Nadal wins 200th Grand Slam match at French Open

SAMUEL PETREQUIN, AP Sports Writer

 

PARIS (AP) — Rafael Nadal set another milestone at the French Open on Thursday, posting the 200th Grand Slam match win of his career.

Nadal got off a sluggish start but once he got into his swing, he was in control. The record nine-time champion at Roland Garros ended up beating Facundo Bagnis 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 to become the eighth man in history to win 200 matches at major tournaments.

Novak Djokovic, who ended Nadal’s 39-match winning streak at Roland Garros last year in the quarterfinals, joined the Spaniard in the third round. The top-ranked Serb was far from his best, hitting 42 unforced errors against Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis, but his mistakes did not prevent him from advancing 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

The man with the most wins at majors is Roger Federer, who has 302 over his career but is missing from this year’s French Open because of injury.

“I think this year I played better than last year,” said Nadal, who has been in fine form in the buildup to the French Open, winning titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

“I’ve been able to play some really good matches against the best players in the world,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy to be competitive again.”

Chasing the only Grand Slam tournament missing from his trophy collection, Djokovic won his 50th match at Roland Garros by defeating Darcis. Djokovic said he struggled to cope with his opponent’s speed from the baseline.

“It was difficult for me tactically to dictate points because he’s very talented,” Djokovic said. “It was difficult but I’m happy I was able to finish in three sets.”

The other men with 50 victories at the French Open — Nadal, Federer, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi and Nicola Pietrangeli —all won at least one title at the clay-court tournament.

Djokovic, who has lost in the final on the red clay in three of the last four years, and Nadal could meet in the semifinals this year.

After dropping his first service game, Nadal converted his two break chances and sealed the first set in 39 minutes. Nadal was warned for a time violation on his first set point but he served out the set on his second occasion after Bagnis went long following a baseline rally.

Nadal broke at the start of the second set with a crosscourt forehand attack and a service winner wrapped it up 20 minutes later.

The 99th-ranked Bagnis, who has never gotten beyond the second round at a major tournament, dropped his serve again at the start of the third set. The Argentine left-hander saved a match point in the eighth game and managed to break his rival, only to drop his next service game and the match.

Also advancing were seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych, No. 13 Dominic Thiem and No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut. No. 20 Bernard Tomic lost to 19-year-old Borna Coric 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6).

In the women’s draw, Kiki Bertens extended her winning run to nine matches to reach the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Camila Giorgi.

Bertens, who upset Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the previous round, won the Nuremberg tournament last week as a qualifier.

Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic reached the third round, too, hitting 35 winners in a 7-5, 6-1 win over Kurumi Nara.

“When I’m in a good position, I feel I strike it much better,” said Ivanovic, who won in Paris in 2008. “Today that was the case. And I knew I had to be aggressive and move well against her, also take time away from her, because she’s great player.”

Eighth-seeded Timea Bacsinszky and No.12 Carla Suarez Navarro also advanced, while No.28 Andrea Petkovic lost to Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2.

 

Miranda Lambert closes Pink Pistol boutique in Oklahoma town

 

TISHOMINGO, Okla. (AP) — Miranda Lambert is closing her Pink Pistol clothing boutique in the tiny Oklahoma town where she and her ex-husband, Blake Shelton, once shared a home.

The country singer announced Wednesday that Pink Pistol will reopen later this summer in her hometown of Lindale, Texas. Opened in late 2012, the boutique drew tourists and shoppers to Tishomingo, a town of 3,000 residents about 115 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Shelton and Lambert divorced last year. Shelton said on Twitter on Wednesday that he bought the building where Pink Pistol is located and that “something is brewing” for the space.

Lambert thanked Pink Pistol’s employees in a statement and said, “Sometimes you need to close a chapter to build on a new beginning or go back home.”

 

In Gawker fight, Hogan has billionaire in his corner

TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press
MICHAEL LIEDTKE, Associated Press

 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hulk Hogan’s courtroom cage match with Gawker has apparently been bankrolled by a high-tech billionaire with a grudge against the news-and-gossip site.

Two months after Hogan won a $140 million invasion-of-privacy verdict against Gawker for posting a sex tape of him, news reports say the pro wrestler is secretly backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007, and the Gawker empire has run a number of stories skewering Facebook.

