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Updated: 17 min 1 sec ago

Alabama football is a behemoth. Why is the rest of the SEC so underwhelming?

24 min 44 sec ago

In the fall 2008, Rich Brooks and his Kentucky Wildcats football team won their first four games of the season. Suddenly, October was about more than just the opening of basketball practice in Lexington. And then came a look at the schedule in the brutal Southeastern Conference. Not just the programs. The coaches.

Over the ensuing eight weeks, Kentucky faced Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt and Phillip Fulmer. As of right now, those six coaches have amassed 1,025 victories and won better than 75 percent of their games wherever they have been — from Toledo to Alabama, Duke to Florida, Bowling Green to Ohio State.

“That season, three coaches in that league had won a national championship,” Brooks said this week.

Actually, Coach, it was four: Saban, Meyer, Spurrier and Fulmer. But the point is correct: “It was a very, very difficult league,” Brooks said.

This year’s Kentucky team is off to a 3-0 start. Here, then, are the coaches Mark Stoops’s Wildcats must face in-conference: Will Muschamp (whom they beat last week), Jim McElwain, Barry Odom, Dan Mullen, Butch Jones, Matt Luke, Derek Mason and Kirby Smart.

Ain’t an icon nor a national champion among ’em.

“Football’s a religion in the South,” said Brooks, whose seven seasons in Lexington were preceded by 18 at Oregon. “It’s a 12-month season.”

We’re in the first month of this season, and as the SEC fans file into their pews and pull out their hymnals, there is hand-wringing about the men behind the pulpits. The SEC has a problem, and it isn’t with its fan bases or its speed on defense. It’s with its coaches.

Saban is still at Alabama, and Alabama is still a machine, top-ranked and a good bet to reach the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in its four years of existence. But when Brooks was at Kentucky, it wasn’t just one guy at one school. The conference was a haven for some of the best coaches in the sport. From 2007 to 2012, four SEC schools won seven straight national titles. Those programs were led by Meyer (Florida), Les Miles (LSU), Saban and Gene Chizik (Auburn).

OK, forget Chizik, because that title was really won by Cam Newton. But the point is this: As coaching icons have retired or moved on, the SEC does not appear to have replaced them with the best and brightest from the next generation.

Quick quiz: If Saban is obviously the SEC’s best coach, and he is, who is the second-best?

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Quite recently, the candidates might have included Spurrier (who ended up at South Carolina after his national-title winning days at Florida), Miles (eccentric, to be sure, but he won 77 percent of his games at LSU), Richt (whom Georgia replaced after he won 74 percent of the time) and maybe even James Franklin (who did the impossible: made Vanderbilt relevant). Go back a few years further and add Meyer, who left Florida, where he won two national titles, after the 2010 season.

Now, the second-best coach in the SEC is almost certainly Mullen, the Meyer protege who has made Mississippi State into a tough week for any conference opponent. Ask Miles’ replacement at LSU, Ed Orgeron. He was just waxed by Mullen, 37-7.

That’s the kind of result that raises reasonable questions for SEC fan bases: Is our current coach really the answer? Outside of Tuscaloosa and, presumably, Starkville, what SEC town is soliciting sculptors for the inevitable statue of its current leader?

Mullen is a fine coach who has done a fine job. But the fact that someone without so much as a division title is easily the SEC’s second-best coach tells you something about SEC coaches.

Play that game in, say, the Big Ten. Whichever of Ohio State’s Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh isn’t No. 1 would be No. 2, right? But then there’s Franklin, now at Penn State, who beat Meyer last year and is still wondering how his Nittany Lions didn’t get into the playoff. And there’s Paul Chryst, who, in two-plus seasons at his alma mater, Wisconsin, is a cool 24-6. And there’s Mark Dantonio, whose 3-9 2016 at Michigan State is probably more a blip than a trend, as he led the Spartans to bowl games in each of his first nine years, including an appearance in the playoff following the 2015 season.

That doesn’t even get to, say, Pat Fitzgerald. In more than a century of football before Fitzgerald took over as head coach, Northwestern had played in six bowl games. In 11 seasons, Fitzgerald has coached the Wildcats in seven. And it ignores Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, who has been in his current job longer than any other Division I head coach.

Plus, the Big Ten may have three of the profession’s rising stars at, of all places, Purdue, Minnesota and Maryland — where Jeff Brohm, P.J. Fleck and DJ Durkin appear to be on the way to altering the perceptions of their programs.

That’s just one opposing conference, and you can quibble with these individual assessments. But en masse, the verdict is clear: The SEC doesn’t have the top-to-bottom coaching heft it once did, or that other conferences do.

What happened here? A shift in power, for one.

“When I was there,” said Brooks, who retired after 2009, “at that time, the SEC East was the tougher side of the conference.”

Anyone who watched the first 59 minutes of the Florida-Tennessee game last week understands that’s no longer the case, nor has it been since Saban reestablished Alabama, which plays in the West, as a national power. Florida’s victory on a last-play Hail Mary will be remembered, and rightfully so.

But what should accompany those memories is how the two teams, coached by McElwain and Jones, produced an afternoon of nearly unwatchable football. Coaching? How in the name of Bear Bryant was Gators wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland the first player to cross the goal line on the decisive, no-time-on-the-clock play? Score tied, time for one more snap — and Jones and his staff played a straight coverage, with just two deep safeties?

That might be too much for Jones, now 14-19 in SEC games, to survive. But then, Tennessee never successfully replaced Fulmer, churning through Lane Kiffin, someone named Derek Dooley and, now, Jones.

That one result, though, doesn’t mean things are groovy for McElwain, either. When Florida fired Muschamp — yes, the same guy who’s now at South Carolina, and yes, there’s some inbreeding in the SEC — the Gators were so sold on McElwain, then at Colorado State, that they agreed to piece together a $7-million buyout. He could still work out fine. But what they have to show for it thus far are two losses to Florida State and two SEC championship game losses to . . . Alabama.

Which brings us to an awkward point: Saban is so good — perhaps even the best college coach in history — that he and the Tide might be ruining the entire conference. Dating from 2008, a span of more than nine seasons, Alabama has a total of seven regular-season losses and has won four national titles. Yes, Alabama is the only program to reach the College Football Playoff in each year of its existence — and it won three of the previous five national championships before that.

But in the three years of the playoff, the Big Ten (Ohio State and Michigan State), ACC (Clemson and Florida State) and Pac-12 (Washington and Oregon) have all sent multiple programs to the national semifinals. Alabama is the lone SEC rep, Saban the lone SEC coach to participate.

This is not to say that the current Kentucky team, 1-0 in conference, is a threat to win the SEC East. What it is to say: Right now, in the SEC, there’s Alabama, and there’s everyone else — and nearly everyone else can raise a question about its coach.



Google buys HTC talent for $1.1 billion, aims to spur second generation of personal devices

52 min 10 sec ago

By Mark Bergen, Jonathan Browning, Lulu Yilun Chen and Samson Ellis, Bloomberg

Google has agreed to buy part of HTC Corp.’s engineering and design teams for $1.1 billion, taking on a cadre of veterans that worked on the Pixel phone in hopes the acquisition could bolster its nascent hardware business.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is taking on some 2,000 employees with experience working on its signature Pixel devices, intended to showcase the best features of the Android software that now power the vast majority of the world’s smartphones. The deal also comes with a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property.

Google now gains tighter control over the design and production of the Pixel and other devices, potentially helping sales. Those gadgets are becoming the pillars of a strategic push to distribute critical software products like its voice-enabled assistant and better compete with Apple Inc. The search giant is preparing to unveil a second generation of devices in October, building on a portfolio that runs the gamut from Google Home speakers to Daydream virtual reality headsets.

‘The end game here is more flexibility on hardware innovation, which can spur incremental revenue through services enabled by those innovations,’ said Jitendra Waral, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. ‘Google essentially gets more control over its hardware design, it can help them accelerate innovation with its own products and use that as the benchmark for the Android ecosystem to follow.’

Alphabet investors may be concerned about history repeating itself. In 2012, Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, then a leading Android handset manufacturer. In less than three years, Google sold it to Lenovo Group Ltd. for less than $3 billion, while keeping Motorola’s valuable patent portfolio. Owning Motorola had eroded the search giant’s profit margins and upset other phone makers that relied on Android, Google software that it supplies to handset manufacturers to promote its services.

The HTC transaction however costs a lot less and comes at a very different time — when Google and its biggest rivals are more focused than ever on consumer devices built around new artificial-intelligence and augmented-reality services.

Augmented reality demands powerful, expensive cameras and sensors working in sync with software to process and superimpose 3-D images on real world scenes. Having different Android partners making their own phones with disparate components makes this task more difficult for Google — especially when Apple can pick one set of AR hardware to marry to its software.

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‘For Google, HTC is a completely different deal than Motorola,’ said Jason Low, a Canalys analyst based in Shanghai. ‘It needs better control over manufacturing if it expects the Pixel series to compete with iPhones someday.’

Google has also launched its own phones since Motorola, so Android phone makers have gotten used to their partner as a rival. And some of the biggest emergent manufacturers, such as China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp., are now less reliant on Google for services.

The production resources of HTC — which assembled the first Pixel device and was key to the Nexus line — may support its existing phone operation. Greater control of hardware production would also give Google more influence over the distribution of new services such as its voice-based digital assistant. Google didn’t say exactly how it would retain employees after the acquisition, only that it is working on the details. The company — like many of Silicon Valley’s frontrunners — has a reputation for comfy perks and compensation.

