Senate panel backs bill to authorize new sanctions on Iran

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John Kerry
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2017 file-pool photo, then-Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Paris, France. The Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly backed bipartisan legislation that would authorize President Donald Trump to put new sanctions on Iran while keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in place. Kerry cautioned lawmakers to “tread carefully” in pushing ahead with new sanctions against Iran in the wake of President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election last week to another four-year term. Rouhani is a political moderate who scored a resounding victory over a hard-line opponent. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON/May 25, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — A Senate panel overwhelmingly backed bipartisan legislation that would authorize President Donald Trump to put new sanctions on Iran while keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in place.

The Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-3 on Thursday despite concerns from former Secretary of State John Kerry and several Democrats that the measure could nonetheless lead to the unraveling of the nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration.

Kerry cautioned lawmakers to “tread carefully” in pushing ahead with new sanctions against Iran in the wake of President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election last week to another four-year term. Rouhani is a political moderate who scored a resounding victory over a hard-line opponent.

His win is viewed by many as a referendum on his push for international outreach that led to the nuclear deal.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Kerry said “there is much up in the air/room for misinterpretation. This is not the moment for a new Iran bill.” Kerry, who spent nearly three decades in the Senate and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, urged his former colleagues to consider the risk of undercutting the nuclear agreement by imposing new sanctions.

“We need to consider the implications of confrontation without conversation,” Kerry wrote.

But Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee’s Republican chairman and one of the bill’s sponsors, said he recently reviewed top-secret intelligence that detailed Tehran’s support for terrorism and other destabilizing actions.

“It is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world,” said Corker, urging his colleagues to confront the threat Tehran poses.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said the bill is “100 percent consistent” with U.S. obligations under the nuclear pact. Cardin, arguing for the legislation, said Iran’s leaders are taking the country “on a path of destruction.”

The committee’s bill imposes mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure also would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

In exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program, the U.S. and other world powers agreed to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy. As part of the July 2015 multinational accord, Iran also regained access to frozen assets held abroad.

Israel and congressional Republicans have long assailed the agreement as a windfall to Iran. They’ve argued the deal only delayed Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and failed to allow the kind of inspections of its atomic sites that would guarantee Tehran was not cheating. Lifting economic sanctions saved Iran’s economy, GOP lawmakers added, and allowed the country to funnel more money to terrorist groups.

Yet the nuclear deal remains in place despite Trump’s pledge during the presidential campaign to discard or renegotiate the pact. Instead, the State Department took a key step last week toward preserving the pact by issuing a waiver to keep the sanctions from snapping back into place. And the Trump administration notified Congress last month that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement.

Neither Iran nor the other nations that negotiated the agreement have any interest in re-opening the deal, and U.S. companies could lose money if the deal is scuttled. Tehran has inked multibillion-dollar deals with Boeing and Airbus since the deal went into effect.

The Obama administration had opposed legislation that would slap Iran with more penalties over concerns that such a step could give Iran an excuse to walk away from the deal by saying the U.S. had reneged on its commitments to sanctions relief.

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RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press

James says Jordan chase is about motivation, not greatness

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LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics' Jae Crowder (99) during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 112-99. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BOSTON (AP)(STL.News) — LeBron James says his chase of Michael Jordan’s accomplishments is simply personal motivation. It’s not about wanting to establish himself as the NBA’s greatest player.

James spoke Thursday during the morning shootaround before the Cavaliers play the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

He says his goal is not about passing Jordan in titles, points or MVP awards. James is 28 points shy of overtaking Jordan as the postseason’s leading scorer. But the Cavaliers superstar says his pursuit is about leaving a legacy to motivate the next generation of players.

If the Cavaliers advance Thursday, James would be making a seventh consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

OPEC and other nations extend output cuts

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Alexander Novak, Khalid Al-Falih, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo
Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak, Khalid Al-Falih Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia and Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, from left, OPEC Secretary General of Nigeria wait for the start of a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA/May 25, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — An alliance of many of the world’s biggest oil-producing nations extended their agreement to cut output for an additional nine months, an effort to support prices that seems futile in the face of growing production from the U.S.

Thursday’s decision by the 14-member OPEC cartel and 10 other countries led by Russia, means that the reductions of 1.8 million barrels a day agreed on in November will stay in place until March.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid A. Al-Falih, who presided over the meeting, said he expected that the extension should reduce high crude inventories to a level corresponding to “the five-year average by the end of the year.”

Less oil on the market normally means higher value per barrel. But any uptick in prices may be modest and temporary.

The OPEC-non-OPEC alliance faces competition from U.S. shale producers. Many have returned to the market since crude prices have risen from last year’s lows to over $50 a barrel, and more are set to resume operations if crude prices go even higher.

That could increase supplies and push down prices again.

Investors seem to focus on that reality on Thursday, when they pushed the price of crude to levels seen before OPEC’s meeting in November. The U.S. benchmark for crude was down $1.87 a barrel at $49.49.

The upshot is that the price of oil — and derived products like fuel —is unlikely to increase much in coming months. That will be welcome news to consumers and energy-hungry businesses worldwide but could continue to strain the budgets of some of the more economically-troubled oil-producing nations, like Venezuela and Brazil.

The decision extends a cut of 1.2 million barrels a day by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Non-OPEC countries led by Russia chipped in with a further 600,000-barrel reduction.

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GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press
KIYOKO METZLER, Associated Press

‘Modern Family’ star Sarah Hyland explains skinny appearance

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Sarah Hyland
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2016, file photo, Sarah Hyland attends the 2nd Annual InStyle Awards at The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Hyland posted on social media May 24, 2017, that her skinny appearance lately is due to a medical condition. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

(STL.News) “Modern Family” star Sarah Hyland says her skinny appearance lately is due to a medical condition.

The 26-year-old says in a social media post that critics have accused her of promoting anorexia in pictures she’s posted. Without being specific, Hyland says she has “basically been on bed rest for the past few months” and has lost muscle mass. She says her face is swollen from medication that is saving her life.

Hyland discussed her struggle with a kidney condition in an interview with Seventeen magazine published this week. She says she received a kidney from her father.

Hyland stars as Lisa Houseman in ABC’s TV movie remake of “Dirty Dancing.”

China blocks online broadcast of computer go match

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China
Chinese Go player Ke Jie, left, looks at the board as a person makes a move on behalf of Google's artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo, during a game of Go at the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. A computer that plays go has started a match against China's No. 1 player in a test of whether artificial intelligence can master one of the last games that machines have yet to dominate. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING (AP)(STL.News) — Internet users outside China watched a computer defeat its national go champion, but few Chinese web surfers could see it.

Censors blocked access to Tuesday’s online broadcast by Google, which organized the game in a town west of Shanghai during a forum on artificial intelligence.

The event got little coverage from Chinese newspapers and broadcasters, suggesting they may have received orders to avoid mentioning Google, which closed its China-based search engine in 2010 in a dispute over censorship and computer hacking.

The official response to the game, a major event for go and artificial intelligence, reflects the conflict between the ruling Communist Party’s technology ambitions and its insistence on controlling what its public can see, hear and read.

