kissing. In response, the arresting officer, Marcelo Rodriguez, filed a $10 million emotional distress suit against Michael that was eventually tossed out of court.

Following the incident, Michael cleared up the questions about his sexual orientation that had been buzzing since his days in Wham! He came out as gay, and went public about his relationship with Kenny Goss, which had begun in 1996. In 2006, U.K. tabloid stories alleged that Michael cruised for anonymous sex. 

Michael responded by noting it was not an issue with his partner and he felt no shame. "I've got no issue with cruising; it is something I have talked abut many times," he told Channel 4 (via Daily Mail). "You can't be [ashamed] about the situation if the person isn't shamed, and I am certainly not that. I should be able to be what I am to young, gay people, which is a man who has succeeded in the industry for 25 years." Michael and Goss would remain together for more than a decade.

Michael’s 1999 album, Songs From the Last Century, only made it to 157 on the Billboard 200. He bounced back in 2004 when Patience debuted at Number One on the UK albums chart and peaked at Number 12, but it would be his last studio album.

In 2006, Michael was arrested for drug possession in London, the first of a string of drug-related run-ins with the law for the singer culminating in a 2010 sentence of eight weeks in prison. (Michael served four weeks.) In 2011, Michael cancelled a concert for a viral infection that turned out to be severe pneumonia.

His most recent release was the 2014 live album, Symphonica, for which Michael collaborated with a symphony. It went gold in the U.K. The BBC reports that Michael was reportedly working on a new album with producer and songwriter Naughty Boy earlier this month. As the New York Times notes, the singer had been planning an expanded reissue of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 alongside a documentary on his career titled Freedom.

Michael remained confident and defiant throughout his career. "I don’t want any children; I don’t want responsibility," he told Time Out in 2007. "I am gay, I smoke weed and I do exactly what I want in my life because of my talent."

Additional reporting by Kory Grow.
Wham! - "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
Wham! - "Careless Whisper"
George Michael - "I Want Your Sex"
George Michael - "Faith"

Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw is not a fan of Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin

photo by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2016
So things may get a little awkward the next time Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw is around the team. Bradshaw, it seems, is not a fan of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Appearing on Fox Sports 1’s “Speak for Yourself” on Friday, Bradshaw denigrated Tomlin, calling him “a great cheerleader guy.”

I don’t think he’s a great coach at all,” Bradshaw said when the topic of Tomlin being one of the NFL’s elite coaches came up. “He’s a nice coach. To me, I’ve said this, he’s really a great cheerleader guy. I don’t know what he does. I don’t think he is a great coach at all. His name never even pops in my mind when we think about great coaches in the NFL.”

Bradshaw said he did consider the man who preceded Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Bill Cowher, to be a great coach.

For the record, with Pittsburgh on a five-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game with the Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin has his team in position to be in the playoffs for the seventh time in his 10 years. He has never had a sub-.500 record (his overall mark is 101-57, or .639), won Super Bowl XLIII and brought the Steelers to the AFC Championship in 2010.

In his 15 years as Steelers head coach, Cowher was 149-90-1 (.623), with 10 playoff appearances, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl championship. He did have three seasons under .500.

Michael Phelps Wears All 23 Gold Medals on Sports Illustrated Cover

Michael Phelps is America's golden boy.

Sports Illustrated perfectly drove that point home when it used its latest cover to honor the athlete as the "greatest olympian of all time." With 23 gold medals to his name—all of them hanging from his neck in picture-perfect assembly—it definitely looks like the title is rightfully earned.

However, while fans were distracted by his winning butterfly strokes and mounting gold wins in Rio, the world was far less in sync with the 31-year-old father's personal life. In addition to becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals in total, Phelps had secretly earned one more significant title—husband.

"Simple reason," Michael told Sports Illustrated of the decision. "Boomer's last name was Phelps and Nicole's was Johnson, and that was going to make overseas travel more difficult. We were getting married anyway, so we just did it."

Once Phelps and his family returned to the states, the cat was out of the bag and the press had confirmed their private nuptials. He and Nicole Johnson later enjoyed another beachside ceremony in Mexico in late October.

Now that he's home with his wife and their son, Phelps is busy fielding questions about whether or not his retirement is real. While he has said on multiple occasions that Rio was his final run, the doubts don't stop—even from his right-hand woman.

"I give it eight years, and then Boomer is like, 'Come on, Dad, let's see it one more time,'" Johnson told the magazine. "I see that being the only thing that could bring him back—to swim for Boomer."
While the 7-month-old would be going on 9 by the time the 2024 Olympics arrive, according to the swimmer, it's just not physically feasible.

