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National News

Groups say GOP convention protest area could foster clashes

MARK GILLISPIE, Associated Press

CLEVELAND (AP) — Organizers for two groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum are unhappy with a protest route designated for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, arguing it restricts their free-speech rights and creates the possibility of clashes.

One group is a coalition of more than two dozen left-leaning organizations planning to protest social and economic inequality. The other is an amalgam of groups hoping to celebrate the nomination of Donald Trump as the GOP candidate for president on the last day of the convention. Organizers of both events expect to draw thousands of people from across the country.

The groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the city-designated route announced Wednesday is far from where they had hoped to hold rallies and marches, infringing on their right to free speech.

The use of a designated protest route is a “recipe for disaster” because it could put groups hostile to each other in close proximity, said Ralph King, the local organizer for a coalition of groups called Citizens for Trump. He said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams will be to blame if anyone is hurt during the convention.

A city spokesman declined to provide a response to King’s comment.

The city’s route starts on the western end of a long bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River valley into downtown Cleveland, passes at a distance by the convention site.

Williams said police will try to accommodate those wanting to protest outside the designated space surrounding the arena as the city did during anti-police protests in downtown Cleveland during the past 18 months.

“If we can direct traffic around them, we will do that,” Williams said. “It will depend on the situation.”

Larry Bresler of Organize! Ohio, the local group planning the inequality march, said the city’s plan is unacceptable and “nebulous.” He said he is conferring with the ACLU about what action can be taken.

“The restrictions in terms of where the routes will be are problematic,” Bresler said.

Citizens for Trump had asked for a permit to use Voinovich Park, next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. City officials said the park has been reserved by a Republican Party committee. King said his group might try to hold a rally there anyway and dare police to make them leave.

City officials said the route will be available to groups for two hours on July 18, the first official day of the four-day convention, and for four hours on each of the next three days. Marches must be completed within 50 minutes along a route approximately 1½ miles long.

Assistant City Law Director Rick Horvath said permits would be issued in the order applications are received. The two groups submitted theirs weeks ago. Other groups, both for and against Trump, also have applied for parade permits.

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Indiana Sports National Sports

Indy 500 champions choose Andretti as best to never win

JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The words were stunning as they flew out of announcer Paul Page’s mouth in the waning laps of the 1992 Indianapolis 500.

“Michael is slowing! Michael is slowing!” Page declared. “The rest of the field is coming past. Michael Andretti is slowing down.”

Andretti was within 20 miles of earning a coveted Indianapolis 500 victory. He’d dominated the race, led 160 laps, had the field covered. Then just like that, his car slowed to a crawl because of a broken fuel pump and his heartbreak was complete.

“It was that close to being the greatest moment in my life and it turned out to be the worst moment,” he later told Indianapolis Motor Speedway historians. “Me breaking down with 10 laps to go with a totally dominant car, it was a killer.”

In the lead-up to the 100th running of the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” The Associated Press interviewed the 27 living race winners on topics ranging from the greatest driver to most memorable moment. Their answers to the best driver to never win the Indianapolis 500 gave Andretti a distinction he’d rather go to anyone else.

Andretti received 17 of the 27 votes, while Lloyd Ruby received four. Others mentioned were Tony Stewart, Jim Clark, Roberto Guerrero and Alex Zanardi.

“Being the best driver to have not won Indy is an unfortunate honor,” Andretti told the AP. “I think I’d much rather be one of the winners and not be honored in this category at all. But a lot of great drivers have raced here and never did win, so to be picked among those names is a real honor.”

Andretti built one of the most impressive careers in American open-wheel racing history. He ranks fifth in starts (317), third in wins (42) and laps led (6,607). But his career is widely defined by his oh-so-close moments at Indy that added to the lore of the “Andretti curse.”

Michael’s father, Mario, won the Indy 500 just once, in 1969. Since then, Mario, his sons Michael and Jeff, nephew John and grandson Marco have come up empty time and time again.

“All this stuff about the Andretti curse is nonsense, I never, ever dwelled on the negative,” Mario Andretti told AP. “You have to look at the positive. Michael controlled this race better than some of the four-time winners. In ’92, he had a 1½-lap lead and he could have pushed the car back to win the race. You look at things like that, and that’s how some people judge you.

