Here’s a playoff head-scratcher: accompanying the Patriots and Packers, Steelers and Giants, are the Lions and Texans.
On Saturday, the Texans kick off the NFL playoffs by hosting Cincinnati. It’s merely their first postseason game in franchise history, a life span of 10 seasons.
At night, the Lions, whose last trip to the playoffs came in 1999 — and whose last win was eight seasons before that — play at New Orleans.
There they are, Detroit and Houston, both 10-6, in there amongst recent champions and frequent playoff qualifiers.
The lack of familiarity with such surroundings doesn’t seem to concern Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, who has 17 players with playoff experience, but only kicker Jason Hanson got it with the Lions.
“We haven’t always played our very best, I don’t think any team ever does, but I think we’ve learned from some of the things that have happened and I think we’re a little bit more battle-tested, a little more seasoned,” he said. “There’s one thing of learning about something, there’s another thing experiencing it firsthand and seeing how it affects the team and things like that. I think that every time we’re presented with one of those situations, we’ve done a pretty good job of doing it better the second time.”
This is their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, but their second go-round with the Saints (13-3) in five weeks. The Lions fell 31-17 at the Superdome on Dec. 4.
Then again, everyone lost at New Orleans this season.
Saints coach Sean Payton dismisses the newcomer factor, saying he doesn’t expect to see a wide-eyed, nervous opponent in the prime-time wild-card game.
“I don’t think that there’s really any correlation to new teams or experienced teams, necessarily, in the playoffs,” said Payton, whose new playoff qualifier in 2006 went to the NFC championship game. “I think teams have players, typically that are on their team that might have been in the playoffs with another team, but I think it’s the week of preparation. I think it becomes the key thing that wins and loses games each week in the turnover ratio, big plays, the red zone and third-down efficiency, those are the things that matter.”
Schwartz is no newbie to the postseason, making several trips while an assistant with the Titans — including to the 2000 Super Bowl, which ended with Tennessee near St. Louis’ goal line trying to tie the game.
“I think every game … you learn something, so I don’t know that there’s anything other than that,” said Schwartz, 18-30 in his three seasons as coach. “Other lessons — we’ve had some success in the playoffs, also had failures. I’ve been part of a wild-card team that went to the Super Bowl, also been a part of a team that had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and lost in the first game. So, I think the finality of playoffs — win and advance, keep playing; lose and your season’s over — I think that’s probably the thing that’s the most different from a regular-season game.”
The Texans wouldn’t know.
Born in 2002, they didn’t have a winning record until last season. Their AFC South crown seemed destined when Peyton Manning was sidelined in Indianapolis, but they struggled down the stretch and lost their final three games.
Indeed, Houston’s last win was at Cincinnati 20-19. And it’s the Bengals (9-7) who visit Reliant Stadium on Saturday.
Fourteen Texans have made it to the playoffs with other clubs.
“From that standpoint, as far as our players, maybe that’s a good thing that they don’t have a lot of things to pull from. It’s just, go play it like any other game,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “They know that the result — the biggest factor — is you can move on. If you don’t play well, you’re not moving on, you’re going home.
“They all understand that, but this is the Houston Texans’ first taste of a playoff game.”
This is Cincinnati’s third playoff appearance in seven seasons, but the Bengals have flopped every time. Their last postseason victory was in January 1991.
“It would be a tremendous feeling for us to get rid of that stigma of not being able to get to the playoffs and win it,” offensive tackle Andre Smith said.
On Sunday, Atlanta (10-6) is at the Giants (9-7), followed by Pittsburgh (12-4) at Denver (8-8).
Yes, the wild-card teams in those two games have better records than the division winners.
The Falcons haven’t won in the postseason with Matt Ryan at quarterback, not even as the No. 1 seed in the NFC last year. Ryan’s doesn’t dwell on blown chances.
“It is the first opportunity that I have and we have as a team this postseason. We are excited about that.” he said. “All the stuff that happened in the past doesn’t really make a difference. It comes down to preparing this week and doing whatever we can to keep advancing throughout the playoffs.”
The Broncos’ last playoff trip was in 2005, when they lost to the Steelers for the AFC title. Pittsburgh, also a wild card then, won the Super Bowl.
