Associated Press - 7/374 - SaintPetersBlog

Associated Press

Jeffrey Loria has preliminary agreement to sell Marlins

The Miami Marlins are for sale, and owner Jeffrey Loria may have a buyer.

Loria has a preliminary agreement to sell the team to a New York businessman, but the deal could fall through because the final purchase price hasn’t been determined, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Marlins have not commented publicly on the negotiations.

The preliminary agreement was for a purchase price of about $1.6 billion, the person said, but added that was before the prospective buyer did due diligence. The final offer by the potential buyer could be much lower, the person said.

The person declined to identify the prospective buyer but said other parties are also interested in purchasing the team, and negotiations with them might eventually be reopened.

Forbes reported earlier Thursday, citing two unidentified sources, that Marlins President David Samson has said that there is a $1.6 billion handshake agreement for a sale.

Samson declined to comment to the AP and has been unwilling to say publicly whether the team is for sale.

Loria, 76, bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry, part of the Boston Red Sox ownership group that has celebrated three World Series titles. The Marlins won the World Series in 2003 but haven’t been the postseason since, and they haven’t finished above .500 since 2009.

They’ve also finished last in the National League in attendance in 11 of the past 12 years despite moving into a new ballpark in 2012. The small crowds have been blamed in part on antipathy for Loria stemming from the team’s perennially small payrolls and a financing agreement for the new ballpark widely viewed as unfair to taxpayers. Public money covered more than three-fourths of the project’s $634 million cost.

Loria, a New York art dealer, has kept a low profile in Miami the past couple of seasons. But he approved increasing team payroll by one-third this season to about $100 million, which raised speculation he wanted a competitive team to make it more appealing to potential buyers.

The death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boat crash in September might be a factor in Loria’s willingness to sell.

“Jeffrey was obviously impacted emotionally by the loss of Jose very significantly, like losing a child,” Samson said last week. “But he continues to be motivated and interested and engaged.”

Before purchasing the Marlins, Loria owned the Montreal Expos and became unpopular with their fans as well. He bought 24 percent of the team in 1999, and his share eventually rose to 92 percent. He failed to reverse the decline of the franchise, and it moved to Washington in 2005.

The Marlins’ next owner will be their fourth. Wayne Huizenga founded the franchise in 1993.

Miami will host the All-Star Game for the first time in July. When Samson was asked last week if he anticipates that Loria will still own the team when this season ends, he said yes.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump nominee decried criticism of judges, senators agree

President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that comments by his Supreme Court nominee criticizing his own attacks on the judiciary were “misrepresented,” even as Republican and Democratic lawmakers vouched for the veracity of the remarks.

Trump responded after private rebukes from Judge Neil Gorsuch, who said in meetings with lawmakers on Wednesday that the president’s comments about federal judges were “disheartening.”

Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump last week to the nation’s highest court, made the comments in meetings with senators after Trump accused an appeals court panel considering his immigration and refugee executive order of being “so political.” Over the weekend, he labeled a judge who ruled on his executive order a “so-called judge” and referred to the ruling as “ridiculous.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut first relayed Gorsuch’s remarks on Wednesday following a meeting with him. Trump’s own confirmation team for Gorsuch later confirmed he had made the remarks.

But Trump said during a Thursday luncheon with senators that Blumenthal had misrepresented Gorsuch. “His comments were misrepresented. And what you should do is ask Senator Blumenthal about his Vietnam record that didn’t exist after years of saying it did,” he said.

Blumenthal, who served in the Marine Corps Reserves during Vietnam, apologized in 2010 for saying he had served in Vietnam.

The president made the comments while making the case for Gorsuch during a luncheon with 10 senators, including six of Blumenthal’s fellow Democrats.

Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, argued Thursday that Gorsuch would need to go further to publicly denounce Trump’s verbal assault on judicial independence.

“He needs to condemn Donald Trump’s attacks publicly and it needs to be much stronger, more explicit and direct than has been done so far,” Blumenthal said. “Unless it is done publicly in a clear condemnation, it will not establish his independence.”

Lawmakers from both parties quickly vouched for the veracity of the remarks the senator said Gorsuch made. GOP former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping with Gorsuch’s confirmation and was at the meeting, issued a statement saying Gorsuch made clear he was not referring to any specific case. But she said the nominee said he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence to be “disheartening and demoralizing.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., each confirmed that Gorsuch made the same comments to them.