“But the other thing you look at is this: Was he capable of winning it? You’re darn right he was. So he can be proud of what he’s done here. He did pretty damn well here.”

Michael Andretti led 421 laps in 16 starts. His career-best finish was second to four-time winner Rick Mears in 1991, and victory was snatched from him in the cruelest fashion the next season.

Another near miss came in 2006 when Andretti had come out of retirement for the chance to run the 500 against son Marco, a rookie that year. Using fuel strategy, Andretti found himself out front with three laps remaining but he had to back off the gas to make it to the finish.

That gave Marco the chance to slide past his father into the lead, and Sam Hornish Jr. followed to put Andretti in third. Excited that his son might put an Andretti in victory lane, he was crushed when Hornish snatched the win away at the line.

“He led laps. He was fast. He made mistakes at times and at times, the car let him down,” said Hornish, who noted Andretti also could have won in 1991 until he “just got out-dueled by one of the best guys to ever race there.”

“The heartbreak that Michael had for the Indianapolis 500, for how good he was, what he did outside out of that, I don’t think you can dispute that he’s the guy,” Hornish said. “It was cruel to him in a lot of ways.”

There is an upside to Andretti’s time at Indy. He’s won three times as a car owner, most recently in 2014 with Ryan Hunter-Reay. He will try for a fourth victory on Sunday in the historic centennial race, and he’d love any of his drivers to get the win, including his son.

Mario Andretti doesn’t think never winning hangs over his son, but it certainly stings.

“It hurts, but there are things you just cannot control — what do we have, what we drive,” Mario Andretti said. “But he loves being an IndyCar owner and he’s won three times as a car owner, so I think he feels he’s been compensated for that. You know, I think sooner or later, the luck factor is going to give us a win.”

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National Sports

Baylor says ‘Ken Starr is president’ amid speculation

JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Baylor University and its president are facing mounting pressure over how the school has handled reports of rape and assault by football players, and the Texas university says its governing board is still considering the results of an internal investigation into the matter.

Asked about reports Tuesday that the board of regents had voted to fire school President Ken Starr, university spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in an email, “Ken Starr is president and chancellor of Baylor University.” Fogleman did not elaborate.

In a separate statement issued by the university, Baylor said its board has not finished reviewing the report by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton “and we anticipate further communication will come after the board completes its deliberations.” The statement said the private university wouldn’t comment on the reports about Starr, which cited unnamed sources. HornsDigest.com was the first to report that the board had decided to fire Starr.

“We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the University will provide it. We expect an announcement by June 3,” the school said.

Starr did not immediately respond to a telephone message left at his office or email requests sent to university media relations.

Starr and football coach Art Briles have faced sharp criticism about whether Baylor ignored allegations of assaults by players, two of whom were later convicted of sexual assault. It was unclear whether the regents were considering any action against Briles and the school’s statement did not mention the coach.

Starr has been Baylor president since 2010. He was the special prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The school hired Pepper Hamilton in 2015 for the internal review. Regents were given a private presentation of some of the firm’s findings earlier this month, but those details have not been made public. Baylor is the nation’s largest Baptist university.

Speculation that regents will fire any Baylor officials have focused on Starr, not Briles, who has built the football program from one of the Big 12’s worst into a conference and national powerhouse in his nine seasons.

The Bears have won two Big 12 championships since 2013, a wave of success that reaped financial rewards as well. In 2014, Baylor opened a new state-of-the-art football stadium on campus.

Starr enjoyed the public relations that came with a successful football program. He often ran onto the field with student fans in pregame ceremonies before home games and had become one of the leading voices in the Big 12 as the league considers whether to expand.

But the university has been stung by the assault scandal that exploded in 2015 when former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player.

That was followed by media reports that Baylor ignored repeated allegations of assault against former football player Tevon Elliott, who was convicted of sexual assault in 2014. Other reports of assault allegations followed and more than 200 Baylor students, faculty and alumni staged a candlelight vigil outside of Starr’s Waco residence in February.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was “deliberately indifferent” to rape allegations levied against Elliott before he was ultimately convicted of assaulting her.