The article about him and other articles about his friends that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” spurred Thiel to help fund “victims” of Gawker, he told The New York Times.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he told the newspaper Wednesday. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

In the interview, Thiel also said Hogan’s lawsuit is one of several against Gawker he has financially backed.

Legal experts say there is nothing illegal — or even unethical — about someone financing a lawsuit. There are entire companies that invest in contingency claims, usually in product liability, personal injury, patent infringement and copyright cases. It is called “litigation financing.”

But a billionaire doing it out of what may be spite? That’s a little different, experts say.

“As much as this is not at all illegal or unethical, it just smells and feels wrong,” said Scott Greenfield, a New York lawyer who is managing editor of Fault Lines, an online legal magazine. “When a rich guy can basically afford to bring down a media outlet, that has horrible social ramifications, even if the particular outfit is one that everybody hates, like Gawker.”

On Wednesday, Hogan and Gawker were back in a Florida court, where Judge Pamela Campbell denied Gawker’s request for a new trial and refused to reduce the damages. Gawker vows to take the case to an appeals court.

Thiel, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $2.7 billion, didn’t immediately respond to interview requests made through email or on the voicemail of a mobile phone number he previously provided to an Associated Press reporter.

Hogan’s lawyers wouldn’t comment on the Thiel story but praised the judge for denying a new trial and accused Gawker of refusing to accept responsibility for “their reprehensible behavior and method of doing what they call journalism.”

Gawker reacted to the reports by saying: “There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefited, and this case is far from over.”

Thiel has never hidden his contempt for Valleywag, a gossip site that Gawker periodically ran during the past decade to expose the secrets of Silicon Valley moguls, sometimes in salacious fashion.

In a 2009 interview, Thiel called Valleywag “the Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaida” and said it relies on people who “should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters.”

The attack spurred speculation that Thiel was still angry about a Valleywag report two years earlier about his sexuality. Others believe Thiel may have been far more upset about Valleywag’s stories mocking Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and questioning the social network’s value before it went public in 2012.

Those derogatory stories could have eroded the fortune Thiel was building in Facebook, where he remains a board member.

During Wednesday’s court proceedings, Gawker’s attorneys asked the judge to allow them to seek evidence from the other side regarding Thiel’s supposed involvement. But the judge said no.

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a 2007 video of him having sex with the wife of his best friend, Tampa radio personality Bubba The Love Sponge Clem. Hogan said Clem betrayed him by secretly videotaping him.

Gawker is counting on the verdict to be overturned on appeal and has not said whether it can afford the full $140 million. During the trial, Gawker’s parent company, a collection of websites called Gawker Media, was estimated to be worth $83 million.

Earlier this month, Hogan sued Gawker again, saying the website leaked sealed court documents containing a transcript that quoted him making racist remarks. After the National Enquirer published the story, the WWE pro wrestling company severed its ties with Hogan. Gawker denies it leaked the transcript.

In legal circles, attorney James Sammataro of Miami said people speculated how Hogan could afford such a large “dream team” of lawyers.

Said Miami attorney Richard Wolfe: “It sounds to me that Hulk Hogan made a smart deal by getting the right guy to finance his lawsuit.”

 

Winfrey explores megachurch drama in OWN drama ‘Greenleaf’

SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer

 

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Oprah Winfrey’s latest project as both producer and actress continues her exploration of religion and spirituality.

The media mogul unveiled the first episode of her new series, “Greenleaf ,” on Wednesday night at a private screening at Soho House in West Hollywood, California. The show, which follows the personal dramas and questionable ethics of a family at the center of a Memphis, Tennessee, megachurch, is set to premiere next month on Winfrey’s OWN network.

After taking a documentary approach to faith in her “Belief” series that aired on OWN last year, Winfrey sees “Greenleaf” as “another platform to really offer the message that we are more alike than different; to offer the message that being grounded in knowing what you believe is important. I’m not trying to tell you what to believe or how to believe.”

She developed “Greenleaf” with the show’s creator, Craig Wright. It focuses on the title family, led by Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David), a charismatic preacher who lives in a palatial estate with a full-time staff. His riches may have unscrupulous origins, though, because he starts sweating when a local politician says he’s looking into churches’ tax-exemption claims. All the bishop’s adult children have gone into the family business except Grace (Merle Dandridge), who left Memphis for a new life in Arizona and stopped going to church.

