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Associated Press

Deal for David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium land gets approval

David Beckham is a big step closer to bringing Major League Soccer back to Miami.

In a 9-4 vote Tuesday, Miami-Dade County commissioners decided to allow Miami Beckham United to buy three acres of county land, the final piece in a nine-acre plot on which a 25,000-seat soccer stadium is planned. It’s a big win for the English soccer icon, who has spent four years — and counting — trying to bring Miami an expansion MLS franchise.

“Miami is ready,” said Tim Leiweke, one of the partners in Beckham’s group. “We are committed. And the city and the county have now taken the necessary steps for us to control our own destiny for a privately financed, world-class soccer stadium for Major League Soccer.”

Beckham’s group will pay just over $9 million for the three-acre plot. It has already paid $19 million for the other six acres needed, and Leiweke said he’s hopeful a team could start playing in the stadium in 2020.

“Now is the time for MLS to move forward in helping us deliver the soccer club that Miami has been waiting for,” Beckham’s group said in a statement after the vote.

Tuesday’s vote was a major step, though hardly the clinching one.

There’s zoning issues with the city to deal with, some members of the ownership group who will fund the estimated $220 million in construction costs have not been revealed yet – and MLS still has not awarded Miami an expansion franchise. A contract he signed in 2007 with the Los Angeles Galaxy gave Beckham the right to start an expansion franchise for $25 million, and in 2013 he picked Miami as where he would want to put a team.

Now that he has the land, the process of actually getting the franchise should pick up considerable speed.

MLS officials will be in Miami on Wednesday to tour the planned site, and the league said it was pleased to see county commissioners ratify Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s recommendation to allow the sale.

“The process was lengthy, difficult, but necessary in order to ensure that Miami-Dade County taxpayers were properly compensated,” Gimenez said.

The vote was preceded by several members of the community urging commissioners to vote no, mostly citing noise and traffic concerns. A few supporters spoke as well, and many commissioners noted that the county will receive property tax revenue off the site going forward.

“This land has been an eyesore for years. … Something needs to be done with it, now,” said Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents the Overtown neighborhood where the stadium is planned.

There have been many hurdles in this process, in part because Beckham – who was not present Tuesday – was unable to get waterfront land that his group first coveted for a stadium site.

“He will be a happy man today,” Leiweke said.

But the biggest issue may have had nothing to do with Beckham, or how MLS failed in South Florida once before.

The taxpayer-backed arrangement that gave the Miami Marlins a new ballpark on the site of the former Orange Bowl is still very much a contentious issue in Miami. This deal, commissioners said, isn’t perfect either.

“As far as sports deals go with the county, this one isn’t so bad,” Commissioner Joe Martinez said.

Beckham is not the only huge global soccer name pursuing MLS expansion these days; Landon Donovan, his former Galaxy teammate, has joined the ownership group that is hoping to bring a team to San Diego.

The victory for Beckham came just one day after San Diego’s City Council decided not to finance a special election that would have brought plans of building a new soccer complex there to a vote. Donovan says he will continue trying to get a team there.

Leiweke sees a parallel; Beckham has unquestionably dealt with Marlins’ deal fallout over the last few years, and Donovan’s quest is likely hurting in part from how the NFL’s Chargers just left San Diego.

“Let’s be honest here: Much of what we’re going through and much of the distrust … is the Marlins,” Leiweke said. “We’re not the Marlins. We’re in this long-term with a philosophy on being great and having a great stadium and a great team.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Pro-Trump group labels James Comey political ‘showboat’ in new ad

A nonprofit issues group is labeling James Comey a political “showboat” in a television ad set to air Thursday, the day the former FBI director testifies on Capitol Hill.

Comey “put politics over protecting America,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot, titled “Showboat,” which was shared with The Associated Press. It accuses him of being “consumed with election meddling” even as “terror attacks were on the rise.”

Great America Alliance has paid for the ad, which is slated to run digitally Wednesday and appear the next day on CNN and Fox News. The group, formed after President Donald Trump’s election to advocate for his administration, is not required to disclose its donors.

The message of the ad reflects a strategy by Trump and his advocates to erode Comey’s credibility.

Comey will testify Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee and is expected to be grilled about his interactions with Trump ahead of his own firing. He will also be questioned about the agency’s underlying investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had anything to do with Russian meddling in the election the New York billionaire into office.

