The Daily Astorian | The Daily Astorian Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:57:56 -0400 en The Daily Astorian | Woman charged under new Colorado law in mom attack Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:38 -0400 DENVER (AP) — A Colorado woman accused of cutting an unborn baby from a pregnant woman has been charged with attempted murder, assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

Prosecutors filed the charges against 34-year-old Dynel Lane on Friday.

The case has revived a debate over the point at which a fetus can legally be considered a human being.

Prosecutors announced earlier that murder wouldn't be among Lane's charges because of evidence the baby didn't survive after being removed from the mother.

Colorado is one of 12 states without a so-called fetal homicide law, a fact that some Republicans are again trying to change.

The unlawful termination charge was filed under a new law intended to be a compromise between opponents and supporters of abortion rights.

AP Top Political News At 5 p.m. EDT Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:40 -0400 Are the early primary states a big deal anymore?Gov. Walker in Texas, out of sight during immigration flapWhite House: Chemical safety board head resignsSenate's Harry Reid announces he won't seek re-electionReid backs Schumer to succeed him as leaderSenate OKs Republican balanced-budget plan, following HouseWhite House unveils plan to fight antibiotic-resistant germsIn Senate triumvirate's shadow, barbecue and basketball]]> Oregon farmers agree slugs are a problem _ but what to do? Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:20 -0400 SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Farmers in Oregon's Willamette Valley hate slugs, slimy mollusks that munch their way through crops.

But as familiar as farmers are with the mollusks, they acknowledge they're often baffled. And answers to their questions have come, shall we say, sluggishly.

Growers and researchers at a recent Oregon State University "Slug Summit" in Salem agreed that the pests are causing more problems these days. But they have no good explanation why that's so.

And the agricultural publication The Capital Press ( reports that they came down from the summit with an unanswered question: What to do?

Some farmers say the decline of field burning and the rise of reduced-tillage farming in recent decades has left more vegetative shelter for slugs in fields.

But other farmers report persistent slug problems despite tilling heavily and burning fields.

Growers say a crop may sometimes be devastated by slugs despite the use of poison bait, but the same field will do well with the bait in other years,

Slugs that survive one commonly used chemical quickly develop an aversion to it, Oregon State University researcher George Hoffman said.

The summit was told it's unlikely more toxic pesticides will enter the market because of harmful consequences for other species.

Disrupting the pest's reproduction with pheromones or releasing natural predators are viable options, but these measures must be employed in concert to be effective, said Paul Jepson, director of Oregon State's Integrated Plant Protection Center.

"There are plenty of things that eat slugs and really love them. But the problem is they're not sufficient," Jepson said.

Bottom line: More research needed.

But Dan Arp, dean of Oregon State's College of Agricultural Sciences, said that appropriations for extension agents have barely kept up with inflation. The school may be able to establish a slug-fighting position as faculty members retire, or perhaps put together a "strike team" of existing professors and agents, he said.


Information from: Capital Press,

AP Top Entertainment News At 4:51 p.m. EDT Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:20 -0400 End of 'Mad Men,' but show's relics find new life at museumRomania questions ex-minister over 3 Picassos, 100 paintingsGun owned by agent who toppled Capone headed to Vegas museumMannequins by designer Ralph Pucci fill NYC exhibitionBlaze on New York's Fire Island ruins gay resort landmarksBillie Joe Armstrong musical comes to Atlantic Theater Co.Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn dies at 70Museum's 'Little Syria' exhibit going to Ellis Island]]> Gun owned by agent who toppled Capone headed to Vegas museum Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:27 -0400 MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. (AP) — The gun is a triumph of American craftsmanship from the early 20th century, its sleek barrel familiar to anyone raised on the movies of Bogart and Cagney, "Scarface" and "Little Caesar."

Except this Smith & Wesson .38 special has real-life stories to tell, stories of America's most legendary mobster and the undercover agent who was instrumental in toppling him when so many others had failed.

Stored for decades in attics, closets and a bank safe-deposit box in New Jersey, the gun belonging to former IRS agent Michael Malone — and possibly used by members of Al Capone's gang — is headed to Las Vegas, where it will be part of an the exhibit at The Mob Museum beginning in mid-April.

More than a lifeless artifact, the gun also represents a young man's quest to learn more about a mysterious relative, and an effort by an often-forgotten arm of the government to shed more light on the men behind the arrest and prosecution of Capone.

"Michael Malone was, I believe, the greatest undercover agent in the history of law enforcement," said Paul Camacho, a former head of IRS criminal investigations in Las Vegas and an unofficial agency historian. "This was the riskiest assignment you could ever think of. People were dying left and right, witnesses were dying left and right. Nobody wanted to be with these guys."

Malone infiltrated Capone's gang and worked undercover for nearly three years, Camacho said, passing himself off as a wiseguy from Philadelphia who had migrated to Chicago. He gained the mobster's trust to the point that he was invited to a going away party when it appeared Capone was going to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Capone eventually was convicted on tax charges and sentenced to prison, a fact well-known to mob historians and the general public. IRS investigators, known then as "T-Men" for their affiliation with the U.S. Treasury Department, feel their contributions have been given short shrift over the years.

Part of that may be due to the 1987 movie "The Untouchables," which credited Prohibition agent Eliot Ness with orchestrating Capone's downfall. Sean Connery's character, Jimmy Malone, was loosely based on Michael Malone but was a Chicago police officer in the film.

"The real story of Mike Malone hasn't been told," said Jonathan Larsen, head of IRS criminal investigations in New Jersey, whose office is overseeing the examination of the gun and its transport to Nevada.