"Eight years down the road, I would be so far removed that it's almost impossible to come back, physically," he explained. "Unless I trained for a full four years, and that's not happening, so, to end this conversation, I'm done."

Fortunately, Phelps has not only seen immense professional success in recent years, but also notable personal growth after his 2014 DUI arrest and subsequent rehab treatment.

"Look where I've gone and where I've come," he commented. "Now I understand what friends are. I never talked to my father, and now we text and call and we're fine. I'm me, every day, and it feels pretty godd--n good."

The new issue of SI hits newsstands Dec. 22.

Meet Freddy, the biggest dog in the world: 7ft 6in

Freddy the Great Dane is officially the world's biggest dog. He is pictured with his owner, Claire Stoneman, at their home in Leigh-on-Sea, EssexMeet Freddy, the biggest dog in the world: 7ft 6in Great Dane loves chicken and peanut butter... but he's also munched his way through 23 sofas

Take one look at Freddy the Great Dane and your reaction would have to be bow wow... wow!

That's because he's the World's Biggest Dog - who stands at 7ft 6in on his hind legs.

Freddy's owner, Claire Stoneman, from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, is utterly devoted to her Guinness World Record pet, and his sister Fleur.

Such is her affection for her pets that the 41-year-old has even made them a priority over her own love life.

Freddy the Great Dane is officially the world's biggest dog. He is pictured with his owner, Claire Stoneman, at their home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Freddy, who is now four years old, weighs a whopping 14.5 stone and holds the Guinness World Record for biggest dog

'I've been single for the best part of four years. But I get cuddles off the dogs and I don't have to wash dirty underpants,' Miss Stoneman told the Daily Star Sunday.

'They are children to me... because I haven't had any kids. They need me and it's quite nice to be needed,' added the former glamour model, who shares her king-sized bed with Freddy. 

However, she now says she's ready to have a relationship, assuming she can find a man who doesn't mind sharing a house with a monster pooch.

Norway has been voted the best country in the world for humans

(Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)
The United Nations’ annual Human Development Report, a behemoth study of every nook and cranny of the world, is out this week. And the countries that come up on top in the rankings portion of the report are entirely unsurprising.

Norway cinches the spot as the overall best country to live in, in the world—making this the 12th continuous year that it’s taken the title. Out of nearly 200 countries, Norway continues to score the highest in life expectancy, education, and standard of living, as well as in a number of smaller subcategories, boosting it to the top slot in the UN’s list (each country was given an average score from 0 to 1).

Norway’s continuous success hinges on a number of factors, including an oil-driven economy, robust healthcare system, and strong government structure. Not just a source of pride, its natural beauty also drives a lush tourism industry.

Close runners-up on the list, released Dec. 14, include Denmark, Australia, and Switzerland. The lowest-ranking countries on the entire list were Niger, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Chad, and Burundi. While most countries held steady in their rankings from last year, Syria fell 15 spots on the list, and Libya slid down 27 spots.

But here’s a more cheering suggestion of change, from another area of the same report: Though roughly 830 million people in the world are still classified as “working poor” (earning under $2 a day) by the UN, some two billion people were able to move out of extreme poverty over the last 25 years.

Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew to undergo heart and kidney transplant

Carew threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Twins game in April. (Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports)


A machine has kept Carew alive since he nearly died of a heart attack 15 months ago. 


Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew is preparing to receive a new heart and a kidney transplant, Carew's wife Rhonda confirmed to the American Heart Association News on Thursday.

The new heart is to replace the machine that has kept the former Twins and Angels first baseman alive since Carew suffered a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest while undergoing a procedure to open clogged arteries in September 2015.

The 71-year-old Carew played for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels from 1967 to 1985. He was a seven-time AL batting champion and was a first-ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

After his heart attack, Carew was diagnosed with extreme heart failure with his heart too weak to pump blood to the rest of his body. Doctors implanted into his chest a left ventricular assist device that took over the heart's pumping duties.

The procedure allowed Carew to resume his life and he toured the country last summer to boost awareness and prevention of heart disease. He attended spring training with the Minnesota Twins and appeared at the All-Star Game in San Diego, where the AL batting title was named in his honor.
Rod Carew at an interleague game between the Angels and the Dodgers in May. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Rod and the medical team,” wife Rhonda told the AHA. “At the same time, our sympathy and appreciation goes to the donor’s family.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mountain Lion wakes homeowners, drags deer off Hillsborough porch

A mountain lion was caught on camera dragging a deer off the porch of a Peninsula home. 