“It doesn’t matter how you get in,” Denver linebacker Mario Haggan said. “We have an opportunity, and when you get in anything can happen. That’s what we’re hoping for.”]]>
Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh made up for the absence of the Miami’s injured stars, carrying the Heat to a 116-109 triple overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
With James and Wade cheering from the bench, Bosh scored 33 points and Chalmers had 22 of his 29 points after the third quarter, including five of Miami’s seven points in the third overtime.
“Coach said I had to be aggressive,” Chalmers said.
Wade missed his second straight game with a sore left foot and James was held out after he turned his left ankle late in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 118-83 win over Indiana. Neither was in uniform.
Bosh hit a last-second, tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force the first overtime.
“It was a lucky shot,” Bosh said.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team survived a test of its character.
“That game, the way it went down in the end, was an exercise in absolute endurance and mental and physical toughness,” Spoelstra said.
“Both teams played their hearts out there at the end.”
Joe Johnson had 20 points for the Hawks, who did not score in the third extra period. It was only the 10th time in NBA history that a team did not score in an overtime period.
Josh Smith added 17 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta, which was seeking its second win over the Heat in four days but missed 15 of 46 free throws.
Hawks coach Larry Drew said his players ignored his warning against a letdown if James and Wade didn’t play.
“There was a total, total mental letdown,” Drew said, adding his players lacked the spark they had when they won 100-92 in Miami on Monday.
“I didn’t see the sense of urgency I saw in Miami,” Drew said. “The tendency is to let your guard down, and we certainly did tonight.”
Bosh, the only healthy member of Miami’s Big Three, also had 14 rebounds. Rookie Terrel Harris had nine points and 14 rebounds.
The Hawks led 93-90 when Bosh launched the tying 3-point attempt from the wing over Marvin Williams with only six-tenths of a second remaining in regulation.
Miami took a 67-54 lead on a 3-pointer by Chalmers midway through the third before the Hawks closed the quarter with a 16-1 run to take control.
Little-used rookie Ivan Johnson was a big surprise with 13 points for Atlanta. Johnson, an undrafted player from Cal State-San Bernardino, had a steal and jam to cut Miami’s lead to one point and then closed the third quarter with two free throws to give the Hawks their first lead of the second half.
Ivan Johnson and Al Horford fouled out in the third overtime.
Drew said he turned to Ivan Johnson and Willie Green, who had 14 points, because he was “really searching” for players who showed “a sense of urgency.”
Spoelstra said before the game that Wade “was a little bit more unlikely” than James to play. Afterward, Spoelstra said he was trying to protect Wade from a more serious injury.
“He’s making progress with it, but we really want to take care of this before it’s something that can linger,” Spoelstra said.
Wade hurt his foot at Charlotte on Dec. 28.
James participated in pregame warmups but his status for Miami’s game at New Jersey on Saturday remains uncertain.
“He’s walking around and hopefully he’ll be able to play soon,” Spoelstra said. “Whether that will be Saturday, I don’t know.”
James and Wade were often active and animated as they watched from Miami’s bench, at times leaping up as they reacted to plays.
James Jones and Shane Battier were the fill-in starters.
“I hope the guys realize it doesn’t matter who’s in the uniform, it’s the standard of play,” said Battier, who had nine points and played a lead role in defending Joe Johnson, who made only 7 of 20 shots from the field.
“I’ve been in a lot of games in my 10 years in the league and this is right up there,” Battier said.
The Hawks, whose win at Miami gave the Heat their only loss, struggled with poor shooting as there were 17 lead changes in the first half.
Miami led 54-49 at halftime.
Notes: The Hawks’ last triple-overtime game was a 123-121 loss at Houston on Feb. 22, 2004. … G-F Tracy McGrady played 29 minutes off Atlanta’s bench after coach Larry Drew said the veteran’s status was uncertain due to a bruised knee. … The Hawks play at Charlotte on Friday and host Chicago on Saturday to complete three games in three days. … Heat F Mike Miller, recovering from hernia surgery, has been cleared for full contact. Spoelstra said he would ease Miller into action.]]>
So here’s a look at some of the worst January releases of the past decade. We had to narrow it down somehow, and even then it was difficult to choose just five. Hold your nose and let’s go:
— “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009): It made over $183 million worldwide, but that doesn’t make it good. And what’s so frustrating is that this dopey comedy is a dismal waste of the innate regular-guy likability of its star, Kevin James, who created the character. James plays a portly, Segway-riding shopping center security guard who pines for the hottie at the hair extension kiosk. Having repeatedly failed the New Jersey state trooper exam, he longs for action, and finds it when he gets caught up in a holiday bank heist that’s a cheap knock-off of “Die Hard.” This being a Happy Madison Production — Adam Sandler is James’ friend and domestic partner from “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” — there are, of course, plenty of obligatory adolescent sight gags to go along with the man-child hero fantasies.
