BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards officially called Friday for lawmakers to convene Feb. 14 in a special legislative session aimed at stabilizing Louisiana’s finances and closing an immediate budget gap estimated to top $700 million.
The Home Instead Senior Care office serving Tangipahoa and Livingston Parishes has relocated from 902 CM Fagan Drive, Suite H to 307 W. Minnesota Park, Suite 2 in Hammond. Phone numbers remain the same.
Mayor Michael Ragusa is predicting better economic times soon in Independence while his opponent in the March 5 election, Angelo Mannino, wants to see more emphasis on bringing better paying jobs to town.
Revisiting the amount of funding given to athletics comes up periodically when Southeastern Louisiana University faces funding cuts, but President John Crain said athletics’ benefits outweigh the cost.
The top teams in District 9-2A hit the road Friday night for a matchup with district foe St. Helena. The St. Thomas Aquinas boys and girls came into the matchup undefeated in league play and it was clear from the outset neither had inclinations of seeing their perfect run come to an end.
The top teams in District 9-2A hit the road Friday night for a matchup with district foe St. Helena. The St. Thomas Aquinas boys and girls came into the matchup undefeated in league play and it was clear from the outset neither had inclinations of seeing their perfect run come to an end.
Emotions filled the St. Thomas Aquinas library as dreams came true for two young men on National Signing Day. Edwin Alexander signed his letter of intent with LSU and Cameron Dantzler signed with Mississippi State.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Call it the Odell Beckham Jr. Rule.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is pushing to require the ejection of any player who is flagged for two personal fouls in a game.
"We should take that out of the hands of the officials when it gets to that point. They will obviously have to throw the flag, but when they do, we will look to see if we can reach an agreement on the conditions for which (a player would) be ejected," Goodell said Friday at his annual state-of-the-league news conference ahead of the Super Bowl.
"I believe that's consistent with what we believe are the safety issues," he said, "but I also believe it's consistent with what we believe are the standards of sportsmanship."
In December, Beckham, a receiver for the New York Giants, was allowed to stay in a game despite drawing three personal-foul penalties for unnecessary roughness, including one for a diving helmet-to-helmet hit on cornerback Josh Norman, whose Carolina Panthers will play in Sunday's Super Bowl. The two players engaged in all sorts of pro wrestling-style shenanigans throughout the game, and Beckham eventually was suspended for New York's next game.
"I thought both of them should have been ejected back then," Giants owner John Mara said, "but maybe if we had this rule, it would make it a little bit more clearer."
Goodell said he had already recommended to the league's competition committee that it consider the rule change.
Mara, a member of that committee, said Friday's discussion of the proposal was the first he'd heard of it, but that he is "inclined to go in that direction" to "maybe take it out of the officials' discretion."
He noted that there would need to be careful consideration of which personal fouls would be counted toward an ejection; an incidental facemask penalty, for example, should not, in Mara's view.
Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt likened it to a soccer player being sent off after getting two yellow cards in a game.
"You don't want to see somebody get carried away, where something bad happens on the football field, where now all of a sudden you are going from one thing to another and it leads to a bad set of circumstances and somebody gets hurt," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday. "I can see that being part of our discussions."
Among other topics addressed by Goodell during his 45-minute session:
— Days after researchers said late quarterback Kenny Stabler's brain showed signs of a degenerative brain disease found in dozens of other deceased NFL players, Goodell said: "The concussion issue is something we've been focused on for several decades ... and we have made great progress."
— He would not say whether an NFL court victory on next month's appeal in the case involving Tom Brady's role in "Deflategate" would result in a reinstatement of the New England Patriots quarterback's four-game suspension. "I am not going to speculate on what we're going to do," Goodell said.
— He said there was a 40 percent reduction in players arrests during the 2015 calendar year.
— He said he would prefer that the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers stay put, rather than moving to new cities, and pledged "to try to get the right kind of facilities long-term in both of those markets."
— The league, which will have three games in London next season, is "considering playing more games in the U.K." and a franchise there could be "a realistic possibility" if the sport's popularity continues to grow in that country.