The ad highlights that Comey’s previous congressional testimony about Hillary Clinton’s emails was inaccurate and needed to be corrected. After Comey said Clinton’s campaign aide “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband, a potential security breach, the FBI sent a letter to Congress saying he’d misspoken.

“James Comey: just another DC insider only in it for himself,” the ad concludes.

Eric Beach, head of Great America Alliance, said no one from the White House asked his group to do the ad. Some of the commentary in it — including the title — echoes public statements by Trump and other administration officials.

Two days after firing Comey last month, Trump called him a “showboat” in an interview with NBC News.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida woman let snake bite baby as learning opportunity

A Florida woman is under investigation after apparently posting a video on Facebook showing a red rat snake biting her 1-year-old daughter.

The woman tells Tampa’s ABC Action News she has no regrets for “introducing” the girl to the snake, which she found in the driveway of her home near Sebring. The station reports the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

The woman, who wasn’t identified because she’s not been charged, says “people are too sensitive.” She has deleted the Facebook video.

She says the snake bit her and her son several times and “didn’t leave a mark.” She thought it was a good opportunity to “introduce” the girl to the snake without her getting hurt.

She says it’s important to teach her kids how to handle wildlife and what to avoid.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Tampa General Hospital announces new CEO

A Florida hospital has named its CEO after a nationwide search.

The Tampa Bay Times reports Tampa General Hospital announced on Monday that John D. Couris will be its new leader in September. The 49-year-old has been president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center since 2010.

Couris succeeds Jim Burkhart, who resigned in November after being pushed out by Tampa General Hospital’s board of directors. The hospital’s acting president and CEO Steve Short will remain until the transition.

Burkhart said after resigning that concerns about the hospital’s finances played a role in the board’s decision for leadership change.

Board chair John A. Brabson Jr. says Couris is a dynamic leader. Hospital staff chief Dr. Ravi Bukkapatnam says Couris was their first choice.

Couris says the job is a dream come true.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

GOP running out of time for legislative achievements

President Donald Trump and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill have made it through nearly half their first year in power without a single major legislative achievement. If that’s going to change, it will have to start soon, a reality that Republican lawmakers will confront when they return to the Capitol on Monday from a weeklong break.

“We just need to work harder,” the second-ranking Republican senator, John Cornyn of Texas, said in an interview with KFYO radio in Lubbock, Texas, over the recess.

For now, the party’s marquee agenda items remain undone, their fate uncertain. The long-promised effort to overturn former President Barack Obama‘s health law hangs in limbo in the Senate after barely passing the House. A tax overhaul that’s a top Trump priority is unwritten and in dispute, despite his recent claim on Twitter that it’s ahead of schedule.

“The president keeps saying the tax bill is moving through Congress. It doesn’t exist,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said mockingly on Friday. “It doesn’t exist. There is no tax bill moving through Congress.”

Lawmakers will deal with those issues and more as Congress comes back into session, and realistically the window for action is closing fast. Seven legislative weeks are left before Congress scatters for a five-week August recess, a period when lawmakers are likely to lose momentum if they have failed to act on health care or taxes, and face GOP voters frustrated that they haven’t delivered.

Both issues are enormously difficult challenges, and the tax legislation must follow, for procedural reasons, passage of a budget, no small task on its own.

On top of it all, lawmakers are way behind on the annual spending legislation needed to keep the lights on in government. They were recently informed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that they will have to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit before August, a daunting task ripe for brinkmanship.

Looming over everything is the investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and connections with the Trump campaign. That investigation is in the hands of a special prosecutor and Congress’ intelligence committees. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee on Thursday.

“The Russia investigation takes a lot of oxygen, it takes a lot of attention,” said Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a veteran lawmaker.

Cole argued that Republicans have not gotten the credit they deserve to date for what they have accomplished: voting to overturn a series of Obama regulations, as well as reaching compromise last month on spending legislation for the remainder of the 2017 budget year that included a big increase for defense. The biggest bright spot for the party and for Trump remains Senate confirmation in early April of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose elevation goes far to placate conservatives frustrated with inaction on other fronts.

“I think we’ve done more than we’ve gotten credit for, but the big ones are ahead,” Cole said. “It’s certainly an ambitious agenda we’ve got, there’s no question about it, it has been all along and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Historically, Capitol Hill has been at its busiest and most productive in the early days of a new president’s administration, during the traditional honeymoon. But with his approval ratings hovering around 40 percent, Trump never got that grace period, and although his core supporters show no signs of abandoning him, he is not providing the focused leadership usually essential to helping pass major legislation.