Winfrey plays Mavis, an outspoken bar owner estranged from her sister, Greenleaf family matriarch Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield). Winfrey said she based the character on her late friend and mentor Maya Angelou.

“If Maya had a bar, she would be Mavis,” Winfrey said.

Wright, David, Dandridge, Whitfield and producer-director Clement Virgo appeared alongside Winfrey for a panel discussion after the screening.

While “Greenleaf” examines how righteous or corrupt these church leaders might be, Winfrey and the other panelists say the show remains respectful of church traditions.

“I, Oprah Winfrey, am going to do nothing ever that disrespects the church,” she said. “I am who I am, where I am, sitting here today, because of the black church. But there are some people within the church with some flaws.”

 

Steven Spielberg to address grads at Harvard commencement

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at Harvard University.

The three-time Academy Award winner will address graduates at a ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Harvard President Drew Faust has praised Spielberg as an extraordinary storyteller, adding that “through his art, Mr. Spielberg has challenged us to dream and to see the world anew.”

Spielberg has won Oscars for best picture and best director for “Schindler’s List” and best director for “Saving Private Ryan.” One of his earliest hits, “Jaws,” was filmed primarily on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

He earned a degree from California State University, Long Beach, in 2002, after dropping out of the school in the 1960s.

Harvard officials say Spielberg is not being paid for his appearance.

 

Jennifer Aniston announces death of mother Nancy Dow at 79

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jennifer Aniston’s mother, Nancy Dow, has died. She was 79.

Aniston tells People magazine in a statement that Dow “passed peacefully surrounded by family and friends after enduring a long illness.”

Dow was a model who acted on television in the 1960s, including appearances on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Wild Wild West.”

Aniston told The Hollywood Reporter last year that her relationship with her mother was strained at times, saying there were years when they didn’t talk. She told the magazine that her mother was “very unforgiving” and held petty grudges.

Dow was married twice. His first husband was Jack Melick, the father of Aniston’s brother, John Melick. The second was Aniston’s father, soap opera star John Aniston. Both marriages ended in divorce.

 

New Zealanders to pay $20 for cigarette pack under tax plan

NICK PERRY, Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Smokers in New Zealand will pay $20 for a pack of cigarettes under the government’s budget plan released Thursday. Polluting industries will also get hit with higher taxes.

In its annual budget, the government forecasts that rising fiscal surpluses in coming years will allow it to begin paying down its public debt. Here are some of the highlights:

HEAT TURNED UP ON SMOKERS:

The government plans to hike tobacco taxes by 46 percent over the next four years as it continues an ambitious campaign to eliminate smoking from the South Pacific nation by 2025. Once the taxes are in place, a pack of 20 cigarettes will cost about 30 New Zealand dollars ($20), one of the highest prices in the world.

Indigenous Maori have relatively high smoking rates, and the tax plan was pushed by the Maori Party. Te Ururoa Flavell, the party’s co-leader, said it was the right thing to do, even if cost his constituents more money.

“What I do know is that there are so many of our young women, because research tells us that, who are dying because of cancer,” he said. “I’m happy in my heart. If I can save more than one life, I would have done my job.”

POLLUTING BUSINESSES TO PAY:

A subsidy for polluting businesses that was introduced to help them out after the 2008 global financial crisis will be eliminated by 2019. After that, those businesses will need to pay more for releasing polluting gases. New Zealand is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The government says the measure will help grow a cleaner economy. But opponents say the measure amounts to a tax hike on businesses, and consumers will end up paying more.

BALANCING THE BOOKS:

New Zealand is unusual among developed nations in that it’s operating with a small surplus rather than borrowing money to pay its bills. The government’s books returned to the black last year for the first time since the financial crisis.

The Treasury is forecasting the economy will continue to grow at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent over the next five years. That’s despite a big drop in prices for its key dairy exports, due in part to slowing growth in China. The dairy downturn has been offset by a boom in tourism as well as growth in construction and immigration.

“A positive economic outlook and stable finances means New Zealand has choices that few other developed countries have,” said Finance Minister Bill English.

The Treasury is forecasting a slim surplus of 700 million New Zealand dollars ($471 million) for the year ending June. The surplus is forecast to increase to NZ$6.7 billion by 2020. However, that could be reduced by tax cuts, which many people expect the government to announce ahead of next year’s election.

