Miami-Dade Police: One dead, one wounded in Friday night shooting

Miami-Dade homicide detectives are investigating a Friday night shooting that killed one man and sent another to a hospital.

The shooting started about 8:11 p.m. in the area of 17th Avenue and Northwest 92nd Street in West Little River, according to police. People began arguing and then fighting, and then “several shots were fired,” according to a police statement.

One victim, a 22-year-old man, was killed at the scene of the shooting. A second, 40-year-old man was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where police said he is listed in critical condition. Neither man has been identified.

Police are searching for the shooter.

Anyone with information should call Miami Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-8477.

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Larry Hagman Dies

Larry Hagman, best known for playing Dallas villain J.R. Ewing, died Friday morning from complications stemming from his recent battle with cancer.

He was 81 years old.

Video: Larry Hagman Talks 'Dallas', Cancer and Veganism

"Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most," his family said in a statement via The Dallas Morning News. "When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time."

Hagman's rep says the late actor will be cremated.

His Dallas co-stars Linda Gray (who played his wife Sue Ellen) and Patrick Duffy (who played his brother Bobby) were reportedly at his bedside when he died, The Sun is reporting.

"Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years. He was the Pied Piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew," Gray told ET in a statement. "He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented, and I will miss him enormously. He was an original and lived life to the fullest ... The world was a brighter place because of Larry Hagman."

Victoria Principal, who played Pamela Barnes Ewing, added, "Larry was bigger than life ... on screen and off. He is unforgettable, and irreplaceable, to millions of fans around the world, and in the hearts of each of us, who was lucky enough to know and love him. Look out God ... Larry's leading the parade."

Video: J.R. Menaces in New 'Dallas'

Hagman, who also starred as Air Force Captain Anthony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie, was last seen on television in TNT's Dallas reboot, where he returned to play his most well-known character.

"Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history," Warner Bros., Dallas executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, and the show's cast and crew said in a statement. "He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character, and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace. Everyone at Warner Bros. and in the Dallas family is deeply saddened by Larry's passing, and our thoughts are with his family and dear friends during this difficult time."

"It was truly an honor to share the screen with Mr. Larry Hagman," Dallas reboot star Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Christopher Ewing, said in a statement. "With piercing wit and undeniable charm he brought to life one of the most legendary television characters of all time. But to know the man, however briefly, was to know a passion and dedication for life and acting that was profoundly inspirational."

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Confidential Nassau County police documents — including info on undercover cops — used as confetti in Macy's parade

Some of the shredded documents tossed as confetti during the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Warzer Jaff

Some of the shredded documents tossed as confetti during the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Red-faced Nassau County officials are investigating how confidential police documents — which contained arrest records, social security numbers, and information about undercover officers — was tossed from windows as confetti during Thursday's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Midtown.

WPIX reports that paradegoers at the annual event were stunned when the poorly-shredded documents landed on city streets, with the sensitive information still clearly visible despite being cut into strips.

Among the information that could be easily seen included details of Mitt Romney's motorcade during a visit to Long Island, arrest records, and the identities, social security numbers and birth dates of Nassau County police detectives — some of whom appear to be undercover cops, the station reported,

Nassau County police spokesman Inspector Kenneth Lack told the station that the department "is very concerned about this situation" and has launched an investigation.

Macy's told the station that whoever threw the confetti did it on their own: The parade uses "commercially manufactured, multicolor confetti, not shredded paper," Macy's said.

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For Miami, new cruise ships a cause for celebration

Miami’s ship has come in. And it looks more like a fleet.

The Carnival Breeze, which starts regular sailings from its new year-round home Saturday, will be joined Thursday by Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Dec. 1 by Celebrity Reflection. All three launched earlier this year in Europe and make their U.S. debut in Miami.

After a three-year dry stretch that saw no shiny new vessels mooring in Miami’s waters — and years of efforts to draw new operators coupled with millions spent on upgrades — the port is touting its biggest expansion ever with the three new ships as well as three new cruise lines signing on for this season and next.

“You want your newest ships to have the newest facilities, and that’s what Miami has done,” said Miami cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of

Regent Seven Seas Cruises moved its ships from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to Miami, and Disney Cruise Line will sail for the first time from Miami starting in late December. Next year, MSC will bring its newest ship, Divina, to Miami after previously sailing from Fort Lauderdale.

And Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line, which reignited the parade of new ships in 2010 with the Norwegian Epic, is bringing the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway in January 2014 to Miami, where it will sail year-round.

“I never, ever would have considered going anywhere else, because we are a Miami company and we really believe that means something,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s president and CEO.

That hasn’t always been the universal sentiment. Nearly six years ago, the port was under fire for a history of inefficiency and sub-par facilities. In late 2007, Royal Caribbean chose Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale as homeport for Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ships — despite having a Miami headquarters.

The presence of those giant ships has meant some other cruise lines felt the squeeze, and a couple, like Regent Seven Seas Cruises and MSC Cruises, have opted to move south.

“Once upon a time, Port Everglades was known as the boutique cruise ship port,” said Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent company of Oceania and the luxury Regent Seven Seas. “Now Port Everglades is the megaship port. We’re the antithesis of megaships.”

But Chiron said the moves aren’t necessarily a negative for Fort Lauderdale’s port.

“These ship movements and repositionings, all it’s really doing is opening up both ports for really bright future opportunities,” he said.

Port Everglades has grown its multiday cruise passenger numbers from about 2.6 million in fiscal 2008 to an expected more than 3.6 million on 45 ships in fiscal year 2012. By comparison, PortMiami’s passenger numbers have grown from about 3.8 million in 2008 to what is expected to be more than 4 million with 26 ships at the peak for the current fiscal year.

For its part, Port Everglades continues to invest in upgrades, recently finishing the $54 million reconstruction of four cruise terminals under a 2010 agreement with Carnival Corp. for brands including Holland America Line, Seabourn and Princess Cruises.

The investments go on at PortMiami as well, where director Bill Johnson, who took the job in 2006, listened to criticism that Miami hadn’t done enough to support the cruise industry. In the last few years, the port built a pair of terminals for Carnival for about $100 million. Since those terminals opened about four years ago, the port will have spent and continues to spend $70 million more in improvements, Johnson said.

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Small plane makes emergency landing in Southwest Ranches

A small, ultralight airplane made an emergency landing onto an open cow pasture in Southwest Ranches on Friday. No one was injured, Broward Sheriff’s Office reported, and the airplane did not suffer any significant damage.

Two people were aboard the plane, said Dani Moschella, a BSO spokeswoman. An investigation into the cause of the emergency landing will be conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane went down in the area of Griffin and Hancock roads.

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Worn Out? Stars Step Out in Same Style

Kim Kardashian vs. Pink

Who knew Kim Kardashian and Pink had similar tastes in formal wear? Kardashian was spotted wearing a purple-blue, floor-length Catherine Deane gown in Miami this past month, while Pink chose the same style for her red-carpet appearance at the 2012 American Music Awards. Who rocked the chic style best?

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Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 13,000 for first time since Election Day

Stocks rallied in an abbreviated session on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 172 points to 13,009. That's the first close above 13,000 for the Dow since Election Day.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 18 points to 1,409. The S&P also racked up its biggest weekly point gain of the year. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 40 to 2,966.

Traders were encouraged by economic signals out of Germany and China. It's also the first day of the traditional holiday shopping season.

Trading on Wall Street was thin, about 1.4 billion shares, in a holiday-shortened session. Advancing stocks beat decliners 5-to-1.


A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange today as a little girl watches.

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Discounts drive consumers to shop on Black Friday

Jennifer Leal is a self-proclaimed shop-a-holic but it’s been more than four years since she came out to shop on Black Friday.

This year, she was back and focused on her mission: stocking up on “good deals” for herself at Dadeland Mall. Her tally included candles two for $20 at Bath and Body works plus a gift bag for $20 with goodies inside, 25 percent off a Michael Kors rose gold watch, a free bag from Victoria’s Secret, plus a splurge on some black heels.

“I love shopping. It is my thing,” said Leal, 30, a University of Miami student who lives in Westchester. “But my economic situation has kept me from coming to Black Friday for so long.”