Hillsborough is buzzing over the video. Homeowners posted it on a community bulletin board and now everyone's talking about it. It happened at 3:30 a.m. off Tartan Trail Road.

Mary Mines and Peter Rauenbuehler were sleeping when they heard loud noises outside their bedroom window. Little did they know it was a mountain lion on their front porch.

"I didn't have my glasses on so when I looked through the peephole I thought it was a coyote," said Mines. "And I turned to Peter and I said, 'There's a coyote on our front porch,' because we have a lot here. I opened the door and I looked and I said, 'That's not a coyote, that's a much bigger animal.'"

She quickly shut the door. The couple then observed the mountain lion from their window. Their security camera captured video of the big cat dragging a deer it had just killed off their property.

They didn't see it, but they say they heard what they believe was the mountain lion slamming the deer onto their metal fence.

"He dragged the deer over the railing because there was deer hair over the top," said Rauenbuehler. "And the dogs didn't seem to intimidate the mountain lion at all. They were barking pretty crazy."

Mountain lions are not uncommon in Hillsborough, especially in the town's Lakeview District, which sits along a canyon, but this is the first time Mines and Rauenbuehler have seen one so close.

"We told the children to be careful when they're out and be aware," Mines told ABC7 News. "And to carry a stick or umbrella with them, to be big and loud if they see something."

This was a close encounter the couple will never forget.

Watch the video here:
<iframe width="476" height="267" src="http://abc7news.com/video/embed/?pid=1657178" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

North Dakota hotel magnate begins new Vegas construction projects

North Dakota businessman and hotel magnate Gary Tharaldson is constructing several new hotels in Las Vegas, just off the Strip.
by Mary Schimke | Energy Media Group
When people in North Dakota hear the name Gary Tharaldson, they automatically think “hotel.” And rightly so. The former Dazey, North Dakota, gym teacher recently graced the pages of Forbes magazine as North Dakota’s richest man after selling a portfolio of 130 hotels in a variety of chains to Goldman Sachs for $1.2 billion in 2006. Shortly after, he sold the Westward Ho Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to Harrah’s at a profit of $109 million.

Now, ten years later, he’s still at it. Tharaldson is building mid-tier hotels in a prime Las Vegas location, just off the strip. He’s constructing a six-story, 169-room Hilton Garden Inn and a six-story, 157-room Homewood Suites on Dean Martin Drive near Harmon Avenue. He also has plans to build a five-story, 113-room TownePlace Suites and a five-story, 135-room Home2 Suites at the Tropicana Avenue-Interstate 15 exchange, across the street from where the Golden Palm hotel once stood, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Earlier this year, Tharaldson opened a four-story, 131-room Residence Inn about three miles off the Strip, the type of hotel that Forbes says is typical of Tharaldson’s “formula…to grab prime sites in second-tier cities where land is scarce, even if it’s expensive.” Since 2006, he has opened 26 extended-stay hotels across the country.

The hotels Tharaldson has in the works are not the huge monstrosities most people think of when they envision Las Vegas. They’re not themed hotels with thousands of rooms. Instead, they’re located in a prime location, convenient to the Strip and all its attractions. Yet they are reasonably priced and appeal to many. The Review-Journal said these hotels are great for guests who drive in, because they don’t charge a parking fee, and visitors won’t have to deal with massive parking ramps and steep fees to keep your car. The hotels also appeal to business guests and have the “rowdy image or other trappings of a flashy Las Vegas resort.” Yet they’re still attached to well-known chains that offer loyalty rewards, so visitors feel comfortable with the level of quality they can expect from a Marriott, Hilton or other chain. Plus, keeping in the middle-of-the-road has served him well, says Forbes.
“When times are good, people trade up to better hotels, and when they’re bad, they trade down,” Tharaldson says. “Either way, there I am.”

From glamour to gunfire: the tourist city of Acapulco torn apart by violence

Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

by Nathaniel Parish Flannery in Acapulco
When mayor Evodio Velázquez’s sparkling white Jeep Cherokee SUV pulls up at the side of the road, patrols of soldiers and heavily armed federal police are waiting for him. Velázquez’s “tourist police”, a special unit of young female officers who wear light blue uniforms, stand in a small cluster by the kerb.

Nominally law enforcement agents, these young women are really part of Velázquez’s broader marketing effort for the city of Acapulco – to add some friendly faces as the first point of contact between visitors revelling on this famous Mexican resort’s golden beaches, and the security forces struggling to keep the city safe.