A more Apple-like approach would also let Google steer the Android operating system in its preferred direction. The tech giant has struggled to get handset makers and carriers to ship Android devices with the latest secure software. The Pixel was designed, in part, to prompt phone makers push out these updates faster. Yet some Android partners are moving ahead with competing software efforts — Huawei linked up with Amazon’s assistant, and Samsung Electronics Co. has its own.

‘It’s still early days for Google’s hardware business. We’re focused on building our core capabilities,’ Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware, said in a blog post. ‘A team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team.’

Google’s Pixel is far from a top-selling phone. External estimates pegged sales at 552,000 units during its first quarter. Yet selling Pixels has auxiliary benefits for Google, chief among them the boost to its primary sales. With each Pixel phone it moves, Google doles out less in traffic acquisition costs: it pays money to partners like Apple and carriers to install Google’s search service. That cost has risen steadily, pulling down its sales totals last quarter in particular.

A bigger hardware unit would offset such expenses, Eric Sheridan, an analyst at UBS, wrote in a recent research note. But it also comes with more spending, in maintenance and marketing. An HTC acquisition and larger Google hardware unit could hurt the company’s profit margins, Sheridan warned.

It’s unclear what the departure of key engineering talent spells for the future of HTC, which once ranked among the world’s top smartphone makers but lost share to Apple, Samsung and Chinese manufacturers like Huawei. It’s since waded into virtual reality with the Vive headset. HTC had been working with an adviser to explore selling its handset or virtual reality businesses, and Google had been talking with the company, Bloomberg reported last month.

HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang told reporters the company is remaining in the smartphone business even after the Google deal. She said it still plans to release a new flagship smartphone for 2018, without elaborating.

Shares of the Taoyuan City, Taiwan-based company were suspended from trading. They have fallen more than 12 percent this year. Evercore worked with HTC as financial advisor, while Lazard advised Google.

‘The bright side is that HTC can focus on its VR business. They have very high hopes for VR and are trying very hard to improve user experience and enrich content,’ Canalys’ Low said.

 

Your Social Security number may not be secure. But how could we replace it?

53 min 12 sec ago

They’re supposed to be the nine most closely guarded numbers in your life. But with an ever-growing number of companies asking for Social Security numbers – and then hit by cyber breaches exposing them – experts say the Social Security number is clearly a flawed way to accurately identify someone.

In fact, some argue that the IDs should be all but retired. “Congress should prohibit the use of Social Security numbers as a personal identifier outside of the Social Security system itself,” Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote recently at Real Clear Policy.

Yet coming up with a good alternative is not an easy task. People have been thinking about it for years. In 2011, the Obama administration set up a center to look into the concept of a digital identity. After the Equifax breach, privacy and security experts have called for more funding for that program, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, to replace the Social Security number as an identification number in both the pubic and private sector. Part of that group has come up with a set of best practices for security, but even with improving identification and security technologies, no silver bullet has emerged for replacing this broken system.

One issue with Social Security numbers is that they’re widely distributed and, therefore, not at all private. You can hardly rent an apartment or apply for a job today without coughing up your SSN. Thanks to breaches, your number could be found nearly anywhere.

Second, they aren’t particularly secret. The first three digits are known to be a geographical code based on where you lived when you first registered for your number. (You can find those codes on Wikipedia, for crying out loud.) Another component for making a number? Your birth date, which is basically public information in an age of the Internet.

So even if someone gets just part of your number, it can be easy to figure out the rest. Researchers in 2009 wrote an algorithm that could predict a Social Security number correctly 44 percent of the time in the United States overall and as much as 90 percent of the time in smaller, individual states. And that was without having the last four digits – the numbers we most commonly give to companies and therefore at highest risk in a breach.

Which brings us to another big issue with the SSN: It’s not easy to get a new one. The Social Security Administration lists fraud among the allowed reasons for obtaining a new number, but you have to submit proof of continuing harassment and other documents that prove who you are. When companies such as Equifax aren’t proactive or clear about telling users whether their information has been exposed, that leaves the average person in a lurch.

One possible alternative is biometrics. The strength of biometrics is that your face and fingerprints are uniquely yours on a detailed level. (Even identical siblings have different freckles, scars, etc.)

But that’s also a weakness. Fingerprints are public, as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., noted in a 2013 letter to Apple detailing concerns about its Touch ID scanners. We leave traces of our prints on everything we touch. Our faces are also quite public, especially in the age of social media – a point Franken brought up again last week after Apple introduced Face ID.

Another alternative is a technology known as blockchain, which creates a public ledger of transactions. Estonia uses a form of blockchain technology – which powers cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin – as the backbone for a digital ID system its citizens use for medical services, travel checkpoints and even for voting.

The appeal of blockchain is that individuals would know when their number was being used because the technology allows for transactions to be logged publicly, said Daniel Riedel of the security and automation data firm New Context. Blockchain would notify you when requests for your number come up and could let you block transactions. But, Riedel said, the United States would need to develop its own system, requiring significant research and investment.

Others – particularly in the health sector – have suggested a unique national ID number, similar to what other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Japan, use for their national health services or central identification. But simply proposing a new ID number could lead to the same issues we have with Social Security numbers. That idea also worries those who fear that we’d be giving the federal government too much power. And it doesn’t sit easily with some privacy experts.

“We should avoid the creation of a general purpose ID in the private sector. Such a number enables secret profiling and tracking of consumers,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC was among those who successfully lobbied for SSNs to be removed from Medicare cards.

In the end, we may need to trade away the simplicity of a single number.

“The better approach is to have customer IDs for specific purposes. That would give consumers greater control over their personal data,” he said.

12-year-old ventriloquist wins “America’s Got Talent”

58 min 35 sec ago

LOS ANGELES — A 12-year-old girl is getting a $1 million prize and her own Las Vegas show after taking the “America’s Got Talent” crown on the season 12 finale of the NBC reality competition.

Darci Lynne Farmer, of Oklahoma City, beat out another youngster, 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale, for the ‘AGT’ title Wednesday by garnering the most votes from viewers.

Farmer told The Associated Press after the show that she was “overcome with joy and luckiness.” Judge Heidi Klum said the girl “is the full package,” adding that “she really touched people’s hearts” and “made people laugh at home.”
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Farmer is the third ventriloquist to win the competition. Season 2 champ Terry Fator performed a duet with Farmer on the season finale and worked with her on her scripts.



Cool weekend ahead as summer ends, fire danger still high in much of eastern Colorado

1 hour 2 min ago

Fall is beginning to push summertime temperatures down throughout the state, with cooler weather moving in for the weekend.

“Fall is young yet, but it will be fairly cool here into next week,” said Scott Entrekin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.

While the sun will shine throughout Thursday and the temperature could reach 89 degrees in the metro area, the mercury will begin to drop, and some clouds will move in Friday, the first official day of autumn. Still, the area will see a high of 82 degrees midday Friday.

Friday’s clouds will grow thicker in the evening and showers are possible. The temperature is predicted to drop to 52 degrees.

Saturday’s high temperature is expected to be 66 degrees, and there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms. On Sunday, a high of 56 degrees is predicted, and there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

The temperature will be similar on Monday, though lows will sink to about 42 degrees overnight. Tuesday will be partly sunny with a high near 64 degrees, and a low of 44 degrees over night.

Temperatures in the mountains will be cooler, with a chance of snow by the end of the week. Fire danger remains high south of Denver throughout much of the eastern plains on Thursday, with high temperatures expected to surpass 90 on the plains. Wind gusts up to 35 mph are predicted to accompany low humidity, Entrekin said.

A red flag warning is in effect south of Denver and to the state’s eastern border across much of the plains from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Click here for more Denver7 weather coverage.



Seen: Civic Center Conservancy presents Elaine Asarch Award

1 hour 3 min ago

When she saw the success groups like the Central Park Conservancy, the Battery Park Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy had in revitalizing  parks in New York and California, Elaine Asarch didn’t just ask herself why no one in Denver hadn’t taken steps to bring new life to Civic Center Park.

She took action.

Asarch — an artist, interior designer and longtime member of Historic Denver — assembled a group of like-minded friends to help her start the Civic Center Conservancy.

That was in 2004, and since that time the nonprofit organization has made major strides in securing the infrastructure improvements and expanded safety and maintenance programs that have breathed new life into the park that was designated a National Historic Landmark — Denver’s first — in 2012.

To honor her vision, passion and commitment, the Civic Center Conservancy presented the first Elaine Asarch Award to her at a fundraising gala held earlier this month in the McNichols Civic Center Building.

“When we turn a park around, we plant the metaphorical seed,” Asarch said. “Great parks make great cities by giving a soul and a voice to the community.”

Or, as the conservancy’s executive director Lindy Eichenbaum Lent observed: “By offering spaces for people from different backgrounds to come together for shared experiences, you open hearts and minds. This is how you build an empathetic community.”

Lent pointed out that proceeds from last year’s gala funded 191 days of programming in Civic Center Park, activities that included Civic Center EATS, the Independence Eve concert and fireworks display, Civic Center MOVES and Civic Center Cinema.

The 2017 gala netted $175,000, money that will be used to enhance existing programs and add such new ones as Art in the Park.

Liane and Robert Clasen chaired the 2017 gala with Cindy and Jack Parsons. The sold-out event began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the patio outside the McNichols Building entry, giving the 330 guests a chance to admire the Miko Iwasaki art that inspired the evening’s theme, Opening Doors to the City.