Within Obama’s first 100 days in office, he had signed a large stimulus package as well as equal pay legislation and other bills. An active Congress under President George W. Bush had made progress on campaign finance legislation and bankruptcy changes, among other issues.

In the Senate, Republicans’ slim 52-48 majority gives them little room for error on health care and taxes, issues where they are using complicated procedural rules to move ahead with simple majorities and no Democratic support. Trump’s apparent disengagement from the legislative process was evident this past week when he demanded on Twitter that the Senate “should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy.”

In fact, that’s exactly how Republicans are already moving. But the trouble is within their own ranks as Senate Republicans disagree over how quickly to unwind the Medicaid expansion under Obama’s health law, as well as other elements of the GOP bill.

Addressing the health legislation, Cornyn pledged on KFYO, “We’ll get it done by the end of July at the latest.” Despite that show of optimism, there’s uncertainty aplenty over whether the Senate will be able to pass a health bill, and whether a complicated tax overhaul or even a simple set of tax cuts will advance.

For some Republicans, their sights are set on the more immediate and necessary tasks of completing the annual spending bills that are needed to avert a government shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30, and on raising the debt ceiling to avert a first-ever default.

“It’ll be more difficult than it should be,” said GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Because Congress is what it is.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Ariel Miranda’s 4-hitter leads Seattle to sweep of Rays

Ariel Miranda pitched a four-hitter for his first career complete game, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 on Sunday to sweep their weekend series.

Miranda (6-2) struck out a career-high nine and walked one. He has allowed only seven earned runs in 30 innings over his last five starts.

Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer and Mike Zunino picked up two more RBIs in Seattle’s seventh win in eight games. Jarrod Dyson also drove in two runs.

Tampa Bay right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (3-1) pitched 4 2/3 innings against his first major league team, allowing four runs and seven hits.

Kevin Kiermaier had an infield single in the fifth for the Rays’ first hit. Tampa Bay got its only run when Daniel Robertson reached on a triple in the eighth – center fielder Dyson lost the ball in the sun – and scored on Jesus Sucre‘s groundout.

Miranda’s third straight win also was Seattle’s first complete game of the season.

Zunino, a .196 career hitter who had a career-high seven RBIs on Saturday, is hitting .308 since being recalled from the minors on May 22 and leads the team with 13 RBIs during that span.

He hit a two-run single in the fourth, giving Seattle a 4-0 lead.

Cruz began the scoring with his 14th homer in the first. Dyson added a two-run double in the sixth.

Danny Valencia singled in his first two at-bats to give him nine consecutive hits over three games. That tied the Mariners record set by Raul Ibanez from Sept. 22-24, 2004. His hitting surge raised his batting average from .247 to .284.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: C Derek Norris got the day off. He left Saturday’s game in the eighth with back spasms. … Evan Longoria has a lingering neck issue, so he was switched from third to designated hitter.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (4-3, 3.74 ERA) has been on a record strikeout pace. His 58 Ks set the club record for May. He has 95 for the season, second in the league. He is 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA in six career appearances against the White Sox. He’ll be opposed by LHP Jose Quintana (2-7, 5.60 ERA) on Tuesday night.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

New York man charged with stealing $3.5 million from city of Miami Beach to buy sports tickets

A New York man with a history of identity theft stole $3.5 million from a Florida city to buy sports tickets and resell them online, federal prosecutors allege.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says David J. Miller, 44, of Syracuse, stole money from Miami Beach between last July and October using a stolen identity and bank information to buy season and individual game tickets to National Football League games and other sporting events and then resell them.

The Miami Herald reports used an Illinois man’s identity to setup an account on a website where people can buy and transfer personal seat licenses, which allow the holder to buy season tickets from sports teams.

Prosecutors say he then somehow got access to one of Miami Beach’s bank accounts and withdrew money 57 times. The city didn’t notice the fraud until December because of problems in its finance department. It has since recovered almost $2 million.

Miller is charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is jailed in Syracuse on unrelated state identity theft charges, having allegedly stolen a woman’s identity to buy a cell phone and run up a near $10,000 bill. He has pleaded not guilty to the state charges. His attorney declined comment.

New York records show that Miller was convicted of identity theft in 2013 and has served time for grand larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Under the federal charges, Miller faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

A look at what is and isn’t known about the London attack

A look at what’s known and what isn’t about the attack in London that left seven people and three attackers dead:

What happened?