Like Leal, thousands of South Florida residents feeling better about the economy this year came out for Black Friday to get a start on holiday spending or to splurge on themselves. With sales kicking off at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night and continuing throughout the day Friday, crowds gathered from Sawgrass Mills to Dolphin Mall and at big box stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Bass Pro Shops.

While not everyone liked the retail creep into Thanksgiving, the timing worked well for Cutler Ridge resident Amanda Chattic. She waited in an hour-long line outside the Michael Kors accessories store at Dolphin Mall.

“This way we didn’t have to get up at 5 a.m,” said the retiree, whose next stop was Macy’s midnight opening.

The quality of the deals depended on the shopping list. This wasn’t the year to find 70 percent off storewide sales. Some of the best bargains were on 40-inch televisions priced at $179 at Best Buy and $147 at BrandsMart — nearly one third the usual price. Both sold out in less than an hour.

Other good deals: Nautica and Tommy Bahamas outlets in Sawgrass offered 50 percent off the entire store. Android tablet computers were priced under $100 at many stores. A 40 percent off storewide sale at Old Navy drew lines that stretched through the chain’s Dolphin Mall store.

At the Apple store in Aventura Mall, the line started forming at 11:30 p.m. Thursday night for the 6 a.m. Friday opening. It’s the only day of the year that Apple officially discounts many of its top products.

Dennis Obando, 22, of Ft. Lauderdale, was the second person in line in order to get his hands on a new mini iPad.

“It was worth standing here all night because it is way cheaper than buying it online,” said Obando.

At Walmart and Target, certain iPads came with free gift cards. The same formula was used for an iPod Touch at Toys R Us, where other popular items included the Wii U and Skylanders.

Jeans for $9.97 were flying off the shelves at Bass Pro Shops in Dania Beach, along with a $10 G.I. Issued Ammo Box, a smoker for $179.97 and a $29.97 kid’s ATV vehicle.

Bass Pro shopper Bud Worland’s West Palm Beach landscaping business has picked up enough that he said he expects to spend about $1,500 on gifts this year — about 20 percent more than last year.

“I feel better about spending more since work is good,” said Worland, as he waited to check out at Bass Pro.

At Macy’s stores throughout South Florida, customers came with lists in hand and searched for specific items like women’s boots at $39.99, Bulova watches for $99 and cosmetics gift sets.

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Woman dies after being struck by train in northeast Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade police are investigating the death of an unidentified woman who was struck by a train early Thursday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said.

The woman was hit at the intersection of NE 186 Street and West Dixie Highway at about 1 p.m.

It is unclear why she was on the tracks.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is Good, But No iPad Killer [REVIEW]

Unboxing the Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Click here to view this gallery.

[More from Mashable: Apple Now Owns the iMessage Name]

Amazon expands its tablet sights with the bigger, more powerful Kindle Fire HD 8.9. Can it compete against Apple‘s iPad?

If there’s one company that deserves credit for reigniting the iPad competitor market, it’s Amazon. Despite some bugs and an overall blah design, its 7-inch Kindle Fire was the first Android tablet that made sense to consumers who gobbled it up to help the Fire grab 50% of the Android tablet market in just 6 months.

[More from Mashable: 9 Black Friday Deals For iPhone Owners]

That tablet essentially opened the flood gates for a new set of ever-more-powerful 7-inchers from, notably, Barnes & Noble and Google. All three companies have already updated their 7-inch offerings to more powerful components and higher-resolutions screens. They’re all still running Android, though Amazon and Barnes & Noble choose to hide the Google OS behind smarter and much more consumer-friendly interfaces.

All this led Apple to finally enter the mid-sized tablet space with the iPad Mini. It’s easily the best-looking tablet of the bunch, but also $ 120 more expensive than its nearest competitor.

The more interesting development, though, is Amazon‘s (and Barnes & Noble‘s) decision to go toe-to-toe with Apple’s full-size iPad and launch the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (in 4G LTE and WiFi-only). The move is akin to a middle weight boxer putting on the pounds to take on the Heavyweight world champion. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is slightly smaller (the iPad is 9.7-inches), lighter (567g vs. 625g), cheaper ($ 369 for 32 GB model vs. $ 599 for the iPad 4th Gen — Amazon subsidizes with sleep-state ads, that I do not mind) and overall somewhat less powerful. In order to win the battle, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD better be pretty nimble on its feet, while able to throw that all important knockout punch.

Short version of this story: the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 does some serious damage, but the iPad 4th Gen gets the decision and retains the tablet leader title.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is by no means a failure. In many ways, it’s as good as the smaller Kindle Fire HD, but throughout my tests I noticed odd bugs and glitches (which should all be fixable by software) and a somewhat disturbing lack of power that’s especially obvious when you put the Fire HD 8.9 next to the iPad 4th Gen

What It Is

If you’ve never seen an iPad and someone handed you the Kindle Fire HD .9, you’d likely say its jet-black, soft-to-the-touch plastic body felt good in your hands and was more than effective at all the core tasks (reading, game playing, e-mail, web browsing).

Design-wise, the 8.9 device looks exactly like the 7-inch model, complete with the too-hard to find volume and power buttons. There are no other physical buttons on this device, but Amazon chooses to hide the few it has by making them the exact same color as the chassis and flush with the body. Every time I use the tablet I do the “where’s the damn button” dance, rotating the Kindle Fire HD round and round until I feel the buttons (since I can barely see them).

I have applauded Barnes & Noble for putting the physical “N” home button right on the face of their Nook HD. Bravo for having the guts to do this. Amazon apparently looks at Apple’s iPad home button and thinks to have anything similar would be seen as “copying” the Cupertino hardware giant, when instead they should realize that it works, consumers like it and tablets without it are at a distinct disadvantage.

Amazon’s interface has you make do with a virtual, slide-out home button that is always available. Problem is, I found times when it wasn’t available. When I played Spider-Man and Asphalt 7, the tiny little left-had bar would disappear and I couldn’t exit the game unless I hit the sleep/power button.

The rest of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9′s body is solid and unremarkable (if you read my Kindle fire HD 7 review, then you know exactly what to expect.). Like the iPad 4th Gen, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has a front-facing 720p-capable camera. It’s useful for capturing video, snapping 1 Megapixel images and, probably most important, Skype video chats. Skype has built a fairly sharp-looing Kindle Fire app, though the design doesn’t fully fit the larger 8.9-inch screen. Skype just updated its Android app for better tablet viewing and hopefully, we’ll see this update hit the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 as well.

The iPad also has an HD rear-facing camera. The Kindle fire HD 8.9 does not (Barnes & Noble leave out cameras altogether)

Not Packing a Punch

As a large-screen high-resolution tablet (though iPad’s 2048×1536 retina display beats it), the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 offers plenty of attractive screen real estate for web browsing, book and magazine reading and games. But the results can be mixed. Silk, Amazon‘s custom web browser, was occasionally less than responsive and games, though, they ran well, never looked half as good as they do on the considerably more expensive iPad 4.

Granted, you can’t always find the same high-quality immersive action games on both Android and iOS, but Asphalt 7 Heat is a notable exception and it throws the performance differences between the two tablets into stark contrast. Game play is equally responsive on both platforms: the Kindle Fire HD 8.9’s accelerometer reads my moves just as well as the iPad.

The graphics on the Kindle Fire HD, however, are reduced to blobs and blocks (palm trees without distinct leaves, buildings without discernible windows) . The iPad’s quad-core graphics simply overmatch the Kindle Fire. I have never, for example, seen an iPad draw the game as I was playing, as I did when I tried out The Amazing Spider-Man.

Additionally, I experienced more than my share of crashes with games and even magazine apps like Vanity Fair.

The Good

Not everyone, however, will compare the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 to the iPad. Some will see the $ 299 entry-level price point (for the 16 GB model) and appreciate the power, flexibility and utility of this device. Like all Fire’s before it, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 makes it easy to consume mass quantities of content. Nearly every menu option: Games, Apps, Books, Music, Videos, Newsstand, puts you just one click away from shopping for fresh content. If you have an Amazon account (and who doesn’t) your desired book, music or movie is just a click away. Plus, you can still easily store any of it locally, and worry about running out of storage space, or in the cloud, and never worry about space or accessibility—you can get to that purchased Kindle content from any Kindle app or registered Amazon device.