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Mayor Michael Hancock was among the dignitaries present, joining such colleagues as Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation; Kent Rice, who heads Denver Arts & Venues; City Attorney Kristin Bronson; City Council president Albus Brooks and City Councilman Chris Herndon.

Conservancy board chair Chris Frampton and his wife, Yvette Pita Frampton, and fellow trustees Chris Castilian, Rex Carpenter, Bruce James, Susan Noble, Marcus Pachner, Marvin Wilkinson, Ferd Belz, Howard Boigon and Bruce Heitler were extending a welcome to supporters that included Donald Austin, the new vice president at Suncor Energy’s Commerce refinery; SCFD executive director Deborah Jordy; Essie Perlmutter and her daughter, Lisa Cook; Chris Smith and Amy Meyer Smith, whose Infiniti of Denver was a sponsor of the gala; Northern Trust president John Couzens with his wife, Melinda; Katherine Gold, president/CEO of Goldbug, Inc.; and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce chief Kelly Brough with husband David Kenney.

Others enjoying the dinner catered by Occasions and music by Spinphony were past gala chairs Mardi and Brown Cannon; Robyn Loup; Lee Kay; Marlin Barad; Barry and Arlene Hirschfeld; Trygve and Vicki Myhren; former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and his wife, Maggie; Sunny Brownstein; Shannon Gifford and Jerry Glick; Larimer Associates CEO Jeff Hermanson; and members of the honoree’s family: Dr. Richard Asarch; Debbie and Cameron Fitch, Nicole and Chad Asarch, Anna and David Asarch, Brynn and J.J. Asarch; Jonah Landy and Tessa Landy.

Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, partiwriter@hotmail.com and @joannedavidson on Twitter



Speeding Maserati hits pickup on Colorado Springs street, injuring three people

1 hour 10 min ago

A Maserati slammed into a pickup truck with enough speed to flip the truck onto its roof in Colorado Springs on Wednesday night, injuring three people. The car’s driver fled the scene, although police later apprehended him.

Seth B. Vanderiet, 45, of Colorado Springs was speeding westbound on East Platte Avenue when his silver Maserati struck the Dodge pickup travelling in the same direction at 9:13 p.m., according to police.

The force of the impact caused the pickup truck to flip onto its roof, police said.

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Two of the truck’s occupants were seriously injured, and a third had minor injuries, police said.

Vanderiet left the scene, but police stopped him a short distance away. He was not injured.

Police arrested Vanderiet on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, vehicular assault, reckless driving causing serious bodily injury and several other charges.

“It’s two different games”: Why college football is more fun than the NFL

1 hour 20 min ago

Kevin Wright, the head football coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, opened a video on his computer screen and chuckled. It had been recommended by a friend who coaches a youth team of kids with necks barely strong enough to bear the weight of a helmet. It was an odd place to find the roots of the NFL’s watchability problem.

The footage showed boys lined up in a spread formation, the quarterback in shotgun and wide receivers dispersed across the field. Wright was born into a coaching family. He once worked as a Division I offensive coordinator. He has coached across the country at high school football’s highest levels for more than a quarter century. This was new.

“A fourth-grade team running spread,” Wright said this week in a phone conversation. “There’s 10-year-olds out there. The defense is all spread out. Ten years ago, everybody is in tight. You’re running I-formation.”

Wright told the story to reinforce a point: Football is now played the same at every level, with one significant exception.

The NFL’s television ratings continue to dwarf college football’s, and most other show’s. But while NFL ratings have slid compared to last season, they have risen for college football. NFL ratings in Week 2 were down 15 percent from last season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, year-over-year college football ratings have increased, more than 50 percent in several time slots. The NFL has trotted out many explanations for why ratings have dipped the past two years, from the election to hurricanes. Those reasons, though, are not pushing viewers from college football.

College football this year has been a better, more exciting version of the sport than the NFL, and viewers have made their relative preference clear. The most basic reason is the proficiency of the players. The stylistic and strategic chasm between college football and the NFL has never been greater, and the sport’s current developmental system creates exceptional college football players and unprepared NFL players.

The game at every rung below the college level, from high school to the youngest Pop Warner leagues, is nearly identical to college football. Quarterbacks stand in shotgun, receivers spread the field and offensive linemen stand in two-point stances. Players practice year-round, with seven-on-seven and flag football leagues prevalent.

In 2017, by the time a player reaches college, he has become more skilled at the collegiate game than most any player who came before him. When the same player reaches the NFL, he has played almost no football reminiscent of the NFL game.

“It’s the same sport, but it’s two different games,” Senior Bowl director Phil Savage said. “It’s a night-and-day difference in terms of the style of play. While most everyone focuses on the quarterback, the style of play being utilized across the board in college football, it’s a significant adjustment.”

A dozen years ago, many top high school football teams still relied on ancient tactics. In the South, Wright said, the Wing-T still dominated. The spread had seeped into college football’s fringes, but the game mostly looked like the NFL. Offenses used two backs and a tight end, with the quarterback under center.

“For a long time, the collegiate game and the NFL really mirrored each other,” Wright said. “You saw that schematically. You saw that with the type of quarterbacks going from one level to the other. You don’t see that much anymore. Try to find a true fullback on a college roster. It’s just tough to find. Now you’re hard-pressed to even find a (high school) team that goes under center.

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“What you’re seeing is a reflection of the way the game has evolved. College football, with all the opportunities to watch it, kids and high school coaches get inundated with it. You see that being reflected in high school offenses, in the way high school coaches think and approach it.”

The way players learn football and play it until reaching the NFL creates a seemingly incongruous truth. College football players are better at playing college football than NFL players are at playing NFL football.

The problem is exacerbated by two effects of the recent collective bargaining agreement. Salary cap rules encourage teams to fill rosters with young, cheap players. But they are allowed fewer full-contact practices, which limits how they can developed players largely unfamiliar with the NFL style.

“As its structured, it’s geared toward playing young guys,” Savage said. “There is an incubation that’s needed more so more than any time before, but you’re not getting it. Kids are getting pushed out on that field with a résumé that’s wafer-thin compared to a guy that’s coming into the league 10 or 15 years ago.”

Ideas have moved from high school to college, too. Gus Malzahn, Art Briles and Todd Graham introduced some of the most influential systems in college football after starting as high school coaches. Most NFL coaches have resisted the new ideas. NFL coaches and executives have blamed college offenses for a dearth of NFL-ready quarterbacks and offensive linemen.

“It’s really sad that a bunch grown men in their 50s and 60s spend all their time blaming college football for their miseries,” said Middle Tennessee State offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who coached 2016 first overall pick Jared Goff at Cal. “The college game is better than it’s ever been, more popular than it’s ever been. We adjust. High school football changed football. High school football about eight years ago decided to start playing fast and putting great athletes at quarterback that could make plays. All of a sudden, the game became a different game.

“College coaches had a choice: Stick and do what the NFL does and be bad, or adjust. And they adjusted. We adjusted to the high school game and made the college game different. It’s the first time information probably ever has flowed upward instead of flowing downward. It used to be, it went to NFL, then to college, then to high schools. Now it’s just the opposite. It goes from high schools to colleges and then if the NFL is smart, they use some of that as well.”

Some ideas have trickled all the way up. “It used to be college copied the NFL,” Washington State Coach Mike Leach said. “Now it’s the other way around.”

The Chiefs have employed innovative run-pass options, shovel passes to tight ends and inventive runs and short passes to electrifying players Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. The Seahawks run a handful of read-option plays with Russell Wilson. The Patriots use fast pace and often spread the field with five receivers, some of them running backs versatile enough to exploit heavy defensive personnel. “Their offense looks like ours,” Leach, one of the progenitors of the Air Raid offense, said.

Even those teams borrow concepts, not entire schemes. Faster defensive linemen prohibit wide splits between offensive linemen. Narrower hash marks change spacing for wide receivers and throwing angles for quarterbacks. Most crucially, spread and read-option offenses expose quarterbacks to punishment.

“What drives it is the quarterback and the run-pass option things you can do in college that you can’t do in the NFL,” former Atlanta Falcons and current UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. “Defensively, it becomes real challenging, and that’s why you see a lot of exciting plays and big runs and big passes. It’s much less predictable than the NFL, and it’s fun. In the NFL, you don’t want to run your quarterback. If you lose him, you’re dead.”

“In middle school, you take the best athlete, you give him the ball, let him pass and run, and you win,” Savage said. “And he’s not really developed. In high school, you give him the ball, they win, but he’s not really developing the characteristics and traits that are needed to play pro football. In most college teams, it’s the same. That development is put off in terms of becoming a pocket passer.

“Then it’s shoved off to the pro game. The pro game because of the amount of money invested in the quarterback position, they cannot put the quarterback in harm’s way. The pro game is never going to be able to adapt. They have too much money invested in the quarterback to expose him.”

Put the problem of quarterback hits aside, though, and conservatism permeates the NFL, where offenses aim to hog possession and limit mistakes. College offenses uniformly use tempo to tire defenses and create personnel mismatches. College coaches try to win games, and NFL coaches try not to lose them.

The Ringer’s Kevin Clark captured the timidity of NFL offenses by citing the all-time high frequency of “failed completions” — passes that gain less than 45 percent of necessary yardage for a first down on first down, 60 percent on second down and 100 percent on third or fourth down. Quarterbacks and coaches have become content to dink and dunk and punt, pleased not be throwing interceptions or taking sacks. It is a good way for offenses to crawl around the middle 30 yards of the field, teams trading small chunks of territory. It has the aesthetic appeal of trench warfare in shoulder pads.