The possible reason for suppressing coverage while allowing Google to organize the event in Wuzhen was unclear. Censorship orders to Chinese media are officially secret and government officials refuse to confirm whether online material is blocked.

The event showcased AlphaGo, which beats top players at go, a 25 century-old game played with black and white stones on a chessboard-style grid. It is one of the last games that computers have yet to dominate.

Tuesday’s game took place in a hall where Chinese leaders hold the annual World Internet Conference, an event attended by global internet companies.

Newspapers and websites reported AlphaGo’s victory over Ke Jie in the first of three games they are to play this week.

The reports were brief, even though Ke’s post-game news conference was packed with scores of reporters, and none mentioned Google.

There was no TV coverage, even though go has millions of fans in China and Ke, a 19-year-old prodigy, is a celebrity.

Google says 60 million people in China watched online as AlphaGo played South Korea’s go champion in March 2016.

The Communist government encourages internet use for business and education but operates an elaborate system of monitoring and censorship.

Censors block access to websites include social media and video-sharing websites such as Facebook and YouTube. Chinese internet companies are required to employ teams of censors to watch social media and remove banned material.

China has the world’s biggest population of internet users, with some 730 million people online by the end of last year, according to government data.

Web surfers can get around online filters using virtual private networks, but Beijing has cracked down on use of those.

Beijing’s relationship with Google is especially prickly.

The company, headquartered in Mountain View, California, opened a China-based search site in 2006 and cooperated with official censorship.

That prompted complaints from human rights and other activists and free press groups such as Reporters Without Borders.

In 2010, Google announced it no longer wanted to comply after hacking attacks on the company were traced to China.

The company shut down its China search engine and visitors were automatically transferred to another Google service in Hong Kong.

That stopped after Chinese authorities objected. Online filters slow access to the Hong Kong site enough to discourage many users.

AlphaGo and Ke are to play their second game on Thursday.

Governor Greitens requests federal assistance for Missouri’s historic flooding

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Governor Greitens requests federal assistance for Missouri's historic flooding
Governor Greitens requests federal assistance for Missouri's historic flooding

JEFFERSON CITY, MO/May 25, 2017 (STL.News) Yesterday, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Governor Greitens filed requests asking President Trump to approve a major disaster declaration that would provide 51 counties with federal assistance for Missouri flooding that began April 28, 2017.

Governor Greitens said.  “Today, I am requesting that President Trump approve federal assistance for flood survivors and businesses.  This assistance will help our people begin to rebuild, and help local communities with costly emergency response and infrastructure repair costs.  The people of Missouri are strong.  Communities are coming together to rebuild.  Support from the administration is essential to that effort.”

Areas received as much as 10 to 12 inches of rain pushing dozens of rivers and creeks to record levels resulting in evacuations, major damage and the destruction of homes and businesses.

Jointly, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) along with local officials prepared a Preliminary Damage Assessment.  Governor Greitens is asking for individual assistance for 37 counties in the state allowing eligible residents to seek federal assistance with temporary housing, housing repairs, replacement of damaged belongings, vehicles and other qualifying expenses.

Additionally, the Governor is requesting that the U.S. Small Business Administration assist businesses, homeowners and renters in the 37 counties with low-interest rate loans.

The 37 counties are: Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Christian, Crawford, Dent, Douglas, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Greene, Howell, Iron, Jasper, Jefferson, Laclede, Madison, Maries, McDonald, Morgan, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Ozark, Pemiscot, Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Texas, Wayne and Wright.

Furthermore, the Governor has requested requested Public Assistance for 45 Counties, which would allow local governments and qualifying non-profit agencies to seek federal assistance for reimbursement of emergency response and recovery costs, including repair, and replacement costs for damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure.

Those counties are: Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Butler, Camden, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Cole, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Douglas, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Howell, Iron, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Maries, Miller, McDonald, Morgan, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Ozark, Perry, Phelps, Pike, Pulaski, Ralls, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Texas, Washington, Wayne, Webster and Wright.

Missouri residents/businesses affected by the flooding are advised to continue documenting losses using photography and retain all receipts.  Additional information will be provided as it is available.

April 28, 2017, Governor Greitens declared a state of emergency in preparation of the heavy rain resulting in the flooding that the National Weather Service forecast.  The Governor quickly responded in anticipation of the damage that would result from the flooding activating the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, which allowed state agencies to coordinate quickly with local jurisdictions to provide emergency services.

On April 30, 2017, Governor Greitens signed an executive order activating hundreds of Missouri National Guardsmen in addition to those who participated in helicopter search and rescue missions.

For more information please visit https://recovery.mo.gov/.  The site will be updated as information is available.

Throwing chaos aside, Trump aims for caution on big trip

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Vatican Trump
President Donald Trump listens to a guide as they visit the Paulina Chapel inside the Apostolic Palace during his visit at the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel, following his private audience with Pope Francis, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS/May 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — In his first big tour on the world stage, President Donald Trump is choosing caution over his usual brand of chaos.

The early morning Twitter rants that so often rattle Washington have disappeared as Trump travels through the Middle East and Europe. The president has traded his free-wheeling speaking style for tightly scripted remarks. And with most of the traveling press corps being kept at a distance, the opportunities for him to be pressed on the controversies engulfing his administration back home are dramatically lessened.

Trump did briefly respond to one shouted question about his meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday, offering this indisputable assessment of the pontiff: “He is something.”

The president appears likely to go his entire nine-day trip without holding a full news conference, a break from presidential foreign travel precedent. That’s allowed him to steer clear of the steady stream of new revelations about his dealings with ousted FBI Director James Comey and the federal investigations into his election campaign’s possible ties to Russia. And it’s left no real opportunities to push the president beyond his talking points on some of the trip’s most complex issues, including the prospect of restarting Middle East peace talks and strengthening regional alliances to combat terrorism.

The White House has been jubilant over the trip’s results so far, and content to let the images of Trump meeting with world leaders tell the story instead of the president’s own unpredictable words. The White House did not respond to questions Wednesday about whether he might squeeze in a news conference on the final legs of the trip, his meetings with NATO and European leaders in Brussels and the Group of 7 summit in Sicily.

Jen Psaki, who served as White House communications director for President Barack Obama, said every White House has to contend with the risks of letting events at home step on a trip’s message. But she said there’s also value in an American president engaging with the press on foreign soil.

“We always saw press conferences as part of our objective: to send the message in countries without a free press, or with limitations on freedom of speech that the United States valued these sometimes-unpredictable interactions as a part of democracy,” Psaki said.

Not that Trump has gone silent on his five-stop trip abroad. He called on Arab and Muslim leaders to step up in the fight against terrorism during an address in Saudi Arabia, and he called on Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table during remarks Tuesday in Jerusalem. In both instances, he hewed closely to his prepared text — a rarity given his normal pattern of veering not only off script but sometimes wildly off topic.

There have been some self-inflicted wounds, most notably Trump’s decision to field a journalist’s question to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about concerns over the president’s decision to share with Russia some classified intelligence that had been obtained by Israel. The president declared that he “never mentioned the word or the name Israel” in his discussions with the Russian officials.