Police say three men drove a van into pedestrians on busy London Bridge just after 10 p.m. Saturday. The attackers, wielding blades and knives, ran down a set of stairs into Borough Market, a well-known fruit and vegetable market that’s also home to popular restaurants and pubs. There they stabbed people in several different restaurants. Seven people were killed and at least 48 were hospitalized. Still others had minor injuries. The whole thing lasted about eight minutes, according to police.

Who did it?

Police haven’t said. The attackers were shot dead by police near the Wheatsheaf pub eight minutes after the incident started. The men were wearing what appeared to be vests with explosives, but Prime Minister Theresa May says they weren’t real and were just meant to cause panic. Twelve people have been arrested in Barking in east London. May has characterized the attack as the work of Islamic extremists but no group has claimed responsibility yet.

What are the political implications?

That’s not clear either. There’s an election Thursday that May called in an attempt to increase her Conservative Party’s majority in Parliament. The Conservatives were far ahead in polls but their lead has narrowed in recent days. The main political parties halted national campaigning Sunday but were expected to resume Monday, and officials said the election would not be canceled or postponed.

Has this happened before?

This is the third attack in Britain in as many months. Two weeks ago, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in northwest England, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more. In March, a British convert to Islam ran down people with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge, killing four before fatally stabbing a policeman on Parliament’s grounds. May said Sunday that police had recently foiled five other plots.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Mike Zunino’s 7 RBIs power Mariners past Rays

Mike Zunino hit his first grand slam and drove in a career-high seven runs to power the Seattle Mariners to a 9-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

Zunino, sent down to Triple-A Tacoma for two weeks in May after struggling offensively, had a two-run double in the second, an RBI single in the fourth, and capped a five-run fifth with his slam that put the Mariners up 9-1.

Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-1) allowed one run – a homer by Corey Dickerson to lead off the game – and four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked none in his fourth start since being called up May 10.

Alex Cobb (4-5) was rocked for nine runs and 14 hits in five innings.

Nelson Cruz had three hits, including a solo homer, and Danny Valencia had four singles and scored three times for the Mariners, who won for the sixth time in seven games.

The Mariners erased a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the second on Valencia’s RBI single and Zunino’s two-run double to the gap in right-center.

Seattle made it 4-1 in the fourth on singles by Valencia, Taylor Motter and Zunino. The Mariners failed to add on when Motter was out at home attempting to score from third on a ball that initially got away from catcher Derek Norris.

Cruz got Seattle’s five-run fifth started with his 13th homer, a one-out solo shot to left. The Mariners loaded the bases on a single by Valencia, a walk to Motter and Jarrod Dyson‘s bunt single. Zunino, who had five RBIs in 103 at-bats before Saturday, then drove a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left for his second homer.

Logan Morrison hit a solo homer in the ninth for the Rays, his 16th.

TRAINER’S ROOM:

3B Evan Longoria, who left Friday’s game with neck stiffness, was back in the lineup, batting third. Longoria had three singles Saturday before coming out after the sixth inning. … Norris limped off after flying out to center field in the eighth and was replaced behind the plate by Jesus Sucre.

UP NEXT:

Rays: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3-0, 3.66) starts the finale of the three-game series Sunday at Safeco Field against the Mariners. Ramirez, making his fifth start, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his last start, allowing four runs on six hits after pitching an inning in relief the previous day.

Mariners: LHP Ariel Miranda (5-2, 4.17), originally slated to start the season at Triple-A, has provided much-needed reliability to the injury-ravaged rotation. He has allowed only six earned runs in 22 innings in his last four starts.

At 75, Dale Chihuly discusses struggles with mental health

The private studio of glass artist Dale Chihuly reflects his long obsession with collecting. Sheets of stamps cover one table; pocket knives are marshaled on another. Carnival-prize figurines from the first half of the 20th-century line shelves that reach the ceiling.

Amid the ordered clutter, some items hint at more than Chihuly’s eclectic tastes: a long row of Ernest Hemingway titles in one bookcase, and in another an entire wall devoted to Vincent van Gogh – homages to creative geniuses racked by depression.

Chihuly, too, has struggled with his mental health, by turns fragile and luminous like the art he makes. Now 75 and still in the thrall of a decades-long career, he discussed his bipolar disorder in detail for the first time publicly in an interview with The Associated Press.