— “Bride Wars” (2009): Clearly, 2009 was off to an inauspicious start. “Bride Wars” represents everything that’s wrong with a) wedding movies and b) modern romantic comedies in general. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway co-star as lifelong best friends who’ve obsessively fantasized about the ideal wedding since they were children in small-town New Jersey. Because that’s what all girls do, right? Lavish nuptials represent the zenith to which we all aspire. Then both get engaged within days of each other and accidentally book their weddings at New York’s Plaza Hotel on the same date. An elaborate game of sabotage ensues, climaxing with a catfight in which they rip each other apart in a screechy frenzy of hair and veils and silk. “Bride Wars” offers cliched stereotypes of female, catty materialism. Shockingly, two of the film’s three writers are women.
— “Kangaroo Jack” (2003): Jerry O’Connell and Anthony Anderson play a couple of racially mismatched buddies who go Down Under — to the accompaniment of Men at Work’s “Down Under,” in case we couldn’t figure out where they were — and hit a kangaroo with their Jeep. Said marsupial (who isn’t dead, but isn’t exactly alive either, no thanks to some shoddy CGI work) gets up and hops away with the $50,000 they’re supposed to deliver in Australia as an assignment from O’Connell’s mob-boss stepfather, played by Christopher Walken. That’s right, Christopher Walken. Even he can’t make this movie funny. This sets up a series of allegedly wacky adventures in which the two friends try to find the kangaroo. Oh, and O’Connell plays a hairdresser, so we have to suffer through lame gay jokes. And it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production. The end.
— “When in Rome” (2010): I saw this when I was on maternity leave because it was playing that week at the Mommy and Me movie. My bleary-eyed nights of sleep deprivation were more fun. Like “Bride Wars,” ”When in Rome” perpetuates yet another rom-com cliche I can’t stand: the high-powered woman who’s married to her job and too busy to look for love. Why movies like this, which ostensibly are for women, continue to peddle the insulting notion that a woman can’t be fulfilled personally and professionally at the same time is beyond me. Anyway, Kristen Bell functions in this role as an art curator who travels to Rome for her sister’s wedding. There, she suffers a curse while splashing in a fountain which makes her irresistible to a cadre of creeps. Even the hunky Josh Duhamel, as the best man, couldn’t make this tolerable.
— “Mad Money” (2008): Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes have no business being in the same room with each other, much less co-starring in a heist comedy. And yet, here they are. It’s essentially a chemistry-free rip-off of 1980′s “How to Beat the High Cost of Living,” which starred Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange as friends who scheme to steal cash from a giant money ball at the mall. Here, the target is the Federal Reserve Bank where the three women work. Except for Latifah’s character, who’s barely scraping by and eagerly seeks a better life for her sons, it’s tough to muster much sympathy for any of these people. Worst of all is Holmes, whose defining trait is bopping around at work with her headphones on, dancing as she listens to music. “Ocean’s Three,” it ain’t.]]>
“You know I am very hands-on. There is no way in the world anyone else could do my wedding other than myself, along with whomever I select to do various things,” she told The Associated Press.
Aretha Franklin announced to the AP in a statement earlier this week that she was engaged to longtime friend Willie Wilkerson. In a phone interview Wednesday night from Atlanta, where her late father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was to be honored by the Trumpet Awards for his achievements, a jovial Franklin said Wilkerson’s proposal wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“We were … just kind of talking along those lines, and then it got very serious,” she said. “I just said, ‘Is that a proposal?’ and he said ‘yes.’ And that’s how that happened; we just kind of talked into it.”
Now Franklin is starting to plan the wedding, including talking to designers Donna Karan and Vera Wang about her dress.
“I’d love to see what they would do custom for me . without me saying anything. They’re known for kick butt (dresses),” she said.