In one short set of off-the-cuff remarks in Jerusalem, Trump told an Israeli delegation that he had just gotten back from the Middle East — despite the fact that Israel is squarely in the region. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., can be seen in the video visibly reacting to the flub.

But some leaders Trump was slated to meet with on his trip had been preparing for far worse than the occasional Trump gaffe. At NATO headquarters, where he will visit Thursday, aides have prepped Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for the possibility that the president could try to pull off a stunt such as passing around invoices to member countries who have not met the alliance’s financial guidelines, according to a person with knowledge of the planning.

Trump has been a sharp critic of NATO countries that don’t spend the agreed-upon 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president indeed planned to push allies hard on that issue. The person with knowledge of the NATO planning insisted on anonymity in order to disclose private discussions.

Trump advisers vigorously contest the idea that the president’s more measured tenor abroad is the result of significant staff intervention, arguing that the president himself is behind the approach for his first foreign trip.

The final leg may be the most challenging. After warm embraces from the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Trump will be meeting with European leaders who are still skeptical of his untraditional approach to politics and his hard-to-pin-down policy positions. The arrangements for the summits will also put Trump’s patience to the test, requiring him to spend hours locked in rooms listening to his foreign counterparts.

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JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent

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AP writers Jonathan Lemire in Brussels and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

Why Melania Trump covers her head one day and not the next

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Melania Trump
First lady Melania Trump arrives at the San Damaso courtyard ahead of her husband President Donald Trump's private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Melania turned to one of her favorite fashion houses, Dolce & Gabbana, for her audience with the pope and her arrival in Italy. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

WASHINGTON/May 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — To cover up or not to cover up?

Melania Trump wore a veil to the Vatican on Wednesday to meet the pope, but no head covering a few days earlier to meet the king of Saudi Arabia, a religiously conservative country where most women cover themselves up from head to toe.

Why the difference? The answer is a complicated mix of personal preference, diplomatic protocol and religious dictates.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said Mrs. Trump’s decision to wear a black lace veil known as a mantilla followed Vatican protocol that women who have an audience with the pope must wear long sleeves, formal black clothing and a veil to cover their head. In Saudi Arabia, however, the government did not request that Mrs. Trump wear a head covering known as a hijab, or a headscarf, Grisham said.

The Vatican’s rules of attire are not strictly enforced. Many women, including high-ranking dignitaries, have visited the pontiff with their heads uncovered, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 and Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s top civilian leader, this month.

Many women wear veils out of respect. Mrs. Trump is Catholic, which likely made accompanying President Donald Trump for a meeting with the leader of the world’s more than 1 billion Roman Catholics all the more meaningful to her.

When a Vatican official handed her a rosary, the first lady immediately gave it to the pope to bless. She spent time in front of a statue of the Madonna at the Vatican’s children’s hospital and laid flowers at its feet. She also prayed in the hospital chapel.

Every woman in the U.S. delegation wore a veil, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who converted to Judaism before marriage.

In Saudi Arabia, the first lady dressed conservatively for her arrival Saturday in the capital of Riyadh. She wore a long-sleeved, high-necked, black pantsuit that mimicked the loose, black robes, or abayas, that Saudi women and female residents wear. Her attire during the two-day visit hewed to the protocol for high-level female visitors: modest dress, longer sleeves, higher necklines, pants and long dresses.

Ivanka Trump also dressed modestly, and left her head uncovered.

Most Western VIP women who visit Saudi Arabia don’t cover their heads, including British Prime Minister Theresa May and Merkel. Laura Bush and Michelle Obama also left their heads bare when they visited as first ladies. Then-citizen Donald Trump criticized Mrs. Obama for doing so in 2015.

In Riyadh, Mrs. Trump didn’t visit any Muslim holy sites or mosques where head coverings and other steps such as removing one’s shoes would have been required.

In Israel, the Trumps visited the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. Donald Trump, who became the first U.S. president to visit the wall while in office, donned a yarmulke — a skullcap — which is customary; the site keeps stacks of them for visitors to wear.

The president also wore a yarmulke at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, where it is not required. Trump likely wore one out of respect.

In keeping with Orthodox Jewish tradition, men and women pray separately at the wall. Ivanka Trump wore a black head covering to the wall, while Melania Trump wore no head covering. Many Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair as a sign of modesty.

At the Vatican, while Mrs. Trump strictly followed tradition and protocol by wearing black and a mantilla, other high-profile visitors have taken liberties with their attire.

In 2006, Cherie Blair, a practicing Catholic and wife of then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, violated protocol outright when she wore white for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Only royals are allowed the “privilege du blanc” — the so-called white privilege that dictates white outfits and white head coverings for queens and other royals when meeting the pontiff.

In 1989, during the landmark audience between Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was the Soviet leader’s wife, Raisa Gorbachev, who stole headlines: She wore a bright red dress.

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DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

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Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield in Rome, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

Rapper Chingy Stars In New Kraftig Commercial

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ST. LOUIS, MO/May 24, 2017 (STL.News) Rapper Chingy is being featured in a new online commercial for Kraftig Lager and Kraftig Light.

The online video is part of a new digital marketing initiative for Kräftig and Kräftig Light.  It coincides with the St. Louis-based company’s recent rebranding campaign and packaging redesign.

“It is a salute to Kräftig consumers, recognizing the challenges they face and the hard work they deliver”, said William K. “Billy” Busch, president and CEO of the William K. Brewing Company.

In a low, cool voice, Chingy, whose real name is Howard Bailey Jr. and is a St. Louis native, tells viewers to “Take a risk to create your own legacy,” a reflection of his career as a successful international performer.  “Never forget what made you choose your journey. Get back to your roots.  Get back to what drives you.  Get back to what makes you … you.”

“Get back to beer,” he states in the closing seconds.

“This spot also reflects the fierce independence of our brand and that of our consumers,” Busch said.  “We want to salute their commitment to achieving their personal and professional goals, and encourage them to focus on what drives them to be happy and successful.”

The 30 second spot was produced by Think Tank Public Relations and Marketing of St. Louis.  It was shot at a pub along the St. Louis riverfront’s Laclede’s Landing.

Busch said the historic backdrop of Laclede’s Landing also salutes St. Louis’s regional tradition and is a tribute to his company’s beer-brewing family heritage.

The ‘Get Back to What Makes You You’ video is now available for viewing online at the Kräftig Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo and YouTube sites, and the company’s website.  It is being driven via the company’s social channels.

Last month, the William K. Brewing Company launched its re-branding campaign.  At that time, the company unveiled new Kräftig and Kräftig Light labels for its 12-ounce bottles, new designs on its 12 and 24 ounce cans, and new secondary packaging, which Busch said “reflects the quality and great taste of our American-made, purity-brewed lager beers.”

The new colors, which are principally gold and silver, pays tribute to the brand’s multiple industry awards.