Watching movies on the tablet is a pleasure. I streamed a couple through Amazon Prime; they looked good on the 1920 x 1200 screen and the Dolby Stereo speakers produced sharp, loud, almost room-filling sound—an impressive feat not even the iPad can match.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 also includes a mini-HDMI-out port, which prompted me to connect the tablet to my 47-inch LED HDTV so we could watch Disney’s Brave. Yes, I had to get up and tap on the Kindle screen each time I wanted to pause and restart the move, but otherwise, I was pretty impressed with how the Kindle handled the task.

Obviously I yearn for an Apple Airplay-like feature on Android tablets (rumor has it one is coming), but this is the next, best thing.

There isn’t a lot to say about the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch interface that I did not say in the Kindle Fire HD 7 review. I will note, however, that the increased real estate makes the trademark task carousel seem almost too big. Icons for everything from your recently played Spider-Man game to magazine apps, books and Web sites all sit side-by-side-by side. Some, like book covers, look gorgeous.

Others like a broken web-page link look stupid. Worse yet, none of them have labels, which can occasionally make it hard to identify which app or task you’re looking at. I’m just not sure this interface metaphor is sustainable.

Personally I prefer either the clean consistent look of iOS, or the uber-user friendly, family-oriented Nook HD profile-based one. Amazon may want to take a hard look at those and start over.

Staying Connected

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is also Amazon’s first cellular-based tablet. That fact puts it even more squarely in competition with the iPad (which obviously has always had 3G models and now offers blazing fast 4G LTE ones as well on all major carriers).

Amazon’s mobile broadband plans are a little more conservative, with just the AT&T 4G LTE option (the 32 GB 4G model that I tested lists for $ 499, which is still $ 224 less than a comparable iPad 4th Gen).

In my experience, the connectivity is superfast and fairly ubiquitous. Amazon‘s $ 49 (a year) flat fee plan is attractive, but with a cap of 250MB per month of data, it’s unlikely it will satisfy the most data-hungry users. If you do need more data, users can also get 3GB and 5GB data plans directly from AT&T on the device.

At press time, Amazon had not enabled streaming video over LTE. Having it sounds nice, but even with the most generous data plans, streaming video would eat it up faster than you can say, “I’m streaming Back to the Future in HD over 4G LTE on my Kindle fire HD!”

The reality for most users is that WiFi is plentiful and you’ll be hard pressed to find a spot where you can’t connect for free or a small one-off fee. It’s the reason Barnes & Noble’s line of HD Nooks do not include a cellular option.

Review continues after FreeTime Gallery


Kindle HD FreeTime Start

Click here to view this gallery.

Perhaps the best new addition to the Kindle Fire family is not a piece of hardware or new component, but the new FreeTime app. Amazon put a lot of loving care into this parental control interface, but almost mucks the whole thing up by hiding the tool under an app that you have to scroll down to (or search) to find. By contrast profiles and age and content controls are baked into the Barnes & Noble Nook HD in a way that makes them impossible to ignore.

Even so, once you do access FreeTime, I think you’ll be pleased with the level of control it gives you. I added test profiles for my two children and then hand-picked every app and piece of content they could access. I was also able to block broadband mobile and even set time limits for access to content and overall screen viewing time (on a per profile basis). The set-up is a bit wonky and it bizarrely switches between landscape and profile screens, but I still applaud the effort. It would make sense for Amazon to move FreeTime into a device set-up screen. If the user has no additional family members or kids using the device, they can easily skip it.

To Buy or Not to Buy

Amazon’s expansive content and shopping ecosystem has always been a strong draw and it’s just as good in this large screen tablet as it was in the very first Kindle Fire. Still, you have to compare it with the equally strong iOS ecosystem, which is no slouch in the content shopping department. Apple doesn’t connect you as seamlessly to physical products, but there’s nothing difficult about shopping on via your iPad. It’s also notable that tablet competitor Barnes & Noble has added movie and TV viewing, rental and purchase.

Ultimately, all of these tablets are offering more and more of the same content options, apps, and features. The decision will likely come down to price, app selection, interface and overall ease of use. The Amazon Kindle fire HD 8.9 scores well on all of these, but does not always lead.

For the price, it’s a great value, but I want Amazon to focus on hardware and interface design for the next big update. Then, they may get my full endorsement.

This story originally published on Mashable here.

Gadgets News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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Spotlight on Thanksgiving: Stars Who Love to Cook

Look Who's Cooking

By Anna Kleyman

"What's cooking, good looking?" may just be the perfect question for some A-list celebs who like to get their cook on in the kitchen. To celebrate Thanksgiving, we're counting down Hollywood's kitchen MVPs including Jennifer Aniston, Blake Lively, Gwyneth Paltrow and more.

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Seaside Heights mayor considering leaving roller coaster submerged by Sandy as 'tourist attraction'

A man walks on the beach as a rollercoaster that once sat on the Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ rests in the ocean.


A man walks on the beach as a rollercoaster that once sat on the Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ rests in the ocean.

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ — The remains of a roller coaster that was knocked off a New Jersey amusement pier by Superstorm Sandy and partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean may be left there as a tourist attraction.

Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers tells WNBC-TV in New York that officials have not made a decision on whether to tear down the coaster. But the mayor says he's working with the Coast Guard to see if the coaster is stable enough to leave it alone, because he believes it would make "a great tourist attraction."

Meanwhile, efforts to rebuild the storm-ravaged town are continuing.

Demolition crews have removed the resort's damaged boardwalk. And Akers says construction on a new boardwalk should begin in January and be ready by Memorial Day.

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1 dead, 3 injured in Bahamas helicopter crash

NASSAU, Bahamas – Officials say a helicopter has crashed in an upscale Bahamas resort, killing one U.S. citizen and injuring at least three others.

Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS 4 reported one of the survivors was Jeffrey Soffer, owner the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach.

North Abaco parliamentarian Renardo Curry says at least four Americans were on the helicopter when it crashed Thursday morning in Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club on Great Guana Cay.

Police have not released the identities of the passengers or other details about the crash.

Curry says the helicopter was attempting to land at Baker’s Bay when a wind gust sent the aircraft spiraling.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham says one passenger died and three survivors are being treated at a clinic. He says their injuries are apparently not life threatening.

Baker’s Bay is a playground for millionaires located about 150 miles off Florida’s eastern coast.

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Conservative Christian group pushed reinstating Miami-Dade commission prayer

The Miami-Dade County Commission is poised next month to reinstate nondenominational prayers to kick off their meetings, after a group of commissioners approved the policy shift last week.

But the change was not spontaneous: The conservative Christian group pushing to restore prayer has been laying the groundwork for nearly a year and a half.

The Christian Family Coalition saw an opportunity to promote its agenda after Commissioner Katy Sorenson retired in late 2010, according Anthony Verdugo, the group’s executive director. Sorenson had been one of two board members who years earlier — in 2004, Verdugo said — changed the county’s practice to begin meetings with a moment of silence instead of a prayer.

Sorenson was replaced by the more conservative Lynda Bell, whom the Coalition had endorsed. There was other commission turnover as well.

Before then, “we didn’t feel we had enough votes on the commission to get it through,” Verdugo said. “We didn’t want it to be a divisive item for the community — we don’t need that.”

Because expressions of faith in public meetings may turn off or offend some in the community, the proposal before the commission envisions rotating religious leaders of different faiths to give invocations. The plan does not address people who do not belong to a particular religion or do not believe in God, though no one on the board or in the audience will be required to participate.

There is a price tag: It will cost the county clerk’s office about $22,000 to compile the names of religious congregations in a database, and another $4,000 a year for technical support and maintenance, according to an estimate provided to the commission by Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office.

The story behind the proposal began last year, when the Coalition seized on its political opening.

It held a Saturday session to train some 40 people the group called “citizen lobbyists.” They were instructed on the county’s history with prayer and on laws regulating the practice.