“I think change is hard,” Wright said. “There’s a lot more coaches who go from college to high school or back and forth. There’s traditionally an old guard in the NFL. I think there’s some adaptation, but I don’t think there’s as much.”

Even if it had the creative impulse to change, the nature of NFL defenses and the geometry of the field may not make it impossible. Does the NFL face an intractable problem in its ability to turn college football players into NFL players with positive stylistic results?

“I don’t know if there’s a real clear answer to that,” Savage said. “I just think the NFL people have an almost impossible task to figure out who’s going to project from college to the NFL, and in a short period of time. You don’t have three or four years anymore. You have about three or four months.”

In terms of viewership, college football holds some inherent advantage over the NFL. If an NFL prime-time game flops, fans determined to watch football can only endure it. When Clemson blew out Louisville last Saturday, viewers could flip to either Mississippi State’s startling upset of LSU or the Texas-Southern Cal double-overtime thriller. Traditions are greater and more meaningful. Subtle defensive breakdowns that lead to big plays, rampant in college and rare in the NFL, don’t stand out as markers of poor quality, but they boost entertainment value.

But the NFL also must figure out how to improve the quality of its games and to make NFL football easier for players who grew up in a different game. Mora expects college concepts to flow into the NFL in greater number and frequency. He said the preference between college and NFL “depends if you’re a purist or if you like to watch exciting action on the field.” Right now, the difference is making the choice easy.

“I struggle to watch a whole NFL game,” Wright said. “I could watch college football from the time ‘Gameday’ starts in the morning until I fall asleep watching a West Coast game. You’re just flipping through channels watching game after game. The average fans likes action, and there is way more action right now at the college level.”

— ESPN’s Bill Barnwell used data to argue the quality of play in the NFL has not declined. It’s worth a read, but I have a quibble in that he’s using a quantitative method to approach a qualitative issue. In many cases, metrics tell you what you can’t see. When it comes aesthetics and the visceral feeling you get watching a game, you can trust your lying eyes.

— Roger Goodell isn’t going anywhere. The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reports that the commissioner’s contract extension is expected to be completed and will be for five years, keeping him in his position through 2024. Jerry Jones reportedly tried to impede the negotiations over the exorbitant salary he makes. A source tells Maske the deal was “never off track.”

— They entered the season with a dearth of capable cornerbacks, and now the Eagles’ secondary is down to two healthy safeties, as Zach Berman writes. Philadelphia still has a great matchup against the Giants. Its pass rush, with Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, should decimate the Giants’ atrocious defensive line. If there was ever a good week to be banged up in the back end, it’s this one.

— Jimmy Graham missed practice Wednesday and may not play against the Titans, as Bob Condotta writes. Graham has four catches four nine yards, and the Seahawks could use better blocking from their tight end given how atrocious their line has been. He wouldn’t be a major loss.

— It’s getting as ugly as you thought it would in New York after the Giants started 0-2 with an inept offense. Gary Myers of the New York Daily News writes that Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning are simply incompatible. Thus far, McAdoo has personified the adage, “there are head coaches and there are assistant coaches.” His lack of adjustments in protection Monday night was unconscionable.



Next one? Basketball phenom Emoni Bates at 13 has college offer, NBA height.

1 hour 44 min ago

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Emoni Bates walks out a front door of Clague Middle School with just inches to spare.

A wide smile tops his 6-foot-7, extra-lean frame. He’s holding a seventh-grade honor society certificate in his right hand. His braces gleam in the afternoon sun.

Meet the best 13-year-old basketball player in America, according to some recruiting services. One of his highlight reels on YouTube has been viewed about 1 million times.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Emoni insists in a voice just louder than a whisper, “because if I pay attention to it, it’s just going to get to my head.

“And I don’t want it to get to my head. I just want to play basketball.”

He’s got the pedigree.

Emoni’s father, E.J. Bates, has been around the game most of his life. He picked greens and baled hay as a kid in nearby Milan, Michigan, then developed into a smooth-shooting guard. But he didn’t take school seriously until it was too late. Instead of playing for a basketball power like Kansas and maybe even in the NBA, E.J. wound up going to Kentucky Wesleyan and settling for pro hoops in Switzerland.

E.J. is determined to make sure his son doesn’t make the same mistake. The academics are a sign of that. House rules bar Emoni from picking up a basketball until his homework is done.

Yet E.J. knows when kids are this good this early, distractions roll in like waves. Already, it seems, lots of people want a piece of Emoni. Prep, private and public high school coaches are lining up. Colleges have him on their radar. DePaul took it a step further, offering Emoni a scholarship in late August. Two other much-touted players in the Class of 2022 — Amari Bailey of Illinois and Skyy Clark of California — also have offers from DePaul.

E.J. knows the shoe company bird dogs and other hustlers looking to buy favors are lurking, too. So he and wife Edith, who works for the Red Cross, keep their inner circle very tight.

“I’m his coach to keep the snakes away,” Bates says, sitting on one of Clague’s concrete benches. “We’re not for sale.”

The Bates family has agreed to provide The Associated Press with a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the most coveted basketball prospects in the country for at least the next five years. The periodic series will include video, photos, audio and text updates to track his progress.

Will Emoni stay near his current home to attend a public high school? Or will he take his next step at a private school like Detroit Country Day, like Michigan native Chris Webber?

Will he follow the footsteps of Marvin Bagley III and other five-star prospects, reclassifying to finish high school in three years? Bagley did to play college ball at Duke this coming season — and potentially to get a jump on a pro future.

Will E.J. and Emoni emulate the father-son team of LaVar and Lonzo Ball, grabbing headlines while hawking their own brand at every turn?

No one knows.

E.J. says all options are on the table. But he won’t be loud, unlike LaVar Ball in the lead-up to his son Lonzo being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I don’t have to brag about what we’re doing,” E.J. says. “I let other people do all the talking about how good Emoni is because word of mouth is the best advertising there is.”

A POTENTIAL STAR IS BORN

Emoni James-Wayne Bates was born Jan. 28, 2004, at the University of Michigan hospital. He was on the light side — 6 pounds, 7 ounces — and a little long at 21 inches. Just over a year later, Emoni slept with his head cradled in his left arm and his right wrapped around a black and red basketball. A cherished photo was made.

“He would always sleep with the ball,” his father recalls, holding a framed picture in his Ypsilanti, Michigan, home. “If the ball wasn’t around, he would cry about the ball. Even to this day, he has a mini-ball he keeps with him, which is crazy to me.”

There were more hints. During a second visit to the doctor, E.J., who is 6-foot-4, and Edith, 5-9, asked how tall their son might grow.

“He was off the charts,” E.J. laughs, “so they couldn’t tell us.”

Emoni has shot up 7 inches in the last two years. He’s tall enough right now to play shooting guard at any level. He handles the ball like a point guard and launches 3-pointers like a savvy veteran. He can create his own shot like a wing or drive the lane and dish off to a teammate like another rail-thin former prodigy, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

But adding weight and muscle is an ongoing challenge. He weighs just 155 pounds — not heavy or strong enough to play a dominating inside game that would complement his fluid perimeter skills.

“We try to stuff him full of food at night and hope it sticks,” E.J. sighs.

TEEN CELEBRITY

The Adidas Invitational in Fishers, Indiana, attracts some of the Midwest’s top seventh-grade AAU teams. Inside Best Choice Fieldhouse, talk centers on whether the Bates Fundamentals squad starring Emoni and coached by E.J. can live up to the hype.

“They’ve been hearing a lot about him,” says Bernetta Kelly, watching her son’s Peoria Area Elite team take its shot.

Bates Fundamentals wins 95-44 and Kelly understands why. She approaches Emoni and asks for a photo with her son and his team.

“I’ve seen the best players from Pittsburgh to Vegas the last four years, and he’s been the best in his class,” Peoria coach Zach Martin says. “I told the guys, ‘There are not many times you will be able to say you played an NBA player, but you just did.'”

After another lopsided victory in the two-day tournament won easily by Bates Fundamentals, Emoni walks off the court. A younger competitor darts out of his team’s pregame layup line to slap his hand. Moments later, the excitement follows Emoni out the door.

“Hey, that’s him,” a young boy entering the facility says to teammates.

How does a 10-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana, know who Bates is?

“YouTube,” he says.

Duh.

The highlight reel posted last summer had nearly 1 million views before Emoni walked into the doors at Clague for the first time as an eighth-grader. Several other videos have racked up 500,000-plus views in less than one year.

By the spring of 2018, the suspense about where he plans to attend high school may be its own mini-drama. Then a few years later: Which college?

E.J. and Edith hardly need reminding that’s still a long way off. As good as the recruiting services have become at projecting stars, it’s easy to forget the object of all that attention is still just 13. At times, the recruiting experts simply miss.

“It’s always a crap shoot,” E.J. says. “You don’t know what life will deal you. You never know what can happen with injuries, the loss of motivation or pressure getting to be too much.”

Yet fans of two college basketball powers with the inside track can already start thinking about the fall of 2021, when Bates can officially sign a scholarship offer. In quiet moments, Emoni sometimes does, too.

Asked about his favorite programs, the soft-spoken kid doesn’t hesitate to name the early front-runners.

“Michigan State and Kentucky,” Emoni says.



Could gardening lower your risk of cancer? A Colorado researcher aims to find out

1 hour 46 min ago

A green thumb may lower your risk of cancer.