Mercy Creative Team Wins Sixteen Telly Awards

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Mercy Creative Team Wins Sixteen Telly Awards
Mercy Creative Team Wins Sixteen Telly Awards (Picture property of St. Louis Media, LLC)

ST. LOUIS, MO/May 24, 2017 (STL.News) Mercy Creative Team – The creative team behind Mercy Hospital’s commercials is being recognized for its industry performance.

The Mercy Experience Studio won 16 awards for its Mercy ads at the 38th annual Telly Awards competition.  Of those awards, the Mercy Experience Studio received three first-place honors.

The winning ads include: Worthy Of The Name, Heart, Truven, PC Hearing, PC Baseball, Breast Cancer, Live Without Pain, A Patient’s Journey, and Breast Cancer 2016 Campaign. These ads may be viewed online by clicking on the following link:

https://www.mercy.net/newsroom/2017-05-23/creative-team-behind-mercy-ads-wins-16-telly-awards

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979.  It honors excellence in local, regional and cable TV commercials, non-broadcast video and TV programs.  Entries are submitted from large international firms to local production companies and ad agencies in all five continents and all 50 states.  It’s considered one of the most sought-after creative awards in the advertising industry.

Industry leaders shared these testimonials on the Telly Awards’ website:

The Telly Awards is the go-to authority recognizing the best web videos and online video content.” said Ricky Van Veen, Co-Founder, CollegeHumor.

The Telly Award represents the very best in cable and local television. Being recognized by an organization of such high stature within the television and film industry is a great achievement, “ said  Chris Hannan, Senior Vice President of Marketing, FOX Sports Networks.

Marta Schmitz, a producer for Cox Media, describes the meaning of winning the prestigious Telly Award as “Credibility.  Respect.  Happiness.”

The Telly Awards receives over 13,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents annually.  The entries are judged by members of the Silver Telly Council.  Judges evaluate entries to recognize distinction in creative work.  Entries do not compete against each other.  Instead, entries are judged against a high standard of merit. Judges score entries on a performance scale and winning entries are recognized and awarded as Silver or Bronze Winners, based on the combined scoring of the judges who evaluate each entry.

Yates, Evernham lead NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018

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Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier, Ron Hornaday Jr
The NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2018 is shown after an announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The class is, from left, Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

CHARLOTTE, NC/May 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Robert Yates still remembers his college professor telling him he’d never make anything of himself.

It turns out his professor was wrong.

Yates’ 40-year career in auto racing culminated with his selection to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, an achievement that left him in tears.

The 74-year-old Yates admitted he wasn’t the smartest guy, but said “I knew how to work on cars.”

Yates, a NASCAR Cup champion as both an engine builder and owner, was voted in along with three-time NASCAR Cup championship crew chief Ray Evernham, drivers Red Byron and Ron Hornaday Jr. and broadcaster Ken Squier. Hornaday and driver Alan Kulwicki tied for the fifth and final spot, and Hornaday won the tiebreaker.

Yates was an overwhelming favorite, selected by 94 percent of the voters.

He grew up in Charlotte and couldn’t play baseball and football because of a heart murmur.

“So I worked on engines,” Yates said.

While Yates’ passion was engine building, he achieved most of his notoriety as an owner, with his drivers winning 57 Cup races.

After providing the power behind Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough with his engines, he started his own racing team in the late 1980s. Success came quickly with driver Davey Allison winning the 1992 Daytona 500, while finishing third in the standings. Dale Jarrett would win two more Daytona 500s and a Cup Series championship for Robert Yates Racing.

Yates is currently battling liver cancer, but said being selected into the Hall of Fame left him feeling like grabbing a jack, jumping over a pit wall and changing a tire.

“I may not sleep a wink,” he said with a wide smile.

NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton said Yates could do it all and is well-liked in the garage.

“Having watched him from an engine builder to a crew chief to a car owner and a tutor to so many families in the sport, the contributions he has made to NASCAR — we will never be able to count them all,” Helton said

Evernham earned his fame as a crew chief.

He became synonymous with Jeff Gordon when they began working together in 1992. Evernham guided Gordon and the Rainbow Warriors team to Cup titles in 1995, ’96 and ’98. Under Evernham, the No. 24 team excelled on pit stops, becoming the envy of other NASCAR teams as they dominated the 1990s decade by winning a series-leading 47 Cup races.

Evernham was having dinner with his wife in Indianapolis when he learned of the news.

“My wife got a really big smile on her face and she said, ‘You’re in,'” Evernham said. “The emotions overwhelmed me and I have been at a loss of words since. I have never felt as overrun by emotions in my life. … This is the biggest thing that can happen in your career.”

Byron won NASCAR’s first race in 1948 on the Daytona beach and road course and went on to win NASCAR’s first championship. Byron was wounded in World War II and drove with a special brace on his pedal.

Squier, who became the definitive voice of NASCAR, called Byron “an American hero.”

“After he got shot up so bad in the war they wanted to take his leg off and he said, ‘Thank you, I’ll keep it,'” Squier said. “He became a champion who represented everything this Memorial Day weekend is all about.”

Seven-time Cup Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were among the many young drivers who attribute Hornaday to helping them get their start in NASCAR. Hornaday let a number of drivers, including Johnson and Harvick, sleep in his couch at his Charlotte-area home while they were getting started in the sport.

“We moved and the only thing I saved was that couch,” said Hornaday, who has won four Trucks Series championships during his career. “People say why and I said, ‘Because everybody was always too drunk to go upstairs and they would always pass out on that little couch, the closest one to the door.'”

Jim France, the current chairman of International Speedway Corporation and son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., won the Landmark Award for his contributions to NASCAR.

The induction ceremony for the Class of 2018 will be in January in Charlotte.

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STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer

St Louis man sentenced to 81 months in prison for fraud

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St Louis man sentenced to 81 months in prison for fraud
St Louis man sentenced to 81 months in prison for fraud (Picture property of St. Louis Media, LLC/St. Louis Federal Courts Building)

ST. LOUIS, MO/May 24, 2017 (STL.News) – After using customer’s private information to have credit for private use and racking up charges of more than $110,000, Eddie Lee Regan, age 51, was sentenced to 81 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple fraud charges.

Between August 2015 and July 2016, utilizing the name Eddie Lee, Regans, Regans promoted himself as an contractor by handing out flyers to clients at different home improvement stores as well as other retail companies in the St. Louis area.  Additionally, Regans created Yellow Page entry’s and a website where he promoted general contractor services and home repair via an online organization called Repair & All Rehabilitation.

He falsely represented that his company (s) had been accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).  In response to complaints filed with the BBB by consumers, the BBB conducted their own investigation.  The Better Business Bureau issued an alert warning people that it might be risky to conduct business with Regans businesses.

The following names were used by Regans, Any Or All Rehabilitation & Repair, Regans Affordable Quality Works, and, when advertising his company: All Rehabilitation Repairs, Repair, Fair Quality Work and Rehabilitation.

Would-be customers were got by Regans considering his renderings, and identifying info by assuring that his firm would fund their home repairs.  Several customers provided their names, addresses, date of birth and social security numbers.

Regans used the identifying info to open credit accounts at Lowe’s and Menards.  Regans didn’t run any business purchases through which he could supply funding.  Regans used the accounts to buy things for personal use rather than use the credit accounts for the advantages of the homeowners.