The corps members then reached out to their commissioners. Among them was Sybel W. Lee, a 68-year-old self-described “concerned mother, grandmother and activist” who said she spoke to Commissioner Audrey Edmonson’s aide about the importance of prayer.

“Look at the harm the absence of an invocation has caused in this country,” Lee said. An invocation is about reflection, she noted, “not to impose your beliefs and ideology on other people.”

But the Coalition still needed a commissioner to take the lead on reinstating prayer. Though invocations had been eliminated without legislation — the commission just changed its meeting practices — there did not appear to be political will on the board to switch back without an ordinance.

Though the Coalition had an ally in Bell, the former mayor of Homestead, she was now representing a more moderate county commission district and was not the most likely candidate to shepherd the legislation.

Instead, the Coalition turned to Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.

“Honestly, it’s always been on my mind,” Diaz said. “Why can we not have prayer like everywhere else, like in Congress, in the state?”

Diaz said the county attorney’s office toiled to make the ordinance inclusive.

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Kimora Lee Simmons and Djimon Hounsou Split

Though never married, Djimon Hounsou and Kimora Lee Simmons are ending their relationship, according to

PICS: The 10 Most Shocking Breakups in Hollywood

Hounsou's rep tells the news source that the couple has "officially separated after 5 1/2 years."

The actor, 48, reportedly met Simmons, 42, in February 2007 after her split from hip hop mogul Russell Simmons.

They have one child together, three-year-old son Kenzo Lee Hounsou.

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Under-equipped authorities used canoes from stores & Boy Scout camp to rescue people on Staten Island during Sandy

Calling all boats!

Under-equipped cops and firefighters on Sandy-battered Staten Island were in such desperate need for boats to save people from flooding homes that they took recreational canoes from an outdoor sporting goods store, borrowed rowboats from a city park and commandeered more from a Boy Scout camp, the Post has learned.

The police and fire departments on the hard-hit borough were inundated with 911 calls for help the night of Oct. 29 and did not have enough city-issued resources to perform all the rescues required, multiple sources said.

Several quick-thinking cops rushed over to Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Staten Island Mall in New Springville shortly after it closed around 9:30 p.m. – as the supserstorm was bearing down in full force – and were greeted by a sympathetic night manager as they banged on the door, sources added.

“It was done right after the storm surge came in,” said one police source. “It was done out of sheer necessity. I don’t think anybody expected what they saw that night.”

The manager let the cops take three 14-foot canoes off a display wall, as well as paddles and lifejackets – a total haul worth close to $2,000, according to one store employee.

“We at DICK'S Sporting Goods were proud that we could assist in providing supplies to the NYPD so that they could reach those affected by Superstorm Sandy,” said Chief Marketing Officer Lauren Hobart.

The NYPD has previously said that the borough’s Emergency Service Unit ventured out into the whipping winds and strong currents with only a large zodiac boat with a 40 hp motor, an inflatable zodiac boat without a motor, and a Yamaha jet ski.

Two metal jon boats weren’t used because cops feared being electrocuted by downed power lines.

However, a source said that the bigger concern among Island cops was that rotted plugs in the bottoms of some older NYPD skiffs were leaking, forcing cops to bail out the boats as they saved residents.

“Guys were tossing out buckets of water while helping families step into the boat. Just imagine what that must’ve looked like,” said another source.

Meanwhile, Island firefighters were equipped with seven boats the night Sandy hit, as well as seven water rescue units each staffed with six firefighters, said a Fire Department spokesman.

Still, firefighters found themselves in need of extra boats and reached out to the borough’s Parks Department headquarters for assistance.

Staffers grabbed all the rowboats from the concession stand in Clove Lakes Park in Sunnyside, loaded them onto department pickups and delivered them to firefighters braving the dangerous rising waters in Cedar Grove Beach, according to Parks officials.

“People were in need and our Parks staff just jumped into action, not even thinking about their own safety,” said Parks manager Bonnie Williams. All the boats were returned the next day.

Firefighters also commandeered two boats from the Boy Scout’s Pouch Camp facility, said senior ranger Gil Schweiger.

Schweiger added that he and several staffers also drove around that deadly night towing a trailer loaded with four boats and met firefighters at several disaster scenes to aid in rescues.

“We went to Dongan Hills and saved 127 people and their pets. All people living on Naughton Avenue, Seaver Avenue and Slater Boulevard, right near the marshes,” said Schweiger.

The revelations about the city’s lack of boat preparedness for first-responders comes two days after The Post reported how callers to the city’s 911 system were met with busy signals, recorded messages and ill-prepared operators during the storm, which ravaged swaths of the city and led to 43 deaths.

The failures have led Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Councilman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), chairwoman of the fire and criminal justice committee, to call for an investigation.

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Ticket sales up 16 percent for auto show

Miami Beach’s Miami International Auto Show reported a 16 percent increase in ticket sales for the Miami Beach event held in November.

The auto expo does not release full attendance figures, and won’t say exactly how many people came to the 10-day event, which ended Nov. 18. A show spokeswoman said the overall attendance was roughly 600,000 people, but a large number of attendees came using free tickets handed out as promotions.

Now in its 42nd year, the event is held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.


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Miami receives mixed bag of bond ratings

Don’t look to Wall Street to sort out Miami’s complicated finances.

On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service issued a negative outlook for some of the city’s outstanding bond obligations, and gave a below-average rating to a bond issue expected to close next month.

Fitch Ratings, meanwhile, upgraded the outlook for the outstanding bond issues from negative to stable. But it, too, gave a subpar grade to the new bonds.

The mixed bag of ratings came one week after Budget Director Danny Alfonso announced that Miami closed the fiscal year with an unexpected $37 million surplus. The city’s computer system put the figure at $45 million, but Alfonso said several transactions had yet to post.

Fitch called the year-end surplus “impressive,” and noted that Miami had managed to boost its overall reserves to $54 million, or about 11 percent of spending.

“I’m extremely pleased that we’ve improved” our rating, City Manager Johnny Martinez said Tuesday. “They’ve been watching the things that we’ve been doing as far as building our fund balance and living within our means.”

Governments sell bonds on Wall Street as a way to borrow money, with bond buyers collecting interest and principal payments from the issuers in the same way a bank makes money off home mortgages. The ratings reflect the likelihood that any issuer will continue making bond payments, with a lower rating suggesting a higher risk of default.

Fitch assigned the city’s latest bond issue a BBB+ rating — a below-average grade for a municipal security.

The $45 million bond issue, which was approved by the City Commission Monday and will likely be sold in early December, will pay off a short-term loan that financed Miami’s share of the PortMiami tunnel dig.

Fitch Analyst Michael Rinaldi said the committee had expressed concern over recent turnover in the city’s finance department.

Said Martinez: “I wish the rating had been a little bit higher.”

Moody’s also assigned a mediocre grade to the tunnel bonds — an A3 rating — and described the outlook as negative.

“The negative outlook reflects the city’s ongoing challenges to control high fixed costs, uncertainties associated with key managerial turnover and the ongoing [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission] investigation,” Moody’s analysts wrote.

Earlier in the year, Moody’s put Miami under review for a potential credit downgrade after the SEC announced intentions to file civil fraud charges against the city. The review was expanded when several key finance officials resigned their posts.

At the end of the review, the ratings stayed consistent, Moody’s spokesman David Jacobson said.

On the whole, Commission Vice Chairman Marc Sarnoff said, the news was positive.

“The needle is moving in the right direction,” Sarnoff said. “The gas tank is starting to get full.”

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Tablets, discounters top U.S. holiday shopping lists: Reuters/Ipsos

(Reuters) – Move over computers, your sleek siblings are the prized gift of the holidays.

One-third of U.S. consumers are thinking about buying an electronic tablet this holiday season, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted for Thomson Reuters. And 22 percent of those who want one of the hot devices said they plan to cut back on other holiday purchases in order to afford them.

But the new, smaller tablet from industry leader Apple Inc – the iPad mini – is not taking the world by storm. Only 8 percent named the iPad mini as their first choice, the same percentage that said they would like to buy a Microsoft Corp Surface tablet.

“There has been a lot of controversy about the fact that the iPad mini is $ 329, that the price might not be right,” said Jharonne Martis, director of consumer research for Thomson Reuters.