Don’t believe it? You’re not the only one. Which is why a University of Colorado Boulder researcher is setting out to find hard evidence during a three-year clinical trial that will measure a variety of health factors in 312 participants who will be introduced to community gardening for the first time.

“We tend to intervene from the top down,” CU Boulder professor Jill Litt said of programs to improve physical inactivity and poor diets. “You need solutions from the ground up to meet people where they’re at.”

Litt said that throughout more than a decade of researching community gardening, people regularly say they there’s something about it that makes them feel better.

Her previous observational surveys found that gardeners eat 5.7 servings of fruits and vegetables on average per day compared to 3.9 for non-gardeners. They tend to have lower body mass index. They also report an average of 2.6 days of poor mental or physical health in the past month compared to the national average of 6.2 days.

She said it’s likely because gardeners are less sedentary, often spending an average of two hours not sitting during the activity, and because they’re eating the organic food they produce. There’s some research to suggest that exposure to the microorganisms in the soil also benefits mental health, she said.

Additionally, the best ways to create a permanent shift to healthier behaviors is to get people in contact with nature and to have them build meaningful relationships, she said. Both of those are intrinsic to community gardens.

But it’s unclear if people who are involved in community gardening are more likely to already have those traits or if community gardening itself facilitates a change in people.

To put some data behind it, Litt is measuring the body mass index, consumption of fruits and vegetables, stress and anxiety levels and other health measures of participants before planting, during harvesting and the following spring at community gardens mainly located in Denver and Aurora. The study will also use accelerometers worn by participants to measure physical activity levels.

There’s been growing interest in this type of research with a handful of similar studies also receiving grants this year, she said. But Litt said her study is distinguished from the rest due to its gold standard for measurements, noting the accelerometers.

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The results of these studies could have a great impact. First, data from it could be used to help convince clinicians about the benefits of community gardens. It could also help the gardens themselves.

In 2005, when Litt first started researching gardens, there were about 42 gardens in the Denver area. Now there are 165 gardens with 10-12 being built a year, she said.

The demand to build more gardens and the necessity to update old gardens are both pulling on already limited funds, she said. More people may be willing to put money toward community gardens if they realized the health benefits, she said.

The study is looking for people to join its second wave. Interested people can reach out to project coordinator Angel Villalobos at (303) 724-1235 or at angel@dug.org.

The SEC was hacked, and the culprits may have used its info to turn a profit with illegal stock trades

1 hour 53 min ago

The Security and Exchange Commission, the country’s top Wall Street regulator, announced Wednesday that hackers breached its system for storing documents filed by publicly traded companies last year, potentially accessing data that allowed the intruders to make an illegal profit.

The agency detected the breach last year, but didn’t learn until last month that it could have been used for improper trading. The incident was briefly mentioned in an unusual, eight-page statement on cybersecurity released by SEC chairman Jay Clayton late Wednesday. The statement didn’t explain the delay in the announcement, the exact date the system was breached and whether information about any specific company was targeted.

“Notwithstanding our efforts to protect our systems and manage cybersecurity risk, in certain cases cyber threat actors have managed to access or misuse our systems,” Clayton said in the statement.

The system that was breached, known as EDGAR, is a popular way for investors to access the detailed financial reports companies that sell stock to the public must periodically release. It had a “software vulnerability” that was “exploited and resulted in access to nonpublic information,” Clayton said in the statement.

The breach didn’t lead to the release of personally identifiable information, but “may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading,” Clayton said. An investigation into the matter is ongoing, he said.

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This is not the first time EDGAR has been compromised. The system receives thousands of documents a day and in 2015, fraudsters posted fake information on the site about the takeover of Avon Products, driving the company’s stock price up significantly before it was detected. And in 2014, several researchers found that information submitted was available to some users for 30 seconds before it became publicly available, potentially giving some traders an unfair advantage. (High-speed traders, for example, can make thousands of trades in a blink of an eye.)

“Effective management of internal cybersecurity risk is critical to the SEC achieving its mission and to protecting the nonpublic information that is entrusted to this agency,” SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar said in a statement.

The latest announcement could hamper the SEC’s efforts to collect more detailed information about stock trades into a central database that could make it easier for the agency to detect market manipulation. Some key Wall Street figures, including the New York Stock Exchange, have warned the database could become a target for hackers.

This also comes at a time of heightened sensitivity to cyber breaches. The credit reporting agency Equifax announced a massive hack earlier this month that affected 143 million Americans, sparking outrage on Capitol Hill and multiple investigations.

Brighton Fire Rescue fights oil tank fire

2 hours 57 min ago

Brighton Fire Rescue fought an oil tank fire at a tank farm south of Vestas on Wednesday night, extinguishing the blaze in about four hours.

No one was injured in the fire that broke out shortly after 9 p.m. south of Weld County Road 4. It was out by 12:45 a.m. Thursday.

All personnel evacuated the immediate area, and crews inspected the site to ensure that all valves and oil flow into the area were turned off.

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Crews allowed product in the lines to bleed and burn off.

Toys ‘R’ Us lives on because Mattel, Hasbro can’t let it die

3 hours 39 min ago

Rest easy, kids. Toys “R” Us isn’t going anywhere, at least not if the makers of Barbie and Transformers have their way.

The toy chain filed for bankruptcy-court protection Monday night, another in a string of specialty retailers felled by Walmart Stores, Amazon.com and the rest of the online onslaught. Toys “R” Us had been hobbled by more than $5 billion in debt, which required more than $400 million a year to service.

Yet, the company, which operates about 1,600 stores globally, will likely survive because manufacturers such as Mattel, Hasbro and closely held MGA Entertainment Inc. need the last remaining toy chain. These vendors are eager for whatever remaining leverage they have against the might of Amazon and Walmart, the bane of all companies focused on a single category of shopping.

“Oh my God, they are very important, and people don’t understand,” Isaac Larian, founder and chief executive officer of MGA, said of the toy chain. “That’s the only place where kids can go and just buy toys. There is no toy business without Toys ‘R’ Us.”

For its part, the company said it doesn’t plan to close stores and will continue normal operations at its namesake outlets, as well as Babies “R” Us, and their websites. In fact, many of its agreements with debt holders prohibit the company from closing stores, restricting its ability to slim down. Its 255 stores outside the U.S. and Canada aren’t part of Monday’s filing.

In many respects, suppliers have been propping up Toys “R” Us for years, according to Moody’s analyst Charlie O’Shea; they give the chain exclusive products during the holidays and funds for promotions to help it compete with the general merchandisers. The manufacturers offer this support because they want a place to sell toys at full price, year round. Major brands also have been funding an overhaul of Toys “R” Us stores by adding more featured areas for top brands such as Mattel’s American Girl dolls.

In electronics, Best Buy holds the same last-chain-standing mantle after Circuit City and HHGregg disappeared. In books, Borders went belly up, while Barnes & Noble remains. Similarly, KB Toys perished, and Toys “R” Us will likely limp along.

During a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, a company continues operating to give it a chance to come up with a plan to repay at least part of its debt. The toy chain has received a commitment for more than $3 billion from new and existing lenders to ease its debt burden and fund operations during bankruptcy.

Toys “R” Us filed now because 40 percent of its vendors stopped shipping, unless they received cash on delivery. Chief Executive Officer Dave Brandon said the company needed to build inventory in time for the holiday season, which accounts for 40 percent of annual revenue.

That means suppliers’ support for the reorganization plan is key to emerging from bankruptcy, according to Noel Hebert, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

On the first day of the bankruptcy proceedings, the company sought to win over large vendors by getting approval to pay them some of the tens of millions they’re owed as creditors. This group includes Mattel, Hasbro, MGA, Lego, and Jakks Pacific, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“Vendors are why they are in, they will be a big part of why they get out,” Hebert said.

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Once Toys “R” Us does emerge, Mattel and Hasbro will have to keep helping revamp its stores and offering flexibility to compete with Amazon and Walmart on price.

In the toy business, the incentive is particularly powerful. Last year, Toys “R” Us accounted for 11 percent of sales at Mattel and 9 percent at Hasbro — the second most at both companies after Walmart. Since the filing Monday, Mattel’s shares are up 1.1 percent, while Hasbro’s gained 1.9 percent.

Further bolstering its prospects, Toys “R” Us’s underlying business, which generated $11.5 billion in sales last year, remains solid. Though the company hasn’t reported an annual profit since its 2013 fiscal year because of interest payments, its operating income last year actually rose 22 percent, to $460 million.

Still, it’s a far cry from the once fast-growing heyday of the Wayne, N.J., company, founded in 1948 when Charles Lazarus opened Children’s Bargain Town, a baby-furniture store. In the early 1990s, sales grew at a 10 percent annual clip; last year, they dipped 2.2 percent. Despite early success online, the company struggled to find the money to make investments in technology.

The company’s main problem is debt, the legacy of a leveraged buyout more than a decade ago. In 2005, taking the company private, Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust loaded it with $7.5 billion in borrowing, and the company has been hamstrung ever since. The private equity companies could lose their funds’ entire Toys “R” Us investment of $1.3 billion, since equity holders are typically wiped out while banks and bond holders are paid first.

Though many suppliers cut back shipments, Van Nuys, Calif.-based MGA, best known for its Bratz dolls, kept on at the normal pace, according to founder Larian. Toys “R” Us backed MGA’s collectible L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, making a big order, placing it at the front of stores in January. That support helped make the dolls among the world’s bestsellers, Larian says.