SOCIAL SPENDING:

The budget includes increases in spending for health, low-income housing and schools. The government says it plans to build nine new schools and hundreds of new classrooms as the growing population puts increased pressure on public services.

Opponents say the government has failed to address a housing crisis in Auckland, where runaway prices have made homes unaffordable for many and forced others to live together in overcrowded conditions.

“What was needed today was a clear plan to build thousands of affordable homes, lift wages and fix our creaking public services,” said Andrew Little, the leader of the opposition. “Instead we have a government still focused on those at the top while most New Zealand families miss out.”

‘It’s the fear of the unknown’ – UK small biz key to EU vote

DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — With sparks flying from a welder at work behind him, Simon Boyd’s voice rises as he explains why he believes the United Kingdom should leave the European Union even though his company, REIDsteel, has put up buildings across the 28-nation bloc, from the Netherlands to Poland and Italy.

The EU saddles smaller businesses with reams of unnecessary regulations, says Boyd, managing-director of the firm based in the southern town of Christchurch. That dilutes Britain’s reputation for quality and threatens the nation’s sovereignty. But more importantly, he claims, it is costing companies like his.

The views of small business owners like Boyd will be key to the outcome of the June 23 referendum on Britain’s EU membership, which polls show is still close. The country’s 5.4 million small and medium-size enterprises account for 99 percent of Britain’s businesses and employ 15.6 million people, or half of those working in the private sector.

While the media has focused on the fact that most large companies back EU membership, opinion is divided among smaller firms. When the Federation of Small Businesses surveyed its members last year, it found that 47 percent supported EU membership and 41 percent wanted to leave. However, a February poll found that 42 percent said their votes could still be swayed.

“I think we have to take this opportunity,” Boyd said with passion. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to take back control of our own destiny. From a business perspective the European Union has been very bad for us. We are over-regulated and held back as a result of that overregulation.”

The federation has asked both campaigns to detail the economic costs and benefits of EU membership and of leaving the bloc. It sought information on issues such as how the referendum will affect the supply of skilled labor, access to overseas markets and the U.K.’s ability to influence decisions in Brussels.

Answering those questions is another matter, said Angus Armstrong, an economist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

“No country the size of the United Kingdom has ever left such an integrated economic union …,” he said. “In other words, there is no precedent to look back upon and draw some lessons — so we’re in uncharted territory here. Many people say they would like to have more facts. The difficulty is we haven’t been here before.”

The International Monetary Fund said this month that a vote to leave the EU would lead to a “protracted period of heightened uncertainty” as Britain would be forced to negotiate bilateral trade deals with its former European partners and countries around the world. That would trigger volatility in financial markets and slow economic growth, the fund said. The Bank of England says a so-called Brexit would also weaken the pound, increasing the cost of imported goods and spurring inflation.

That uncertainty is likely to hit smaller businesses harder than others mainly by making it more difficult for them to get loans — banks tend to shun riskier loans during times of stress.

“Financial conditions will tighten,” said Daniel Vernazza, the U.K. economist at UniCredit. “(Small- and medium-sized businesses) are likely to fare particularly badly and many may go out of business as they did during the financial crisis.”

Uncertainty is exactly what frightens many small business owners, who don’t have the resources of global conglomerates to adjust to dramatic changes.

Birmingham spice trader Jason Wouhra is one of the worried. His family-run business, East End Foods, started out with a corner store that sold fresh chicken and grew into one of the largest importers of ethnic food ingredients in the U.K., with 200 million pounds ($290 million) in annual revenue and 400 employees. The company also boasts business with every continent, with its Birmingham plant grinding peppers, packing beans and milling flours for sale to lovers of Asian cookery the world over.

He is voting to stay, in large part because he fears that a vote to leave would trigger a decade or more of trade negotiations.

“I think for me, it’s the fear of the unknown,” Wouhra said. “It’s all speculation. Who knows what will pan out if we leave?”

To illustrate the risks for his business, Wouhra strolls into a cool, meticulously organized storeroom stacked floor to ceiling with pallets of black salt, sugar-coated fennel and chana dall. He lifts a sheet of labels for one of the some 1,300 food lines and points to the ingredient list required by the European Union. If Britain leaves the EU, Wouhra fears he would need to re-write the labels and repackage the boxes for every country he trades with.