Still, Apple’s full-size iPad remains the leader, with 25 percent picking it as the tablet of choice while 15 percent want to buy Inc’s Kindle Fire, and another 15 percent want a Samsung Galaxy device.

Apple sold about 11 million iPads during the 2011 holiday quarter, and this year analysts expect it to sell about 16 million iPads and 8 million iPad mini tablets, Martis said.

Retailers have prepared for a big tablet season. Walmart, for example, doubled its orders for iPads and other tablets and will offer an iPad 2 with a $ 75 gift card for $ 399 as one of its specials on Thanksgiving night.

Laptops are still on the wish lists for 32 percent of respondents, while 18 percent would like to buy desktop computers and only 13 percent are looking for ultrabooks.


Meanwhile, retailers may want shoppers to believe the holiday shopping season begins sometime in September. But the poll shows that most consumers still are waiting until around Thanksgiving to start their holiday shopping.

Walmart, Toys R Us and others started promoting their layaway plans in September as a way to reserve hot items.

While 11 percent said they were using layaway more this year than last year, 71 percent said they were not.

Seventy-two percent have done no shopping yet or less than a quarter of it, the poll found.

“The fact that 72 percent haven’t really started yet reinforces why Black Friday is coined the official beginning of the holiday season because that’s truly when shoppers start to open their wallets,” Martis said.

Most of that shopping will still take place in stores, despite the rise of online shopping and fears of shoppers using physical stores as showrooms for products they will buy online using their mobile devices.

“It is still growing, but it is still a very small portion of retail sales,” Martis said of mobile shopping.

Going to a mix of different types of stores is the plan for 42 percent of the respondents planning to go to stores, while 31 percent plan to do most of their holiday shopping at a discount chain such as Walmart, Target or Kmart, which will all be open for at least some of Thanksgiving Day to court shoppers.

The U.S. economy and possible tax hikes continue to be a concern for some, with 28 percent saying that they are spending less this year because of the fiscal cliff, though 58 percent said the fiscal cliff was not affecting their holiday spending plans.

Two-thirds of shoppers said they were planning to spend the same amount as last year or were unsure about their spending plans, while 21 percent plan to spend less and 11 percent plan to spend more. Also, 60 percent said are choosing to shop closer to home to save on gas.

Contrary to the cry of some traditional retailers, “show rooming” is not the norm for most people.

When asked how, if at all, they use a mobile device while in stores, 63 percent said they do not even pull out their smartphones while shopping. Fifteen percent compare prices online and 14 percent said they research products.

Amazon is the top online retailer shoppers plan to visit more than they did last year, with 42 percent picking it, 38 percent choosing Walmart, 23 percent selecting Target and 14 percent picking EBay.

Physical stores remain the top destination, with 26 percent planning to shop primarily at stores and only 14 percent planning to shop primarily online.

The poll is the first in a series that Ipsos will conduct during the holiday season.

The findings are from an Ipsos poll conducted for Thomson Reuters from November 15-19, 2012, with 1,169 American adults interviewed online. Results are within the poll’s credibility intervals, a tool used to account for statistical variation in Internet-based polling. The credibility interval was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

(Additional reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Edward Tobin and Leslie Gevirtz)

Gadgets News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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Ariel Winter's Sister Continues Temporary Custody

The real-life drama for Modern Family's Ariel Winter continues as a judge granted temporary custody to continue with Winter's sister Shanelle Gray, ET has learned.

PICS: Legendary Kid Stars

This news follows a new declaration filed by Winter's brother, Jimmy Workman, pleading with the court system and the Department of Children and Family Services to help his family get back together.

"I have NEVER seen any physical or emotional abuse in the home of my parents regarding Ariel," Jimmy wrote in his declaration. "I have seen normal mother and daughter arguments and banter back and forth but nothing more. Counseling was set up for [Ariel's mom] Chrisoula and Ariel to get to the root of their issues and corrected."

VIDEO: Ariel Winter's Mom Speaks

In October, temporary guardianship of Ariel was granted to Shanelle after court documents were filed, claiming that Ariel "has been the victim of ongoing physical abuse (slapping, hitting, pushing) and emotional abuse (vile name calling, personal insults about minor and minor's height, attempts to 'sexualize' minor, deprivation of food, etc.) for an extended period of time by the minor's mother [Chrisoula 'Crystal' Workman]..."

Crystal denies the allegations, telling ET, "I love my daughter very much. I would never abuse her in anyway and I have always tried my best to always protect her and do what is right for her. My daughter is in a business that requires you to grow up fast. It's hard enough being a teenage girl, but it's even harder when you are in the public eye. However, because you are in the public eye, it doesn't mean you are no longer in need of good parenting."

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Secretary accused of hoarding millions' worth of art

Imelda Marcos hoarded shoes. And her former personal secretary in New York hoarded tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten Monets, according to a new indictment.

Vilma Bautista, 74, hid and then sold four valuable Impressionist paintings that had disappeared from the Philippine Consulate townhouse in Manhattan after the Marcos regime toppled in 1986, prosecutors said today.

Bautista hobbled into a Manhattan courtroom gripping a cane with both hands, and pleaded not guilty to tax fraud, conspiracy and offering a false instrument for filing.

In conspiracy with two nephews from Bankok, Thailand, she sold Claude Monet's 1899 "Water-Lily" painting in Sept. 2010 for $32 million after hiding it for two decades, according to DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.

She similarly hid and eventually sold a second Monet, plus paintings by Alfred Sisley and Albert Marquet, despite knowing that the Philippine government sought all four works, the DA said. Bautista never disclosed the sale income in her tax returns, depriving the state of millions of dollars in tax revenue, Vance said.

Officials said the investigation into the Marcos art sale conspiracy is continuing.

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Dear daughter, let me give you some career advice ...

My daughter, a high school junior, wants to be a teacher. That doesn’t sit well with my husband, who worries about the state of education and the job outlook. He and I regularly debate whether we should encourage her to pursue this interest, or strongly steer her in another direction.

Today, coaching our kids about career paths is complicated. Many of my reporter and editor friends who witnessed an overhaul of the media world are highly opposed to their kids becoming journalists. Where parents of the past pushed their kids to follow in their footsteps, we want the generation of college-bound kids we raise to go where the jobs will be.

American workers’ experiences during the recession and the uncertainty of the global economy have made many of us more opinionated about what careers our kids pursue. We have witnessed job loss and burnout. We have seen highly educated professionals such as lawyers and bankers lose their jobs. And worse, we have seen college graduating classes face an overwhelmingly tough employment arena. While it’s true that a college degree usually guarantees better wages, the mantra of parents clearly has become: Can you land a decent-paying job with that degree?

As parents, we’re just beginning to understand that the next generation will have to navigate the workplace differently. Experts forecast that workers starting out now will switch careers — that’s careers, not jobs — an average of more than three times during their lives. Should parents, then, worry less about guiding our kids into careers and focus more on helping our kids identify skills to succeed in the new economy?

Whether my daughter becomes a teacher or an engineer, her success likely will come from a mastery of technology, languages and communications skills. Most importantly, she will need the mindset to be a problem solver, innovator, risk taker and self marketer. She will need to be prepared to continuously acquire new skills, a lesson my generation has learned the hard way.

“We are fooling ourselves to think young people will get a degree and spend the next 20 years at a single company or in a single industry,” says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, which has campuses in 30 cities including Miami. “They will have to be more focused on dealing with change. In this new world order, they have to follow the jobs in demand, acquire the right skills or at least transferable skills, and know that the skill set needed might change.”

For example, Swartz says, he has seen young people get training to become medical assistants because they have a passion to help others. They later were able to apply those skills to other jobs in healthcare. “Parents need to help their kids soul search, then support their decision whatever they choose, understanding that every good high-wage job requires more skill,” Swartz says.

Cesar Alvarez, executive chairman of Greenberg Traurig law firm, factors this concept into how he advises his four children, 28, 27, 22 and 21. For centuries, the law profession has attracted smart, principled men and women. Yet, in the last few years, we’ve seen lawyers underemployed, law partners burned out and law grads without jobs. I asked Alvarez whether he has encouraged any of his children to enter the legal profession.