Two other key vendors, Transformers-maker Hasbro and Mattel, said they were standing by the company. Mattel, the largest toymaker, called Toys “R” Us “one of our most important retail partners.” Wicked Cool Toys, which makes Cabbage Patch Kids, is on board, too.

“We need them,” said Michael Rinzler, co-founder of Wicked Cool Toys. “They have the broadest selection, and they’ve always been the most supportive of entrepreneurial companies. Everyone wants this to not be real or a temporary blip.”



4 things to know about Apple’s iOS 11 software update

3 hours 43 min ago

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Holding off on upgrading your trusty old iPhone? You won’t need a spiffy iPhone 8 in order to get new maps, photos and other features with a free software update Apple began rolling out last week.

The iOS 11 update brings a variety of enhancements, including a new voice and functionality for the Siri virtual assistant and a new photo format to reduce file sizes.

Consider waiting a few days in case unexpected problems emerge. The update will work with iPhones and iPads going back a few years, but older models won’t get all the new features.

Once you get iOS 11, here are four things to look for.

LOOK AND FEEL

The Control Center offers easy access to the flashlight and other tools with a swipe up from the bottom. It got separated into multiple pages last year to increase the options available, but the extra swipes got annoying. With iOS 11, it’s back to a single page. The extra options remain available, and Apple now lets you customize further, such as by adding an Apple TV remote or one-touch access to the voice recorder.

After taking a screenshot, you’ll now see a thumbnail in a corner. Tap on it for the ability to quickly annotate and share it. Need to remember where you parked your car? Just screenshot a map and draw an arrow.

The update brings additional camera filters to tweak your photos. To find them, you can now swipe up as you’re taking the shot; swipe down when you’re done. With camera improvements, the iPhone 8 models automatically use an exposure-balancing technology called HDR and no longer save unadjusted versions. You can restore that in the settings, though it’ll use more storage.

Apple Maps now offers speed limits and lane guidance on highways and indoor maps for some airports and shopping malls.

And a new feature detects when you’re driving and keeps notifications from appearing on your lock screen, so you’re not tempted to check. You can override that if you’re in the passenger’s seat – or traveling by plane or train, both of which can make the phone think you’re driving.

NEW TYPES OF APPS

Remember last year’s gaming sensation “Pokemon Go “? For many people, it was their first taste of augmented reality, the blending of virtual images with real-life settings. More augmented reality apps are coming with new tools Apple is including with iOS 11. Among other things, you’ll be able to see how furniture will look in your real living room before you buy it.

Apple already has had artificial-intelligence software for cataloging photos and other internal features. It’s now making those tools available to third-party developers. Such apps might now automatically identify food in an image and offer nutrition information.

Speaking of apps, Apple also has redesigned its app store to separate games from other apps and make recommendations more prominent.

FOR THE IPAD

As Apple tries to market its iPad Pro tablets as a laptop alternative, the iPad’s software takes on characteristics resembling the Mac computer.

A Dock at the bottom offers quick access to recent and frequently used apps. The iPad gets new drag and drop capabilities to make it easier to move text and other content between apps. For instance, you can drag a location on a map into an email. Recent iPad models can now run three apps side by side, rather than just two.

COMING SOON

Apple’s payment system, Apple Pay, already lets people buy items at a retail store with a tap of the phone. It also enables web orders and charity donations. Coming soon is the ability to pay friends back for dinner or drinks, much the way PayPal and Venmo work.

Money you receive will go into an Apple Pay Cash account, automatically created if you don’t already have one. Apple is hoping you’ll use the balance to buy things with Apple Pay, though you can move money to a bank account. There’s no fee when using a debit card or an existing balance. To encourage its use, the Apple Pay option will appear when texting about owing money.

Also coming later is the ability to sync Apple’s Messages app between devices. Such syncing was previously inconsistent. Apple says that while syncing will now use its iCloud servers, it will keep all data encrypted and won’t have access to the keys.

The update brings new sharing and smart home capabilities designed for speakers. Much of this appears to prepare Apple for the December release of HomePod, a $349 smart speaker rivaling Amazon’s Echo and Google



In Tonga, a welcome paradise of underwater wonders and Polynesian hospitality

3 hours 46 min ago

By Brianna Randall, Special To The Washington Post

As I stepped off the little boat after 48 hours of travel, I felt a little like Tom Sawyer. Mostly because my family would be staying in a treehouse. But also because the island looked like something out of a storybook.

The jungle-covered knoll crested gently out of the sea, a small dot punctuating the lagoon between larger islands. A hammock swung between two coconut trees on a sliver of beach, the white sand stark against the green-blue water. The open-air restaurant blended neatly into the landscape, its artistic curves mimicking nature’s swoops and spirals.

I guessed that it would take 20 minutes, tops, to swim around the whole island.

“Welcome to paradise,” said Ben Newton, owner of Mandala Island Resort. He nodded toward two black dogs wagging their tails. “Meet the gatekeepers, Higgs and Boson.”

We’d made it to Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga, a far-flung destination in the South Pacific. It looked well worth the complicated travel logistics.

From our home in Montana we’d taken a short domestic flight from Missoula to Los Angeles, then flown overnight on Fiji Airways to Nadi, Fiji, before hopping a small propeller plane to fly 500 miles east to Tonga’s Vava’u island group. At the tiny airport, we loaded into a taxi with a friendly local woman (and her high-pitched giggle).

Ben Newton, Provided by Mandala Island ResortA treehouse accommodation at Tonga’s Mandala Island Resort.

She gave us the “grand tour” of Neiafu, the capital of Vava’u, using animated facial expressions more often than words to describe landmarks. (I later learned that Tongans are renowned for their ability to convey meaning through intricate eyebrow movements, and would watch entire conversations take place in silence.)

With 6,000 residents, Neiafu is Tonga’s second-largest city — although calling its few paved roads and colorful one-story buildings a “city” was a stretch. An outdoor market beckoned near the wharf, coconuts and pineapples heaped on folding tables. Bells tolled from a white church, and a coffee shop promised ice, laundry services and pay-by-the-hour computers. Behind a mint-green wall, the small grocery store sold scoops of vanilla or strawberry ice cream. An ATM on the corner shelled out pa’angas, valued at two to every U.S. dollar. Stucco arches framed the patio of an Italian restaurant, one of only a handful in town, our driver said, “since most tourists eat at the resorts on the outer islands.”

The kingdom’s 169 islands are spread over the same amount of ocean as the Caribbean chain. But they’re home to far fewer people — 108,000 compared to nearly 44 million in the Caribbean. Tonga’s sparse population and minimal tourist traffic make it a gem for those seeking up-close contact with underwater wonders and immersion in traditional Polynesian culture. We were here for both.

Saying goodbye to our taxi-driver tour guide, we walked down a wooden dock to meet Ben. As we loaded our luggage into his boat, I asked him about the pigs wandering sedately along the road.

“Pigs have right of way in Tonga,” Ben said and smiled. The free-range animals are a favorite food and a form of currency, he said. The more pigs you have for guests to eat at your funeral or wedding, the more esteemed your status.

On the 10-minute ride to the resort, Ben pointed out highlights as we zoomed past them. There were fruit bats hanging upside-down from thick tree limbs on Mafana island that were as long as my arm and as wide as my torso. The fringing reef, with waves breaking over it in the distance, was where sharks, dolphins and hypercolor fish frolicked in coral caverns. In the village of Ofu, cows mooed next to fishing nets on the beach.

Since we had arrived on a Sunday, the village of Ofu was deserted, save for livestock. In the Kingdom of Tonga, respect for religion ranks as high as it does for royalty. The country shuts down on Sundays, when it’s illegal to swim, play loud music or conduct business. Ben promised to take us to a traditional kava circle in the village the next evening, where the men sang in three-part harmony while drinking cupfuls of a muddy, mildly intoxicating liquid made from the local kava root.

Provided by Rob RobertsThe open-air beachside restaurant at the resort blends into the natural environment.

At Mandala, we hopped off the boat and followed Ben along the flower-lined path to our treehouse. The dogs scampered with us up homemade sand flagstones. Our home away from home was breathtaking: Bamboo-trimmed walls curved around a gnarled trunk and the outdoor shower was supported on leafy limbs. I put our bags on a big bed surrounded by gauzy mosquito nets while our son clambered up to claim the window seat, which also served as a daybed. The deck overlooking the ocean was ringed by a banister of driftwood and rope.

As my husband and son geared up for a swim, I opted for a ride on the wooden tree swing, which launched me out over the coral-studded shallows. Then I took a map to a hammock to get my bearings.

Vava’u is composed of about 60 islands, most of them small and uninhabited. During much of the summer offseason (our winter months), Ben and his wife, Lisa, are the only residents on their two-acre island, aside from Higgs, Boson, and their cat, Penzini. But from June through November, the resort’s six seaside treehouses (fales) are booked with visitors.

In 2002, the American couple sold their home and businesses in northern California to sail across the Pacific. Ben and Lisa knew next to nothing about the Kingdom of Tonga before dropping anchor in Vava’u in 2004. But as they explored its vibrant waters and found friends among the cheerful locals, Ben and Lisa felt that they’d found a new home. They opened a restaurant and other tourism-based businesses in Neiafu, and began dreaming about building their own eco-resort. Mandala Island Resort officially opened in 2013.