Mid-morning, the sun is rising over the glittering bay but the beaches are mostly empty. Machine-gun carrying police officers – veterans of a decade-long conflict with sophisticated organised crime groups and myriad splinter groups of local street gangs – stand on the perimeter, just out of view of the crowd of photographers who have assembled to document the mayor’s press conference.
Acapulco’s tourist police.
The night before, gunmen with pistols stormed on to a patio on Playa Angosta, one of the city’s most picturesque beaches, murdering two men. Hours earlier, an assassin had walked into a city government office and brazenly killed one of Velázquez’s senior officials. In both cases, the assailants escaped before the police arrived.

Throughout the year, gangsters have been dumping bodies in public places and leaving messages threatening Velázquez’s administration. 

During the first six months of 2016 alone, 461 people were killed in Acapulco, including a long list of taxi drivers, small business owners and security personnel. The Pacific coast resort is again heading for the unwanted accolade of Mexico’s most violent city in 2016, a title it has received every year since 2012.

But the mayor is undeterred. With his gelled black hair and crisp short-sleeved dress shirt – unstained by sweat despite the oppressive heat – Velázquez narrows his gaze and addresses the reporters: “My government is working to stop crime. I’ll keep working. Acapulco is a city with complications – it has to be accepted. But today we’re at over 90% hotel occupancy. People love Acapulco.”

A reporter yells out: “Has the protective barrier around the tourism zone failed?”

“I think we have to reinforce it,” Velázquez says. “We have to review and strengthen it.”

“Will there be an effect from the Playa Angosta incident?”

“The port is still an option for tourists,” the mayor replies. “We won’t take a step backwards. We’ll keep going.”

As the photographers crowd together, Velázquez joins the squad of tourist police handing out green coconuts to the visitors arriving on the avenue. “Welcome to Acapulco,” he says warmly.

The 38-year-old politician from the leftist PRD party is respected as a local leader who thinks deeply about public policy and isn’t afraid to get out in the streets and talk to his city’s residents. He’s working to improve Acapulco, but it often seems like he faces impossible odds.

The state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, is considered one of the least developed, poorest and most problematic states in Mexico. Seven out of every 10 of the state’s 3.4 million residents eke out a living in the informal economy, in precarious self-employed jobs that don’t provide benefits. 

Around two-thirds of the state’s population lives in poverty.

Guerrero gained international attention after the disappearance – and alleged murder – of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in 2014, but has continued to struggle through a constant barrage of unrelated but similarly terrifying incidents over the subsequent years. Mexico’s federal government has sent in trucks full of police and soldiers to patrol the beach, and maintains the narrative that the generalised violence in the mountain towns away from the coast doesn’t affect tourism along the beach front. In 2016, however, that fiction has started to unravel.

Although it remains true that most gangs in the area focus on retail drug distribution and extorting small businesses, on multiple occasions throughout the year gunmen shot and killed people in front of visitors on popular beaches.

On 25 April, for example, heavily armed gunmen attacked a group of federal police staying at the Alba Suites hotel, starting a prolonged shoot-out while terrified visitors fled for cover. On 29 October, two soldiers were kidnapped by a group of armed criminals inside a busy market in downtown Acapulco; their cadavers were discovered two days later. From 29 to 31 November, during one particularly violent weekend, 13 people were killed across the city.

Together with the press and police, the mayor makes his way down the main stretch of coastal highway, stopping to greet patrons at the beachfront restaurants. “We’re happy to see you,” he gushes. 

Then he pulls in a group of smiling waiters: “Great guys, thanks,” he beams, shaking their hands.

“The perceptions are there – but what I’ve learned in politics is to keep going forward,” Velázquez tells me.

As the entourage moves onward, a middle-aged woman who works as a promoter for a local hotel stops and addresses him. “Give it your all – it depends on you,” she pleads. “And we depend on tourism.”

A fall from fame

Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, the pastel pink Los Flamingos is one of Acapulco’s oldest and best-known establishments. The hotel’s 82-year-old manager was a friend and protege of the actor John Wayne, one of the hotel’s original owners.

In the 1950s and 60s, Acapulco emerged as a hidden escape for A-list celebrities from California. Over subsequent decades, it transformed from a sleepy beach town to a sprawling city with a population of around two million. But Los Flamingos remains a time capsule to an earlier era.

Christian Hernandez, a big-bellied 34-year-old tourist visiting from Estado de Mexico on the outskirts of Mexico City, lounges with his family by the hotel’s pool. He has been coming to Acapulco since he was a child.