Sasse told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” ”Frankly, he got pretty passionate about it.” He added that Gorsuch said any attack on the “‘brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges’.”

Fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy came to Blumenthal’s defense Thursday, lashing out in a tweet directed at Trump: “Ha! As a prosecutor, Dick used to put guys like u in jail. Now, u use your position to mock vets, he uses his to make their lives better.”

Gorsuch’s comments came at the end of a week of meetings with members of the Senate, which is considering his nomination. His response may have been aimed at drawing a line of separation with the new president.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the appeal of Trump’s executive order on immigration, which included a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a hearing Tuesday, judges on the appeals court challenged the administration’s claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but they also questioned an attorney’s argument that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

Trump told visiting police chiefs Wednesday that a portion of the immigration law gives him the power to enact the ban, calling it “beautifully written” and saying, “A bad high school student would understand this.”

“Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right,” Trump added. “And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important.”

Since a lower-court judge blocked the order last week, Trump has assailed the decision, leading legal experts, Democrats and some Republicans to question whether his remarks might jeopardize the independence of the judiciary. Others have expressed fears he may be attempting to use political influence to sway the courts.

The president has repeatedly said foreigners are “pouring in” since the ban was put on hold and suggested that blocking the order would be dangerous for U.S. citizens.

On Wednesday he tweeted, “Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!”

The administration has not provided any information to support his claims.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Term limits for top Florida judges clears first hurdle

A push by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to limit how long top judges can remain on the bench is moving in the Florida House.

A divided House panel on Thursday approved a measure (HJR 1) that would ask the state’s voters to approve a 12-year term limit for all Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. If passed by the Florida Legislature it would go before voters in 2018.

Justices and appeals court judges currently must go before voters every six years for a merit retention vote. Supporters of the term limits proposal note that no judge has ever lost a merit retention vote.

But opponents say the amendment would undercut the independence of the judicial branch and argued it would lead to fewer people seeking to become judges.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Publix slicing out free deli meat to customers

Deli customers at Publix may be asking, “Where’s the meat?”

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Lakeland-based grocery chain has ended a long-standing practice of giving customers complimentary slices of deli meat when they place orders at the deli counter at some stores. Publix deli workers would often give the customer the initial slice to examine the thinness or thickness of the meat.

But Publix began to shift away from that practice at some of its stores about two weeks ago. Now customers have to request the test slice.

Publix media relations manager Brian West says the company has made the change at a few dozen stores in central and southwest Florida. Publix has more than 1,000 stores in the Southeastern United States.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Wallendas among 5 tightrope walkers injured in fall

Five circus performers were seriously injured in a fall Wednesday when a pyramid stunt involving famed tightrope walker Nik Wallenda went awry.

The accident also involved several of his family members, but Nik Wallenda wasn’t among the injured, authorities said.

“He caught himself,” said county spokeswoman Ashley Lusby.

Eight performers were on the tightrope, practicing a pyramid stunt ahead of Friday’s opening of Circus Sarasota, when they lost their balance and most of them fell. Local media reports said Nik Wallenda was the anchor for the pyramid.

Sarasota Fire-Rescue Spokesman Drew Winchester said the group fell 30 or more feet, and four of the injured suffered trauma. Three were brought to one hospital and the other two, to other hospitals.

All three brought to Sarasota Memorial Hospital are expected to survive, said Dr. Alan Brockhurst, the trauma medical director.

“One of them currently is in operating room, two in the ICU,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

One is in guarded condition.

Pedro Reis, founder and CEO of the Sarasota Circus Arts Conservatory which puts on the show, said during a news conference that nothing was wrong with the rigging but that some performers lost their balance. He said the circus will open as planned.

“The show must go on,” he said.

Authorities are investigating and said Wallenda may make a statement later Wednesday.

The Wallendas are considered the pre-eminent family of tightrope walkers. One family member, Rick Wallenda, is scheduled to perform a tight walking stunt Saturday at St. Petersburg’s Sundial luxury shopping center.