She’s also scouting locations for the ceremony, which she estimates will include about 250 people. While the Detroit native initially considered Miami Beach, Fla., for a June or July wedding, she’s now leaning toward “the exclusive Hamptons” in Long Island, N.Y., where friends have a house with a private beach.
“I’m kind of leaning that way because it’s closer to home, and more friends could get there easily,” she said.
And who would perform at the wedding of one of music’s top legends? Franklin said she hasn’t asked anyone but has her preferences.
“I would love to have Smokey (Robinson) sing, my dearest, oldest friend,” she said, adding gospel singer Karen Clark and Stevie Wonder to her list.
Franklin has two previous marriages. When asked why she was ready to try a third time at age 69, she said: “I like being married. It’s an institution that I like. So momentarily I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be married.”
Franklin also said she’d like to have someone to lean on.
“I need taking care of a little more, I think. Let someone else be strong,” she said.
Wilkerson was a longtime friend before their relationship became romantic, which is proof, she said, that “sometimes what you’re looking for is already there.”
Franklin said she was in a relationship with a celebrity before she and Wilkerson got serious.
“We had an intimate affair. (He was) one of America’s late-night talk-show hosts,” she said without elaborating. Franklin said the end of that relationship had a silver lining.
“At this point I’m thrilled it didn’t (work), and what I was looking for was already here,” she said.
Franklin said being longtime friends with Wilkerson “bodes well” for their relationship.
“We’re very compatible, and he supports me and I support him a lot, and he has given me specialized attention that I don’t think I’ve received from anyone else,” she said.
“I receive a lot of male attention, but Will is more special than all the rest.”]]>
The 269-kilogramme (592-pound) fish — caught off the coast of Japan’s northern Aomori prefecture — stood at an eye-popping 56.49 million yen ($736,500) when the hammer came down in the first auction of the year.
The figure dwarfs the previous high of 32.49 million yen paid at last year’s inaugural auction at Tsukiji, a huge working market that features on many Tokyo tourist itineraries.
Thursday’s winning bidder was Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the company that runs the popular Sushi-Zanmai chain.
At around 210,000 yen per kilogramme, a single slice of sushi could cost as much as 5,000 yen, but the firm plans to sell it at a more regular price of up to 418 yen, local media reported.
“The flesh is coloured in magnificent red and the quality of fat is very good,” Kimura said. “It is very delicious. The taste is unbeatable.”
A Hong Kong sushi restaurant owner bought the previous year’s record tuna, and Kimura added: “I wanted to win the best tuna so that Japanese customers, not overseas, can enjoy it.”
Bluefin is usually the most expensive fish available at Tsukiji.
Emiko Misumi, a 44-year-old woman who tasted a slice, said: “This tuna is so fatty and very delicious.”
“It was sweet even without sugar or sake. It was a very delicate sweet taste,” said another female customer Noriko Nakai, 63.
Decades of overfishing have seen global tuna stocks crash, leading some Western nations to call for a ban on catching endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Japan consumes three-quarters of the global catch of bluefin, a highly prized sushi ingredient known in Japan as “kuro maguro” (black tuna) and dubbed by sushi connoisseurs the “black diamond” because of its scarcity.
“You know, good things like this are appreciated in the whole world,” said 22-year-old male customer Hirotaka Higurashi when asked about the overfishing issue. “There is nothing we can do about it.]]>
New guidelines are urging survivors to exercise more, even — hard as it may sound — those who haven’t yet finished their treatment.
There’s growing evidence that physical activity improves quality of life and eases some cancer-related fatigue. More, it can help fend off a serious decline in physical function that can last long after therapy is finished.
Consider: In one year, women who needed chemotherapy for their breast cancer can see a swapping of muscle for fat that’s equivalent to 10 years of normal aging, says Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In other words, a 45-year-old may find herself with the fatter, weaker body type of a 55-year-old.
Scientists have long advised that being overweight and sedentary increases the risk for various cancers. Among the nation’s nearly 12 million cancer survivors, there are hints — although not yet proof — that people who are more active may lower risk of a recurrence. And like everyone who ages, the longer cancer survivors live, the higher their risk for heart disease that exercise definitely fights.
The American College of Sports Medicine convened a panel of cancer and exercise specialists to evaluate the evidence. Guidelines issued this month advise cancer survivors to aim for the same amount of exercise as recommended for the average person: about 2 1/2 hours a week.