“It would be absolutely awful,” he says. “The costs incurred would be immense.”

But Boyd — who has 130 employees — argues that for smaller companies the benefits of leaving the EU far outweigh the risks of leaving.

Big corporations have legions of lawyers and accountants to help them profit from EU regulations, while smaller firms don’t, Boyd says. Rather than profiting from EU membership, REIDsteel is actually losing contracts in France because local rules require the company to have a type of insurance you can only buy if you’re French, he said.

Moreover, British companies will continue to trade with Europe even if voters decide to leave the bloc because member states can’t afford to freeze out the world’s fifth biggest economy and the bloc’s biggest trading partner, Boyd said. And trade with other countries will become easier because British firms won’t have to jump through the EU’s regulatory hoops, he said.

“The big multinationals represent less than 20 percent of the work force, but they have a vested interest in Europe,” he said. “They can lobby, they can lobby in their own interest, they can up stakes and move to any other European state to suit where they pay their taxes, whereas the real powerhouse behind the U.K. economy are the small and medium-size companies that pay their taxes.”

China accuses US of hampering trade with steel duties

BEIJING (AP) — China accused the United States on Thursday of hampering trade after Washington imposed duties of up to 450 percent on Chinese steel in its latest response to a flood of low-priced imports.

The Ministry of Commerce complained U.S. regulators discriminated against Chinese suppliers by using incorrect standards for deciding what production cost and market prices should have been.

Beijing faces mounting criticism from the United States and Europe that it is exporting steel at unfairly low prices to clear a backlog in its glutted home market. Western governments say that hurts their producers and threatens thousands of jobs.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced the penalties on Wednesday to offset what it said was improper subsidies to Chinese steel mills and unfairly low export prices. It imposed similar penalties on steel imports from India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan.

“The United States has deliberately suppressed the bulk of Chinese steel exports,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. “This not only harms Chinese steel enterprises but hinders trade and cooperation between enterprises.”

It said Beijing will “take all necessary measures to fight for fair treatment” but gave no details.

The latest penalties apply to corrosion-resistant steel products. They include anti-dumping duties of up to 210 percent and anti-subsidy duties of up to 241 percent.

On May 17, Washington imposed similar duties of up to 522 percent in a separate action targeting Chinese-made cold-rolled steel used in automobiles and other manufactured goods.

The Chinese government is trying to shrink bloated industries including steel, coal, cement, aluminum and solar panel manufacturing in which supplies exceed demand. That has led to price-cutting wars that are driving producers into bankruptcy.

Chinese government plans call for stepping up exports and shifting some operations abroad. The Cabinet approved measures in April to support steel exports with tax rebates and bank loans.

The European Union launched its own investigation of Chinese steel exports in early May following protests by steelworkers.

In Britain, Tata Steel cited low-cost Chinese competition when it announced plans last month to sell money-losing operations that employ 20,000 people.

China pushed back against its trading partners in April, announcing anti-dumping duties on steel from the European Union, Japan and South Korea.

Sears 1Q loss widens, looking at options for Kenmore, others

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears’ fiscal first-quarter loss widened as sales dropped at its Kmart and namesake stores.

The retailer also announced that it is looking at options for its Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard and Sears Home Services businesses, including possible partnerships or deals that could expand distribution of its brands and service offerings.

The chain said that it believes it can achieve significant growth in the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands by further expanding their presence outside of Sears and Kmart.

For the period ended April 30, Sears Holdings Corp. lost $471 million, or $4.41 per share. A year earlier, the company based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, lost $303 million, or $2.85 per share.

Removing certain items, the chain lost $1.86 per share. Revenue, meanwhile, declined to $5.39 billion from $5.88 billion.

Sales at Kmart stores in the U.S. that have been open for at least a year fell 5 percent. At Sears’ locations, the figure dropped 7.1 percent. This metric is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results from locations recently opened or closed.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said in a written statement on Thursday that clothing sales at Sears and Kmart stores continue to be hurt by heavy promotions from competitors.

Sears also announced that Chief Financial Officer Robert Schriesheim will be leaving the company to focus on other business interests and pursue other career opportunities. Schriesheim has agreed to stay with the company until a replacement is found. He will also continue as an adviser to Sears through Jan. 31, 2017.