Eddie Regans, St. Louis, pled guilty on January 30, 2017 to two felony counts of fraudulent use of access devices, one felony count of mail fraud, and 4 felony counts of aggravated identity theft.

The USA Postal Inspection Service investigated this case.  Assistant USA Attorney, Tracy Berry, is managing the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Source: Information was obtained solely from a Press Release published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri, dated Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre Presents the Premiere of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast

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The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre Presents the Premiere of Disney's Beauty and The Beast
The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre Presents the Premiere of Disney's Beauty and The Beast

Currently 3 of the 15 performances are sold out with several more nearing capacity

ARROW ROCK, MO/May 24, 2017 (STL.News) – Step into the enchanted world of Broadway’s modern classic, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, June 7 through June 18, 2017.  Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature, the stage version includes all of the wonderful songs written for the film, along with new songs by Alan Menken and Tim Rice.  Beauty and the Beast tells the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress.  If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed into his former self. But time is running out.  If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. This “tale as old as time” is spectacular fun for the entire family.

Len Pfluger returns to the Lyceum to direct Beauty and the Beast with choreography by Sam Hay.  The production features JOSEPH SPIELDENNER as the Beast, SHARON MALANE as Belle, DON RICHARD as Maurice, BEN CULLEN as Gaston, BOE WANK as Lefou, PERRY OJEDA as Lumiere, ALAN KNOLL as Cogsworth and JANE BROCKMAN as Mrs. Potts.  The cast also includes BAILEY JORDAN REEVES as Babette, STEPHANIE GRAY as Madame De La Grande Bouche, and DANIEL RYAN as Chip.  Featured in the ensemble are KATHYRN BRUNNER, HOLLY DAYTON, HANNAH RAE FAULK, ALEX HARTMAN, TYLER JIMENEZ, KOURTNEY KEITT, SPENCER LAWSON, KIRK LYDELL, GAGE MARTIN, MASON MCCLOUD, TREVOR MILES, BRENNA NOBLE, ISAAK OLSON, LESLIE WALKER, and MONICA WOODS.

Making his Lyceum debut as the Beast is Joseph Spieldenner.  Joe was seen on Broadway as Grantaire in the 2014 Revival of Les Misérables and appeared in the National Tours of Les Misérables (25th Anniversary) and South Pacific.  Regional credits include North Shore Music Theater, North Carolina Theater, PaperMill Playhouse, Sacramento Music Circus and many more.  TV credits include “Iron Fist” (Netflix), “Redrum” (InvDiscovery).  Playing Belle, Sharon Malane, returns to The Lyceum after having appeared recently as Denise in Sanders’ Family Christmas and Smoke on the Mountain.  Other Lyceum productions include Hello Dolly (Minnie Fay) and Hairspray (Penny).  Sharon appeared in the National Tour of Hairspray (Penny).  Regional credits include Grease (Sandy), Legally Blonde (Chutney), Joseph…Dreamcoat (u/s Narrator), My Fair Lady and South Pacific (Lt.J.G.Yeager) at STONC; Leaving Iowa (Sis), Oystertown, and Vintage Hitchcock at the Dixie Theater.

Returning to the Lyceum to play Belle’s father Maurice is Don Richard.  Lyceum audiences will remember Don from his previous performances as Fagin in Oliver!, Thernardier in Les Misérables, and Clem in Will Rogers Follies.  Broadway credits include the original cast of Jane Eyre, Urinetown and the recent revival of Side Show.  Don appeared for seven years in the National Tour of Wicked.  Making his Lyceum debut, Ben Cullen will play Belle’s arrogant suitor, Gaston.  Ben appeared in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast and has been seen regionally in White Christmas (Arts Center of Coastal Carolina), Les Misérables (The Fulton), and Joseph…Dreamcoat (The Fulton).  Boe Wank makes his debut at the Lyceum as Gaston’s sidekick and punching bag, Lefou.  Boe was recently seen in the National Tour of Kathleen Marshall’s TONY Award-winning revival of Anything Goes.

Also making his Lyceum debut, Perry Ojeda plays servant turned candelabra, Lumiere.  His Broadway credits include On The Town, Blood Brothers, and Imaginary Friends. In the West End he was seen in Dolly West’s Kitchen.  Off-Broadway credits include Die, Mommie, Die!, Babes In Arms (City Center ENCORES!).  National Tours include Blood Brothers, Camelot, and My One And Only. He has appeared regionally at Ogunquit Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe, Goodspeed Opera House, Cleveland Playhouse, Arena Stage, Orlando Shakespeare Festival and many others.  Playing Cogsworth, the tightly wound servant, is Lyceum veteran, Alan Knoll.  Alan’s most recently portrayed Bob Ewell in the Repertory Theater of St. Louis’ production of To Kill A Mockingbird. Previous Lyceum appearances include the Rev Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest, Victor Velasco in Barefoot In The Park, Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy, Gangster #1 in Kiss Me Kate, Stephen Hopkins in 1776, Gatch in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Renfield in Dracula and his favorite, Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey.  Returning to the Lyceum to play Mrs. Potts, the head of the kitchen turned teapot, is Jane Brockman. Jane comes directly from Wicked on Broadway, and 3 &1/2 yrs. on the National Tour where she played the Midwife & Madame Morrible.  Jane spent 6 years on Broadway in A Christmas Carol and was seen as Lady Anne in “Live From Lincoln Center” Camelot and in Abba’s Kristina at Carnegie Hall and at The Royal Albert Hall.  Other National Tours include The Light In The Piazza, (U/S Margaret), The and Sound of Music (Sister Berthe). TV/Film: The Americans, Law And Order SVU, All My Children, The Producer’s movie and various commercials.

Bailey Jordan Reeves returns to the Lyceum to play the castle maid, Babette.  Bailey recently appeared on the Lyceum Stage as Louise in Murder on the Nile and as Belle/Anne in A Christmas Carol.  Making her Lyceum debut, Stephanie Gray plays Madame De La Grande Bouche.  Her National Tour credits include Beauty and the Beast and Arts Power Nat.  Touring Company.  Playing Chip, Mrs. Potts’ son, is Daniel Ryan, returning to the Lyceum after appearing as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol last season.  Daniel lives in Columbia where he has appeared in several TRYPS performances and attends Paxton Keeley.

Len Pfluger, a Lyceum regular, directs the production.  For the Lyceum, Mr. Pfluger has directed and/or choreographed Funny Girl, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, Nunsense Jamboree, Forever Plaid, Anything Goes, Nunsense, Nuncrackers, Annie, Big, How to Succeed… and Sugar.  He made his Carnegie Hall debut directing Sue Mathys Sings Broadway and Piaf at Weill Concert Hall.  He has worked around the country, most recently directing and choreographing Camelot for Lyric Stage in Dallas.  Sam Hay is the Lyceum’s Resident Choreographer where his previous credits include Funny Girl, Oliver, Little Shop of Horrors, and The King and I.  His choreography has also been seen at Phoenix Theatre, Little Theatre on the Square, Webster Conservatory, and Grandstreet Theatre.  Now in his 14th season, Lyceum Resident Musical director James Woodland will serve as Musical Director and Conductor for Beauty and the Beast.  James retired as head of the BFA Acting Program at Missouri State University.  In previous years, he was head of the Musical Theatre programs at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the University of Miami.  Professionally, James has musical directed at North Shore Music Theatre, Flat Rock Playhouse, Brian C. Smith’s Off-Broadway at 26th Street Theatre, Florida Shakespeare Theatre, Maryland Shakespeare Festival, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, and Stages St. Louis.