Patients still in treatment may not feel up to that much, the guidelines acknowledge, but should avoid inactivity on their good days.
“You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong,” stresses Dr. Julia Rowland of the National Cancer Institute, speaking from a survivorship meeting this month that highlighted exercise research. “Walk the dog, play a little golf.”
But how much exercise is needed? And what kind? Innovative new studies are under way to start answering those questions, including:
_Oregon Health and Science University is training prostate cancer survivors to exercise with their wives. The study will enroll 66 couples, comparing those given twice-a-week muscle-strengthening exercises with pairs who don’t get active.
Researchers think exercising together may help both partners stick with it. They’re also testing if the shared activity improves both physical functioning and eases the strain that cancer puts on the caregiver and the marriage.
“It has the potential to have not just physical benefits but emotional benefits, too,” says lead researcher Dr. Kerri Winters-Stone.
_Demark-Wahnefried led a recent study of 641 overweight breast cancer survivors that found at-home exercises with some muscle-strengthening, plus a better diet, could slow physical decline.
_Duke University is recruiting 160 lung cancer patients to test if three-times-a-week aerobic exercise, strength training or both could improve their fitness after surgery. Lung cancer has long been thought beyond the reach of exercise benefits because it’s so often diagnosed at late stages. But Duke’s Dr. Lee Jones notes that thousands who are caught in time to remove the lung tumor do survive about five years, and he suspects that fitness — measured by how well their bodies use oxygen — plays a role.
People with cancer usually get less active as symptoms or treatments make them feel lousy. Plus, certain therapies can weaken muscles, bones, even the heart. Not that long ago, doctors advised taking it easy.
Not anymore: Be as active as you’re able, says Dr. Kathryn Schmitz of the University of Pennsylvania, lead author of the new guidelines.
“Absolutely it’s as simple as getting up off the couch and walking,” she says.
Exercise programs are beginning to target cancer survivors, like Livestrong at the YMCA, a partnership with cycling great and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s foundation. The American College of Sports Medicine now certifies fitness trainers who specialize in cancer survivors.
But anyone starting more vigorous activity for the first time or who has particular risks — like the painful arm swelling called lymphedema that some breast cancer survivors experience — may need more specialized exercise advice, Schmitz says. They should discuss physical therapy with their oncologist, she advises.
For example, Schmitz led a major study that found careful weight training can protect against lymphedema, reversing years of advice to coddle the at-risk arm. But the average fitness trainer doesn’t know how to safely offer that special training, she cautions.
Mary Lou Galantino of Wilmington, Del., is a physical therapist who specializes in cancer care — and kept exercising when her own breast cancer was diagnosed at Penn in 2003. Then 42, she says she was on the treadmill within 24 hours of each chemo session, to stay fit enough to care for her two preschoolers.
“You can feel more energy” with the right exercise, says Galantino, a physical therapy professor at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “I was giving my body up to the surgeons and chemo, but I could take my body back through yoga and aerobic exercise.”]]>
Kyle Selig of Long Beach, Calif., was named best actor in a high school musical and Alexandria Payne of Atlanta was named best actress at the second annual National High School Music Theater Awards ceremony. Each “Jimmy” winner received $10,000 toward their education.
Three other students were given $2,500 scholarships for their performances.
In all, 44 students performed selections from roles they played in their high school musical at the Marquis Theatre, home of the Broadway show “Come Fly Away.”
Selig won for his portrayal of Don Lockwood in “Singing in the Rain.” Payne won for her performance as Ti Moune on “Once on this Island.”
The “Jimmy” award is named for theater owner James Nederlander, whose company is a co-sponsor of the awards ceremony. The award comes with additional scholarship funds to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts if winners choose to go there.
The students arrived in New York last week and have been rehearsing every day. They learned music and choreography for their own songs and their peers’, for which they’ll perform as backup singers and dancers.
“We’re working our butts off every single minute of every day,” said John Jorge, 18, of Norwich, Conn., who is singing a song from “Les Miserables.” Jorge missed his high school graduation so he could compete.
“This is one of those things I had to go to,” he said. “I’m probably never going to get to experience this ever again.”
The students also joined the cast and musicians of “Come Fly Away” to pay tribute to Frank Sinatra, whose music is the soundtrack for the show.