Starr has stayed mostly silent on the assault reports outside of a couple of statements issued by the school.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said, “Our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence.” At a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake.”

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National Sports

Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles selected to host Super Bowls

STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — If you spend billions of dollars to build it, they will come.

Three times over.

The NFL awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, three cities that made significant financial investments in new stadiums or recently upgraded an existing one. Atlanta will host the game in 2019, followed by Miami (2020) and Los Angeles (2021), it was announced Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

“I think if they find guys like me that are willing to do it, I think they want to show them that it is worthwhile,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said.

Atlanta will host its third Super Bowl, but the first at its new $1.4 billion stadium which opens in 2017. The previous two were at the Georgia Dome.

Miami will have its record-setting 11th Super Bowl following a $450 million stadium renovation.

Los Angeles, which gets the relocated Rams this season, has not had a Super Bowl in the area since 1993 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The game will be played at the new $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, which opens in 2019.

Tampa Bay and New Orleans were also in the running to host a Super Bowl.

The selection of Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles maintains the recent cycle of the league’s owners rewarding cities that have built new stadiums or renovated existing facilities with the lucrative financial reward of hosting a Super Bowl in return.

Last year’s Super Bowl was played in Santa Clara, California, after the 49ers built a stadium. Minneapolis will host a Super Bowl in 2018 with a new stadium that opens this season.

New York-New Jersey, Indianapolis, Dallas and Detroit all received Super Bowl bids in the past after spending millions on new stadiums.

“It shows that the communities and the owners who are willing to make these investments and stick their necks out, if you will, that it is worthwhile and they believe in them long term,” Kroenke said.

Atlanta will host its first Super Bowl since 2000, when an untimely ice storm in the Southeast crippled festivities by forcing cancellation of some hospitality events and making travel treacherous. Atlanta subsequently lost bids to host the game in 2009 and 2010, with some owners saying at the time the ice storm was one of the reasons. But Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s new stadium put Atlanta back in the picture.

Blank said he was “screaming joy for the city of Atlanta and our fans” when he learned of the owners’ decision.

“We feel like downtown Atlanta is very unique and the stadium is unique,” Blank said.

Atlanta also will stage the College Football Playoff championship game in January 2018.

The Miami area will move ahead of New Orleans, which has hosted 10 Super Bowls, when it stages its first title showdown since 2010. The area remains a popular venue because of its weather, ability to host big events and two major airports that help travel in and out of the city.

“The only thing that could be better is if we were playing in the game and winning it,” said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Hall of Fame running Larry Csonka was an ambassador for the Miami bid. Csonka said he was a “little nervous” at first talking to the owners, joking he probably should have hit something before walking into the room.

“The facts are indisputable,” Csonka said. “We have had 10 Super Bowls and they have been successful.”

The NFL has been eager to have a team in Los Angeles for quite some time and the Rams moved from St. Louis with Kroenke’s promise of a grandiose stadium — one that will be the most expensive in the league.

The reward was the area’s eighth Super Bowl overall, but first Super Bowl since 1993, when the Cowboys defeated the Bills 52-17 at the Rose Bowl. Five Super Bowls have been played at the Rose Bowl and two at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

“Los Angeles is built to host the Super Bowl,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “We helped forge this great American tradition as its very first host in 1967; and now, at long last, we’re bringing it back where it belongs.”

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National Sports Pennsylvania Sports

Crosby helps Penguins beat Lightning to force Game 7

FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins made good on Evgeni Malkin’s pledge to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3.

Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.

“I just told them to embrace the moment. It’s a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

“They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: ‘We’re going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,'” Sullivan added. “And, certainly that’s what they did.”

Malkin was the most demonstrative of the players expressing confidence the Penguins could take the series back to Pittsburgh, saying he believed in himself, his teammates and that they could return home for a seventh game “for sure.”

Crosby stepped up with his third game-winning goal of the series. The Penguins captain assisted on Kessel’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and later skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.

“We know the circumstances. It makes you go out there with a mindset of playing desperate,” Crosby said. “I think we had confidence in the whole group. I think everyone played great.

“Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don’t do anything special, just do your job. I think that’s gotten us this far.”

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.

Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.

Instead of flinching, the young goalie who turns 22 on Wednesday retained his composure down the stretch to help the Penguins avoid relinquishing a third-period lead for the second straight game.