This is not the first tragedy strike the family. Patriarch Karl Wallenda died in a fall during a stunt in 1978 in Puerto Rico. Two other family members also died decades ago while performing.

Nik Wallenda said he trains like an athlete and calculates his risks for every stunt.

“I respect deeply what I do and realize there’s a lot of danger in it,” he told The Associated Press during a 2013 interview in Sarasota, his Florida hometown.

In 2013, Wallenda successfully crossed a tightrope stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. That walk was televised by the Discovery Channel. There was no safety net and Wallenda didn’t use a tether.

In 2012, Wallenda was the first person to cross a tightrope over the brink of Niagara Falls. Other daredevils have crossed the water farther downstream but no one had walked a wire over the river since 1896. He did use a safety tether for that walk.

The Wallendas trace their roots to 1780 in Austria-Hungary, when their ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers and a bit later, trapeze artists.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Stephen Colbert reaches a ratings milestone at start of Donald Trump era

He may cringe at the thought, but is Stephen Colbert the late-night man for the Trump administration?

Colbert’s “Late Show” won the late-night ratings competition last week over NBC’s Jimmy Fallon for the first time since Colbert replaced David Letterman in September 2015, the Nielsen company said.

The margin was so small — 2.77 million average for CBS, 2.76 million for NBC — that CBS didn’t want to jinx its good fortune by making an executive available to talk about it on Tuesday. But it reflects a turnaround for the troubled show since former “CBS This Morning” executive Chris Licht was put in charge backstage and steered the show toward more topical content to match the times.

The “Late Show” won two of the five nights on which Colbert and Fallon went head-to-head last week, but it was enough to win the week. One night was Tuesday, when Colbert’s former Comedy Central pal Jon Stewart came by to offer an impersonation of President Trump.

The other win was Monday, Colbert’s first night back from a week’s vacation and his first show, he noted, in the Trump era. His monologue that night recorded 4 million views on YouTube, CBS said.

“You’ve got to give the guy credit,” Colbert said of the new president. “He gets a lot of stuff undone.”

It may be Colbert’s first weekly win in over a year, but he’s been creeping closer in the ratings since the election. Fallon still wins among youthful demographics, Nielsen said.

Another late-night story may temper NBC’s disappointment. “Saturday Night Live” is booming, with its most-watched season in 22 years, and Melissa McCarthy‘s impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last weekend became an instant classic. Only three prime-time shows last week got better ratings among the 18-to-49-year-old age group than “Saturday Night Live.”

Meanwhile, President Trump lost a ratings competition to his predecessor. Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Super Bowl preview show was seen by 12.2 million people on Sunday, compared to the 14.9 million who watched CBS’ Gayle King interview former President Obama on last year’s show. In fairness to Trump, Fox aired the interview 25 minutes earlier in the pregame show than CBS, which showed it closer to kickoff.

The Super Bowl gave Fox the easy win in prime time. The network averaged 29.7 million viewers in prime time, followed by CBS with 6 million, ABC with 4 million, NBC with 3.7 million, Univision with 1.8 million, the CW with 1.6 million, Telemundo with 1.4 million and ION Television with 1.2 million.

Fox News Channel dominated the cable networks, averaging 3.15 million viewers in prime time. HGTV had 1.58 million, USA had 1.55 million, MSNBC had 1.42 million and TBS had 1.34 million.

NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.1 million viewers. ABC’s “World News Tonight” was second with 9 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.3 million viewers.

For the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Super Bowl: New England vs. Atlanta, Fox, 111.32 million viewers; “Super Bowl Post-Game,” Fox, 61.08 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 14.66 million; “Superior Donuts,” CBS, 10.54 million; “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 10.13 million; “Hawaii Five-O,” CBS, 9.81 million; “Mom,” CBS, 8.71 million; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 8.5 million; “The Big Bang Theory” (Monday, 8 p.m.), CBS, 8.44 million; “Criminal Minds,” CBS, 7.46 million.

___

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Disney’s wonderful world may be too good to last

Disney has been on a tear the past few years, thanks to popular channels like ESPN, its “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises, and improving results at its global parks.

Now comes the hard part.

CEO Robert Iger’s contract runs out next year, creating management uncertainty just as Disney needs to keep its lucrative television offerings relevant in a world increasingly dominated by streaming services.