During their trip, the students took in the Broadway show “Memphis” and spoke with the cast after the performance. They performed for casting director Bernie Telsey, who was one of the award’s judges, on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to give these kids an authentic, meaningful, professional experience,” said Van Kaplan, president of the awards organization and the show’s director. “If they decide they want to pursue this as a career, they will have had kind of a taste of it.”
Despite the grueling rehearsal schedule, Stephanie Styles of Houston hopes to pursue a career as a musical theater actress.
“You teach people, you entertain them, you can do so much with a musical,” said Styles, 18. “And you get to sing and dance and act.”]]>
U.S. authorities say they sometimes worked in pairs and pretended to be married so they could blend into American society as the couple next door. Aside from fake identities, authorities say, they used Cold War spycraft — invisible ink, coded radio transmissions, encrypted data — to avoid detection.
On Monday in federal court in Manhattan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz called the allegations “the tip of the iceberg” of a conspiracy of Russia’s intelligence service, the SVR, to collect inside U.S. information.
Each of the 10 was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction. Two criminal complaints outlining the charges were filed in U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York.
Nine of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison upon conviction.
The FBI said it intercepted a message from SVR’s headquarters, Moscow Center, to two of the 10 defendants describing their main mission as “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US.” Intercepted messages showed they were asked to learn about a wide range of topics, including nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, Congress and the political parties, prosecutors said.
“The FBI did an extraordinary job in this investigation,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
The court papers described a new high-tech spy-to-spy communications system used by the defendants: short-range wireless communications between laptop computers — a modern supplement for the old-style dead drop in a remote area, high-speed burst radio transmission or the hollowed-out nickels used by captured Soviet Col. Rudolf Abel in the 1950s to conceal and deliver microfilm.
On Saturday, an undercover FBI agent in New York and another in Washington, both posing as Russian agents, met with two of the defendants, Anna Chapman at a New York restaurant and Mikhail Semenko on a Washington street corner blocks from the White House, prosecutors said. The FBI undercover agents gave each an espionage-related delivery to make. Court papers indicated Semenko made the delivery as instructed but apparently Chapman didn’t.
Another defendant was a reporter and editor for a prominent Spanish-language newspaper videotaped by the FBI contacting a Russian official in 2000 in Latin America, prosecutors said.
The timing of the arrests was notable given the efforts by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev to reset U.S.-Russia relations. The two leaders met last week at the White House after Medvedev visited high-tech firms in California’s Silicon Valley, and both attended the G-8 and G-20 meetings over the weekend in Canada.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was studying U.S. statements about the arrests. Ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov said the information given by U.S. authorities looked “contradictory,” but he wouldn’t comment further.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, asked at a press conference in Jerusalem about the spy case, said he hadn’t received “explanations on what this is about.”
“I’m waiting for these explanations,” he said through an interpreter. “What I can say now is that the timing of this announcement was most elegant.”
Intelligence on Obama’s foreign policy, particularly toward Russia, appears to have been a top priority for the Russian agents, prosecutors said.
In spring 2009, court documents say, conspirators Richard and Cynthia Murphy, who lived in New Jersey, were asked for information about Obama’s impending trip to Russia that summer, the U.S. negotiating position on the START arms reduction treaty, Afghanistan and the approach Washington would take in dealing with Iran’s suspect nuclear program. They also were asked to send background on U.S. officials traveling with Obama or involved in foreign policy, the documents say.
“Try to outline their views and most important Obama’s goals (sic) which he expects to achieve during summit in July and how does his team plan to do it (arguments, provisions, means of persuasion to ‘lure’ (Russia) into cooperation in US interests,” Moscow asked, according to the documents.
Moscow wanted reports that “should reflect approaches and ideas of” four sub-Cabinet U.S. foreign policy officials, they say.
One intercepted message said Cynthia Murphy “had several work-related personal meetings with” a man the court papers describe as a prominent New York-based financier active in politics.
In response, Moscow Center described the man as a very interesting target and urged the defendants to “try to build up little by little relations. … Maybe he can provide” Murphy “with remarks re US foreign policy, ‘roumors’ about White house internal ‘kitchen,’ invite her to venues (to major political party HQ in NYC, for instance. … In short, consider carefully all options in regard” to the financier.