“Normally I come three times a year,” he explains. Over the course of his life, Hernandez has seen the beach town evolve. “Acapulco changed. It was a pueblo and now it’s become like Mexico City,” he says. “But you wake up and you still have this view of the sea – it’s paradise.”

Hernandez has brought eight members of his family with him, including his primary school-age children. The unit of soldiers who camp out in the hotel’s garden and stand guard next to the front gate don’t unnerve him; he says he has come to see Mexico’s ongoing security problems as just another part of the scenery. “There are a lot of police,” he shrugs.

recently ranked Mexico as the world’s third-highest country for crime, behind only Afghanistan and Guatemala. “All over the place it’s the same in this country. Everywhere there’s organised crime,” he says.

Hotels such as Los Flamingos have their own clusters of loyal clients, but they still rely on the general flow of tourism into Acapulco. Collectively, hotels here are depending on the mayor to rebuild the city’s image.

“Acapulco is a city with one million residents and a population of two million during vacation periods. Eighty percent of the population lives from tourism,” the mayor points out. “They work in different professions: cab drivers, tourist services, stores, restaurant owners, nightclub operators … People work in fishing; [there are] farms that supply the restaurants.”
The veteran holidaymakers from the generation of American visitors who first started visiting Acapulco in the 1950s and 60s remember a beach village scratched out of dense foliage along the flat expanse of sand. Now the houses are tightly packed in a haphazard agglomeration of improvised constructions that stretch close to the top of the adjacent mountain ridge. These residential areas have spilled over the hilltops into new, lower-income barrios such as Renacimiento – places that are far from the sea and marked by serious security problems.

Since he came into office in mid-2015, Velázquez has seen Mexico’s federal government focus on dismantling the large trafficking groups that historically operated in Acapulco. The federal police and army have had success in taking out a number of cartel kingpins, but residents regard the new dynamic of gangs and splinter groups as just as dangerous.

Ten years ago, they shared stories and rumours of well-dressed hitmen from out of state driving luxury SUVs and carrying out well-orchestrated, military-style attacks. The players have changed but the threat level remains largely the same: in Renacimiento, residents see young gangsters selling drugs on street corners, and all too frequently hear about teenage gunmen carrying out hits.

“If tourism works then the economy flourishes and the government has resources for managing public policies, for building infrastructure,” he says. “We’re renovating, rebuilding facades and painting historic residential neighbourhoods.”

One of his major projects is the completion of a new bus rapid transit system, which should vastly improve the city’s public transportation network. Another initiative involves painting low-income housing developments with brightly coloured murals.

On a micro scale, Velázquez can work to generate loyalty with visitors by greeting tourists and handing out coconuts, but winning back foreign visitors who book vacations online will require a more expansive, holistic approach.

The mayor, though, is confident that Acapulco’s prospects are improving. Last year its hotels reported 90% occupancy for the December holiday season, and he is sure that 2016 will end with a steady stream of arrivals and a mix of Mexican and foreign tourists celebrating the New Year in Acapulco.

“Acapulco is recovering its tourism,” Velázquez vows. “Little by little, we’re getting out of it.”

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Florida Woman Run Over By Christmas Parade Float

CBS/PENSACOLA (CBSMiami/AP) — A fun holiday event turned into a scary situation over the weekend in northern Florida.

A woman is recovering after being run over by a float in the Pensacola Christmas parade.

Officer Tony Garza tells the Pensacola News Journal 59-year-old Miriam Mimms stepped into the street to pick something up along the parade route Saturday evening when she was apparently bumped from behind and fell into the path of a float.

Officials say a safety person walking with the float saw Mimms fall and pulled her head away from the path of the float’s tire. Authorities say the float ran over the left torso.

The parade was delayed for about 30 minutes. The incident is under investigation.

Mimms was in stable condition when she was taken to the hospital.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Army Football Team To Wear World War II 82nd Airborne Division-Inspired Uniforms Against Navy

This Saturday in their game against Navy, the Army football team will wear uniforms paying tribute to the 82nd Airborne Division of World War II.

The team will wear uniforms inspired by the paratroopers jumpsuits, which will also include a 48-star American flag along the right shoulder, player name tapes, full-color historical unit patches, a division patch and an improvised camo base layer.

Nicknamed the “All Americans” because they drew members from every state in the country, Army will wear an All American Patch on the front of their jersey.

The 82nd Airborne Division during World War II lead the invasion of Italy, Normandy and Holland with little to no reinforcements.

Army will attempt to break their 14-time losing streak to Navy this Saturday at 3 pm ET.