Growing up in northern New Jersey in the 1950s, Marty Dolan often wondered about the great-uncle who would always come to visit dressed in a fedora and overcoat and who never shared much about his past or present. After Malone's death in Minnesota in 1960, Dolan, now a doctor in California, slowly began to fill in the gaps.

The gun — found under Malone's pillow after he died, according to Dolan's mother — was among Malone's effects stored in various family residences in New Jersey before. They ended up on a shelf in a closet at Dolan's sister's house on Long Beach Island.

A few years ago, after researching Malone on the Internet, Dolan realized the gun was a key piece of history.

That view was shared by Geoff Schumacher, the Mob Museum's director of content, who will include the gun in an exhibit called "Follow The Money" dedicated to the T-Men and their conquests.

"When we learned there was something tangible like a gun, rather than paperwork, that we could put on display, we were excited," he said.

IRS officials say the gun wasn't Malone's service weapon, and Schumacher said he's assuming it was used by Malone while undercover. Whether it came from Capone's organization could be answered if ATF agents can raise the gun's filed-off serial number, Larsen said.

That would provide another clue to a man a colleague once referred to as "the mysterious Mike Malone."

"That's how I knew him," Dolan said. "He didn't say much, but his presence was felt. After 'The Untouchables' became a TV show, we would watch it in a little cramped apartment in Jersey City and he wouldn't say a word — and here was the guy who actually caught this guy! I guess mum was the word."

Capital gains tax part of House Democrats' budget plan Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:27 -0400 OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — House Democrats on Friday released a two-year budget plan that proposes a capital gains tax as part of nearly $1.5 billion in new revenue to address a court mandate on education spending, but Senate Republicans quickly countered that new taxes should not be part of the solution.

Under the House plan, the state tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets wouldn't kick in until next year, and would raise $570 million for the last year of the 2015-17 budget. Budget writers say the first $400 million raised would be booked to comply with a state Supreme Court order to increase spending on K-12 education; any additional amount raised beyond that — estimated to be $170 million a year — would go to higher education.

The plan proposes to spend $412 million to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade; $741 million on textbooks and supplies; and $180 million on all-day kindergarten. It also puts restores cost-of-living raises for teachers that have been suspended by the Legislature for the past several years. House Democrats are also seeing to freeze tuition at the state's universities for two years.

"If the court wants a plan, this is a plan. A funded plan," said Rep. Ross Hunter, a Democrat from Medina who is the main budget writer in the House.

The plan seeks to levy a 5 percent capital gains tax on earnings from the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for those who file jointly. The levy would begin in the second year of the biennium, or January 2016. About 31,500 people would be affected by the new tax, lawmakers said. Retirement accounts, most primary residences and most agricultural lands and most timber would be exempt from the tax, as would personal property used in a business.

A slight increase in the state business and occupation tax paid by doctors, lawyers and architects would raise $532 million. The budget plan also doubles the current small service business tax credit, which legislative leaders said would eliminate business and occupation taxes for 15,000 businesses a year. An additional $300 million would come from the repeal of seven tax exemptions, one for oil refineries and other for residents who live in states without a sales tax, like Oregon.

The proposed tax and revenue changes add up to about $1.5 billion and are part of an overall $39 billion operating budget.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat from Seattle who is chairman of the House Finance Committee, said that the state's current tax system is regressive.

"We are looking at those elements of revenue that go to the core of the lack of fairness," Carlyle said. "So it's not about high taxes, or raising taxes, it's about fair taxes."

Not included in the plan was a proposal put forth by Gov. Jay Inslee to increase money to the state's general fund with a cap-and-trade program that would require the state's largest industrial polluters to pay for every ton of carbon they release.

"There is a fierce and strong belief that we have to take meaningful and old action on climate," Carlyle said, but acknowledged that lawmakers feel they need extra time to understand how to implement such a program.

Senate Republicans have said that that the state has enough for existing services and education through increasing revenues generated by economic growth, and that the focus shouldn't be on higher taxes, but efficient spending.

Republican Sen. Andy Hill, the main budget writer in that chamber, said that creating a new tax to pay for the state's constitutional duty of funding education is not appropriate.

"Quite frankly, I don't know if that's unconstitutional, or just unconscionable," he said.

Hill said that Senate Republicans and House Democrats share the same priorities when it comes investing in education and other areas of the budget, like mental health.

"The difference is that we work really hard to live within our means and we don't use new taxes to pay for what we consider a constitutional duty," he said.

The Senate is expected to release its budget as early as next week. House Democrats and Senate Republicans will each pass their own versions of the budget, but then will work negotiate a final plan before the legislative session ends April 26.

Committee boosts Idaho schools budget by 7.4 percent Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:22 -0400 BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislative budget writers are matching Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's request to restore public education money slashed during the economic downturn by adding roughly $101 million to the Idaho schools budget.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved increasing the schools budget by 7.4 percent on Friday. The proposal now needs to survive both chambers, but the legislation is expected to pass.

The proposal includes allotting $33.5 million to boost teacher pay, part of a five-year teacher pay increase plan lawmakers approved earlier this week. This means beginning teacher pay will go up from $31,750 a year to $32,700 a year. The committee also approved giving $16.1 million in teacher bonuses.

"This has been a long work in process and it shows," said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chair of the powerful budget committee.

Budget writers have been holding off from finalizing the schools budget —compiling roughly 50 percent of the state's general funds— for two weeks, waiting on the rest of the Idaho Legislature to finalize the expansive teacher pay bill.

Idaho lawmakers sliced education funding in 2009 during the economic downturn right after the legislature passed one of the highest education budgets in the state's history.