The Murphys lived as husband and wife in suburban New Jersey, first Hoboken, then Montclair, with Richard Murphy carrying a fake birth certificate saying he was born in Philadelphia, authorities said.
The papers allege the defendants’ spying has been going on for years.
One defendant in Massachusetts made contact in 2004 with an unidentified man who worked at a U.S. government research facility.
“He works on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapon development,” the defendant’s intelligence report said.
The defendant “had conversations with him about research programs on small yield high penetration nuclear warheads recently authorized by US Congress (nuclear ‘bunker-buster’ warheads),” according to the report.
One message back to Moscow from the defendants focused on turnover at the top level of the CIA and the 2008 U.S. presidential election, prosecutors said. The information was described as having been received in private conversation with, among others, a former legislative counsel for Congress. The court papers deleted the name of the counsel.
In the papers, FBI agents said the defendants communicated with Russian agents using mobile wireless transmissions between laptop computers, which has not previously been described in espionage cases brought in the U.S.: They established a short-range wireless network between laptop computers of the agents and sent encrypted messages between the computers while they were close to each other.
Aside from the Murphys, three other defendants also appeared in federal court in Manhattan — Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, who were arrested at their Yonkers, N.Y., residence, and Chapman, arrested in Manhattan on Sunday.
The Murphys, Lazaro, Pelaez and Chapman were held without bail. The defendants answered “Yes” when asked if they understood the charges. None entered a plea. Another hearing was set for Thursday.
Pelaez is a Peruvian-born reporter and editor and worked for several years for El Diario/La Prensa, one of the country’s best-known Spanish-language newspapers. She is best known for her opinion columns, which often criticize the U.S. government.
In January 2000, Pelaez was videotaped meeting with a Russian government official at a public park in the South American nation, where she received a bag from the official, according to one complaint.
Pelaez was born in Cusco, southeast of Lima, and worked as a journalist for the defunct daily La Prensa de Lima and later for a television station, where she gained notoriety among local journalists. On Dec 8, 1984, Pelaez, who worked for Frecuencia Latina, was kidnapped for a day and interviewed a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. The interview wasn’t broadcast on television, but the following year it appeared in Marka, a newspaper with leftist leanings.
Lazaro and Pelaez discussed plans to pass covert messages with invisible ink to Russian officials during another trip Pelaez took to South America, a complaint said.
The complaint alleges authorities overheard an unguarded Lazaro once saying in his home, “We moved to Siberia … as soon as the war started.”
Waldo Mariscal, Pelaez’ son, said his mother was innocent.
“This is a farce. We don’t know the other people,” he said, referring to the others who have been accused.
Robert Krakow, an attorney for Lazaro, said after the court hearing that his client was innocent and that the information in the complaint “had no value”.
An attorney for Chapman, Robert Baum, argued the allegations were exaggerated and his client deserved bail.
“This is not a case that raises issues of security of the United States,” he said.
Prosecutors countered that Chapman was a flight risk, calling her a highly trained “Russian agent” who is “a practiced deceiver.”
Two other defendants, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, were arrested at their Arlington, Va., residence. Also arrested at an Arlington residence was Semenko.
Zottoli, Mills and Semenko appeared before U.S. Magistrate Theresa Buchanan early Monday afternoon in Alexandria, Va., the U.S. attorney’s office said. The hearing was closed because the case had not yet been unsealed in New York. The three did not have attorneys at the hearing, U.S. attorney spokesman Peter Carr said.
In Arlington, where Zottoli and Mills lived in an apartment, next-door neighbor Celest Allred said her guess had been that “they were Russian, because they had Russian accents.”
Two defendants known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley were arrested at their Cambridge, Mass., residence Sunday. They appeared briefly in Boston federal court Monday. A detention hearing was set for Thursday.
A message left after business hours with Heathfield’s public defender, Catherine Byrne, was not immediately returned. A telephone number for Foley’s attorney could not be found.
An 11th defendant, a man accused of delivering money to the agents, remains at large.]]>
The “Transformers” actress married her long-time boyfriend, former “Beverly Hills, 90210″ star Brian Austin Green, in Hawaii late last week, TMZ reported on Monday.
The pair tied the knot during a small ceremony at the Four Seasons Resort on the state’s Big Island. Staff at the hotel were not able to confirm the report, and Fox’s publicist did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Fox, 24, and Green, 36, reportedly got engaged for a second time at the same hotel earlier this month. They met in 2004, first got engaged in 2006, but called it off in early 2009.