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Two deadly scares, and triplets to be thankful for

Anthony and Andrea Temperino of Coral Springs were expecting to welcome triplets on Jan. 11, adding three baby boys to a family that already includes 20-month-old “big” brother Ayden.

Instead, they will spend Thanksgiving Day as they’ve passed most days since babies Ashton, Alexander and Austyn were delivered Nov. 1 by emergency Cesarean section at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Mom and Dad will have dinner with both sets of grandparents, but they’ll also make the long trip to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson, home for now to their babies.

And they will give thanks – for three tiny lives and for Andrea’s survival. About eights weeks into her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with a rare form of the autoimmune disorder Myasthenia gravis. The disease weakens muscles that affect breathing, swallowing and speech. At one point, Andrea was in extremely critical condition and nearly died.

Meeting with reporters at Jackson on Monday, the Temperinos and what Anthony dubbed their “dream team” of University of Miami doctors talked about the couple’s harrowing journey and its happy ending.

“It’s hard to express how thankful you are,” says Anthony, a charter company pilot who, like his wife, is 34. “How do you say thank you for my wife’s life, and for the babies’ [lives]…My life would be completely different if not for’’ these doctors.

In June, the Temperinos sought treatment at a Broward hospital after Andrea developed numbness in her lips and weakness. She had so much trouble breathing that she grabbed what little sleep she could sitting in a chair. She spent 10 days in intensive care, but multiple tests didn’t yield a diagnosis. One doctor suspected Myasthenia gravis, but a neurologist disagreed.

Increasingly frustrated, Temperino asked for his wife’s records and drove her to Jackson. By the next day, Andrea had her diagnosis. Her husband spent each night sleeping beside her in the hospital until she was released after five weeks. Aviation emergencies didn’t compare to how he felt about what his wife had gone through.

“I could be upside down in a plane. This made me much more nervous,” he said.

He recalls what Dr. Ashok Verma, the neurologist who treated Andrea for Myasthenia gravis, told him: “He said, ‘Your wife is my most precious patient. She has not just one life I’m looking out for but four.”

The Temperinos, who met in Boca Raton when she was his boss at a bank, married in 2005 but had no luck starting a family. Ayden was conceived through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and Andrea’s first pregnancy was a normal one. After another round of IVF, she became pregnant with Ashton and identical twins Alexander and Austyn. After her Myasthenia diagnosis and treatment, she was fine until she felt abdominal pain at 30 weeks. The couple went back to Jackson, and “within 15 to 20 minutes of her arrival, she was on her way into an operating room,” said Dr. Salih Y. Yasin, director of obstetrics at Jackson’s Women’s Hospital Center.

Diagnosed with a life-threatening placental abruption, Andrea was given an emergency Cesarean, and all three babies were delivered within the same minute. Ashton, the baby whose placenta had separated from the uterine wall, inhaled and swallowed blood that collected in his amniotic sac, so he was treated with inhaled nitric oxide, and he continues to receive oxygen.

The babies are still close to their birth weights, Ashton at 3.3 pounds, Alexander at 4 pounds and Austyn at 2.7 pounds. They’ll remain in the NICU, continuing to develop, being treated and monitored, but the Temperinos are hoping to have them home by Christmas. The babies had never been dressed up until their photo was snapped on Monday, but at home, their parents have three of everything waiting for them.

“I can’t wait to take all my children home,” Andrea says. “We’re very grateful for having them.”

And they might not be finished with their family.

After Andrea learned that she was expecting three more sons, Anthony says, “She told me, ‘You know what this means, don’t you?’ We might have to try for a girl.”

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Miley Cyrus Surprises Billy Ray on Broadway

Miley Cyrus and her sisters Brandi and Noah surprised their father Billy Ray Cyrus at his recent Broadway performance playing Billy Flynn in Chicago, where the close-knit family showed their ease with one another by joking around backstage.

"Could you imagine, if I had on a shirt like that?," Billy Ray jokes, pointing to some of the cast members' mesh shirts.

"Um no I can't, and I don't wanna," Miley quips.

Video: Miley Cyrus -- My Dad Knows Nothing

But all kidding aside, it was clearly a happy reunion for the Cyrus bunch.

"This was a great surprise, it's been almost three months since I've seen my family," Billy Ray says about the night's events. " [It's] a great way to start off Thanksgiving."

As for people still talking about his eyebrow-raising comments on Miley's upcoming wedding to fiancé Liam Hemsworth, he himself is clearly over it.

Related: Billy Ray Cyrus Spills Miley's Wedding Details

"We're just having fun right now, it's a good time."

Check out the video to hear if he plans on getting emotional at Miley's nuptials.

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Former accused 'Rape Cop' Kenneth Moreno gets a Thanksgiving reprieve from jail

He'll be home for Thanksgiving -- just maybe not for Christmas.

Kenneth Moreno -- the lead officer in last year's notorious "Rape Cops" trial -- won't have to start his one-year sentence in the case until Dec. 20 at the earliest, thanks to his latest attempt to appeal his misdemeanor official misconduct convictions in the case, his former trial judge told him today.

Moreno got the good news in the same Manhattan courtroom where he'd been controversially cleared, along with his partner, in the on-duty rape of a drunken young fashion executive he'd been dispatched to help.

Moreno, 44, a Brooklyn father of two, had been found guilty of three counts of misconduct, one for each time he and his partner, Franklin Mata, were caught on sidewalk video using the woman's keys to reenter her apartment.

He'd originally been due to surrender and begin serving his one year jail sentence on those counts today. He remains free on $125,000 bail. Mata was sentenced to 60 days, and as yet has not filed another appeal, but is also being allowed to remain free until Dec. 20.

"He's got a very good case," Moreno's appellate lawyer, Stephen Preziosi, told reporters as his glum-looking client left court.

"I'm very confident about our submissions before the Court of Appeals," the lawyer said, referring to the highest court in New York state.

Following their May, '11 convictions, both cops were immediately fired and eventually sentenced -- Moreno to one year and Mata to 60 days -- and have been allowed to stay free pending appeal.

A panel of state appellate judges upheld the misdemeanor convictions earlier this month. In not requiring their surrender today, their trial and sentencing judge, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro, was abiding by an order by Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo.

If Graffeo ultimately decides-- based on a month's worth of written and possibly oral arguments by prosecutors and Moreno's appellate lawyer -- to hear Moreno's appeal, he could stay out past Dec. 20, the lawyer said.

The appeal would argue -- as has been argued unsuccessfully before Carro and the lower appellate court -- that Moreno did not neglect their official duties while inside the woman's apartment, and that prosecutors misstated the law to the jury during summations.

Moreno and the partner, Mata, 30, had been summoned to help the drunken executive out of a taxi outside of her East Village apartment on a predawn morning in December, 2008.

The woman had tearfully told jurors at trial last year that she woke up on her bed hours later to find Moreno raping her, but also that she was blacked out during much of the evening.

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Growing middle class feeds spirits business in Latin America

Diageo executive Randy Millian is proud of the fact that eight out of every 12 times someone pours a standard or premium whiskey in the Latin American and Caribbean region, they’re drinking one of his company’s brands.

That kind of dominance is why the spirits giant is bullish on its future in Latin America, which recently has been the fastest growing region for Diageo worldwide. In 2012, the Latin America and Caribbean region represented 12 percent of Diageo’s net worldwide sales and 11 percent of the company’s operating profit. Diageo hopes Brazil will become one of its top three markets by 2017, behind the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

But getting there hasn’t been easy. During periods of economic and political unrest in the region over the last decade, there were times when it would have been more profitable for Diageo to pull back, said Millian, president of Diageo Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, the company focused on growing its scotch business across the region and it paid off. Over the last eight years, Diageo has increased sales more than two and a half times and almost tripled its operating profit.

“I believed it would get good,” said Millian, who supervises more than 3,000 employees across the region and 119 in Miami. “But I’m not sure I realized it would get this good.”

Millian has been running the region out of Diageo’s Miami office for more than a decade. But he’s also no stranger to this part of the world. He first lived in Argentina as a child and during his career has done stints in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica.