Lawmakers have since promised to return education funding to previous levels, but have been wary of adding too much too soon.

The slow rebuild of the state's education budget has sparked criticism from the legislature's few Democratic members over the years.

For example, two Democratic budget committee members unsuccessfully attempted to pitch a 9.3 percent schools funding increase. The proposal contained more operational funding —money school districts have to use for their discretion.

In the plan passed Friday, districts would have $23,868 per support unit —roughly the size of one classroom— in discretionary funds. The alternative proposal called for $25,696 per support unit.

"This is go big or go home," said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise.

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, countered that the schools budget now contains much more individual budget requests that used to be lumped as discretionary.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra praised the budget boost, albeit incorrectly identifying it as an "historic 7.5 percent increase" in a prepared statement.

"We appreciate the open lines of communication with members of JFAC, and members of the legislature," Ybarra said. "This demonstrates what can be accomplished for Idaho students when great ideas are coupled with an environment of collaboration."

Idaho House OKs interstate federal lands transfer compact Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:27 -0400 BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho would have the ability to enter into an interstate compact to pursue transferring control of federal lands under a proposal making its way through the Statehouse.

House lawmakers voted 45-23 on Friday to approve setting up the compact, facing from opposition from both Republicans and Democrats worried of the bill's unintended consequences.

Idaho lawmakers have advocated taking control of federal lands for years. However, Republican leaders say they are no longer demanding the federal government give up its public land. Instead, lawmakers say they want to pursue a variety of collaborative approaches.

The compact option is one of four proposals being considered this legislative session.

Utah was the first state to approve entering into such a contract, and a similar bill is being considered by Arizona lawmakers.

Mariners reliever David Rollins suspended 80 games Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:32 -0400 PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Seattle Mariners reliever David Rollins has been suspended 80 games for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Major League Baseball announced Rollins' suspension Friday, saying he tested positive for Stanozolol, a synthetic anabolic steroid.

Rollins will not appeal the suspension. In a statement, Rollins says, "My positive test was the result of a serious error in judgment."

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik says the team will continue to work with Rollins to "get past this situation."

The 25-year-old Rollins was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Houston organization.

He was in contention to become one of Seattle's left-handed options in the bullpen with a strong performance in spring training. Rollins allowed one earned run in seven Cactus League appearances.

White House unveils plan to fight antibiotic-resistant germs Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:11 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly.

Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to the drugs, so that they are no longer effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses each year in the United States.

The World Health Organization said last year that bacteria resistant to antibiotics have spread to every part of the world and might lead to a future where minor infections like strep throat could kill. Antibiotic resistance also threatens animal health, agriculture and the economy.

President Barack Obama, who ordered the plan, said drug-resistant bacteria are one of the most serious public health issues.

"This is one of those problems that doesn't always rise to the top of people's day-to-day concerns until somebody in the family is impacted," Obama told reporters before meeting privately Friday with members of his advisory council on science and technology. "We take antibiotics for granted for a lot of illnesses that can be deadly or debilitating."

"If we start seeing those medicines diminish in effectiveness, we're going to have problems," he said.

The White House's overall goal is to prevent and contain outbreaks of infections at home and abroad. It's aiming to maintain the ability of current antibiotics to fight illnesses and develop new treatments.

The plan is the result of an order Obama signed in September forming a task force on the issue. Obama also has asked Congress to nearly double its funding to fight antibiotic resistance to $1.2 billion.

Critics said the White House needs to go further, particularly in terms of the antibiotics used in animals processed for meat. The Food and Drug Administration has already successfully encouraged many drug companies to phase out the use of antibiotics used for animal growth promotion. But advocacy groups have called on the agency to limit other uses of animal antibiotics as well, such as for disease prevention when holding animals in crowded conditions.

"Once again, the administration has fallen woefully short of taking meaningful action to curb the overuse of antibiotics in healthy food animals," said New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, a microbiologist who has sponsored legislation to stop routine antibiotic use in animal farming.

"With 80 percent of the antibiotics produced in the United States being used in agriculture mostly for prevention, any meaningful solution to the looming antibiotic resistance crisis must begin with limits on the farm — and trusting a voluntary policy that lets industry police itself will not bring about real change," she said.

Mannequins by designer Ralph Pucci fill NYC exhibition Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:30 -0400 NEW YORK (AP) — A room full of mannequins is the subject of a new museum exhibition in New York City.

They're the creation of designer Ralph Pucci — who elevates these dummies to a sculptural art form.

The Museum of Arts and Design says "The Art of the Mannequin" is the first museum show to survey the form of the mannequin.

It runs from Tuesday through Aug. 30.

Pucci's craftsmanship ranges from anatomically realistic creations to abstract, totem-like forms.

There's a mannequin doing a handstand. Another is decidedly pregnant.

Pucci's mannequins are a reflection of the cultural trends of the past 30 years.

Pucci has collaborated on some of the designs with noted fashion designers and models and artists, including Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, Christy Turlington and Kenny Scharf.

The show will include a re-creation of Pucci's sculpting studio, where his longtime collaborator Michael Evert creates his designs. Idea boards and models in various stages of finish will be displayed. Evert will make periodic visits to the show to demonstrate the sculpting process from live models in the in-gallery studio.

Isaiah Johnson looking for job as Rutgers middle linebacker Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:19 -0400 PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Newcomer Isaiah Johnson isn't fixated on the location of his name on the Rutgers' depth chart.

There is a job at middle linebacker with the graduation of Kevin Snyder, and Johnson is looking to claim it as the Scarlet Knights open spring practice on Monday.

Heading into a month of workouts, Johnson is listed as the possible starter with redshirt freshman Brandon Russell.