During our February visit, we planned to scuba dive through caves, spearfish on the reef and sail around Vava’u’s yacht-friendly lagoon. Most visitors avoid the South Pacific during its cyclone season, but we didn’t mind the warm rain. It was a welcome change from the icy Montana winter we’d just escaped.

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Plus, since we were the only ones at the resort, we had our pick of the many toys. Now that I’d seen the treehouse, though, I penciled in more time to simply sit on the deck, soaking in Vava’u’s vivid hues.

The next morning, I enjoyed a frittata and tropical fruit smoothie in the restaurant while my husband slept in. We planned to ask Ben to shuttle us to Neiafu for a dinner or two at a local restaurant, but it was relaxing to eat most of our meals barefoot, just a few steps from the treehouse.

I took my coffee to the beach, watching herons stalk among the exposed rocks while a school of bait made dark swirls in the clear water. My son clapped in glee when they jumped out in silvery bursts to escape the barracudas and jacks in search of breakfast. I could hardly wait for my chance to get an up-close look at the underwater action.

By 9 a.m., I’d hunted down Ben to ask advice on where to snorkel. Donning a skinsuit as protection from the tropical sun, I listened to Ben explain how to use his “new favorite gadget” — a Sea Scooter that looked like a torpedo-shaped fan with handlebars. You simply hold down a trigger and it propels you along at 5 mph.

“This will turn you into a dolphin,” Ben said.

He was right. I spent over an hour in the ocean doing barrel rolls, peeking under coral bommies, swirling in circles through a river of bait fish, and diving down to study moray eels and clown fish.

The following evening we kayaked to a nearby sand cay that only appeared at low tide. It gleamed bright on the wide-open horizon, a white pyramid lapped by small waves. Two baby sharks cruised by to say hello during our picnic dinner.

On the paddle home, as the sunset streaked pink across the sky, I decided that the Kingdom of Tonga had Tom Sawyer’s island beat, hands down.

If you go

Where to stay

Mandala Island Resort

Fetoko Island, Vava’u, Tonga

011-676-849-1270

mandalaisland.com

Eco-resort with fales (a house with open sides and a thatched roof) from $230. All-inclusive tour packages start at $2,200 for two adults.

What to do

‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens

‘Ene’io Beach, Tu’anekivale, Vava’u, Tonga

011-676-867-1048

dpo.st/eneiobotanicalgardenvavautonga

Tonga’s only botanical garden, featuring beautiful flora near a lovely swimming beach, and traditional meals at the beachside restaurant and bar. Open daily, advance booking required. Guided tours start at $15.

Brianna Randall, Special to The Washington Post.A sunset walk along Ofu island beach.

Thornton Topgolf proposal, halted by nearby resident’s lawsuit, could find new life after city makes legal changes

3 hours 46 min ago

The giant Topgolf entertainment complex that had been approved by Thornton and then struck down by a judge may have new life after City Council this week made legal changes that could smooth the way forward for the 65,000-square-foot facility.

But whether the Dallas-based company is still interested in locating at the southeast corner of Interstate 25 and 136th Avenue, as it had been planning to do for more than a year, is not clear.

In an email sent to The Denver Post on Wednesday, company spokeswoman Morgan Wallace said “we are evaluating all of our options across the area and will continue to work on finding the best location possible for a Topgolf venue.”

The facility, which would boast a three-story, 102-bay driving range as well as a restaurant, bar and rooftop terrace, ran into problems with residents in the nearby Rolling Hills neighborhood almost as soon as it was announced. They raised concerns about bright lighting, after-hours noise and the hazard Topgolf’s large ball-catching nets pose to birds.

The company told the city it would bring 475 jobs to Thornton.

After the city approved the project last summer and offered a $3.75 million incentive package to Topgolf to make Thornton its second Colorado location — the company’s first facility opened in Centennial in 2015 — a resident sued the city, claiming the land being eyed by Topgolf isn’t appropriately zoned for the project.

An Adams County district judge in July ruled that the city had erroneously granted Topgolf its permits, a decision that put the project on indefinite hold.

That’s what brought Thornton leaders to a table Tuesday for a special meeting during which amendments were made to the city’s comprehensive plan and its zoning code that will now permit “commercial amusement — outside uses” in the city’s business park zoning district.

Councilman Joshua Zygielbaum said it’s only fair that private property owners be given the opportunity to develop their land holdings. Topgolf does not own the 14-acre parcel near Rolling Hills and Thorncreek golf course where it had proposed its project.

“If we didn’t allow the flexibility for this property owner to develop by expanding the ability of the options of uses, then we’re effectively cutting off their ability to develop this land,” Zygielbaum said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

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Several council members said Tuesday’s code changes weren’t made to specifically benefit Topgolf but were part of a larger effort to update the city’s code so that it makes more sense.

But Lotte Radoor, the neighbor who filed the suit against Thornton, said that’s not what it looks like to her and her neighbors.

“It looks exactly like a way to amend the code to allow a specific business in there,” she said. “This is how things are done in Thornton.”

Radoor said she was weighing her options in terms of whether to challenge the city again over this week’s zoning changes.

NFL Week 3 Preview: Nine teams face possibility of (almost) insurmountable 0-3 start

3 hours 46 min ago

In the past 37 seasons, roughly 3 percent of teams that stumbled to an 0-3 start made the playoffs. That’s not a friendly path. This week, nine teams face the possibility of landing on the wrong side of those odds. That includes the Browns and Colts, who meet Sunday morning. Which teams will fight back from 0-2 to salvage their seasons?

Game of the Week: Falcons (2-0) at Lions (2-0), 11 a.m. Preview of the NFC title game? It’s far too early to tell, but both of these teams have impressed through two weeks with complete performances on offense, defense and special teams.

Rams (1-1) at 49ers (0-2), 6:25 p.m., Thursday. The Rams let one get away against the Redskins last week, but quarterback Jared Goff is steadily growing toward the hype that came with being a No. 1 pick. San Francisco is averaging a meager six points and 232.5 yards of total offense per game.

Ravens (2-0) vs. Jaguars (1-1), 7:30 a.m. The crowd at Wembley Stadium in London shouldn’t get its hopes up for offensive fireworks. The Jaguars and Ravens rank 26th and 30th, respectively, in passing yards per game.

Steelers (2-0) at Bears (0-2), 11 a.m. It may be just a matter of time until rookie Mitch Trubisky takes over for Mike Glennon at quarterback in Chicago. The Steelers would love to see RB Le’Veon Bell finally get on track.

Buccaneers (1-0) at Vikings (1-1), 11 a.m. Tampa Bay gave up only 20 yards rushing as it opened its season last week. Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook is averaging 5.6 yards per rush through two games.

Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (0-2), 11 a.m. The Jets are the league’s worst team at defending the rush, giving up 185 yards per game. Miami RB Jay Ajayi bulldozed to 122 yards in a victory over the Chargers last week.

Saints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0), 11 a.m. With tight end Greg Olsen out and QB Cam Newton hampered by an ankle injury, Carolina’s offense is a work in progress. Playing New Orleans’ defense, yielding a league-worst 512.5 yards per game, could help Carolina get on track.

Browns (0-2) at Colts (0-2), 11 a.m. An unimpressive start by the AFC South may give the Colts hope they can tread water in the division until QB Andrew Luck eventually returns. Those hopes would fade away if they can’t handle the Browns at home.

Texans (1-1) at Patriots (1-1), 11 a.m. Tom Brady responded to his lackluster season-opening performance by throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns in a bounce-back victory over New Orleans. Forty is suiting No. 12 just fine.

Giants (0-2) at Eagles (1-1), 11 a.m. The Eagles’ leading rusher through two games? QB Carson Wentz, who has eight carries for 61 yards. That’s 30 more yards than the Giants’ leading rusher, Orleans Darkwa (31 yards).

Seahawks (1-1) at Titans (1-1), 2:05 p.m. The Seahawks were uncharacteristically poor against the run in their win over the 49ers, allowing 124 yards by Carlos Hyde on 15 carries. It won’t get any easier against Tennessee RB Derrick Henry (5.85 yards per carry this season).

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Chiefs (2-0) at Chargers (0-2), 2:25 p.m. The Chargers have lost both of their games on missed field goals at the end of regulation. Now, they must beat high-powered Kansas City (34.5 points per game) to avoid falling to 0-3.

Bengals (0-2) at Packers, (1-1), 2:25 p.m. Can the Bengals finally reach the end zone for the first time this season? They’ll have a chance if the Packers don’t improve their run defense (115 yards per game).

Raiders (2-0) at Redskins (1-1), 6:30 p.m. At 30 years old, Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree may be at the start of a career year after snaring three touchdown passes last week. Washington is surrendering 269 passing yards per game.

Cowboys (1-1) at Cardinals (1-1), 6:30 p.m., Monday. Arizona’s Carson Palmer has the league’s fifth-worst QB rating (65.6) among qualifying players. He’ll have a chance to improve upon that number if Dallas can’t get its injury ravaged secondary healthy.



Colorado hospitals owed millions from state; officials worried they will have to turn away needy patients

3 hours 46 min ago

Hospitals across Colorado are waiting on millions of dollars in reimbursements after the state Medicaid department went live with a new technology system six months ago, the situation growing so dire that hospital officials say they are concerned they will have to start turning away needy patients.

Doctors who haven’t been paid by the state are now asking whether Colorado will pay them back for the interest they’ve incurred taking out loans to keep their practices open.

And other providers who accept Medicaid but have had claims denied — including therapists for the disabled — are asking whether the state will fine the technology vendor running the new claims system that has had a rough start.