Scenic design is by Lyceum Theatre Resident Scenic Designer Ryan J. Zirngibl. Mr. Zirngibl has designed many productions at The Lyceum including Les Misérables, A Christmas Carol, Million Dollar Quartet, Around the World in 80 Days, The King and I, and Fiddler on the Roof.  Resident Costume Designer Garth Dunbar has been part of 10 previous seasons at The Lyceum where his many designs include Into the Woods, Hairspray, The Fantasticks, and Little Women the Musical.  Resident Lighting Designer Randy B. Winder has designed close to 100 Lyceum productions including Cats, A Christmas Carol, Les Misérables, Million Dollar Quartet, and The Fantasticks.  Resident Sound Designer Ryan Matthew Hall returns for his ninth season at The Lyceum where he has designed Les Misérables, The King and I, Spamalot, The Producers, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fiddler on the Roof, and many more.  Tony Dearing is in his 25th year as Production Stage Manager and Ivan Dario Cano returns for his second year as Assistant Stage Manager.

Single Tickets for Beauty and the Beast are priced at $37.00 for adults.  Senior, student and children discounts are available.  Special Group Rates are available as well.  Performances are June 7 – June 18, 2016, Evening performances are at 8 pm and matinees are at 2 pm.  For tickets: www.lyceumtheatere.org, (660) 837-3311 x1, or in person at the Lyceum’s box office at 114 High Street, Arrow Rock, MO 65320.

The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is a non-profit 501(c)(3), professional theatre located in the unique village of Arrow Rock, Missouri, a 19th century National Historic Landmark.  The Lyceum has been entertaining audiences in the heart of Missouri for 57 years producing a variety of musicals, dramas and comedies.  Each year, this 408 seat theatre attracts professional talent from across the country to produce an eight show season (June-December).  Performers, designers, directors, and technicians take residence in Arrow Rock for five months to bring its patrons Broadway caliber productions throughout the summer.  The Lyceum receives much needed support from the Missouri Arts Council.

The Lyceum Theatre is affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union for Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

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Published on behalf of Missouri Press Association

NBA announces 2019 All-Star game will held in Charlotte

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All Star Game
FILE - In this June 23, 2015, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference to announce Charlotte, N.C., as the site of the 2017 NBA All-Star basketball game. The NBA All-Star game will be coming to Charlotte in 2019, two years after the city was to host the event, the NBA announced Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The All-Star game had been set for Charlotte last February, but the NBA moved the game to New Orleans because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)(STL.News) — The NBA All Star game is headed back to Charlotte in 2019, a couple of years longer than anticipated.

The NBA announced that the All-Star weekend will be held Feb. 15-17 in Charlotte and the game will be played at the Spectrum Center, home of the Charlotte Hornets.

The league had selected Charlotte to host the 2017 All-Star game, but later moved the game to New Orleans because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people. However, a compromise was struck in March to partially erase the impact of the House Bill 2 law limiting anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a release. “Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies.

“All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well. Sports have a long history of helping to change attitudes around important social issues. We believe holding our All-Star activities in Charlotte will be a powerful way for the NBA to continue this tradition.”

Hornets owner and longtime NBA great Michael Jordan said in a release he is “thrilled” the game is coming back to Charlotte.

“We want to thank Commissioner Silver for his leadership throughout this process and for the decision to bring NBA All-Star back to Buzz City,” Jordan said in the release. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”

Charlotte previously hosted the All-Star game in 1991 at the Charlotte Coliseum, which has since been demolished.

Zika hit Florida months before infections found, study says

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Zika
FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 file photo, Aedes Aegypti mosquito larvae swim in a container at the Florida Mosquito Control District Office in Marathon, Fla. A study released on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 suggests Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area in the summer of 2016, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

NEW YORK (AP)(STL.News) — Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area last summer, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean, new research suggests.

Mosquitoes there started picking up the virus from infected travelers as early as March last year, according to scientists who examined genetic information from samples from about 30 people with Zika as well as from mosquitoes. It wasn’t until July that Florida health officials said they had detected a local infection — the first in the U.S. mainland. Mosquitoes spread Zika by biting someone who’s infected, then biting another person.

The bugs may have been causing infections in Miami as early as March, too, said researcher Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there were likely few cases before July, and it’s not clear any of them sought treatment, he said.

Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects in babies.

Anderson said it likely took mosquitoes biting 30 to 40 infected travelers to produce the outbreak that flared last year in Florida. Most of the 256 cases reported in the Florida outbreak did not occur until late summer, he added. Health officials declared Miami-Dade County clear of continuing Zika infections by December, though isolated infections have continued, including this year.

Texas is the only other state that had homegrown Zika cases last year. All the other Zika cases in the U.S. have been connected to travel to areas with recent large outbreaks, mostly to South America and the Caribbean.

Zika that spread in Florida mosquitoes mainly came from the Caribbean, the genetic information studied indicated. About 3 million travelers arrived in Miami from the Caribbean during the first half of 2016. About 2.4 million of them came on cruise ships, but it’s not clear that cruise ship passengers were the main spark in the Florida outbreak, Andersen said.

The Florida research was one of three papers on Zika published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The two others concluded there was a lag of six to 12 months between it’s arrival and its detection in Brazil in 2015 and other parts of South America.

Screening efforts using new technologies — if developed further — could change that, wrote the University of Arizona’s Michael Worobey, in an editorial accompanying the Zika articles.

“We should be detecting such outbreaks within days or weeks” and not months or years, he wrote.

Serena Williams accepts a new challenge – in Silicon Valley

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Serena Williams
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, Serena Williams holds up a finger and her trophy after defeating her sister, Venus, in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Williams wants to help diversify the tech industry now that she is joining a Silicon Valley boardroom for the first time. Online poll taking service SurveyMonkey announced Williams’ appointment to its board on Wednesday, May 24, along with Intuit CEO Brad Smith. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP)(STL.News) — Tennis star Serena Williams has 39 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic medals, major endorsement deals and her own line of clothing and accessories. Now she is embarking on a new mission: She says she wants to help tech companies diversify their workforces and solve one of the industry’s most vexing problems.

Williams, 35, will get her chance as she joins a Silicon Valley boardroom. Online poll-taking service SurveyMonkey announced Williams’ appointment to its board on Wednesday, along with Intuit CEO Brad Smith.

“I feel like diversity is something I speak to,” Williams said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Change is always happening; change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me.”

Williams didn’t offer specifics about her goals as a corporate director. She implied that her very presence can help push the company — and, by extension, the industry as a whole — in a more diverse direction.