"It didn't really faze me," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to work my craft personally and just feel like everything will fall in place from there."

However, Johnson didn't travel 3,000 miles without the intention of playing. As a junior college transfer from City College of San Francisco, Johnson has three years to play two.

Johnson admits he comes into spring practice with more of a sense of urgency. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and two years of junior college, he feels like he's ahead size-wise. That's why he's focused on the playbook.

He has also gotten help from Steve Longa, who manned the middle before moving to weak-side linebacker last season.

"I'm always asking him questions," Johnson said. "He's been real supportive and helpful."

The competition will get stiffer over the summer when Kaiwan Lewis arrives. A graduate transfer from South Carolina, Lewis will be in the mix for the starting spot.

For now, Johnson can get a head start on the competition. And he feels he has a strong skill set.

"I think I'm versatile," Johnson said. "I play the run well I'm physical. I can run. I like just being all over the field. They ask a lot from the middle linebacker - coverage, running down the seams and obviously playing against the run."

While spring practice isn't typically a time where jobs are won and lost, players are jockeying for position for training camp. Johnson is looking to be the guy in line to quarterback Rutgers' defense.

"I hate making mistakes," he said. "I want to do my job and help the defense as a whole."

Coach Kyle Flood also talked to the media Friday, with some focus on replacing departed quarterback Gary Nova, who played 46 games and started 41.

Redshirt sophomores Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, along with redshirt freshman Gio Rescigno, are vying for the job.

Laviano is the only one with game experience, throwing for 107 yards on 11-for-28 passing with no touchdowns and an interception in five appearances last fall. Rettig quarterbacked the scout team while redshirting after transferring from LSU.

"I think it's going to be something that's going to play out over time," Flood said. "What I would tell you is I'm pleased with how all of them have gone about their business, whether it's Chris Laviano, Hayden Rettig, Gio, I'm really excited about how they've operated so far.

"The true challenge now will be going in the huddle, getting the play call, getting everybody lined up, getting the ball snapped on time, making your read, making sure we're in good plays. Those are things that are going to be a challenge for us all spring because we're going to be playing against some pretty good defensive players."

NOTES: Flood said running back Paul James, wide receiver/returner Janarion Grant, defensive end Quanzell Lambert and cornerbacks Anthony Cioffi and Nadir Barnwell will be limited in the spring because of injury. Offensive lineman Zack Heeman is still out because of an injury.

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GOP celebrates good week on Hill, but sees challenges ahead Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:46 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are looking like they've finally figured out how to govern.

The GOP's first months in control of both chambers of Congress were marked by high-profile stumbles and a near-shutdown of the Homeland Security Department. But this week, the party celebrated important successes.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate came together to pass boldly conservative and balanced budgets, and House leaders struck a bipartisan deal on Medicare that passed on a huge vote and is expected to clear the Senate once lawmakers return from a two-week spring break.

"Don't look now but we're actually governing," said Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C

Emerging from the week of triumphs, lawmakers were cautiously optimistic that it was a sign of things to come. On the budget, House Speaker John Boehner brought unruly conservatives who've defied him on past votes into line, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept his Republicans largely united despite the presidential ambitions of at least four members of his caucus and pressures on Senate Republicans who are up for re-election.

On the Medicare deal, Boehner forged a rare alliance with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to solve a problem that has bedeviled Congress for years, producing a result widely embraced in both parties.

Yet Republicans stopped short of declaring that they had tamed Capitol Hill.

Several noted that some of the specific conditions that helped grease the budget and the Medicare deal are not likely to surface on other issues. In the Senate, for example, special rules governing the budget allowed Republicans to approve it with a simple majority, not the 60 votes required for most legislation, meaning they could push it through on a party-line vote without Democratic help.

"The 51-vote threshold is what is very helpful," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. "What we need to find out going forward is if some of the Democrats who have been shedding crocodile tears about the lack of consensus in moving legislation actually match their rhetoric with action."

In the House, under a complicated process barring filibusters on deficit-reducing budget bills, passing a budget was the only way to allow Republicans to craft a bill to repeal the president's health care law that could actually make it to President Barack Obama's desk. That provided powerful incentive for some conservatives to swallow their aversion to deficit spending and go along.

It remains to be seen whether the successes of this past week can translate into victories on other issues, and those tests will start to come soon.

Lawmakers will need to come up with a deal on highway spending by May 31, when authority to spend money from the highway trust fund expires.

At the end of June, temporary authority expires for the Export-Import Bank, a government agency that provides loans to help foreign buyers purchase American-made products. It's a top priority for business, but conservative groups are opposed, saying it amounts to corporate welfare.

Then at some point in the fall, Congress will be faced with having to raise the nation's borrowing limit, something that's produced major conflict in the past.

Add to that, the House and the Senate will have to get together after their spring break to pass a combined budget, something that last happened in 2009. Harder still will be translating that nonbinding blueprint into actual spending bills that have the force of law, send them to Obama and finalize government spending for the 2016 fiscal year by the time it begins on Oct. 1.

At a news conference this week, Boehner passed up the opportunity to take a victory lap, declaring it a good week for Congress and the country but saying: "We've got a lot of tough issues to deal with here in the Congress. We didn't get elected just to come here and sit on our rear ends. We've got work to do."

Some of the conservatives who were in the minority voting "no" this week said they didn't feel much had changed, and they still intended to register their opposition. Yet several acknowledged that after starting off the year on weak footing with historical defections in his leadership election, Boehner emerged strengthened.