The Miami Herald sat down with Millian during a media day, which was part of a Diageo investor conference in Miami spotlighting the success in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Here is some of what Millian had to say:

Q. Has your growth over the last decade been comparable to Diageo’s growth around the world?

We would definitely be in the top positions in the league within Diageo. That’s one of the reasons they’re focusing on us. Like many corporations, the emerging markets have a huge potential for growth. I’m including Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America. We are seeing higher growth rates than we are seeing in the developed world, especially Europe. Although the U.S. is starting to come back, the growth rates in the emerging markets are significantly higher.

Q. What is driving the growth Diageo is experiencing in Latin America?

The improved demographics. You now have over 50 percent of the population who is middle class. You have had an increase in spending. Not only are there more people in the middle class, but you have more people in the (upper) class. We expect over the next year to have 60 million more people in the (upper) class. They’re also learning to spend money in different ways.

Q. In what countries do you see the most growth or most opportunities for future growth? Is Brazil the main focus?

There has been broad growth in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Peru. We have seen it all over, but those would be the ones we’re focusing on. It’s not just Brazil, it’s throughout the region.

Q. Why did you remain committed to this region over years when there was not a lot of growth and there was a lot of political and economic unrest in some countries?

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Allen West seeks hearing after opponent declares victory in congressional race

The St. Lucie County canvassing board has missed a noon deadline to file election results to the Division of Elections, prompting campaign officials for Patrick Murphy to declare the political newcomer the winner in the race for congressional District 18 race.

Under Florida law, the final certified results were due from all of the state’s 67 supervisors of elections today. If the results do not arrive on time, the certified unofficial results submitted last Sunday stand. Those results have Murphy winning by 0.58 percent. A spread of less than 0.5 percent would have triggered an automatic recount.

“All Patrick Murphy wanted was to follow the law,” said attorney Gerald Richman, a member of Murphy’s legal team. “They absolutely missed it (deadline). Whatever it is, it is. We just want the law to be followed.”

Tim Edson, West's campaign manager, disagreed.

“As usual, Murphy’s people are full of garbage,” Edson said. “This is something the secretary of state and governor will have to sort out.”

Edson said other problems arose this morning. The recount showed 900 voters cast ballots in precinct 93, where there are 7 registered voters, Edson said.

“We have concerns here,” Edson said. “The results are raising more questions.”

Shortly after the deadline passed, attorneys for West headed to the St. Lucie County Courthouse to request an emergency hearing on the issue. It is not known if a hearing has been scheduled.

The canvassing board resumed ballot counting at 8 a.m. this morning in the tight congressional race between West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Murphy under the watchful eyes of dozens of attorneys and supporter of both candidates.

Canvassing board member Tod Lowery, who regularly updates the audience on the process, said the board still had write-in ballots and other questionable ballots from eight days of early voting to review before the noon deadline, by which the state’s 67 supervisors of elections must submit their final, certified tallies.

Last Sunday, the canvassing board agree to recount ballots cast the last three days of early voting after election officials revealed that machines had been unable to read some of the electronic memory cartridges. West’s attorneys then sought a recount of all early ballots after the elections office conceded to double-counting some ballots and ignoring others on election night.

“There was such a cloud of suspicion,” said Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a Boca Raton attorney on the West legal team. Shapiro observed much of the ballot review in Palm Beach County.

“I felt the way the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections handled it created suspicion, and I still don’t know if it was unnecessary or justified,” Shapiro said.

That recount began at 9:40 a.m. Saturday and continued until 10 p.m. Unlike the four-day ballot review in Palm Beach County that ended Nov. 10 — where Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher offered few updates and ignored or routinely declined to answer questions from reporters, attorneys and the public — the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board has allowed representatives has encouraged officials from both campaigns to agree on protocol. That includes how and when results will be released today.

“We just want to be transparent and assure voters that every vote is counted,” said County Judge Kathryn Nelson, a member of the canvassing board.

Murphy’s campaign officials declined to comment on the recount process. However, Edson said he is pleased with how smoothly the recount has gone and impressed with the canvassing board’s attention to detail.

“I’m confident with what we’ve seen here, the results will be accurate,” Edson said.

One lingering concern remains: the West team’s request to view the poll sign-in sheets from election day. Edson said they had received some of those records from Palm Beach County and have not received the sign-in sheets — which voters sign went the vote — in St. Lucie County. West’s campaign wants to compare the number of signatures on the poll sign-in sheets to the computer tabulations.

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Wii U: New console launches in a sea of gadgets

NEW YORK (AP) — In the six years since the last major video game system launched, Apple unveiled the iPhone and the iPad, “Angry Birds” invaded smartphones and Facebook reached a billion users. In the process, scores of video game consoles were left to languish in living rooms alongside dusty VCRs and disc players.

On Sunday, Nintendo Co. is launching the Wii U, a game machine designed to appeal both to the original Wii’s casual audience and the hardcore gamers who skip work to be among the first to play the latest “Call of Duty” release. Just like the Wii U’s predecessor, the Wii, which has sold nearly 100 million units worldwide since 2006, the new console’s intended audience “truly is 5 to 95,” says Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, the Japanese company’s U.S. arm.

But the Wii U arrives in a new world. Video game console sales have been falling, largely because it’s been so long since a new system has launched. Most people who wanted an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or a Wii already have one. Another reason: People in the broad 5-to-95 age range have shifted their attention to games on Facebook, tablet computers and mobile phones.

U.S. video game sales last month, including hardware, software and accessories, totaled $ 755.5 million, according to the research firm NPD Group. In October 2007, the figure stood at $ 1.1 billion.

The Wii U is likely to do well during the holiday shopping season, analysts believe —so well that shoppers may see shortages. But the surge could peter out in 2013. The Wii U is not expected to be the juggernaut that the Wii was in its heyday, according to research firm IHS iSuppli. The Wii outsold its competitors, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, in its first four years on sale, logging some 79 million units by the end of 2010. By comparison, IHS expects the Wii U to sell 56.7 million in its first four years.

In the age of a million gadgets and lean wallets, the storied game company faces a new challenge: convincing people that they need a new video game system rather than, say, a new iPad.

The Wii U, which starts at $ 300, isn’t lacking in appeal. It allows for “asymmetrical game play,” meaning two people playing the same game can have entirely different experiences depending on whether they use a new tablet-like controller called the GamePad or the traditional Wii remote. The GamePad can also be used to play games without using a TV set, as you would on a regular tablet. And it serves as a fancy remote controller to navigate a TV-watching feature called TVii, which will be available in December.

Nintendo, known for iconic game characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda, is expected to sell the consoles quickly in the weeks leading up to the holidays. After all, it’s been six long years and sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are demanding presents. GameStop Corp., the world’s No. 1 video game retailer, said last week that advance orders sold out and it has nearly 500,000 people on its Wii U waitlist.

Even so, it’s a “very, very crowded space in consumer electronics” this holiday season, notes Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies who covers gaming.

Apple‘s duo of iPads, the full-size model and a smaller version called the Mini, will be competing for shoppers’ attention. Not to be outdone, Inc. has launched a trove of Kindle tablets and e-readers in time for the holidays. These range from the Paperwhite, a touch-screen e-reader, to the Kindle Fire HD, which features a color screen and can work with a cellular data plan. Then there are the new laptops and cheaper, thinner “ultrabooks” featuring Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system —not to mention smartphones from Apple Inc., Samsung and other manufacturers.

Nintendo has to be a cut above the noise here,” Bajarin says.

The Wii U is the first major game console to launch in years, but in some ways Nintendo is merely catching up with the HD trend. Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. began selling their own powerful, high-definition consoles six and seven years ago, respectively. Both Sony and Microsoft are expected to unveil new game consoles in 2013.

Baird analyst Colin Sebastian thinks the question is not how well the Wii U will do during the holidays, but how it will fare three and six months later.

Gaming has changed significantly in the past six years, especially when it comes to the type of mass-audience experiences that serve as Nintendo‘s bread and butter. Zynga Inc., the online game company behind Facebook games such as “FarmVille” and “Texas HoldEm Poker,” was founded in 2007. The first “Angry Birds” game, that addictive, quirky distraction that has players flinging cartoon birds at structures hiding smug green pigs launched in late 2009. The first iPad, of course, came out in 2010 —three years after the first iPhone.