American football could fall like the gladiators of ancient Rome

When I called my father back home in Oregon on a recent Sunday, he rattled off his thoughts about the election, the health of his two dogs and queries about holiday plans. But, as the child of a sports-loving house (Go, Ducks!), I was most surprised by what my dad wasn’t talking about on Sunday — football.

He’s not alone in his waning interest. This season, ratings for professional football are down 27 percent across all of the major networks: ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS, according Forbes. The decline in the ratings underscores a bigger truth that no one wants to face: Nothing lasts forever. And that includes the popularity of professional football, which now may be experiencing the slow, inevitable crumble of a Roman-style empire.

This week, the NFL denied a rumor that the league was reconsidering the fate of “Thursday Night Football,” namely that it was looking to revamp or — gasp — cut back on the sacred media property.

The league said it was “fully committed” to Thursday games, in spite of complaints from players about having to shift too quickly into a midweek game after weekend play, and from fans that Thursday matches have been stale. It’s a slate spread too thin: too many slots, too few compelling matchups. Even so, with a far shorter schedule than professional basketball and baseball, the demand for football has, until recently, remained high.

NFL executives have placed some of the ratings blame on the election. Although NBC’s two games after the election did see a boost, the network’s Kansas City-Denver game had a double-digit drop compared to the same time last year. And, if anything, it seems as though the stress of two unpopular candidates slogging it out would only increase the appetite for diversion. If ever there was a time for gladiator heroes, now would appear to be it.

The fall of Rome seemed unthinkable to people at the time, but inevitable to historians reflecting upon it with the benefit of context. At their height, gladiator contests made war a diversion, thousands charged into majestic amphitheaters, including Rome’s Colosseum, to watch hundreds of gladiators slay wild beasts and each other.

Such was the case until at least the early 5th century AD, as the disapproval of Christians and philosophers grew. When the philosopher Seneca wrote of his impressions of the contest, he was sharp.

“Now finesse is set aside, and we have pure unadulterated murder,” Seneca wrote. “The combatants have no protective covering; their entire bodies are exposed to the blows. This is what lots of people prefer to the regular contests… And it is obvious why. There is no helmet, no shield to repel the blade. Why have armor? Why bother with skill? All that just delays death.”

The rise of Christianity also made the games “culturally unacceptable” because of the money, betting and partisanship involved, said Peter Heather, a professor of medieval history at King’s College in London. So the emperor began to limit the number and scale of gladiator contests until they were phased out.

While the US government is unlikely to ever limit the number of football games, plenty of parents are refusing to let their children play the sport due to the risk of head injuries. The more we learn about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative brain disease that has plagued scores of professional players, the harder it becomes for many of us to watch the gladiators out on the field. And the more we know about players committing violence off the field, especially against women and children, the more we — like Seneca — turn off altogether.

Other reasons for football’s demise have been well reported: Our technological advancements leading to the rise of cord-cutting, the mushrooming of electronic sports, and the lure of a second, or third screen (often tied to a fantasy game) are all putting chinks in the modern-day coliseum. A demographic shift, including an increase of soccer-loving fans to the US from around the world, may have broadened sports lovers’ passions beyond the gridiron, too. Increasingly, football fans are arguing that the game is bloated with too much down time. The officiating is clumsy.

For viewers at home, replays and commercials have overwhelmed what game play actually happens. 

The league lacks a powerful narrative right now, like the Chicago Cubs reversing their 108-year-long hex.

After Christianity killed off gladiatorial combat, Roman fans switched to chariot racing, “which flourished massively as a result,” Heather said. The ascent of the blood-soaked culture of the UFC demonstrates that Americans’ thirst for violence has far from disappeared, but rather migrated to a new Coliseum next door.

The UFC’s worth is estimated at $4 billion or more, with gyms and events popping up worldwide. After a long battle, New York state finally legalized the sport, opening up Madison Square Garden for professional cage fights.

For better or for worse, fans have a new place to celebrate muscles and gore, free from leaden rules and commercial breaks but filled with intense drama and action. Football, like boxing, will never go away, just occupy a different role in the American zeitgeist. The change will be glacial, not instant. 

And mixed martial arts may just be the chariot-racing alternative of our time.

Mary Pilon is the author of “The Monopolists” and the forthcoming “The Kevin Show.” She worked as a TV producer for NBC Sports at the Rio Olympics

Top-secret Amazon drone filmed above Cambridgeshire testing facility

Incredible video is first footage of craft the retail giant will use to deliver packages in just 30 minutes
AMAZON’S top secret experimental delivery drone has been filmed in action for the first time.
The Sun Online’s exclusive footage shows the flying machine zooming through the skies over Amazon’s testing facility in rural Cambridgeshire.