And other members of the rank and file in both House and Senate said it felt good to notch some real accomplishments after several frustrating months: GOP leadership was forced to give up the fight to undo the president's executive actions on immigration — though not before coming within hours of a partial Homeland Security Department shutdown; senators gridlocked over a bill to combat sex trafficking and House leaders pulled back bills on education changes, abortion and border security in face of rebellions.

"This has been, I think, a stabilizing week. It's one to show that everything and everyone's calmed down," said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss. "We have a responsibility to govern. We're the party in the majority, and I think this indicates that we're capable of doing that."

Blaze on New York's Fire Island ruins gay resort landmarks Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:34 -0400 MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — An early morning blaze on Fire Island destroyed several structures, including two well-known landmarks in a historic gay resort, and required dozens of firefighters to respond by ferry from the mainland of Long Island, fire and police officials said Friday.

The fire, which was reported at about 1:30 a.m., ruined an apartment complex known as Holly House, as well as the Grove Hotel, and left three firefighters with minor injuries, said Craig Williams, Cherry Grove assistant fire chief. A nightclub attached to the hotel called the Ice Palace avoided serious damage, Williams said.

Cherry Grove has been known since the late 1940s as a sanctuary where gay writers, actors and businesspeople from New York City and beyond escape to relax, hold hands and show affection in public.

"This is the largest fire we have had here in well over a decade," said Williams, a volunteer who lives near Hackensack, New Jersey, and drove to Long Island early Friday to respond to the blaze.

The Suffolk County police arson squad and the town of Brookhaven's fire marshal's office were conducting routine investigations to determine the cause.

Two private homes were destroyed and three others also were damaged, Williams said. None of the structures or homes near the downtown business district in the primarily summer beach community was occupied.

The nearby Cherry Grove Community House and Theater, which opened in 1948 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, was not damaged, Williams said.

More than 100 firefighters from 22 departments responded to the blaze; some were taken by the Sayville Ferry Service across the Great South Bay to the scene on the barrier island about 60 miles east of Manhattan. It was not immediately clear whether the time to cross the bay to fight the fire contributed to the amount of damage inflicted by the blaze.

Williams and others noted that the historic Cherry Grove community, like many of the hamlets and villages along the 30-mile long barrier island 5 miles off the southern shore of Long Island, is primarily deserted this time of year.

"Thank God it wasn't the height of the season," Diane Romano, president of the Cherry Grove Community Association, told The Associated Press after touring the devastation Friday afternoon. "Everyone would not have gotten out of that hotel. It is devastating and will take a lot of work to build it back, but the spirit of the people in Cherry Grove is very strong and we're all going to help each other."

Notable Cherry Grove visitors and residents have included poet W.H. Auden; playwright Tennessee Williams; author Truman Capote; actresses Nancy Walker, Tallulah Bankhead and Hermione Gingold; comedian Kaye Ballard; and New Yorker journalist Janet Flanner.

Seattle Art Museum tests robots for art tours Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:00:16 -0400 SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Art Museum has a new option for bed-ridden art lovers: a robot called "Beam."

KOMO-TV reports ( ) the museum is testing Beam for people who would otherwise not be able to take its tour.

Henry and Jane Evans are two people who took advantage of the virtual museum tour. Henry Evans suffered a stroke that left him a quadriplegic and bed ridden with no voice.

But using "Beam," a robot with a wide angle cameras, he can navigate around the museum.

The Seattle museum is one of seven in the country testing the "Beam" robots for possible permanent use. They cost $16,000, last eight hours on a charge, and just need a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to the Internet.


Information from: KOMO-TV,

A-Rod cousin pleads guilty in Florida steroids case Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:01:30 -0400 MIAMI (AP) — A cousin of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez who was the star's longtime personal assistant pleaded guilty Friday to a federal drug charge, the last remaining defendant in the probe into steroids illegally provided to athletes through a South Florida clinic.

Yuri Sucart, 52, admitted Friday in Miami federal court that he conspired with others to distribute human growth hormone to athletes, some of high school age. Seven others, including former Biogenesis of America clinic owner Anthony Bosch, have previously pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from probation to four years in prison.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Sucart faces between eight and 14 months in prison at sentencing June 4. His attorney, Ed O'Donnell IV, said he will seek a sentence of four months' house arrest, in part because Sucart is suffering from serious heart and circulatory ailments that require him to use a walker.

"The government is not going to agree to that, but we're going to ask for it," O'Donnell said. "He just wants to take care of himself and get this over with."

Major League Baseball's investigation into use of banned substances linked to Biogenesis resulted in the suspensions of 14 players, including Rodriguez for all of last season. Rodriguez, now back with the Yankees as a likely designated hitter, will not have to testify in open court with Sucart's guilty plea. Rodriguez publicly apologized in a handwritten note earlier this year for his conduct.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga read a document at Friday's hearing, signed by Sucart, in which he admitted bringing professional baseball players to Bosch as steroid customers for as much as $13,500 a month between 2010 and April 2013. Sucart also brought other athletes, ranging in age from 17 to 19, to Bosch as they sought to play college baseball.

"You actively recruited the players by telling them you had a 'doctor' who could help the players get bigger and recover from injuries faster," Altonaga read. "The 'doctor' did not accept any checks, only cash, because cash did not leave behind any evidence."

"Correct," Sucart responded through a Spanish interpreter.

In Biogenesis court documents, Sucart's attorneys have said he worked as an assistant for years to meet Rodriguez's "every need, whim and instructions, often times working seven days a week." Those documents also said Sucart was a "steroid mule" for Rodriguez with the Yankees and the Texas Rangers.

"He protected your reputation, your confidences, your secrets," Sucart's lawyers wrote to Rodriguez.