It was the first marriage for both, although Green has an 8-year-old son with actress Vanessa Marcil.
Fox is currently in theaters with the comic-book adaptation “Jonah Hex,” which is shaping up to be one of the biggest bombs of the year. Last month, she was suddenly dropped from the cast of “Transformers 3″ just as production was about to begin. She last year likened franchise director Michael Bay to Hitler and Napoleon, and said he was “a nightmare to work for.”
Her high-profile headlining role in the 2009 horror comedy “Jennifer’s Body” also fizzled.
Green, meanwhile, has worked steadily in a series of low-profile film and TV projects since the popular teen soap “Beverly Hills, 90210″ ended its decade long run in 2000.]]>
But there’s one name among the list of Wimbledon quarterfinals that may not be quite so familiar — Yen-hsun Lu.
He’s the 82nd-ranked player from Taiwan who shocked three-time runner-up Andy Roddick to become the first Asian player to reach the men’s quarters of a Grand Slam tournament in 15 years.
The 26-year-old from Taipei pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far Monday when he outlasted fifth-seeded Roddick 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 9-7 in a match that stretched over 4 1/2 hours.
After Lu ripped a running forehand passing shot on match point to break Roddick for the first time, he looked and pointed to the sky. He said he had bittersweet feelings in memory of his father, a chicken farmer who passed away in 2000.
“I’m really proud to share this victory with him in the sky,” Lu said. “In that moment, I just told myself, I’ve done it. I’ve done it for my father. I’ve done it for myself also. I’ve done it for all the people who supported me.”
It was a stunning turnaround for Lu, who had lost in the first round at Wimbledon the past four years and failed to win a match at the last five Grand Slams.
Lu said he didn’t believe he could win during Monday’s match but told himself to keep fighting and keep holding serve.
“I just tried to stay with him, try to find a chance to win the set, set by set, until at the end, I was shaking his hand and I won,” he said.
Before Monday, Lu was 9-18 in Grand Slam matches, 11-17 on grass and 2-10 overall against top-10 ranked players. It was his first win over a top-10 player since he beat Murray in the first round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was a crushing defeat for Roddick, who was hoping to finally win his first Wimbledon title after losing three times to Federer in the finals, including last year’s epic match that went to 16-14 in the fifth set. He had beaten Lu in straight sets in three previous meetings.
Roddick served 38 aces but converted only one of eight breakpoint chances. Lu had 22 aces.
Roddick said he played “horrendously” the first three sets, got better after that but Lu served better than ever before.
“When you dig yourself a hole, it’s tough to get out,” he said. “He played high risk, but he executed very well. He had a game plan, he stuck to it, and he deserved to win more than I did, that’s for sure.”
Lu had become the first man from Taiwan to reach the third round at a Slam when he did at the 2009 Australian Open. The last Asian man to reach the quarterfinals at a Slam was Japan’s Shuzo Matsuoka, who got to the final eight at Wimbledon in 1995. Thailand’s Paradorn Srichapan reached the round of 16 here in 2003.
Lu earned a quarterfinal meeting with third-seeded Djokovic, who beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the last eight for the second year in a row.
Federer, chasing a record-tying seventh Wimbledon title, swept past 16th-seeded Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and will meet Tomas Berdych.
Nadal, forced into five sets the previous two rounds, needed only three Monday to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, and showed no sign of the right knee trouble which bothered him. The Spaniard now faces sixth-seeded Robin Soderling, the Swede who beat him in the fourth round at the French Open last year and lost to him in last month’s final in Paris.
“I think the match is completely different,” Nadal said. “Nothing similar to playing on grass than on clay.”
Murray beat American Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final eight for the third consecutive year and is the only player in the men’s draw who hasn’t lost a set.
Murray, seeking to become the first British player to win the men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, will next meet 10th-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The men have the day off Tuesday, which is set aside for the women’s quarterfinals.
Kim Clijsters will face Vera Zvonareva on Centre Court, followed by defending champion and top-seeded Serena Williams against China’s Li Na. Venus Williams, the No. 2-seeded player and five-time champion, will be up against Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova on Court 1, followed by Petra Kvitova vs. qualifier Kaia Kanepi.]]>