The internet giant plans to use drones to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes of purchase.

Last year, it unveiled a flying robot that can travel at 50mph for ten miles and carry parcels of around 3kg.

At the time, Amazon released official footage of its drones, but the craft seen in our video appears to look significantly different from the model which has been shown off before.

Cameramen filmed the drone from nearby public land, showing it zooming through the sky and performing a smooth landing.

The Civil Aviation Authority lifted strict regulations on drones in July that would allow Amazon to begin testing the project.

And the latest pictures reveal it is already well on its way to making the groundbreaking idea a reality.

Amazon officially began testing the craft in the summer of 2016, but leaked emails recently suggested it may have been flying drones in British airspace since 2015.

The facility is closely guarded to stop anyone sneaking a peek at the experimental craft.

Photographer Dean Cranston said locals had become increasingly intrigued by what was happening on the field, which sits about 10 miles south of Cambridge.

He and two other photographers decided to check out the site after locals became worried and curious about what was happening – but they were confronted by unhappy security.

He said residents had been baffled by the “cloak and dagger” activities.

Speaking to the Sun Online, he said: “Amazon is obviously ploughing tens of millions of dollars into the future of how to deliver parcels.

“They have basically hired a farmer’s field in Cambridge, taking it over and doing something there on the land.”

He said security armed with ear pieces, binoculars and radios monitored the site constantly, ensuring anyone from the public did not venture off a nature path onto the field.

He said: “They won’t identify themselves, they won’t confirm or deny anything.

“It’s very peculiar.”

He said some locals had even speculated that there were “UFOs” at the site so he decided to video their discussions with security.

But while visiting the field on Thursday, he said the group had been confronted by men, including one with a scarf over his face, who insisted they leave.

Refusing to confirm if they were security, the men were recorded by the savvy photographers who demanded to know why they were being made to move on.

It was only once another security guard appeared – having been radioed in – and ashowed his identification that the photographers agreed to leave.

Mr Cranston said: “It felt really hostile, like some kind of cult.

“You wouldn’t believe what’s going on there… we were told by locals that there was a lot of strange behaviour going on.”

Booyah Hike Across America

ESPN Loses Over a Half Million Subscribers

by Dylan Gwinn

The Nielsen estimates revealed that ESPN lost 555,000 subscribers during the last month.

In other words, ESPN essentially lost the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This, coming on the heels of last month, the worst month in ESPN history, where the network lost 621,000 subscribers.

In the last two months, ESPN has lost 1,176,000 subscribers, a subscriber loss nearly the size of the city of Dallas, Texas. ESPN currently has just over 88 million domestic subscribers. In 2013, a mere three years ago, ESPN had 99 million subscribers. That’s right, in the last three years, ESPN lost somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million subscribers, the rough equivalent of the combined populations of New York City and Phoenix.

Now, in fairness, ESPN has contested the subscriber estimates that Nielsen put forth, citing the omission of multiple factors, including streaming services and digital device numbers. However, if the Nielsen numbers even remotely approximate the true subscriber loss, it means ESPN has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the last three years alone and if the trend continues, is well on its way to collapse.

Certainly, the chord cutting phenomenon that has hit networks across cable television has a definite impact on ESPN. Though, that’s not the entire explanation for the network’s cratering subscriber base. ESPN Ombudsman Jim Brady, admitted that the network lurched way too far to the left in recent years, alienating many viewers.

There’s also evidence of that in these numbers. According to Deadline Hollywood, “Disney’s other sports channels fared better. ESPNU had 71 million subs, down 1.4%. ESPNEWS and SEC Network — not measured by Nielsen — were flat based on December data from SNL Kagan. The former had 70 million subs and the latter had 62 million.”

What do ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network all have in common? They are, by far, the least opinion-driven and ideological of all the ESPN channels. ESPN’s slate of uber-opinionated, radically leftist programs such as Around the Horn, First Take, Pardon the Interruption, His & Hers, and others all appear on ESPN or ESPN2, the channels which have seen the greatest decline.

ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network primarily feature sporting events, simulcast radio shows, or straight news reporting with very little opinion, or, at least very little political opinion. Those channels have either marginally declined or stayed flat.

Something tells me there’s a message there.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn

South Florida family's missing dog found three years later -- in New Jersey

Bill Gerstein couldn't believe it. Words he never thought he'd read were right there on his phone: Bella has been found.