The problems were raised again Wednesday in a meeting of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, a follow-up to a June meeting in which lawmakers demanded answers from the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which runs the Medicaid program. Legislators were irritated that problems with the system persist, and noted numerous calls from doctors and other health professionals in their districts, including a meeting of 20 providers in Grand Junction.

“We were here three months ago,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “We were assured that we were just about at the end of the rocky road.”

At first, Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, was hearing mainly from therapists for people with disabilities. But, he said, “this has blown out to a wide array of concerns.”

Five individual hospitals and five hospital systems were owed nearly $211 million in claims after the first four months of the new system, run by DXC Technology, according to data released Wednesday by the Colorado Hospital Association. Rural hospitals in particular are struggling with the lack of payment, said Julie Lonborg, the association’s vice president for communications.

“It’s unsustainable at this level,” she said, noting that hospitals are worried they will have to stop treating Medicaid patients in nonemergencies.

The new system, which puts the state in compliance with several state auditor recommendations, went live March 1, resulting in havoc for hundreds of providers whose claims were rejected for coding errors and “validation” issues, some as simple as addresses. State officials have said the issues are operator error and that they warned providers through numerous letters, emails and webinars to get trained and put their documents in order before the system went live.

The system is now paying 66 percent of claims, with long-term goal of 75 percent.

“When I got 66 percent in high school, I got a D,” said Joshua Ewing, manager of regulatory affairs for the Colorado Hospital Association, which based estimates of how much is owed to hospitals on previous payments, not on prices listed on bills.

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At a call center to help with claims, agents have increased from 15 to 60 in recent months.

Medicaid officials said the new system has paid 28 million claims, totaling $4.3 billion, so far and is improving weekly. The system now has 98,000 claims in suspension waiting on human review but, in normal operations, will have 30,000 claims awaiting review within 10 business days.

The new system replaces 30-year-old technology and will help the state pay more accurately, as well as bring Colorado into federal compliance, said Susan Birch, health care policy and financing executive director.

“This transition has been incredibly complex,” she said. “We absolutely recognize and acknowledge that many have struggled.”

Trapped girl a symbol for Mexico’s quake rescue efforts

3 hours 50 min ago

MEXICO CITY — A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the rubble of her school stretched into a new day on Thursday, a vigil broadcast across the nation as rescue workers struggled in rain and darkness to pick away unstable debris and reach her.

The sight of her wiggling fingers early Wednesday became a symbol for the hope that drove thousands of professionals and volunteers to work frantically at dozens of wrecked buildings across the capital and nearby states looking for survivors of the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed at least 245 people in central Mexico and injured over 2,000.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115. An earlier federal government statement had put the overall toll at 230, including 100 deaths in Mexico City.

Mancera also said two women and a man had been pulled alive from a collapsed office building in the city’s center Wednesday night, almost 36 hours after the quake.

President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of mourning while soldiers, police, firefighters and everyday citizens kept digging through rubble, at times with their hands gaining an inch at a time, at times with cranes and backhoes to lift heavy slabs of concrete.

“There are still people groaning. There are three more floors to remove rubble from. And you still hear people in there,” said Evodio Dario Marcelino, a volunteer who was working with dozens of others at a collapsed apartment building.

A man was pulled alive from a partly collapsed apartment building in northern Mexico City more than 24 hours after the Tuesday quake and taken away in a stretcher, apparently conscious

In all, 52 people had been rescued alive since the quake, the city’s Social Development Department said, adding in a tweet: “We won’t stop.” It was a race against time, Pena Nieto warned in a tweet of his own saying that “every minute counts to save lives.”

But the country’s attention focused on the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school on the city’s south side, where 21 children and four adults had been confirmed dead.

Hopes rose Wednesday when workers told local media they had detected signs that one girl was alive and she speaking to them through a hole dug in the rubble. Thermal imaging suggested several more people might be in the airspace around her.

A volunteer rescue worker, Hector Mendez, said cameras lowered into the rubble suggested there might be four people still inside, but he added that it wasn’t clear if anyone beside the girl was alive.

Dr. Alfredo Vega, who was working with the rescue team, said that a girl who he identified only as “Frida Sofia” had been located alive under the pancaked floor slabs.

Vega said “she is alive, and she is telling us that there are five more children alive” in the same space.

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Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno confirmed that the girl was alive, but said it was still not confirmed if other children were also alive under the rubble. Strangely, Nuno said, no relatives of a girl named Frida could be found.

While optimism ran strong for the girl’s rescue effort, only four corpses had been found in the wreckage during the day, Mendez said, and workers were still trying to get to the girl as the operation crossed into a new day.

The debris removed from the school changed as crews worked their way deeper, from huge chunks of brick and concrete to pieces of wood that looked like remnants of desks and paneling to a load that contained a half dozen sparkly hula-hoops.

Rescuers carried in lengths of wide steel pipe big enough for someone to crawl through, apparently trying to create a tunnel into the collapsed slabs of the three-story school building. But a heavy rain fell during the night, and the tottering pile of rubble had to be shored up with hundreds of wooden beams.

People have rallied to help their neighbors in a huge volunteer effort that includes people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

At a collapsed factory building closer to the city’s center, giant cranes lifted huge slabs of concrete from the towering pile of rubble, like peeling layers from an onion. Workers with hand tools would quickly move in to look for signs of survivors and begin attacking the next layer.

Government rescue worker Alejandro Herrera said three bodies had been found Wednesday afternoon at the factory.

“There are sounds (beneath the rubble), but we don’t know if they are coming from inside or if it is the sound of the rubble,” Herrera said.

Not only humans were pulled out.

Mexico City police said rescue workers clearing wreckage from a collapsed medical laboratory in the Roma neighborhood found and removed 40 lab rabbits and 13 lab rats used by the firm that had occupied the building, now a pile of beams and rubble.

In addition to those killed in Mexico City, the federal civil defense agency said 69 died in Morelos state just south of the capital and 43 in Puebla state to the southeast, where the quake was centered. The rest of the deaths were in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides, Guerrero and Oaxaca states.

In Atzala in Puebla state, villagers mourned 11 family members who died inside a church when it crumbled during a baptism for a 2-month-old girl. People at the wake said the only ones to survive were the baby’s father, the priest and the priest’s assistant.

Power was being restored in some Mexico City neighborhoods that already spent a day without power. The mayor said there were 38 collapsed buildings in the capital, down from the 44 he had announced previously.

___

Associated Press writer Carlos Rodriguez in Jojutla contributed to this report.



A stunned Puerto Rico seeks to rebuild after Hurricane Maria

4 hours 10 min ago

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans stunned by a hurricane that knocked out power for the whole island and paralyzed the U.S. territory with landslides, flooding and downed trees vowed to slowly rebuild amid an economic crisis as rescue crews fanned out Thursday.

The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.

Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic and past police cars that used loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor to ensure everyone’s safety.

“This is going to be a historic event for Puerto Rico,” said Abner Gomez, the island’s emergency management director.

Previously a Category 5 with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on its central pressure. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma that storm roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.

In the capital of San Juan, towering eucalyptus trees fell nearly every other block over a main road dotted with popular bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, some of which were damaged. Outside a nearby apartment building, 40-year-old tourism company operator Adrian Pacheco recounted how he spent eight hours in a stairwell huddled with 100 other residents when the hurricane ripped the storm shutters off his building and decimated three balconies.

“I think people didn’t expect the storm to reach the point that it did,” he said. “Since Irma never really happened, they thought Maria would be the same.”

Hurricane Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, leaving more than 1 million people without power but causing no deaths or widespread damage like it did on nearby islands. Maria, however, blew out windows at some hospitals and police stations, turned some streets into roaring rivers and destroyed hundreds of homes across Puerto Rico, including 80 percent of houses in a small fishing community near the San Juan Bay, which unleashed a storm surge of more than 4 feet.

“Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.

The sound of chain saws began to fill the silence that spread across San Juan late Wednesday afternoon as firefighters began to remove trees and used small bulldozers to lift toppled concrete light posts. Some neighbors pitched in to help clear the smaller branches, including Shawn Zimmerman, a 27-year-old student from Lewistown, Pennsylvania who moved to Puerto Rico nearly two years ago.

“The storm didn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the devastation. I get goosebumps. It’s going to take us a long time.”

Maria has caused at least 10 deaths across the Caribbean, including seven in the hard-hit island of Dominica and two in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe. Puerto Rico’s governor told CNN one man died after being hit by flying debris. No further details were available, and officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Maria weakened to a Category 2 storm later in the day but re-strengthened to Category 3 status early Thursday with winds of 115 mph (185 kph). It was centered about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and moving northwest near 9 mph (15 kph).

The hurricane was still dumping rain overnight Wednesday in Puerto Rico, where crumbled red roof tiles lay scattered across many roads, and curious residents sidestepped and ducked under dozens of black power lines still swaying in heavy winds. But they posed no danger: Maria caused an island-wide power outage, with officials unable to say when electricity would return.

Puerto Rico’s electric grid was crumbling amid lack of maintenance and a dwindling staff even before the hurricanes knocked out power. Many now believe it will take weeks, if not months, to restore power.

Edwin Rosario, a 79-year-old retired government worker, said an economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland will only make the island’s recovery harder.

“Only us old people are left,” he said as he scraped a street gutter in front of his house free of debris. “A lot of young people have already gone…If we don’t unite, we’re not going to bounce back.”