The two had a falling out in late 2012, leading Rodriguez to stop paying Sucart his annual salary. Sucart in turn demanded money in return for his silence in the drug case, and the three-time American League MVP eventually offered Sucart $600,000 and the value of his three-bedroom home, according to Sucart's lawyers.

Sucart, however, wanted $5 million and the house as well. Prosecutors say the two eventually settled in 2013 for about $900,000, and O'Donnell said Sucart did not agree to cooperate in the investigation.


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BC-ID--Intermountain Grain & Livestock, ID Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:00:25 -0400 POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Farm Bureau Intermountain Grain and Livestock Report for Friday, March 27. Bids subject to change.

BLACKFOOT — white wheat 5.75 (up 5); 11.5 percent hard red winter 5.60 (up 7); 14 percent spring 6.79 (up 14); hard white 5.70 (up 7);

BURLEY — white wheat 5.80 (up 10); hard red winter 4.83 (up 5); 14 percent spring 6.20 (up 18); barley 5.00 (steady); hard white 5.38 (up 20);

OGDEN — white wheat 6.10 (up 5); 11.5 percent winter 5.43 (up 10); 14 percent spring 6.45 (up 15); barley 5.55 (up 5); corn 8.05 (up 7);

PORTLAND__ white wheat 6.31 (up 4); hard red winter 6.49-6.69 (up 10); 14 percent spring 8.88 (up 15); corn 4.81-4.85 (steady), oats 265.00/ton or 3.8475 bu (steady); white club 8.71 (up 4).

NAMPA— Soft white new crop 8.92 (steady) cwt; new crop 5.35 (steady) bushel.
LIVESTOCK AUCTION__ Twin Falls Livestock Auction on March 25.
Slaughter and feeder cows 88.00-117.50; bred cows 1,825-2,600/hd;
cow/calf pairs 1,775-2,300; slaughter and feeder bulls 128.50-137.00;
steers: heavy 161.00-227.50, light 238.25-291.50, stocker 292.50-387.50;
heifers: heavy 164.00-213.00, light 234.00-263.00, stocker 271.00-304.00;
Saturday: fat hogs 230.00-260.00, weaners 85.00-135.00, feeders 127.50-155.00/hd;
lambs 148.00-221.00; ewes 55.00-90.00; bucks 59.00-100.00;
family 160.00-330.00; bred ewes 55.00-165.00;
goats 75.00-275.00, Barbatoes 75.00-130.00; /hd; baby calves 5.00-150.00.
No remarks.

Daughter sues elder abuse investigator over father's will Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:00:41 -0400 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Medford police detective who specialized in investigating elder abuse has been accused of using her expertise to exploit the dementia of a Portland lawyer before his death last year.

The daughter of Victor Calzaretta says in a $4 million lawsuit filed in Portland that she was in line to inherit his estate until Calzaretta married the detective, Sue Campbell, after a brief courtship. Calzaretta changed his will in 2011 to make his wife the executor and sole beneficiary.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Diane Miller of La Center, Washington, says the detective was familiar with the signs of dementia and married Calzaretta — her elder by 13 years — "not because she loved him," but to get access to his estate.

"Campbell's actions were taken for the improper purpose of financially exploiting an elderly demented man for her own financial benefit," the lawsuit states.

Sue Campbell Calzaretta declined comment by phone Thursday. Her lawyer, Jim Callahan, said his client adamantly denies the allegations, and he spoke no further.

Victor Calzaretta, who died at 72, worked as a police officer before switching careers in the early 1980s and, according to lawsuit, amassing an estate worth about $4 million.

In July 2003, he made out a will leaving his estate to his second wife, Anita. If she died before Victor Calzaretta, the estate would go to Miller. Anita Calzaretta died in 2004.

The lawsuit states Calzaretta began showing signs of dementia in 2008, and it worsened the following year.

Toward the end of his legal career, Calzaretta was hit with two negligence complaints, court records show. One of them was filed by a client whose lawsuit was tossed by a judge early into a November 2010 trial. A news report from the time said the judge sharply criticized Calzaretta for his lack of preparation, including his inability to even say when his next witnesses would show.

According to the lawsuit, Calzaretta had been friends with Campbell and bought her a wedding dress in 1994. The two, however, went years without seeing each other until Campbell invited Calzaretta to attend a funeral with her in February 2010. They started dating and got married two months later.

Campbell worked for years investigating abuse cases involving the elderly. In 2007, the state Department of Human Services honored her as one of 11 "Everyday Heroes" in the fight against the crime. The agency said in a news release that the detective went "above and beyond" her professional duty by taking victims of elder abuse on outings, walking their dogs, baking them desserts and celebrating holidays with them.

Calzaretta's will, a copy of which was found in Jackson County Probate Department records, is similar to the 2003 terms except that Sue Calzaretta's name is substituted for the second wife. If Sue Calzaretta had preceded her husband in death, the estate would have gone to Diane Miller.

Victor Calzaretta's other surviving child, Richard Calzaretta of Vancouver, Washington, was shut out in both versions.

Tara Lawrence, the lawyer for Diane Miller, said her client could not be interviewed and she wouldn't discuss Miller's financial situation.

"(The lawsuit) has so much less to do with finances," Lawrence said Thursday. "It certainly plays a factor. But Diane is bringing this for justice for her father."

One of Victor Calzaretta's siblings, William Calzaretta, said he couldn't shed any light on his brother's relationship with Sue Campbell. But, he added, the family also didn't know anything about Victor's first and second wives until he married them.

"He never communicated with us," he said.

