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Couric takes blame for ‘misleading’ pause in gun documentary

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Katie Couric has reversed course and taken responsibility for an edit that misrepresents the response of gun rights activists to a question she poses in a new documentary.

The segment in “Under the Gun” shows nearly 10 seconds of silence after Couric asks the activists how felons or terrorists could be prevented from purchasing a gun without background checks.

Audio of the exchange leaked last week reveals an almost immediate response to the question.

Couric writes in a message on the film’s website that she regrets not raising her initial concerns about the segment “more vigorously.”

Director Stephanie Soechtig told The Washington Post last week that the pause was so viewers could consider the question.

Couric said then that she supported Soechtig’s statement and was “very proud of the film.”

“Under the Gun” showed at the Sundance Film Festival in January and premiered on EPIX earlier this month. The film is now available for rent or purchase on various digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

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National News

Children’s asylum approvals vary by US region

AMY TAXIN, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For unaccompanied immigrant children seeking asylum in the U.S., where they apply seems to make a world of difference.

Youngsters whose applications are handled by the U.S. government’s regional offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles are far more likely to win approval from asylum officers than those applying in Chicago or Houston, according to data obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The figures offer a snapshot of how the government is handling the huge surge over the past two years in the number of Central American children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by adults. Tens of thousands of youngsters — many of them fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have overflowed U.S. shelters and further clogged the nation’s overwhelmed immigration courts.

Under federal law, these children can apply to remain in the country in a process that involves an interview with an asylum officer from one of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ eight regional offices. To win their cases, they must show that they have been persecuted or are in danger of persecution.

As of January, asylum officers had rendered decisions in the cases of nearly 5,800 such children who arrived since May 2014, according to the figures obtained by the AP.

Overall, 37 percent were granted asylum, but the rate varied dramatically from 86 percent at the San Francisco office, which handles applications for a swath of the Pacific Northwest, to 15 percent in Chicago, which covers 15 states from Ohio to Idaho.

Los Angeles, which covers parts of California and Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii, granted asylum in 53 percent of its cases, while only 16 percent were approved by Houston, which handles Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and other states. The asylum offices in New York; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; and Arlington, Virginia, had approval rates in the 20s and 30s.

Immigration lawyers said they expected some differences among regional offices, given that some parts of the country are more sympathetic toward immigrants. But they said there shouldn’t be such large disparities.

“The quality of justice should not be like a crapshoot. It shouldn’t be a lottery,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “It is not just disappointing — it has life-or-death consequences for these children.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had no explanation for the disparities. Asylum claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and all children’s applications get an additional review by a supervisory officer, spokeswoman Claire Nicholson said.

Several members of the House Judiciary Committee blasted the disparities. Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, called for the committee to examine reasons behind what she called the “alarming” differences and youngsters’ abilities to access to lawyers in different places.

“If justice is being served, it should be served evenly across the country,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois. “Our asylum system is failing under the weight of its caseload combined with the fact that Congress robbed it of resources for decades.”

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he feared the disparities might enable immigrants to exploit the country’s immigration system.

Children who are turned down get a second chance to plead their cases before an immigration judge. If they fail at that stage, they can be deported. Immigration lawyers said most of those children are still awaiting decisions on their applications because it can take months or years for their cases to be heard in court. But previous studies show the courts also vary widely in how often they approve asylum.

Immigration lawyers and activists offered a variety of possible reasons for the regional differences.

Asylum officers are expected to make their decisions in line with federal court rulings on immigration, and the appeals courts on the West Coast are more liberal. Also, California has funded immigration attorneys for children since the surge, enabling these youngsters to make a stronger case for asylum, activists said. Office culture and interviewing techniques also could play a role.

“For us, it is a puzzle, and we do find it baffling,” said Lisa Koop of the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago. “Whether it is the front-line asylum officer or their supervisors or someone higher up at the Chicago asylum office is unclear to us.”

Immigration lawyers in liberal San Francisco said asylum officers there take their time and use child-friendly language during interviews to draw details out of traumatized youngsters who often are reluctant to share their pasts with strangers. Immigration attorney Pablo Lastra said these officers seem to ask questions to get at why kids should be granted asylum, not why they shouldn’t.