Individual board members don’t usually exert great influence over the companies they oversee, although they are often compensated handsomely in cash and stock for their part-time work. SurveyMonkey, a private company, didn’t say how much Williams will be compensated.

VALLEY DIVERSITY

Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity has become a recurring source of embarrassment in a region that has long sought to position itself as an egalitarian place that doesn’t favor one gender, ethnicity or race over another. Yet that philosophy hasn’t been reflected in high-tech workforces , despite the efforts of companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook to fix the problem.

Williams has been hanging around Silicon Valley more frequently now that she is engaged to high-tech entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the online forum Reddit. Like many other African-Americans, she says she’s disappointed that the vast majority of high-paying technology jobs are filled by white and Asian men.

At SurveyMonkey, which employs about 650 workers, only 27 percent of technology jobs are filled by women. Just 14 percent of its total payroll consists of African-Americans, Latinos or people identifying themselves with at least two races, according to numbers the company provided to the AP.

WHAT SHE CAN DO

Williams’ appointment is part of the solution, according to SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie. “My focus is to bring in change agents around the table who can open our eyes,” he said.

Diversity advocates say women and minorities add value to corporate boards — as well as companies’ executive ranks — by offering new perspectives and advocating for a broader range of a company’s stakeholders, whether that’s customers, shareholders or employees.

In a report on France’s quota requirements for corporate boards, the business research group Conference Board found that the real value of adding women came from the fact that they were more likely to be outsiders. They were more likely to be foreigners, have expertise in more diverse business issues than men and more likely to have risen through the ranks outside traditional networks, such as elite universities. This, in itself, can “substantively” improve the collective decision-making of a board, according to the report.

STEPPING STONE

Racism is something Williams confronted and overcame at an early age when she began playing a predominantly white sport. She grew up to become the top-ranked female tennis player in the world.

Diversifying Silicon Valley isn’t the only item on Williams’ agenda. Like a lot of rich athletes, she is interested in becoming more involved in the business opportunities amid the high-tech boom in Silicon Valley. She says she is already exploring other opportunities in the area, but isn’t ready to provide details yet.

Her connection to SurveyMonkey came through her friendship with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and another member of SurveyMonkey’s board. Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, was SurveyMonkey’s CEO before he died in 2015 while the couple was vacationing in Mexico.

“I have been really interested in getting involved in Silicon Valley for years, so I have been kind of in the wading waters,” Williams said. “Now, I am jumping into the deep end of the pool. When I do something, I go all out.”

Dustin Hoffman: ‘I try to improve each day, but you don’t’

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Dustin Hoffman
FILE - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, Ben Stiller, from left, Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler pose for photographers during the photo call for the film "The Meyerowitz Stories" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. The comedy released in theaters on May 21. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP, File)

CANNES, France (AP)(STL.News) — Dustin Hoffman says his classic Watergate film, “All the President’s Men,” has newfound relevance for Donald Trump’s White House.

Many have compared investigations into Trump administration connections to Russia to Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The 1976 film depicts The Washington Post’s investigation into the Watergate break-ins.

In an interview at the Cannes Film Festival, Hoffman said he’s also enjoyed seeing his character from the film, the journalist Carl Bernstein, on CNN.

Hoffman stars in Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” which is in competition for the Palme d’Or. He plays a mostly forgotten abstract artist whose failed ambitions and self-obsession have instilled deep neuroses into his children (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller).

Crash report: Confused by spin, Mars probe failed to brake

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Mars
FILE In this Oct. 19, 2016 file photo, a model of Schiaparelli· the mars landing device , is on display at the European Space Agency, ESA, in Darmstadt, Germany. An independent report on Wednesday May 24, 2017 concludes Europe’s Schiaparelli probe crash-landed on Mars last year because its systems couldn’t cope with a brief, wild rotation during its descent. (Uwe Anspach/dpa via AP,File)

BERLIN (AP)(STL.News) — An independent report has concluded that Europe’s Schiaparelli probe crash-landed on Mars last year because its systems couldn’t cope with a brief, wild rotation during its descent.

The report commissioned by the European Space Agency says the sudden spin — lasting only one second — overloaded the probe’s sensors, making it think it had already reached the ground.

This made the probe release its parachute early and only briefly fire its thrusters. Schiaparelli hit the ground at 540 kph (336 mph), leaving a visible crater.

ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration says if engineers had foreseen the high rotation rate the system could have been designed to cope with it.

David Parker said Wednesday the results will help scientists prepare for a robotic mission to Mars in 2020.

‘We can use peace’: Trump and Pope Francis meet

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Donald Trump, Pope Francis
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with Pope Francis during a meeting, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

VATICAN CITY/May 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol. The president, accompanied by his wife and several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace.

Upon completing their meeting, the pope gave the president a medal featuring an olive branch, a symbol of peace, among other gifts.

“We can use peace,” the president responded.

The visit began with a handshake after each man arrived, Trump in a lengthy motorcade, Francis in a Ford Focus. The president was heard thanking the pope and saying it was “a great honor” to be there. They posed for photographs and then sat down at the papal desk, the pope unsmiling, as their private meeting began.

It ended a half hour later when Francis rang the bell in his private study. The pontiff was then introduced to members of Trump’s delegation, including his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as aides Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino.

Smiling for the staff, Francis had a light moment with the first lady, asking via translator, “What do you give him to eat, potizza?” referring to a favorite papal dessert from her native Slovenia.

The first lady laughed and said “Yes.” She and Ivanka covered their heads in a sign of papal respect, a gesture they did not partake in Saudi Arabia.

As is tradition, the pope and president exchanged gifts. Trump presented the pontiff with a custom-bound, first-edition set of Martin Luther King Jr.’s works, an engraved stone from the King memorial in Washington and a bronze sculpture of a flowering lotus titled “Rising Above.”

“I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do,” Trump said.

The pope presented Trump with the medal, a message of peace and three bound papal documents that to some degree define his papacy and priorities, including the family and the environment. The pope told Trump he signed the message “personally for you.” Trump said he would read the books.

When Trump departed, he told the pope: “Thank you, I won’t forget what you said.”

Later, as he met with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump said of the pope: “He is something.”

“We had a fantastic meeting,” the president said. “It was an honor to be with the pope.”

A statement released by the Vatican later said “satisfaction was expressed” at their “joint commitment in favor of life” and that there was hoped-for collaboration on health care and assistance to immigrants and protection of Christian communities in the Middle East.

In recent days, Francis and Trump have been in agreement on a need for Muslim leaders to do more against extremists in their own communities. But there are few other areas where their views align.

The president’s prior anti-Muslim rhetoric — including his musing that Islam “hates” the West — is the antithesis of what the pope has been preaching about a need for dialogue with Muslims. Francis also differs sharply with Trump on the need to combat climate change and economic inequality.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had a private audience with Francis at the Vatican in 2014 that lasted 50 minutes. But the timing Wednesday was tight as Francis had his weekly Wednesday general audience. The thousands of pilgrims on hand forced Trump’s motorcade to enter Vatican City from a side entrance rather than the grand entrance through St. Peter’s Square.