Romania questions ex-minister over 3 Picassos, 100 paintings Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:23 -0400 BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian prosecutors investigating an alleged bribery scheme have questioned the former finance minister about the origins of 100 paintings, including three works by Pablo Picasso.

Prosecutors questioned Darius Valcov on Friday, saying the paintings had been hidden by four of his friends. The works have been sent to art experts for evaluation. Valcov, under house arrest since Thursday, declined to comment.

Among the paintings are works by Romanian painters Corneliu Baba and Nicolae Grigorescu as well as sketches by Picasso and works by Renoir and Andy Warhol. Prosecutors said some of the artworks had been purchased for him by an art dealer at two Bucharest auction houses.

Prosecutors said Valcov was an art collector who wanted to conceal the origin of money dishonestly gained.

Valcov resigned March 15 after prosecutors charged him with taking 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in bribes when he was the mayor of a small town in exchange for awarding contracts to a local businessman.

Valcov hid a Renoir painting, three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of gold and stashes of cash worth $410,000 in a friend's safe from 2011, prosecutors said. He was mayor of Slatina from 2004 to 2012.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Friday named Eugen Teodorovici, was previously the minister for European funds, as the country's new finance minister. He will be sworn in next week.

In an unrelated case, prosecutors on Friday arrested lawmaker Theodor Nicolescu and said he is suspected of receiving 6.2 million lei ($1.5 million) from 2008 to 2013 in exchange for overestimating the value of real estate handed back to former owners. The kickback he is suspected of pocketing came after he restituted land in 2007 that had been seized by the communists. At the time, he was deputy chief of state restitution property board.

Romanian prosecutors have launched a series of high-level corruption investigations in the past year.

Senate's Harry Reid announces he won't seek re-election Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:01:07 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the wily Nevadan who dominated the Senate for a decade from the minority to the majority and back again, announced Friday he will retire after five terms.

Three-term New York Sen. Chuck Schumer faces a relatively clear path to replace him as the next Democratic leader. Reid endorsed the No. 3 Senate Democrat, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the current No. 2, told Schumer Thursday night he had his support, according to a spokesman.

Durbin plans to run again for the job of Democratic whip.

"I think it's very important to have continuity in our leadership," Reid told KNPR radio in Nevada about backing Schumer.

Reid, 75, who shepherded key Obama administration initiatives including the president's health care law, lost his role as majority leader — the Senate's top job — when November's elections swept the Republicans into control. He suffered a personal setback on New Year's Day, falling while exercising and suffering serious bruises and a lasting injury to his right eye.

Reid was the Republicans' top target in 2016 and widely considered vulnerable to losing the seat he'd held since 1987.

Still, the stubborn gold miner's son had cheated political death before, and few were writing him off.

In a statement early Friday, Reid said the recovery period from his eye injury, which may leave him with permanent vision loss, gave him time to think about his political future.

"We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again," he said. "And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that's what I intend to do."

Reid, who rose from nothing in the tiny desert town of Searchlight, Nevada, had grown more unpopular at home due to positions he'd taken on national issues. He turned back a challenge in 2010 and was sure to face an aggressive, big-money attack by Republicans if he ran again.

President Barack Obama issued a statement that said Reid "has become not only an ally, but a friend."

In a surprise, Obama called in to the radio show, chatting with Reid about their years together pushing legislation, fighting the Great Recession and overhauling the nation's health care system.

Said Obama, "We've had a great run."

As Democratic leader, Reid thrived on behind-the-scenes wrangling. He guided the Senate through a crippling recession and the GOP takeover of the House in the 2010 elections, which sparked years of bitter partisan battles and congressional gridlock.

He was known for frequent gaffes and impolitic remarks, once complaining that tourists to the Capitol smelled, and calling former President George W. Bush a "loser" and a "liar."

Since returning to work after his fall, Reid has struggled to regain sight in his right eye, appearing in the Capitol in bandages and then with his eye shielded by tinted glasses. He told The Associated Press early this month that the injury was "a tremendous inconvenience," but nothing more, and not enough to stop him from seeking re-election.

"I've had black eyes before," said Reid, who was an accomplished amateur boxer in his youth.

Even from his post in the minority, Reid leveraged Senate rules to exert steely control. He held his 46-member caucus together against attempts by Republicans to pass legislation undoing Obama's executive actions on immigration, forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to back down, and House Speaker John Boehner to follow. The episode left some House Republicans complaining bitterly that Reid might as well still be majority leader.

In classic fashion, Reid could not resist needling McConnell, with whom he had an icy relationship, as he disclosed his departure.

"My friend Sen. McConnell, don't be too elated. I'm going to be here for 22 months," Reid said in a video he filmed to announce his retirement.

McConnell was gracious in his comments on Reid's retirement.

"Nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight," the GOP senator said in a statement. "Underestimated often, his distinctive grit and determined focus nevertheless saw him through many challenges. They continue to make him a formidable opponent today."

Reid insisted that his decision had nothing to do with his injury or his re-election chances, saying "the path to re-election is much easier than it probably has been anytime that I've run for re-election."

Republicans would surely have disagreed, but the implacable self-confidence was typical of Reid. He survived re-election in 1998 by only 428 votes, and won in 2010 after meddling in the GOP primary to weaken the establishment candidate so that he ended up running against a tea-party backed Republican with some extreme positions.

Reid has built a formidable Democratic machine in Nevada, working to move up the state's caucuses so that it plays a significant role in the presidential nominating contest, and in the process registering droves of Democratic voters in the swing state.

Reid also endorsed former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto to run for his seat next year. That should make her a solid contender for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Gov. Brian Sandoval has been encouraged to run but has said he intends to serve out his full term as governor. Other possibilities are Rep. Joe Heck and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.