One teen from Honduras said he was given a squishy ball to squeeze if he felt stressed during his interview in San Francisco. The officer told him to breathe deeply and take his time answering questions about how gangs came after him and his brother when their mother, a candy store owner, could no longer afford rising extortion payments, he said. While the teen was granted asylum, he asked that his name not be used for fear his relatives in Honduras could face gang retaliation.

Where unaccompanied children apply for asylum is dictated by where they live, and most of them have little or no control over that. They are placed by the U.S. government with relatives already living in this country.

“If this person has to choose between a family member in Texas and a family member in the Bay Area, we certainly would be pushing them to the Bay Area,” said Manoj Govindaiah, managing attorney at RAICES, a nonprofit organization San Antonio.

In addition to asylum, many of the youngsters coming across the border have sought to stay in the country under a U.S. government program for abused and abandoned children. Since the border surge, more than 15,000 have applied for this program, and most have been approved, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics.

The data obtained by the AP shows that more than 10,000 unaccompanied children who arrived in the U.S. since May 2014 have applied for asylum. More than 90 percent were Central American.

At the regional offices, girls were more likely to win their cases. As of January, asylum officers approved 43 percent of girls’ and 33 percent of boys’ applications.

Ann Naffier, an immigration attorney at Justice for Our Neighbors in Des Moines, Iowa, said she was surprised by the regional disparity and to see similar asylum cases could have such dramatically different results.

“It is not unfair to the kids in California, it’s just unfair to our kids,” she said.

Iowa gardener Alejandro Lopez — the father of one of Naffier’s clients — said he knew it would be an uphill battle for his son, Jonathan, to win asylum after coming to the U.S. in 2014.

The teen took a 2½-hour trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for an interview with an asylum officer who reports to the Chicago office. A nervous Lopez answered questions for about an hour, relating how Salvadoran gang members threatened to kill him and riddled his motorbike with bullets.

Lopez, now 18, lost his bid and will make a final plea before a judge in February.

“The lawyer said it’s really hard for us to win,” his father said. “The only solution might be later on if you fall in love and find a wife who is American. He’s still young, but that might be the only solution.”

In Southern California, Jhonathan Rivas tells a different story. He said he was nervous heading to the suburban Los Angeles office for his interview, but the officer seemed relaxed as she asked him open-ended questions through an interpreter.

Over 90 minutes, Rivas recounted how gang members harassed him on his way home from church in El Salvador, pressed him to join the gang and killed his cousin and uncle. Two weeks after the interview, Rivas learned he can remain in the U.S.

“Thank God everything worked out. It made me happy I don’t have to be afraid to go back to my country,” said the 19-year-old, who plans to join the Army and become an airplane mechanic.

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National News

Suspect in standoff after 2 California officers shot

 

FREMONT, Calif. (AP) — A gunman suspected of shooting and wounding two Northern California police was holed up in a house early Thursday in an armed standoff with law officers, authorities said.

Officers fire tear gas into the house, but he was still refusing to end the standoff, Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office said.

The officers from the Fremont Police Department were shot Wednesday afternoon after a traffic stop turned violent, prompting a manhunt that involved a house to house search that lasted well into the night.

The lone suspect was eventually tracked down to a home in the San Francisco Bay-area community of Fremont, where he was involved in the standoff, Kelly said.

“We have one shooter that shot our officers,” Kelly told The Associated Press.

He said that earlier police were negotiating for the suspect to surrender. It was not immediately clear if that was still going on after the firing of the tear gas.

Kelly said that no one was home when the suspect broke in and barricaded himself inside.

No shots have been fired so far during the standoff and no one has been hurt, he said.

The incident started when an officer with a year’s service with the department stopped a white pickup truck in Fremont, which is about 40 miles south of San Francisco, police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said.

The pickup truck backed up into the officer’s patrol car, a person in the truck fired shots that injured the officer and the shooter and another suspect fled on foot.

Shortly after that officers from several law enforcement agencies flooded the area and searching got underway.

A while later, a Fremont police officer with about 10 years of service with the department was wounded in a shootout with the suspect, officials said.

Bosques told the East Bay Times that the officer in the initial shooting was in critical condition after surgery. The second officer remained in stable condition.

Investigators had ordered residents of the blue-collar neighborhood to remain in their homes and to call police about anything suspicious. Police helicopters were deployed and police dogs used in searching yard-by-yard and door-to-door.

Kelly said residents of the neighborhood can breathe easier now that the shooting suspect has been confined to one site.

He said the others were with the suspect when the shooting erupted, but just the single gunman was accused in the violence.

Kelly said the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has taken over tactical command of the scene while Fremont deals with its two fallen officers.

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National News

Future funding murky for Hawaiian island used as bomb range

MARINA STARLEAF RIKER, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Six miles from the scenic beaches of south Maui sits a small, deserted island with a rich history and a big problem.

Researchers say Hawaiians traveled to Kahoolawe Island as early as 400 A.D., and it’s home to nearly 3,000 archaeological sites. It’s also littered with unexploded ordnance.

The U.S. Navy used the barren island as a bombing range for decades starting in World War II. It later joined with the state and spent millions on cleanup, but they didn’t finish the job.

Today, live grenades and bombs remain scattered across about a quarter of the 45-square-mile island. But the agency tasked with restoring Kahoolawe is likely on its own next year after lawmakers passed a bill pushing it to become financially self-sufficient.

Now, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission and community advocates are looking for ways to fund the rest of the cleanup so they can bring back native wildlife and use the island as a Native Hawaiian educational center.

It’s no small effort. Restoring and then replanting the entire island could take decades and cost billions of dollars, despite about $400 million spent between the commission and the Navy since 1994, the agency said. The commission also has depleted a $44 million federal trust fund since the state gained control of the island in 2004.

“It speaks volumes to the amount of bombing Kahoolawe sustained that so much work still needs to be done to complete this effort,” U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said. She added she will work to help find solutions to finish the cleanup at the culturally significant site, which is banned from commercial use.

On a clear day, the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai are visible from the shores of Kahoolawe, which archaeological evidence suggests Hawaiians used as a navigational center for voyaging, a workshop for making stone tools and for cultural ceremonies. Fortunately, many of the cultural sites such as fishing shrines were on the coast and were spared from the military bombing, which went on for 50 years, said Michael Nahoopii, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission’s executive director.

Still, gold-colored grenades that explode if touched, bombs weighing up to 2,000 pounds and hundreds of projectiles remain.

“You walk across this line, and it is night and day. One side of the line is very clean. There’s no scrap metal. There’s nothing on the ground,” Nahoopii said. “You walk across this line, and there’s bombs sticking out of the ground. There are pieces of razor-sharp metal.”

A 2013 financial audit criticized the Kahoolawe commission for lacking a comprehensive cleanup plan and measures to gauge if objectives are being met.

Lawmakers recently passed a measure giving the agency $450,000 for restoration during the upcoming year, but no money after 2017. One of the requirements is that the commission come up with a plan for being self-sufficient. The proposal has been sent to Gov. David Ige, who hasn’t said whether he will sign it into law.

Ideas for future funding include running the island off renewable energy and charging tuition for educational programs.

Josh Kaakua, a commissioner and member of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, said the state should help fund Kahoolawe’s restoration since it took responsibility for the island after the Navy ended the federal cleanup.

The island was also ravaged by years of cattle and goat ranching before its military use — the Army first trained there in 1925 — and faces problems with severe erosion and a lack of fresh water sources.

“I think people only care about what’s in their backyard, so often I think Kahoolawe gets put to the side,” Kaakua said. “Kahoolawe is a treasure. It’s a resource. But we’re losing it. We’re slipping. Nobody is paying attention.”

Nahoopii, meanwhile, said the Navy has a responsibility to finish restoring the island. When the federal government took over Kahoolawe in the 1950s, it agreed to return the land in a condition of “suitable habitation,” he said.

Yet Agnes Tauyan, director of public affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, said the Navy completed what was required by the federal government and isn’t aware of any requests to return to Kahoolawe.

Kahoolawe is one of about 100 formerly used defense sites throughout the Pacific, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District. Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District is working on about 10 cleanup projects, including the Waikoloa Maneuver Area on the Big Island, which alone is expected to cost about $723 million to clean up.

“It’s really a microcosm of what’s happening in the whole world, right on Kahoolawe,” Nahoopii said.

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National News Ohio Headlines

Ohio official: No decision yet on charges in gorilla case

DAN SEWELL, Associated Press
JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — No decision has been made yet on whether charges will be brought against the parents of a 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, causing an animal response team to shoot and kill the primate, authorities said.

Cincinnati city spokesman Rocky Merz said Wednesday no determination has been made on possible charges nor has anything related to the case been released by city or county departments.

Merz said an investigation into the incident Saturday at the zoo is ongoing and that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will review the case.

Meanwhile, 911 tapes released Wednesday by Cincinnati police reveal the confusion and panic in the moments when the boy plunged into the zoo’s gorilla exhibit.

“He’s dragging my son! I can’t watch this!” a woman, who isn’t identified, says in the 911 call on Saturday.

As she pleads for help, she shouts at her son repeatedly: “Be calm!”

The zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot and killed the gorilla within 10 minutes to protect the boy after he dropped some 15 feet into the exhibit.

The boy’s family isn’t commenting on the police investigation, but they released a statement saying he continues to do well and expressed gratitude to the Cincinnati Zoo for protecting his life.

The child’s mother said in the 911 call that her son had fallen into the gorilla exhibit and a male gorilla was standing over him. The dispatcher told her that responders were on their way, and she yelled four times: “Be calm!”

Another woman is heard telling bystanders to keep quiet so they didn’t scare the gorilla. “You’re going to make him riled up. You’re riling him up,” the woman said.

A record of police calls shows nine minutes passed between the first emergency call about the boy falling into the enclosure and when the child was safe.

Since then, there have been numerous questions about the how the child got past the barriers around the exhibit.

The zoo says it will look at whether it needs to reinforce the barriers even though it considers the enclosure more secure than what’s required.

A federal inspection less than two months ago found no problems with the gorilla exhibit, but earlier inspections reported issues including the potential danger to the public from a March incident involving wandering polar bears inside a behind-the-scenes service hallway.

On Wednesday, the boy’s family said he had a checkup by his doctor and “is still doing well.” The family said they continue to “praise God” and also are thankful to the zoo “for their actions taken to protect our child.”

While they have been blamed for the gorilla’s death by some people during a storm of social media and other commentary on the death, the family expressed appreciation for those offering support. The statement said some even have offered money, which they won’t accept.

At least two animal rights groups were holding the zoo responsible for the death of the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, charging that the barrier made up of a fence, bushes and a moat wasn’t adequate.

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National News

UCLA goes from fear to sadness in professor’s shooting death

AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press
CHRISTINE ARMARIO, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A murder-suicide brought a massive police response and widespread fear of an active shooter among tens of thousands of people at UCLA. Now fear has shifted to sadness as many lament the death of a professor who worked on computer models of the human heart who was also a doting father who coached his young son’s baseball team.

William S. Klug, a professor of mechanical engineering, was gunned down in an engineering building office Wednesday, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation but not authorized to publicly discuss it.

The shooter in the murder-suicide has not yet been identified, and finding his motive in killing Klug will be foremost in the investigation as it continues Thursday.

Classes at the University of California, Los Angeles campus will resume Thursday for most of the school, and on Monday for the engineering department, whose students and faculty were coming to grips with his loss.

“Bill was an absolutely wonderful man, just the nicest guy you would ever want to meet,” said a collaborator, UCLA Professor Alan Garfinkel. “Devoted family man, superb mentor and teacher to so many students. He was my close colleague and friend. Our research together was to build a computer model of the heart, a 50 million variable ‘virtual heart’ that could be used to test drugs.”

Peter Gianusso, who headed the El Segundo Little League where Klug coached, said he “exemplified what Little League was all about: character, courage and loyalty.”

“He had a special relationship with his son through baseball, was a great coach, spent countless hours on the field with the boys and girls of El Segundo Little League,” Gianusso said.

The initial reports from the scene set off widespread fears of an attempted mass shooting on campus, bringing a response of hundreds of heavily armed officers who swarmed the campus.

Groups of officers stormed into buildings that had been locked down and cleared hallways as police helicopters hovered overhead.

Advised by university text alerts to turn out the lights and lock the doors where they were, many students let friends and family know they were safe in social media posts. Some described frantic evacuation scenes, while others wrote that their doors weren’t locking and posted photos of photocopiers and foosball tables they used as barricades.

After about two hours, city Police Chief Charlie Beck said it was a murder-suicide and declared the threat over. Two men were dead, and authorities found a gun and what might be a suicide note, he said.

It was the week before final exams at UCLA, whose 43,000 students make it the largest campus in the University of California system.

Those locked down inside classrooms described a nervous calm. Some said they had to rig the doors closed with whatever was at hand because they would not lock.

Umar Rehman, 21, was in a math sciences classroom adjacent to Engineering IV, the building where the shooting took place. The buildings are connected by walkway bridges near the center of the 419-acre campus.

“We kept our eye on the door. We knew that somebody eventually could come,” he said, acknowledging the terror he felt.

The door would not lock and those in the room devised a plan to hold it closed using a belt and crowbar, and demand ID from anyone who tried to get in.

Scott Waugh, an executive vice chancellor and provost, said the university would look into concerns about doors that would not lock.

One student who spent hours sheltering in a building did the same thing almost exactly two years ago when he was locked down in a dorm at UC Santa Barbara during a shooting rampage in the surrounding neighborhood that left six students dead and wounded 13 people.

Jeremy Peschard, 21, said it was “scary” and “eerily similar” but also that having been through the feeling of crisis before left him almost numb.

“I just felt a little bit less shocked, a little bit less taken aback by the reality of an active shooter on a college campus,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “Because I feel like this is the day and age we’re living in, that college campus shootings have genuinely become a normalized threat, almost like a natural disaster, except this type of destruction isn’t natural. It’s just really sad.”

UCLA’s commencement ceremonies and end-of-year events will now include mourning Klug, who was a devout Christian and a regular figure in organizing campus spiritual life.

In 2012, according to the campus website, he moderated a forum that his family and friends might find useful now. Its title: “Does God Care?: Seeking the Meaning of Life in the Midst of Suffering and Death.”

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National Sports

Warriors feeling more calm going into second straight Finals

JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — There’s a comfort level for MVP Stephen Curry and his teammates this time around on the big stage.

Coach Steve Kerr even senses a calm about the Golden State Warriors as they go into a second straight NBA Finals — a second straight against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, no less.

Everything was new last year. There were some serious nerves. Golden State’s daily schedule and routine got disrupted, which Kerr called “a bit of a shock to our guys’ system.”

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be nervous out there like we were last year,” Klay Thompson said.

The 73-win Warriors are fresh off a Game 7 victory against the Oklahoma Thunder that capped a remarkable comeback from a 3-1 deficit, and they hope to roll that momentum right into Game 1 on Thursday night in front of their rockin’ home crowd at Oracle Arena.

“I know we’re a better team than we were last year, just off experience and what we’ve been through in this postseason, better equipped to kind of handle the scene of the Finals and all that’s kind of thrown at you when you get here,” Curry said. “The first time, it’s a whirlwind.”

Cleveland has its own reasons for these Finals to feel far different from last June. Namely: The Cavs are at full strength as they try again for the franchise’s first championship after losing in six games last year.

Kyrie Irving went down with a devastating knee injury in a Game 1 overtime loss to Golden State last year. He is back for the rematch, and power forward Kevin Love is poised for his Finals debut after he missed last year’s series because of a dislocated left shoulder that required surgery.

Ask folks in Northern Ohio and they’re sure to say things would have turned out differently had those two stars been on the court, and the city’s five-decade championship drought dating to the Browns’ 1964 NFL title already would have ended.

“I don’t really get involved into the whole pressure thing,” James said of bringing a championship home to Ohio.

The healthy Cavs, who also added Channing Frye this season, like their chances with Love in the mix. Coach Tyronn Lue has all the confidence in Love.

“It’s nice not having to sit there and watch. I mentioned last year that it was very bittersweet. Bitter having to sit there and watch not being able to help, but sweet seeing so many guys that are the main reason we are where we are today stepping up and making big plays,” Love said. “That was the sweet part of now being here and being able to play.”

Even if he now draws menacing defender Draymond Green and those regular, celebratory muscle flexes.

“Them having all their guys is always going to be a challenge,” Green said.

While the Warriors have said all along that this special, record-setting season won’t matter in the end if they don’t hoist another trophy, they know how much Cleveland wants this. Desperately needs this, in fact, for a city starved of major sports triumphs.

“I think we’re stronger at our core, but we’re very similar as a basketball team,” Kerr said. “They are dramatically different. Obviously they’re healthy, but not only are they healthy, they’ve changed their style. They tried to grind us to a pulp last year playing big, and they were slowing the ball down, slowing the pace down. … They’ve got shooting all over the place, and they’re playing at a much faster pace. So it’s really a much different team that we’re seeing.”

It’s the 14th time in NBA history that the same teams square off in the Finals in back-to-back seasons. And in the Cavs’ favor? Six of the last seven teams to lose the Finals the previous year won the next facing the same opponent.

The 2015 Finals were crazy for Green, from the level of play on the court to the stresses off it like taking care of family members in town for games.

“Coming in last year, we had no idea what to expect. All this stuff was like, ‘Whoa.’ Everything was a shocker,” Green said. “You know how to deal with all that stuff now. I think it’s more the stuff before the game that you deal with better rather than the game. And then on top of that you know the intensity level that it takes to win an NBA Finals.”

Irving and the Cavs understand as well as anyone it takes some luck at this stage after a long season, too.

Something Cleveland didn’t have last year.

“Well, coming into the postseason you actually want to have a great bill of health, and we were just unfortunate of not having that going into the full extent of postseason,” Irving said. “They won the championship last year, and now we come in, two evenly healthy teams, and No. 1 and No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively. This is what it’s about.”

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National Sports

IOC reviewing final preparations for Rio de Janeiro Games

STEPHEN WILSON, AP Sports Writer

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — IOC leaders are set to review the final stages of preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics amid concerns over the Zika outbreak, delays in completing a key sports venue and challenges posed by Brazil’s political and economic crisis.

With less than two months before the Aug. 5 opening ceremony in Rio, Brazilian organizers were scheduled to deliver a report Thursday to the International Olympic Committee executive board.

Organizing committee head Carlos Nuzman will present the report to the board in Lausanne, with Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes speaking by video conference from Brazil.

The IOC will also hear progress reports from organizers of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach plans to visit Brazil from June 14-16 to check on Rio’s preparations for himself. He will also meet in Brasilia with acting President Michel Temer, who took over last month after Dilma Rousseff was suspended pending a Senate impeachment trial.

The IOC has already sent experts to Brazil to work with the organizers. Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, is currently in Rio. His predecessor, Gilbert Felli, has been the IOC’s point man in Rio for the past two years.

Last week, a group of 150 scientists suggested the Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the outbreak of Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects. But the World Health Organization said there was “no public health justification” to call off the Olympics, and the IOC has repeatedly said the games will go ahead.

Brazil is also dealing with its worst economic recession since the 1930s, leading to the slashing of Olympic budgets.

While most venues are ready, the $43 million velodrome has faced serious construction delays. UCI President Brian Cookson said last week he remains “very, very concerned” about the venue, and the city announced Monday it is changing contractors to take over the project.

Rio organizers have said there will be no time for a test event at the velodrome, but they are still planning a “training session” June 25-27 — six weeks before the games.

Water pollution remains a concern for Olympic sailing, rowing and open water swimming events.

Tokyo organizers, meanwhile, have been caught up in a corruption probe centered on the city’s winning bid for the 2020 Games.

Bid leaders have acknowledged making payments, before and after the IOC vote in 2013, totaling about $2 million to a Singapore company linked to Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack. The younger Diack is the subject of an Interpol wanted notice. Lamine Diack, a former IOC member, has been accused by French prosecutors of taking more than $1 million in bribes to cover up Russian doping cases.

Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda, who headed Tokyo’s bid, said the payments were for legitimate consultancy work. The Japanese committee has opened an investigation, while the IOC is a civil party to the French probe.

The new head of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee was set to make his first appearance before the IOC to give an update on preparations for the 2108 Games.

Lee Hee-beom, a 67-year-old former government minister, took over last month after the sudden resignation of Cho Yang-ho, who stepped down to deal with financial troubles at the shipping company his family controls.

The South Koreans have said they are back on track despite lingering concerns over some venue construction projects and slow pace of domestic sponsorships. Whether NHL players will take part in the games also remains uncertain amid disputes over travel costs, accommodations and insurance.

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National Sports Ohio Sports

Indians’ Marlon Byrd suspended 162 games for drug violation

TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) — Marlon Byrd’s second strike with performance-enhancing drugs cost him a full season — and his career.

The Indians veteran outfielder was suspended 162 games without pay by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone releasing peptide.

It’s Byrd’s second violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Shortly after he was released in 2012 by Boston, Byrd served a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen, a medication used by body builders but also to treat breast cancer.

In 2014, MLB increased its penalty for a second offense from 100 games to a full season.

Byrd packed his belongings following a loss to Texas on Tuesday night, but he didn’t tell the team about his suspension until he called manager Terry Francona on Wednesday morning. Later, he spoke to his teammates as a group in Cleveland’s clubhouse.

“Marlon stood up in front of everybody and took responsibility and apologized,” Francona said. “And, basically, he told the guys that his career is over and this is not how he wanted it to end. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of criticism of the situation, but it doesn’t take away that we care about him. We care about our team, but we also care about the individuals. So, that hurts.

“It feels like we got kicked in the stomach a little bit.”

Byrd is the second Cleveland outfielder to be suspended for PED use this season. Abraham Almonte, who was expected to open the season in center field, was slapped with an 80-game suspension during spring training.

Byrd released a statement, saying he had no intention of taking a banned substance and consulted with “a medical professional” for advice on what he could take since his suspension four years ago. He realized certain supplements he was ingesting were not approved, and he thinks he took a tainted supplement.

“I assumed certain risks in taking them,” he said. “I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided for forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians’ fans, my teammates, and most importantly, my family.”

A third suspension for Byrd would result in a lifetime ban. In February, New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Meija became the first player to receive that sanction. Byrd, Meija and New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez are the only players to receive full-season suspensions.

Even if he’s able stay clean, at 38, Byrd is unlikely to return to playing.

He signed a minor league contract as a free agent in March with Cleveland, which needed veteran outfield depth because both left fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall were recovering from injuries, then was added to the big league roster just ahead of the opener.

Byrd has been productive, batting .270 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games — mostly against left-handers. He went 4 for 4 with a homer on Monday night against the Rangers, and then struck out three times in a loss Tuesday. He will lose $677,596 of his $1 million salary, which is 124 days’ pay.

Indians president Chris Antonetti said the team did not act rashly in signing Byrd, knowing his checkered past.

“We spent a lot of time working through that,” he said. “It had been three years at that point since he had the positive test. And he had been tested a lot of times. We did considerable work and due diligence on him as a teammate and a professional, and ultimately felt that it was worth the risk. To Marlon’s credit, he actually came in and fit in very well with our team, got a long with the players, made a positive impact on the field and in the clubhouse. Obviously, this is unfortunate.”

Byrd broke in with Philadelphia in 2002. He was an All-Star in 2010 with the Chicago Cubs, one of 10 teams for which he’s played. Following his first suspension, Byrd signed with the New York Mets in 2013.

To replace Byrd on the roster, the Indians recalled outfielder Tyler Naquin from Triple-A Columbus, but it’s possible the club will look to add another outfielder through a trade.

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Penguins edge Sharks 2-1, take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby enters the faceoff circle with a plan every time, well aware it will almost certainly evaporate once the puck smacks the ice.

That doesn’t stop the Pittsburgh superstar from doing it, because every once in a while the idea in his head morphs into reality. Times like Wednesday night, when Crosby’s improvisation helped move the Penguins within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

Crosby’s faceoff win helped set up Conor Sheary’s perfectly placed wrist shot 2:35 into overtime, one that lifted the Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I call 25 faceoffs a night,” Crosby said with a laugh. “I got 24 wrong tonight.”

It’s the one Crosby got right that will live on if the Penguins find a way to close out their fourth championship. Just before heading to the dot to the right of San Jose goalie Martin Jones, Crosby told Sheary to line up on the wall and then look for a soft spot in the San Jose defense.

Crosby won the draw and dropped it to defenseman Kris Letang, who feigned a shot then slipped it to Sheary. The 23-year-old rookie zipped it over Jones’ outstretched glove for his fourth goal of the playoffs and second of the series.

“It’s pretty surreal,” said Sheary, who began the season in the minor leagues.

Game 3 is Saturday night in San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tied it with 4:05 left in regulation, but San Jose fell to 0-4 when pushed to overtime in the playoffs after getting largely outplayed for much of the night by the quicker, more nimble Penguins.

Phil Kessel scored his 10th goal of the postseason for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray made 21 stops. The Penguins have not trailed at any point while reeling off four straight playoff victories after falling behind in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

“Game 1 was decided in last two minutes, tonight was decided in overtime,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’ll hold off on the funeral.”

Maybe, but time is running out. Only five teams in NHL history have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final to win the Cup, a hole the Sharks find themselves in despite Braun’s second career playoff goal and 28 stops by Martin Jones.

“We know that if we play this way we’re not going to win games, so we need to be better,” San Jose center Logan Couture said.

The Sharks blamed themselves for their shaky start in Game 1, with defenseman Brent Burns admitting the spectacle of playing the franchise’s first Finals led to spending a large portion of the first period standing around and watching the Penguins take an early lead on the way to an eventual 3-2 victory.

Burns and his teammates promised repeatedly they would be sharper and more focused faced with the prospect of heading home in a massive hole, pointing to their 5-1 record this postseason in games immediately following a loss as proof of their resilience.

While the Sharks were better Wednesday, the sustained push the Penguins were expecting from the Western Conference champions failed to materialize until it was nearly too late. Pittsburgh did the two things that have been the club’s hallmark since coach Mike Sullivan took over for Mike Johnston in mid-December, controlling the puck and forcing the San Jose to go a full 200 feet to create chances.

“I think that’s the identity of our team,” Sheary said after becoming the fifth rookie to score in overtime in a Cup final.

Pittsburgh’s forecheck made San Jose labor just to get the puck in the offensive zone and once there, the Penguins kept throwing black-and-gold glad bodies in the way.

Still, it took time for Pittsburgh’s heady and hectic play to translate into a goal, with the group that’s been Pittsburgh’s best line for the last three months finally breaking through against Jones just before the midway point.

Thrust together as an experiment when Evgeni Malkin went out with a left elbow injury in mid-February, the trio of Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino have rapidly evolved into Pittsburgh’s most dangerous line. They began the night with 90 combined points in 34 games, and added to it during another typically aggressive shift when Hagelin stripped it from San Jose defenseman Roman Polak and slipped it to Bonino in the slot.

Bonino, who put in the Game 1 winner with 2:33 remaining from a similar spot, slipped it to Kessel on the door step. The pass was heading for the net but Kessel nudged it in anyway just to be sure.

“They’re feeling it right now,” Sullivan said about the line dubbed ‘HBK.’ “They have that chemistry.”

It appeared as if it would be enough to wrap things up in regulation until Braun found a moment of joy in the midst of a difficult time for his family. Braun’s father-in-law, former Flames and Blackhawks center Tom Lysiak, passed away on Monday following a lengthy fight with leukemia.

Braun remained with the team, pledging to pay his respects to Lysiak before Game 3. His first goal of these playoffs — a shot from just outside the top of the right circle that made its way under Murray’s glove and off the post before crossing the line — gave the Sharks a needed jolt with their chances at a first championships teetering.

The momentum didn’t last. The Penguins wasted little time while improving to 4-2 in overtime.

“We did a good job of playing well here at home,” Crosby said. “We know it’s going to get challenging going to San Jose.”