The company faces “a time of transition” as consumers abandon expensive cable subscriptions, said Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne. That shift threatens Disney mainstays such as ABC and ESPN.

Here’s a look at Disney’s evolving realities.

LIVE TV NOT SO HEALTHY

ESPN has been one of Disney’s crown jewels, but with cable viewership on the decline, its ratings have been under pressure.

Disney revenue and profit both fell in the October-December quarter, hurt by a decline at ESPN and tough comparisons to a year ago, when it released “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Profit dropped 14 percent to $2.48 billion on revenue that declined 3 percent to $14.78 billion.

Cable network revenue fell 2 percent to $4.4 billion, hurt by lower ESPN revenue. Disney blamed the ESPN results on higher programming costs and lower advertising revenue, partially offset by affiliate revenue growth.

STREAMING AHEAD

So Disney has been working hard to adapt to the new realities of online TV watching.

Its channels — ABC, The Disney Channel, ESPN and others — are all part of less expensive “skinny” channel bundles on streaming services such as Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV now.

Disney also took a $1 billion stake in BAMTech , which provides streaming for Major League Baseball. Disney plans to use that technology for an ESPN streaming service, set to launch this year, which will offer live game streaming and programming not offered on regular ESPN.

Disney might also one day offer a standalone streaming version of ESPN, much the way HBO has with its $15-a-month-service HBO Now.

In a conference call with analysts, Iger said Disney won’t rush to offer the ESPN standalone service, in part because the company still makes a lot of money from cable and satellite fees. But he said ultimately it is Disney’s “powerful intent to go out there aggressively with digital offerings directed to consumers for ESPN” and other Disney offerings.

Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente suggests Disney first wants to see how Hulu’s live TV service, expected in the next few months, fares. Disney owns 30 percent of Hulu, and will benefit from any subscriber growth the live TV service sparks.

IGER’S FUTURE

Disney is also contending with the looming end of Iger’s contract, which expires in June 2018. Since taking the top role in 2005, Iger has acquired Star Wars owner LucasFilm, Pixar and Marvel and driven improvements in Disney’s consumer products and parks division, most recently with the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, which opened in 2016.

Speculation has been swirling whether Iger will extend his contract in June. There’s no obvious successor at Disney; one heir apparent, COO Tom Staggs, left last year.

Iger, 65, seemed amenable to extending his contract during a conference call with analysts. “If it’s in the best interest of the company for me to extend my term, I’m open to that,” he said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump still fixated on 2016 election results

The 2016 election is never far from President Donald Trump‘s mind.

When Trump met Tuesday with a group of sheriffs from around the country, he saw not just lawmen but battleground states.

Trump talked about his victories with officials from Pennsylvania and North Carolina. And when a sheriff from Minnesota introduced himself, Trump said if he had campaigned in the state one more time he would have won it.

More than two weeks into his presidency, the president is still fixated on the 2016 campaign.

Many of his public comments include references to his election performance. At times, the comments appear to be light and boastful while in other moments, he’s awkwardly interjected election talk into forums that are decidedly apolitical.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Post White House, Joe Biden collaborating with 2 universities

Now that he’s left the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden will split his time between programs at the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania.

Officials announced Tuesday that Biden will establish a new domestic policy institute at the University of Delaware and will head a foreign policy institute for the University of Pennsylvania. The foreign policy center will be located in Washington, D.C., but Biden also will have an office on the Penn campus in Philadelphia.

Biden will be founding chair of UD’s Biden Institute, a research and policy center focused on issues including the economy, the environment, civil rights and criminal justice. It will be part of the university’s School of Public Policy and Administration.

He has been named Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will lead the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Twitter takes more steps to clamp down abuse and hate

Twitter is broadening its campaign to clamp down on hate speech and abuse.

The company said Tuesday that it has begun identifying people who have been banned for abusive behavior and will stop them from creating new accounts. It is also creating a ‘safe search’ feature that removes tweets with potentially sensitive content and tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. The tweets will still exist on Twitter if people look for them, but won’t appear in general search results.

Twitter is also singling out and collapsing potentially abusive and “low-quality” replies so only the most relevant conversations surface. These replies will also be accessible to those who seek them out, but Twitter is making them less visible.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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