Associated Press writer Charles Babington and Riley Snyder in Carson City, Nevada, contributed to this report.

Museum's 'Little Syria' exhibit going to Ellis Island Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:01:36 -0400 DETROIT (AP) — The Arab American National Museum is sending its exhibition about one of the earliest Arab-American settlements to Ellis Island, the same place where many of those immigrants first set foot in the U.S.

The "Little Syria" exhibit documents the once-thriving Lower Manhattan community that was home to many Arabs, including author and poet Khalil Gibran, and some of America's first Arabic language newspapers during the immigration wave of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibit was created by the Smithsonian-affiliated Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb that's home to one of the nation's largest Arab-American populations, with help from New York residents.

Arab museum director Devon Akmon told The Associated Press that having the exhibit at the historic immigrant gateway shares a largely unknown piece of history with an audience eager to learn about their own families' immigration journeys as well as others.

"Our goal is always to place the Arab-American story in the context of the great American story," he said.

Most of the neighborhood was razed to build the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and later the World Trade Center site.

Advocates long have lobbied to preserve, protect and promote the few remaining buildings: a church, community house and tenement. A neighborhood group worked with city officials to create and install a historical sign and six bench plaques in a nearby park commemorating the Washington Street neighborhood's history and hopes to do more.

The traveling exhibit runs from Oct. 1 through Jan. 9, 2017, at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The Michigan museum announced plans for the exhibit and other events Friday as part of its 10th anniversary in Dearborn. The city is often described as the capital of Arab America, with its several mosques, Arabic-signed restaurants and retail shops, and a large population that traces its roots to many Middle Eastern countries.


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End of 'Mad Men,' but show's relics find new life at museum Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:02:09 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — Don Draper is making his exit with "Mad Men" this year, but his image as a 1960s advertising man will live on at the Smithsonian Institution.

Jon Hamm, who plays Draper on the AMC drama about a New York ad agency, joined cast members and show creator Matthew Weiner at the National Museum of American History on Friday to donate costumes, props, sketches and a script from the show. The collection includes Draper's trademark gray suit and fedora.

"Mad Men's" final season begins April 5.



A crush of cameras surrounded Hamm at the museum as he smiled and posed with his suit from the show — the trademark of the "Mad Men" costumes. But he took no questions. Hamm recently completed treatment for alcohol addiction and has asked for privacy, through his publicist.



Curators at the Smithsonian were particularly interested in "Mad Men's" real 1960s-period relics, from cigarette cartons and liquor bottles to shaving kits and tooth brushes that were used in the show, along with costumes that were recreated for the period. Some objects, including Draper's suit, will be featured in an exhibit on American culture slated for 2018.

Entertainment Curator Dwight Blocker Bowers said "Mad Men" producers did the best research he's ever seen for a TV show, with meticulous detail to create the look of a 1960s ad agency.



Weiner, the show's creator, said he was thrilled that objects from the show might one day be seen during a school field trip at the Smithsonian.

"What I love about these objects being here is that these are for the most actual objects; they are not recreation," he said. "This is the archaeological site of humanity from this period. We're glad that we saved these things."



AMC President Charlie Collier said "Mad Men" perfectly recreated the 1960s, and he said the show's creators were honored that Draper's suit would join Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" and other objects from entertainment history at the museum.

"You know, they say that all good things must come to an end, and all great things come to the Smithsonian," he said.


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End of 'Mad Men,' but show's relics find new life at museum Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:01:49 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — Don Draper is making his exit with "Mad Men" this year, but his image as a 1960s advertising man will live on at the Smithsonian Institution.

Jon Hamm, who plays Draper on the AMC drama about a New York ad agency, joined cast members and show creator Matthew Weiner at the National Museum of American History on Friday to donate costumes, props, sketches and a script from the show. The collection includes Draper's trademark gray suit and fedora.

"Mad Men's" final season begins April 5.



A crush of cameras surrounded Hamm at the museum as he smiled and posed with his suit from the show — the trademark of the "Mad Men" costumes. But he took no questions. Hamm recently completed treatment for alcohol addiction and has asked for privacy, through his publicist.



Curators at the Smithsonian were particularly interested in "Mad Men's" real 1960s-period relics, from cigarette cartons and liquor bottles to shaving kits and tooth brushes that were used in the show, along with costumes that were recreated for the period. Some objects, including Draper's suit, will be featured in an exhibit on American culture slated for 2018.

Entertainment Curator Dwight Blocker Bowers said "Mad Men" producers did the best research he's ever seen for a TV show, with meticulous detail to create the look of a 1960s ad agency.



Weiner, the show's creator, said he was thrilled that objects from the show might one day be seen during a school field trip at the Smithsonian.

"What I love about these objects being here is that these are for the most actual objects; they are not recreation," he said. "This is the archaeological site of humanity from this period. We're glad that we saved these things."



AMC President Charlie Collier said "Mad Men" perfectly recreated the 1960s, and he said the show's creators were honored that Draper's suit would join Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" and other objects from entertainment history at the museum.

"You know, they say that all good things must come to an end, and all great things come to the Smithsonian," he said.


Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at

AP Top News At 3 p.m. EDT Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:00:34 -0400 German airline could face 'unlimited' damages for Alps crashWarships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in YemenSenate's Harry Reid announces he won't seek re-electionNY mayor: Someone may have 'inappropriately' tapped gas lineMarriage plans and writing occupy Amanda KnoxEnd of 'Mad Men,' but show's relics find new life at museumFeds: Baltimore jail illegally keeping juveniles in solitaryInternet outages reveal gaps in US broadband infrastructure]]>