Fils-Aime acknowledges that Nintendo competes in the broad entertainment landscape, “minute-by-minute,” for consumers’ time.

“That’s true today and that was true 20 years ago,” he says, adding that Nintendo‘s challenge is communicating to people “what is so fun and appealing about the new system.”

Analysts expect Wii U sales to be brisk over the holidays. Nintendo‘s loyal —some would say, fanatical— fan base has been placing advance orders and will likely keep the systems flying off store shelves well into next year. The classic Mario and Zelda games are a huge part of the appeal, since they can’t be played on any gaming system but Nintendo‘s.

Research firm IHS iSuppli estimates that by the end of the year, people will have snapped up 3.5 million Wii U consoles worldwide, compared with 3.1 million Wii units in the same period through the end of 2006.

After the Wii went on sale, shortages persisted for months. Stores were met with long lines of shoppers trying to get their hands on a Wii as late as July 2007, more than seven months after the system’s launch.

Though supply constraints are expected this time around, Fils-Aime says Nintendo will have more hardware available in the Americas than it had for the Wii’s initial months on the market. The company says it will also replenish retailers more frequently than it did six years ago.

An initial sell-out doesn’t mean the Wii U will be successful over the long term, IHS notes, citing its estimate that the Wii U won’t match the Wii’s sales over time.

Bajarin believes it’s going to take “a little bit of time” for the Wii U’s dual-screen gaming concept to sink in with people. If it proves popular, Nintendo could see even more competition at its hands.

“Technologically, it’s not a leap of the imagination to see Apple, Google, Microsoft do something like this,” he says.


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Gadgets News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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Joe Manganiello Returns to HIMYM

Monday night's all-new episode of How I Met Your Mother sees the return of a familiar face.

Video: Joe Manganiello Strips Down & Snacks with ET

True Blood's Joe Manganiello is back as Brad, Marshall's old law-school buddy, but he's far from the picture of sexy we were introduced to in season two. Scruffy, overweight and covered in mustard stains, the once-attractive friend appears to have let himself go.

Watch the video above for a sneak peek!

How I Met Your Mother airs Monday nights at 8/7c on CBS.

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Twinkies likely to survice Hostess bankruptcy

DETROIT — Twinkie lovers, relax.

The tasty cream-filled golden spongecakes are likely to survive, even though their maker will be sold in bankruptcy court.

Hostess Brands Inc., baker of Wonder Bread as well as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Ho’s, will be in a New York bankruptcy courtroom Monday to start the process of selling itself.

The company, weighed down by debt, management turmoil, rising labor costs and the changing tastes of America, decided on Friday that it no longer could make it through a conventional Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring. Instead, it’s asking the court for permission to sell assets and go out of business.

Getty Images

Twinkies could survive Hostess sale.

But with high brand recognition and $2.5 billion in revenue per year, other companies are interested in bidding for at least pieces of Hostess. Twinkies alone have brought in $68 million in revenue so far this year, which would look good to another snack-maker.

“There’s a huge amount of goodwill with the commercial brand name,” said John Pottow, a University of Michigan Law School professor who specializes in bankruptcy. “It’s quite conceivable that they can sell the name and recipe for Twinkies to a company that wants to make them.”

Hostess has said it’s received inquiries about buying parts of the company. But spokesman Lance Ignon would not comment on analysts’ reports that Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods Inc. and private equity food investment firm Metropoulos & Co. are likely suitors. Metropoulos owns Pabst Brewing Co., while Flowers Foods makes Nature’s Own bread, Tastykake treats and other baked goods. Messages were left for spokesmen for both companies on Sunday.

“We think there’s a lot of value in the brands, and we’ll certainly be trying to maximize value, both of the brands and the physical assets,” Ignon said Sunday. He said it’s possible some of Hostess’ bakeries will never return to operation because the industry has too much bakery capacity.

Little will be decided at Monday afternoon’s hearing before Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain, Pottow said. The judge eventually will appoint a company that specializes in liquidation to sell the assets, and the sale probably will take six months to a year to complete, Pottow said.

Irving, Texas-based Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January for the second time in less than a decade. Its predecessor company, Interstate Bakeries, sought bankruptcy protection in 2004 and changed its name to Hostess after emerging in 2009.

The company said it was saddled with costs related to its unionized workforce. The company had been contributing $100 million a year in pension costs for workers; the new contract offer would’ve slashed that to $25 million a year, in addition to wage cuts and a 17 percent reduction in health benefits.

Management missteps were another problem. Hostess came under fire this spring after it was revealed that nearly a dozen executives received pay hikes of up to 80 percent last year even as the company was struggling.

Then last week thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike after rejecting the company’s latest contract offer. The bakers union represents about 30 percent of the company’s workforce.

By that time, the company had reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which this week urged the bakery union to hold a secret ballot on whether to continue striking. Although many bakery workers decided to cross picket lines this week, Hostess said it wasn’t enough to keep operations at normal levels.

The company filed a motion to liquidate Friday. The shuttering means the loss of about 18,500 jobs. Hostess said employees at its 33 factories were sent home and operations suspended. Its roughly 500 bakery outlet stores will stay open for several days to sell remaining products.

News of the decision caused a run on Hostess snacks at many stores around the country, and the snacks started appearing on the Internet at inflated prices.

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Panama Canal’s $5 billion makeover could be boon for South Florida

Huge yellow dump trucks resemble Tonka toys in a sand pile as they haul tons of rust-colored dirt and basalt rock from a 56-foot gash in the earth that will become a new access channel in the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal.

The trucks keep rumbling up muddy terraced slopes as a quick-moving storm blurs the horizon. The rain chases away workers pouring concrete for a mammoth set of locks that will lift super-size ships for their transit across the narrow Isthmus of Panama, but the crews are back in the pit as soon as the sun returns.

By April 2015, it will all be under water — ready for the ever-bigger vessels revolutionizing international trade. The expansion is expected to double the canal’s capacity.

The 2015 target is about six months behind schedule, but U.S. ports are still scrambling to ready their channels for so-called post-Panamax ships and some say they welcome the reprieve. At this point, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va. are the only ports along the Eastern Seaboard with channels deep enough to handle the vessels when they’re fully loaded.

Call it the race for deep water as ports up and down the East Coast, including PortMiami and Port Everglades, and along the Gulf of Mexico make plans to dredge their channels, shore up their docks or rustle up funding for renovations to receive the big ships. Many won’t be ready by the time water floods the new locks.

PortMiami in position to cash in

PortMiami is further along than most and is hoping that early advantage and its position as the first major U.S. port north of Panama will make it a preferred port of call for post-Panamax ships.

Latin American and Caribbean ports also are trying to figure out how to capitalize on the expansion.

As this new phase of canal construction nears completion with 13,000 people working around the clock, there is renewed interest in preserving the history of the old Panama Canal Zone as well as the legacy of those who worked and died building the canal.

While the 50-mile-long Panama Canal has provided a maritime shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific for the past 98 years, it’s just about maxed out.

This year vessels from the four corners of the globe — car carriers from Japan, bulk carriers loaded with soybeans and wheat from the U.S. heartland, oil tankers, towering container ships carrying the output of Chinese factories to U.S. retailers — are expected to move a record 332 million tons of cargo through the waterway, said Jorge L. Quijano, chief executive of the Panama Canal Authority.

That’s only about 20 million tons short of the canal’s capacity, he said. The canal is also popular with cruise lines and dozens of cruise ships are being built that exceed the size limits of the current canal.

But the more immediate problem is that the huge cargo ships increasingly favored for trade with Asia are too wide, too long and too heavy for the current canal.

With a growing number of ships in the post-Panamax category — exceeding the specifications for the largest ship that can fit through the existing locks — the Panama Canal must expand or risk losing market share.

And post-Panamax vessels aren’t even the biggest on the high seas. Post-Panamax Plus ships, such as most U.S. tankers that carry liquefied natural gas bound for Asia, are five times too big for the Panama Canal.

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