Nearly three years after disappearing outside Gerstein's law office in Fort Lauderdale, the family's Maltese-Pomeranian mix was in an animal shelter in Paterson, New Jersey — about 1,200 miles from home. The shelter, which had checked Bella's microchip, sent him pictures. She looked ratty, her coat was in rough shape, but it was her. Gerstein got on a plane that day.

"It was jubilant for us to finally get her back," Gerstein, 45, said Tuesday, as Bella scampered about the living room, still getting acquainted with the family's other two inseparable dogs, Maya and Lily, two Cavapoos who became new additions while Bella was still missing. Bella occasionally growls and bares her teeth at Maya, who tends to avoid eye contact with Bella.

"I didn't have any realistic hope of seeing her again," Gerstein said. "The possibilities were endless: She could've been killed, she could've wandered into a swamp near our office."

Fortunately, Bella didn't wander into a swamp, but how she got to New Jersey is a mystery. Gerstein, whose immigration law office is near Commercial Boulevard and NW 31st Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, regularly brought Bella to work, and that's where she was last seen.

"She was the office dog," said Gerstein's wife Dori, 46, also a lawyer.

On the day Bella went missing, Dec. 13, 2013, Gerstein was on a work call on his cellphone as the dog conducted her own business outside the law office. Gerstein said he was distracted and went back inside to do some more work. About an hour later, he wondered where Bella was and couldn't find her. An extensive search was mounted. Posters were put up, police were called, and a Facebook page was created. All to no avail.

Gerstein also watched surveillance video of the parking lot outside his office. There was a car parked across several spaces, and as it drove away, Gerstein noticed something white moving in the vehicle. 

He talked to police, who looked into it and determined the owner of the car didn't have the dog and that the white movement might have just been sunlight hitting the car's windows.

The Gersteins' four children, Michael, now 17, Sarah, 15, Sean, 13, and Emma, 6, took the news hard. 

Particularly Emma, who was 3 at the time. She would often talk about Bella, and would sometimes cry and say she missed Bella well after the dog was gone.

Gerstein missed Bella too. So when he got the email just after 10 a.m. on Nov. 22 from Petkey, the pet recovery service for the microchip implanted under Bella's skin, saying the dog was at Paterson Animal Control in Paterson, N.J., he was stunned.

Gerstein said Bella was shaking and wagging her tail when he first picked her up. "She definitely remembered me," Gerstein said.

The next day, they flew home for a happy reunion with the rest of the family, including Dori's sister Heather Bosch and her children Cole, 14, and Jenna, 9, who also live with the Gersteins at their home in West Delray Beach near U.S. 441 and West Atlantic Avenue.

"She wouldn't stop kissing me, and she's not a big kisser," Dori Gerstein said. They also took Bella to the veterinarian, who determined she was in good health.

Angel Rivera, an animal control officer at Paterson Animal Control, said a young woman had found Bella wandering on a busy thoroughfare in Paterson early last week and brought her to the shelter. 

Rivera checked the microchip and found it was registered through Petkey. He called Petkey, who sent the email to Gerstein, instructing him to call the animal shelter.

By sending a picture and confirming the microchip's ID number, Gerstein and Rivera were able to confirm that the dog was indeed Bella.

"I was shocked, he was shocked," said Rivera, 37.

Rivera said that had the shelter not found the owner within seven days, Bella would've been adopted out. He recommended that pet owners not only invest in a microchip but also register the microchip.

"In my 12 years here, I've never seen anything like this," Rivera said, barely able to believe that a dog missing for three years and from 1,200 miles away had been reunited with its owner.

Gerstein also said he's been in touch with another woman in Paterson who contacted him after Bella was found. She told him she discovered the Facebook page about Bella and told him that Bella — her family had named the dog Linda, coincidentally, the Spanish equivalent of Bella, meaning pretty or beautiful — had been living with her in Paterson.

She sent Gerstein pictures of the dog while it had been living with them. She explained that somebody had given her the dog in January, and that she and her family had grown to love her. But then Bella escaped under a fence and the woman never saw her again.

Bill Gerstein asked the woman who had given her the dog and tried to find out more in hopes of learning more about where Bella had been since December 2013, but he got murky answers and decided to let it go. After all, it didn't matter anymore. Bella was home. Dori Gerstein said they were grateful that the woman took care of her.

Both Bill and Dori accept that they'll probably never know how Bella got to New Jersey.

"If only she could talk," Bill Gerstein said.

brettclarkson@sun-sentinel.com or Twitter @BrettClarkson_
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