“I just think it’s part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn’t get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete,” Sullivan said.

“That’s usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment.”

Rust’s breakaway goal at 17:52 of the third gave Pittsburgh breathing room, and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.

“We had a great chance tonight and just tip-toed around a little bit,” Boyle said. “We were tentative and weren’t aggressive.”

Kessel’s goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.

The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat’s shot that bounced off Murray’s pads.

Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday’s morning skate.

Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.

Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.

Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.

Now, they’ll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

“I know we can. I’ve got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that,” Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had success on the road in the playoffs. We’ve had success in their building already. It’s going to be a good one.”

NOTES: The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the power play and are 4 for 19 in the series. The Lightning were 0 for 1, dropping to 2 for 12. … Malkin was penalized in the first period for slashing Tampa Bay Bay’s Ryan Callahan in what appeared to be retaliation for the Lightning forward whacking him across the wrist with his stick. … Murray improved to 4-0 following a loss. He’s 10-4 overall in the playoffs.

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National Sports

Westbrook, Thunder put Warriors on brink of elimination

CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

“We all have to bounce back,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we’ll see what happens.”

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry’s shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

“He’s not injured,” Kerr said. “He’s coming back from the knee, but he’s not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world.”

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State’s Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

“I play every game like it’s my last, regardless of who’s in front of me,” he said. “That’s my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that’s all I do.”

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

“I think we’re in a good place, but like I said, this game is over,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to move on to the next game. Every game is different.”

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

“This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn’t over,” Curry said.

QUOTABLE

Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: “We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they’re proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there’s no extra pressure, whether you’re talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season.”

STAT LINES

According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. … Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. … Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. … The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. … Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. … The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. … The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.

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Entertainment Headlines

Prosecutor: ‘Shield’ actor taunted wife before killing her

ANTHONY McCARTNEY, AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An actor who played a police officer on TV was upset because his wife wanted a divorce and taunted her before fatally shooting her in their Los Angeles home while their two young sons watched, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef made the accusations against Michael Jace during her opening statement at his murder trial. Jace played a police officer on the FX series “The Shield.”

Defense attorney Jamon Hicks acknowledged that his client had killed his wife and said the defense team would try to explain the actor’s mindset when it happened.

“This case is not about who did it. We acknowledge it. We accept responsibility,” Hicks said in his opening statement. “This case is not about how it was done. We acknowledge it. We accept responsibility. This case is about why it was done.”

Mokayef said Jace had been drinking and told his wife April Jace in a text message that he had left their home but was actually waiting for her with a loaded revolver.

When she arrived, the prosecutor said, Michael Jace shot her in the back before firing two more rounds into her legs within sight of their sons — 8 and 5 at the time.

April Jace was an avid runner and Mokayef said the actor shot her in the legs because he wanted her to feel pain.

The prosecutor said one of the boys will testify that he heard his father tell his mother, “‘You like to run so much. Why don’t you try running to heaven?'”

Mokayef also provided new details about the 2014 killing, including a 911 call in which the actor calmly told a dispatcher, “I shot my wife.”

The recording was later played in court and Jace is heard saying, “My intent was not to kill her.”

Jace also gave instructions on how officers should enter the home so they could find the gun and not think he was still armed, and he told detectives that he shot his wife in the back after she lunged at him, the prosecutor said.

Mokayef said the evidence will prove Jace planned the killing because he believed his wife was having an affair and wanted a divorce. He spent much of April Jace’s last day texting her, trying to guess who she was sleeping with.

“You will hear that on May 19, 2014, the defendant took a loaded gun, a revolver, and waited for his wife to come home and then shot her in the back and then shot her two more times in front of their kids,” Mokayef told the jury of six men and six women.

The prosecutor called it a “really sad story of obsession and control.”

Jace worked steadily in small roles in films such as “Planet of the Apes,” ”Boogie Nights,” ”Forrest Gump” and the television series “Southland.”

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Entertainment Headlines

The Avengers heed call to visit teen battling cancer

JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — Each night, 18-year-old Ryan Wilcox sleeps under a portrait of himself dressed as Captain America — the pinnacle of human strength and endurance.