The meeting, which concluded Trump’s tour of the world’s largest monotheistic religions, comes after the president and pope collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said at the time. The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a “moral imperative” and “Christian duty” to help.

Trump then called Francis “disgraceful” for doubting his faith.

Though both Trump and Francis are known for their unpredictability, papal visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and religious theater that follow a specific program, with little room for deviation or unwanted surprises. Trump, the 13th president to visit the Vatican, was also given a tour of the Sistine Chapel.

Trump’s visit to the Eternal City follows two stops in the Middle East where he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism. In Saudi Arabia, he addressed dozens of Arab leaders and urged them to fight extremists at home and isolate Iran, which he depicted as menace to the region. And in Israel, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to strong ties with the nation’s longtime ally and urged Israelis and the Palestinians to begin the process of reaching a peace deal. No details or timetable have yet to be established for negotiations.

But while Trump received extravagantly warm welcomes in Riyadh and Jerusalem, the reception could grow much now that he’s reached Europe, site of widespread protests after his election. Climate change activists projected the words “Planet Earth First” on the massive dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Tuesday night and protests are expected later in the week when Trump travels to Brussels for a NATO meeting and Sicily for a G-7 gathering.

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JONATHAN LEMIRE, Associated Press
NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
JULIE PACE, Associated Press

Global shares mixed; China stocks dip after rating cut

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Japan Financial Markets
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Chinese stocks sank Wednesday after Moody's cut the country's debt rating and other Asian markets rose following Wall Street's advance. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BEIJING/May 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Shares fell in early trading in Europe but were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday after Wall Street’s advance. Chinese stocks dipped after Moody’s cut Beijing’s debt rating but rebounded to end the day unchanged.

KEEPING SCORE: London’s FTSE-100 gained 0.2 percent to 7,503.34. Germany’s DAX was slipped 0.1 percent to 12,645.39 and France’s CAC-40 held steady at 5,346.45. On Tuesday, the CAC-40 rose 0.5 percent while the DAX and the FTSE-100 index added 0.2 percent. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index were up less than 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: The Shanghai Composite Index gained less than 0.1 percent to 3,064.08 after dropping by 0.6 percent at midday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended little-changed at 25,428.50. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 19,742.98 and Seoul’s Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 2,317.34. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.2 percent to 5,769.00 and benchmarks in New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand also rose. India’s Sensex shed 0.2 percent to 30,301.64.

CHINESE DEBT: Moody’s cut the Chinese government’s rating for long-term local currency and foreign currency debt, citing China’s overall rising debt. Moody’s cut the rating to a still relatively robust A1 from Aa3 and changed its outlook to stable from negative. That reflects an expectation “China’s financial strength will erode somewhat” and economy-wide debt will rise, Moody’s said. The Chinese finance ministry criticized the move and said Moody’s overestimated the difficulties facing the economy while failing to give adequate weight to economic reforms under way.

ANALYST’S TAKE: The China downgrade could “deal a blow to confidence in regional markets,” said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. “While the downgrade itself had not been regarded as a plunging drop in rating, the attention on China’s worsening outlook could create jitters.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 13 cents to $51.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 34 cents on Tuesday to $51.47. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 20 cents to $54.35 in London. It added 28 cents the previous session.

CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 111.81 yen from Tuesday’s 111.77 yen. The euro was flat at $1.1182.

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JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

Google helps advertisers track spending in physical stores

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Google Ad Tracking
This Wednesday, April 26, 2017, photo shows Google's web address, in Philadelphia. Google is keeping an eye on what you’re buying offline in addition to monitoring your online shopping in its latest attempt to sell more digital advertising. The offline tracking of most credit and debit card transactions will help Google to automatically inform merchants when digital ads appearing on its vast marketing network translate into sales at a brick-and-mortar store. Google plans to unveil the store-sales measurement tool Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in San Francisco at an annual conference it hosts for its advertisers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

SAN FRANCISCO/May 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Google already monitors online shopping — and now it’s keeping an eye on physical stores to try to sell more digital advertising.

The internet company said Tuesday that a new tool will track how much money people spend in merchants’ brick-and-mortar stores after clicking on their digital ads.

The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won’t be able to examine the specific items purchased or how much a specific individual spent.

But even aggregated data can sometimes be converted back to data that can identify individuals, said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute privacy research firm.

MINING CREDIT-CARD DATA

Google says it has access to roughly 70 percent of U.S. credit and debit card sales through partnerships with other companies that track that data. By matching ad clicks with this data, Google says it can automatically inform merchants when their digital ads translate into sales at a brick-and-mortar store. Previously, if people clicked on an ad without buying anything online, an advertiser might conclude that the ad was a waste of money.

If the program works, it could help persuade merchants to boost their digital marketing budgets.

The data add to the digital dossiers that Google has compiled on users of its search engine and other services, including Gmail, YouTube and Android.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce, said the new tracking system was created in consultation with “incredibly smart people” to ensure it’s not invasive. He described the program as “secure and privacy safe.”

But Ponemon said that even if Google has good intentions now, companies and governments in the future might not.

The kinds of data that Google is collecting also could become an inviting target for hackers, said Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University.

“The privacy implications of this are pretty massive, so Google needs to tread very carefully,” Copic said.

GOOGLE’S OPPORTUNITY

Google already runs the world’s biggest online ad network, one that raked in $79 billion in revenue last year. That puts it in the best position to capture any additional marketing dollars spent on computers and mobile devices.

The Mountain View, California, company touted the store-sales measurement tool Tuesday in San Francisco at an annual conference it hosts for its advertisers.

This meeting was an opportunity not only for Google to flaunt its new tools, but to work on regaining ground with advertisers who have recently boycotted YouTube . Major advertisers began pulling back two months ago over concerns that Google hadn’t prevented major brand advertising from appearing alongside extremist video clips promoting hate and violence.

DIGITAL DOSSIERS

Google already knows what you like based on the searches you make and the videos you watch. Online ads are then targeted to those interests. From there, Google can tell when you click on an ad and if you make an online purchase based on that.

The new program takes that tracking into physical stores.

Google says its computers rely primarily on log-in information, such as email addresses, to identify the people clicking on ads. It then matches that data with other identifying information compiled by merchants and the issuers of credit and debit cards to figure out when digital ads contribute to an offline purchase.

It’s all done in a “double-blind” way, Ramaswamy said, meaning the personal information that Google has can’t be seen by merchants or its credit and debit card partners. By the same token, Google is blocked from seeing personal information held by its partners.

When it first described the tracking program to The Associated Press, Google provided an example of how it would be able to identify a specific purchase made in a physical store by a consumer who had clicked on a digital ad run by the merchant. On Tuesday, though, Google executives stressed that it won’t be able to peer that deeply into what people are buying.

Google’s tool won’t work for cash payments or the 30 percent of U.S. card transactions that Google can’t currently access. And this works only for individuals who log in.

Google gives its users the option to limit the company’s tracking and control what types of ads they are shown — although in practice, relatively few users tweak such settings.

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MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer