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National Sports

Curry and record-setting Warriors headed back to NBA Finals

JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry knocked down yet another 3-pointer in the waning moments, pulled his jersey up into his mouth and yelled to the rafters in triumph once more.

A special, record-setting season saved for the defending champs, with a memorable comeback added to the long list of accomplishments.

Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson carried the 73-win Warriors right back to the NBA Finals, as Golden State rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Now, Curry and Co. are playing for another NBA title — just as they planned since Day 1 of training camp in September.

Bring on LeBron James again.

“You appreciate how tough it is to get back here,” Curry said. “You’ve got to be appreciative of this accomplishment, and look forward to getting four more wins.”

The MVP scored 36 points with seven 3-pointers to finish with an NBA-record 32 in a seven-game series, and also had eight assists. Thompson added 21 points and six 3s, two days after his record 11 3-pointers led a Game 6 comeback that sent the series home to raucous Oracle Arena for one more.

The Warriors became the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win a postseason series. They return to the NBA Finals for a rematch with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost the 2015 title in six games as Golden State captured its first championship in 40 years.

Game 1 is Thursday night in Oakland.

“We survived by the skin of our teeth,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We were able to pull it out, and we’re moving on.”

His signature mouthpiece dangling out and the game ball cradled in his left hand, Curry pumped his right arm as yellow confetti fell through Oracle Arena once the final buzzer sounded.

With the Thunder trailing 90-86, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry on a 3-point try with 1:18 to go and the shot clock running out. Curry made all three free throws, then that 3-pointer to seal it.

“This is who he is. Having a clutch performance in a Game 7, that’s Steph Curry,” Kerr said.

And Golden State’s beloved “Strength In Numbers” catchphrase coined by Coach of the Year Kerr was needed in every way.

“No one ever had any doubt that we could get this done,” Draymond Green said. “People have seen teams down 3-1 before but they ain’t seen many. They’ve definitely never seen a 73-win team down 3-1.”

Andre Iguodala joined the starting lineup for just the second time all season and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP hung tough against Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Shaun Livingston’s breakaway, one-handed dunk late in the third provided a big lift off the Warriors bench.

Oklahoma City won Game 1 108-102 at deafening Oracle Arena, so Golden State never envisioned this one coming easily. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Thunder.

“It hurts losing, especially being up 3 games to 1,” Durant said.

It took a quarter and a half for Thompson to warm up after his 41-point performance in a 108-101 win Saturday at Oklahoma City that sent the series back to the East Bay.

He missed his initial seven shots before hitting a 3 6:02 before halftime, energizing the Warriors in their first Game 7 at home in 40 years.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Thompson and Iguodala pulled the Warriors within 54-51 with 7:57 left in the third. They tied it on Curry’s 3 at 7:21 and he followed with another 3 to give his team the lead.

Curry and Thompson each topped the previous record for 3s in a seven-game series, 28 by Dennis Scott and Ray Allen. Curry hit one over 7-foot Steven Adams in the third, and Thompson wound up with 30 3s.

Iguodala replaced Harrison Barnes in the starting lineup and what a move by Kerr, who did the same thing last year in crunch time. Iguodala made a pretty bounce pass through the paint to Green for Golden State’s first basket, and his smothering defense on Durant kept the Thunder star without a shot until his 3 at the 5:45 mark in the first. Durant had just nine points on five shots in the first half.

But Oklahoma City dictated the tempo with snappy passes and the hard, aggressive rebounding that had been such a part of its success this season. The Thunder couldn’t sustain it.

“They won a world championship last year, and they’ve broken an NBA record, and people are already talking about it before the playoffs started, this may be the greatest team to ever lace them up in the history of the NBA,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

The Warriors, who fell behind 35-22, lost their last Game 7 at home: 94-86 to Phoenix in the Western Conference finals on May 16, 1976.

TIP-INS

Thunder: The Thunder’s 12 third-quarter points were the fewest allowed by Golden State in a playoff third quarter during the shot clock era. … Durant took nine shots in the first 33:25. … Oklahoma City led by as many as 13 in the first half. … Donovan celebrated his 51st birthday. … The Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State’s opponent the previous round, are the only teams to beat the Warriors twice this season.

Warriors: The Warriors are 4-4 all-time in Game 7s — 3-1 at home. … Iguodala earned his first since Jan. 2 against Denver. … Golden State wasn’t whistled for its first foul until 2:34 in the first. … The Warriors’ 42 first-half points were their fewest at home this season. … Curry hit a 3 in his 51st straight playoff game.

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Entertainment Headlines

Prince Charles in Romania to travel to Transylvania

 

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Britain’s Prince Charles has returned to Romania where he has a charity that promotes skills and training in rural Transylvania.

Charles, who has long been enamored of Romania’s rural traditions, arrived in Bucharest on Monday and met with President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos.

He discussed topics he is passionate about with them, including Romania’s cultural heritage, durable rural development and traditional architecture.

Charles will then travel to Transylvania where he has owns two properties, which he visits regularly.

On Wednesday, he will celebrate the first year of the Prince of Wales Foundation Romania, which supports the East European nation’s heritage and rural life, and sustainable development.

Charles first visited Romania in 1998.

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Entertainment Headlines

NFL’s Cam Newton brings Nickelodeon series to White House

DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has scored big for his new Nickelodeon series that launches Friday.

Newton brought 3-year-old Rosie Smolowitz to the White House to interview Michelle Obama for the cable TV series “All in with Cam Newton.” The NFL star helps kids fulfill some of their dreams.

A White House spokeswoman says the first lady highlighted a program called “Every Kid in a Park.” The program grants fourth-graders and their families free access to national parks and forests, and public lands and waters.

Mrs. Obama, Newton and Rosie also talked about the Charlotte, North Carolina, youngster’s dream to become president, and about staying healthy and active.

The interview was conducted last week in the Rose Garden. Nickelodeon says the episode will air during the summer.

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Entertainment Headlines

Polish justice minister revives Polanski extradition drive

MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s justice minister on Tuesday revived an effort to have filmmaker Roman Polanski extradited to the U.S., where he is wanted in a nearly 40-year-old case involving sex with a minor.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro’s office said he asked Poland’s Supreme Court to annul a ruling in October by a court in Krakow which found that Polish law forbids Polanski’s extradition. In November, prosecutors said they found no grounds to challenge the decision.

Ziobro took office late last year, after the ruling, as part of a new conservative government. The minister, who is also the country’s chief prosecutor, argues that celebrity status is shielding Oscar-winning director Polanski in Poland, where he grew up and which he often visits.

The Krakow court’s decision was at odds with a Polish-U.S. extradition agreement, Ziobro’s office argued in a statement. It said that, “according to the extradition agreement, the defendant should be handed over to the United States.”

The director pleaded guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles. In a deal with the judge, he served 42 days in prison, but then fled the U.S. fearing the judge would have him imprisoned again for much longer.

The U.S. has been seeking to bring Polanski back and put him before a court.

Last year, the Krakow judge ruling on the case found that Polanski served his punishment in confinement in the U.S., and later for 10 months — partly under house arrest — in Switzerland in 2009-2010 when the U.S. unsuccessfully sought his extradition there.

He argued that U.S. judges and prosecutors in the case violated legal procedures, broke the plea bargain in 1977, denied Polanski the right to proper defense and appeared biased.

Jan Olszewski, Polanski’s lawyer in Krakow, where the filmmaker has an apartment, told The Associated Press he had contacted the director about Ziobro’s decision, which “we had been expecting.”

“The court’s verdict stands and Mr. Polanski is a free man,” he said. “But I cannot exclude that this situation will affect his decisions as to visiting Poland.”

Paris-born Polanski, 83, has Polish and French citizenship. He lives in Paris but often visits Poland, where he is popular and is preparing to make a film.

Polanski’s artistic output is deeply admired in Poland, where he spent his World War II childhood and later went into filmmaking. His mother died at the Auschwitz death camp.

The filmmaker’s movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant in effect in 188 countries, but he has avoided extradition by traveling only between France, Poland and Switzerland, which in 2011 rejected a U.S. request to extradite Polanski. Ziobro’s move could now make Poland a risky destination for him.

Polanski won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film “The Pianist,” which he filmed in Warsaw, and was nominated for his 1970s movies “Chinatown” and “Tess.”

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Business Headlines

Casino tests novel approach to preventing gambling addiction

PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is set to launch this week a first-in-the-nation system allowing slot players to limit their bets, following months of planning and some pushback from the gambling industry.

The goal is to prevent casual players from going down the destructive path of addiction, said Marlene Warner, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, which is helping administer the new feature. It isn’t necessarily meant to address those with serious gambling problems, she said.

“It’s truly a prevention tool,” Warner said. “We want people to keep gambling in a way that’s healthy and safe for them, so that it doesn’t rise to that problematic level.”

The “Play My Way” system is being piloted at Plainridge Park, the slots parlor and harness racing track in Plainville and the only operating casino in Massachusetts so far. It could go live on the casino’s roughly 1,250 machines as soon as June 1.

If successful, the system may be imposed at two other state-regulated casinos still in development: Wynn’s Boston-area resort and MGM’s Springfield one.

The federally recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is building a resort casino on sovereign land in Taunton, says it’s also reviewing “Play My Way,” but declined to say last week whether it would commit to implementing anything similar when its First Light casino opens in part in 2017.

Massachusetts casino operators and the Washington-based American Gaming Association initially voiced reservations about the planned system, arguing such bet limiting or “play management” programs have not proven effective in Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and other countries where they’ve been tried.

But American Gaming Association spokesman Christopher Moyer said “productive conversations” with Massachusetts regulators have allayed most of the association’s concerns.

“Any responsible gaming tool should be targeted to assist the small minority of players that may confront irresponsible play without harming the entertainment experience for nearly all players who enjoy our entertainment experience responsibly,” he said. “We’re optimistic this tool will help to achieve this goal.”

Bet limiting systems are distinct from so-called “self-exclusion” policies in place at Plainridge Park and most U.S. casinos that bar enrolled gamblers from betting at casinos outright.

Warner said the Massachusetts system, which is similar to one also in development in the Canadian province of British Columbia, also is not as draconian as those imposed elsewhere.

“Play My Way” is voluntary and is only being offered initially to players signed up with the casino’s reward card program.

Gamblers would never be cut off from betting. By enrolling, they simply receive regular, onscreen notifications as they approach or reach their limit. They also can change their betting ceiling or unenroll at any time.

“It’s just a tool to make that person aware of what’s happening and the decisions they’re making.” Warner said.

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Business Headlines

Group targets DNC chair with TV ad over payday lending bill

SERGIO BUSTOS, Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — A liberal group is spending $100,000 in television ads in South Florida to call out embattled Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for not cracking down harder on what many call the predatory practices of the payday lending industry.

Allied Progress, in its 30-second ad, uses the congresswoman’s recent appearance on a local Sunday public affairs show to slam her for co-sponsoring a bill that would delay the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board from regulating the business.

Payday lenders have long been a target of criticism by politicians and consumer advocates, who argue the industry charges extremely high interest rates to customers, who are often the poor. The industry has argued it provides a necessary financial service to people in need of emergency funds.

The ad features Wasserman Schultz saying “payday lending is unfortunately… necessary” during an April 10 interview on CBS-4’s “Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.”

“No, Congresswoman, it’s predatory,” says a voiceover. “Tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stop siding with payday lenders.”

“How anyone could describe this racket as ‘necessary’ —unfortunate or not — is beyond me,” Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, told The Associated Press in announcing the six-figure ad buy. The ad begins airing Tuesday for at least a week in the in the Miami TV market.

He also bashes the congresswoman for collecting more than $68,000 in campaign contributions from the payday lending industry, citing figures from the Center for Responsible Politics.

“(Borrowers) find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt while payday lenders rake in piles of cash and then turn around and donate to powerful politicians like Wasserman Schultz,” said Frisch.

Ryan Banfill, Wasserman Schultz’s campaign spokesman, said “the ad, like all the others, intentionally takes her out of context.”

He said the congresswoman said “payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital that are working poor” and that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would make payday loans unnecessary.

“This is a Super PAC masquerading as a consumer group,” he said. “The group apparently has decided they can’t win a debate without resorting to distortions and bullying. That’s unfortunate for the people who just want to responsibly pay their bills but are short on cash.”

He added that Wasserman Schultz “will continue to fight hard to protect consumers as her constituents know she always has.”

The ad buy comes at a time when Wasserman Schultz is facing a serious challenger in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd congressional district seat and has come under fire from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Tim Canova, a university law professor, has raised more than $1.5 million and gotten the endorsement of Sanders in his quest to defeat her. She’s held the seat since 2005. The district is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the Aug. 30 primary is all but assured of winning the general election in November.

The Sanders campaign has accused her of providing more favorable conditions to front-runner Hillary Clinton during the primaries, pointing to the quantity and timing of debates and a dispute over access to party data.

Washington-based Allied Progress has been a vocal critic of her. It previously produced a TV ad and paid for a pair of billboards in the congresswoman’s South Florida district, attacking her position on payday loans. It has also launched an online petition, DebtTrapDebbie.com, calling on her to “stop sabotaging President Obama’s hard work to hold payday lenders accountable.”

Wasserman Schultz is one of 24 co-sponsors of H.R. 4018, a bipartisan bill that would allow states, including Florida, to continue to regulate payday lenders instead of the federal government and delay federal rules for two years. Half the bill’s co-sponsors are from Florida.

In the CBS-4 interview, Wasserman Schultz said the controversy over the bill was “overblown,” adding it only says “let’s push the pause button” to let other states “that don’t have as good protections as we do” catch up to Florida.

Payday loans are often used to cover an unexpected expense or to make ends meet before the next paycheck. But for many borrowers, short-term loans wind up being difficult to pay off, leading to a cycle of debt that can drag on for months.

Such loans drain $4.1 billion in annual fees from consumers in 36 states where the loans are legal, according to report this month by the non-profit Center For Responsible Lending. It found that borrowers pay $458 in fees on a typical $350, two-week loan. Interest rates in Florida for payday loans average 304 percent.

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Business Headlines

UN health agency trumpets ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco

 

GENEVA (AP) — The UN health agency says “plain packaging” on tobacco products has shown to be an effective complement to health warnings, advertising restrictions, and curbs on misleading packaging to help save lives.

The World Health Organization released Tuesday an 86-page report on “plain packaging,” hoping to decrease the lure of smoking on “World No Tobacco Day.”

WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said plain packaging “kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people.”

The report chronicles the effort to strip tobacco packaging of logos, colors and brand imagery and contradicts legal challenges from the tobacco industry.

Australia in 2012 became the first WHO member state to introduce plain packaging, and other countries have followed. New Zealand on Tuesday announced it will push ahead with similar plans.

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Business Headlines

Scandal-hit Volkswagen sees profits fall in 1st quarter

DAVID McHUGH, AP Business Writer

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German automaker Volkswagen saw its net profit fall 19 percent in the first three months of the year as it grappled with a costly scandal over cars it had equipped to cheat on diesel emissions tests.

The company called it a “respectable” result considering the tough conditions and said it had the financial resources to weather the scandal.

The flagship Volkswagen brand, the one most associated with the scandal and with the most rigged cars, barely broke even. The company made most of its profits at its luxury brands Audi and Porsche and the financial services branch.

Profits in the January-March period fell to 2.37 billion euros ($2.63 billion) from 2.93 billion euros a year earlier, the company said Tuesday. The figure fell short of the 2.44 billion euros expected by analysts surveyed by financial information provider FactSet. Revenue fell 3.4 percent to 50.96 billion euros due in part to shifts in currency exchange rates.

Still, the company reported it had bulked up on its cash reserves and said it was well-funded to deal with the effects of the scandal, which include costs for recalls, fines and lawsuits. The automotive division was sitting on 26 billion euros in net liquidity, up 5 billion from a year ago. Tuesday’s earnings release contained no new estimate of the overall cost of the scandal; the company set aside 16.2 billion euros from earnings last year, when it lost 1.4 billion euros.

CEO Matthias Mueller said in a statement that the company “managed to limit the economic effects of the diesel issue and achieve respectable results under difficult conditions.”

The company’s ordinary shares traded down 2.75 percent at 134.15 euros in midday trading in Europe.

The effects of the scandal were seen most strongly at the Volkswagen brand, which made only 73 million euros in the quarter, down from 514 million euros a year earlier. That left a bare operating margin of only 0.3 percent.

Earnings and profit margins were supported by luxury brand Audi, typically a pillar of the company’s profits. Operating profit there fell slightly to 1.3 billion euros from 1.4 billion euros a year earlier. Audi was the biggest single contributor to company operating profit. But it saw its profit margin, a key indicator for investors, fall to 9.0 percent from 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Things went better at the Porsche brand. Operating profits, which exclude financial items such as interest and taxes, rose 14 percent to 895 million euros. The sportscar and luxury SUV division turned in a fat profit margin of 16.6 percent, up from 15.1 percent.

The company also faced plummeting sales in Russia and Brazil due to those countries’ troubled economies. Sales fell 35 percent in Russia, which has seen its currency dive along with the price of oil, and 17 percent in Brazil, which is in a deep recession.

Volkswagen, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, faces heavy costs recalling and fixing cars that are equipped with engine-control software that could detect when a car was on a test stand and turned off the emissions controls during everyday driving.

The company has reached a tentative agreement in federal court in San Francisco with U.S. authorities, who first uncovered the cheating, to buy back or repair some 500,000 vehicles. Volkswagen, the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys for Volkswagen owners have until June 21 to file a final settlement with the court.

The company reaffirmed its forecast for the full year, saying that it expects sales revenue to fall 5 percent for all of this year compared to 2015.

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International Headlines

UN: 880 killed in Mediterranean shipwrecks over last week

 

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency says survivors’ accounts indicate that shipwrecks and capsized boats have claimed at least 880 lives over the last week in the Mediterranean.

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said Tuesday this year is proving to be “particularly deadly” on the Mediterranean, with some 2,510 lives lost compared to 1,855 in the same span a year ago.

Authorities and international organizations had previously reported some 700 migrants and refugees had perished in Mediterranean shipwrecks over three days last week, the deadliest known tally in over a year.

Spindler reiterated UNHCR’s appeal to the European Union to allow for more legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe, and said it was “shameful” that the bloc had resettled fewer than 2,000 people under a plan announced last year to resettle 160,000.

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International Headlines

Afghan officials: Taliban attack buses, kill 9, abduct 35

 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says the Taliban have attacked several buses on a road in the country’s north, killing nine people and abducting at least 35.

Mahmood Danish, the provincial governor’s spokesman, says the assault took place in northern Kunduz province early Tuesday.

He says the Taliban forced passengers off the buses in the Aliabad district, then killed or abducted them. Danish says the buses were travelling from the capital, Kabul, northeast to Takhar and Badakhshan provinces. It wasn’t immediately clear where the nine were killed.

Hayatullah Quareshi, Aliabad district chief, says the attackers were wearing Afghan army uniforms.

Although no group claimed responsibility for the attack, both Quareshi and Danish blamed the Taliban, who are increasingly active in the area and have been behind mass abductions last year across Afghanistan.