The Marvel Comics fan knows a thing or two about those heroic attributes. He is battling cancer for a second time in his life, and so when he recently received some disappointing news about his prognosis, his schoolmates rallied and called in the Avengers.

On Monday, the 70-pound teen answered his front door and was shocked at what he saw: Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. and Captain America Chris Evans had not only put aside their differences on how to save the world, they had teamed up with “Iron Man” star Gwyneth Paltrow to carry out a mission to lift Wilcox’s spirits.

“Hey what’s up buddy?” Evans is heard as Wilcox shakes his head, doing a double take in a video taken by Paltrow outside his home in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon. “We were in the neighborhood and thought we’d cruise by.”

“Hey guys,” says Wilcox, wearing a T-shirt featuring Captain America’s shield.

Paltrow, who plays Pepper Potts in the “Iron Man” films, hugged Wilcox’s mom, as the other two stars plopped down on the carpeted living room floor. The celebrities spent an hour at the home, conversing with the teenager, like they were old friends, his mom, Amy Wilcox, said.

“She told me this is a gift from one mom to another mom,” Amy Wilcox said. “She knew how happy it would be for me to see Ryan so happy.”

Wearing a blue “Stark” hat with Downey’s autograph on the bill, Wilcox was still reveling Tuesday in what he described as the best day of his life. He joked how his home was worth a billion dollars now and promised to preserve his game chair, where Downey sat at one point.

“It was really cool hanging out with them. That really picked me up,” said Wilcox, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’m going to get through this.”

Captain America has been a symbol of strength for Wilcox. The film series has kept him going, keeping him distracted as he has undergone chemotherapy and bone marrow treatments during numerous hospital visits.

Wilcox was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer at the age of 16. His mother said the cancer may be the result of chemotherapy treatments he underwent to fight a brain tumor at the age of three.

In February 2015, he had to leave school because his immune system was too weak. He had a bone marrow transplant from his 14-year-old sister in April of that year, but he later had a relapse. Last month, the family was told the treatments are not working so far and his disease is progressing, his mother said.

“Ryan is fighting every single day,” she said.

Thousands of students at Grossmont High School held a rally two weeks ago, chanting “Ryan Strong.” Scores were dressed in red, white and blue in honor of his favorite superhero. Then a group of students made a plea on Facebook for the cast of “Captain America: Civil War” to visit Wilcox.

Evans responded within days of the posting with a video message telling Wilcox to “stay strong.”

Evans on Monday signed the shield in the portrait of Wilcox dressed as Captain America above his bed. It reads: “Stay strong Brother!! Chris Evans. CAP.”

Wilcox said Captain America inspires him because he “never gives up.”

“Strength doesn’t really come from muscle,” Wilcox said, repeating the quote he coined that now is on T-shirts sold to raise funds for his cancer treatment. “It comes from your spirit, and your heart and love.”

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Entertainment Headlines

Ariana Grande replaces Whitney Houston hologram on ‘Voice’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ariana Grande has filled in for a hologram version of Whitney Houston in a duet with Christina Aguilera on the season finale of NBC’s “The Voice.”

Grande’s performance comes days after the planned hologram appearance of Houston was scrapped due to technical reasons. The late singer’s family said last week the hologram fell short of perfection and shouldn’t air.

Instead, Grande joined Aguilera, one of show’s celebrity coaches, in singing the title track off of Grande’s new album, “Dangerous Woman” on Tuesday.

Former child actress Alisan Porter was crowned champion of Season 10 of the singing competition. Porter played the title role in the 1991 John Hughes film, “Curly Sue.”

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Business Headlines

Greek market cheer after creditors OK loan, eye debt relief

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s government borrowing costs are at a six-month low and Athens stocks are up after international creditors approved a substantial batch of bailout loans for the debt-crippled country.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond was just above 7 percent Wednesday. And the main stock index on the Athens exchange was up 0.5 percent in late midday trading.

In a meeting in Brussels that ended before dawn Wednesday, finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries approved Greece’s latest austerity and reform measures, a process that was first meant to have been concluded last October.

That paved the way for the ministers to approve the payout of loans worth 10.3 billion euros ($11.5 billion), in two installments by October, to Greece. They also further discussed how to lighten Greece’s debt load.