He and his wife, Leslie Chihuly, said they don’t want to omit from his legacy a large part of who he is, but they were also motivated to speak in part by a $21 million demand letter they had received from a former contractor who claimed to have contributed to Chihuly’s art.

“It’s a pretty remarkable moment to be able to have this conversation,” Leslie Chihuly said. “We really want to open our lives a little bit and share something more personal. … Dale’s a great example of somebody who can have a successful marriage and a successful family life and successful career – and suffer from a really debilitating, chronic disease. That might be helpful for other people.”

Chihuly, who began working with glass in the 1960s, is a pioneer of the glass art movement. Known for styles that include vibrant seashell-like shapes, baskets, chandeliers and ambitious installations in botanical gardens and museums, he has said that pushing the material to new forms, creating objects never before seen, fascinates him.

Even in the past year, he has found a new way of working with glass – painting with glass enamel on glass panes, stacking the panes together and back-lighting them to give them a visual depth. He calls it “Glass on Glass,” and it’s featured for the first time in the new Chihuly Sanctuary at the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska, and at an indoor-outdoor exhibit opening June 3 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

But the flip side of that creativity has sometimes been dark. He began suffering from depression in his 20s, he said, and those spells began to alternate with manic periods beginning in his late 40s.

“I’m usually either up or down,” Chihuly said. “I don’t have neutral very much. When I’m up I’m usually working on several projects. A lot of times it’s about a six-month period. When I’m down, I kind of go in hibernation.”

He still works but doesn’t feel as good about it. His wife noted that if he only went into the studio when he was up, he “wouldn’t have had a career.”

Asked what his down periods are like, Chihuly took a long pause. “Just pretty tough,” he said. “I’m lucky that I like movies. If I don’t feel good, I’ll put on a movie.”

Leslie Chihuly, who runs his studio, is more loquacious about the difficulties his condition has posed in their 25-year relationship.

They’ve tried to manage it as a family with various types of counseling, medication and a 1-to-10 scale system that allows him to communicate how he’s feeling when he doesn’t want to talk about it, she said.

Chihuly gave up drinking 15 years ago, and it’s been more than a decade since he was “life-threateningly depressed,” she said, though he’s never been suicidal.

“Dale has an impeccable memory about certain things, but there have been certain periods of time when he’s been hypomanic, as we call it, or depressed, and I’ll be the keeper for our family and our business around those difficult times,” she said.

She met him in 1992 after a mutual friend set them up. He was in a near-manic period, talking about an idea for bringing glassblowers from around the world to Venice, Italy, to display their art in the city’s canals. He had no plan and no funding, but she was eager to help him realize his vision – one that would eventually be depicted in the public television documentary “Chihuly Over Venice.”

Six months later, they traveled to an exhibit opening at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

“It was like the lights went out,” she said, choking back a sob. “All of a sudden the guy who was interested in everything … that guy wasn’t there.”

Dale Chihuly remained quiet as his wife described that moment. A tear fell from beneath the recognizable eyepatch he has worn since he lost sight in his left eye in a 1976 car crash.

Though the mood swings were new to Leslie Chihuly at the time, they were familiar to the other artists Chihuly worked with. Joey Kirkpatrick met him in 1979, when she attended Pilchuck Glass School, which Chihuly founded in the woods north of Seattle in 1971. It was a small summer workshop; the students constructed their own shelter. She and her partner, Flora Mace, spent many hours watching movies with him during his down periods.

“What amazed me about it is his persistence at picking the thing, his creative life, that would pull him along or keep him going through those times,” she said. “When he was up, he could call you up at Pilchuck on a Sunday night and say, ‘Meet me at the airport at 10 tomorrow, we’ve got a flight to Pittsburgh to go to some demonstration.’ It was always exciting. When he was down, there wasn’t that. It was quieter.”

Chihuly said the message he’d have for others struggling with the condition would be to “see a good shrink” and to “try to live with it, to know that when they’re really depressed, it’s going to change, before too long. And to take advantage when they do feel up to get as much done as they can.”

Early this year, the Chihulys said, they received a demand letter from a man they had hired to do light construction work on several properties. The man, Michael Moi, was threatening to file a lawsuit disclosing sensitive information about Dale Chihuly’s mental condition unless they paid him $21 million, they said.

They denied that Moi had ever done any artistic work for Chihuly, and on Friday, though Moi never actually filed a lawsuit, the Chihulys filed a counterclaim against him, seeking to have a federal court declare that Moi had no part in the creation of any Chihuly art.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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