— Nov. 21, a Monday night, will be the date for Raiders-Texans, the NFL's first regular-season game in Mexico since 2005.
— The league does not plan to change its policy of testing players for marijuana, which has been legalized in some states.
— He said he "was disappointed in what I saw" in last Sunday's Pro Bowl and said changes could be on the way.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter is now using spam-fighting technology to seek out accounts that might be promoting terrorist activity and is examining other accounts related to those flagged for possible removal, the company announced Friday.
The announcement demonstrated efforts by Twitter to automatically identify tweets supporting terrorism, reflecting increased pressure placed by the U.S. government for social media companies to respond to abuse more proactively. Child pornography has previously been the only abuse that was automatically flagged for human review on social media, using a different kind of technology that sources a database of known images.
Twitter also said Friday it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, mainly related to Islamic State militants, in the last eight months. Social media has increasingly become a tool for recruitment and radicalization that's used by the Islamic State group and its supporters, who by some reports have sent tens of thousands of tweets per day.
The White House on Friday said Twitter's announcement was "very much welcome."
"The administration is committed to taking every action possible to confront and interdict terrorist activities wherever they may occur, including in cyberspace, and we welcome constructive steps from our private sector partners," the White House said.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called it "a very positive development."
In January, the White House made good on President Barack Obama's promise to reach out to Silicon Valley to tackle the use of social media by violent extremist groups. Those particularly include the Islamic State group, which inspired attackers who killed 14 in San Bernardino, California, last December.
A post on one of the killers' Facebook pages that appeared around the time of the attack included a pledge of allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group.
Facebook found the post — which was under an alias — the day after the attack. The company removed the profile from public view and informed law enforcement. But such a proactive effort is fairly uncommon.
The Obama administration sent several top officials to San Jose, California, including FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.
Among issues discussed was how to use technology to help speed the identification of "terrorist content," according to a copy of the White House briefing memo obtained by The Associated Press.
"We recognize that identifying terrorist content that violates terms of service is far more difficult than identifying images of child pornography, but is there a way to use technology to quickly identify terrorist content? For example, are there technologies used for the prevention of spam that could be useful?" the memo stated.
Since late 2015, Twitter began using "proprietary spam-fighting tools" to find accounts that might be violating their terms of service by promoting terrorism, sending them to be reviewed by a team at Twitter. That group also now looks into other accounts similar to those reported to them by other users.
Twitter said it has already had seen results, "including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter."
But it also noted that there is no "magic algorithm" for identifying terrorist content, which is why even humans reviewing the material are ultimately making judgment calls "based on very limited information and guidance." Free speech and local law in an area can also complicate matters.
"Like most people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups. We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism," Twitter said in a statement released Friday. It said it would continue to "engage with authorities and other relevant organizations to find solutions to this critical issue and promote powerful counter-speech narratives."
NEW YORK (AP) — Talking animals, celebrity cameos and crowd-pleasing rock songs: This year's Super Bowl advertisers are sticking to the classics in their efforts to win over Big Game viewers on Sunday.
Skittles will showcase Steven Tyler's high range on "Dream On," Budweiser is enlisting Helen Mirren to chide drunk drivers, and Audi will have an astronaut drive its luxury R8 sports car to the tune of David Bowie's "Starman," to note just a few of the ads that have garnered pre-game buzz. (Many advertisers release their spots online ahead of the game.)
The Super Bowl is advertising's biggest stage, and each year brands battle to stand out among the 40-plus commercials that air during the game. The goal is to rivet the expected 114 million people expected to tune into the game, in which the Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers. Marketers also hope to dominate online chatter during the game and real-life talk in the office on Monday.
But there's a fine line between standing out and risking offense, and this year, the Super Bowl advertisers are going for the safety. Movie and rock stars, anthemic songs and cute animals are in. Sitting it out on the sidelines? Raciness, "bro" humor and anything remotely edgy.
"The days of bros and boobs are over," said Kelly O'Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Here's a look at the biggest trends emerging from the Super Bowl ads released ahead of the game.
This year, with ads costing up to a record $5 million, dozens of advertisers have enlisted celebrities to get their brand message across. A trade group for Mexican avocados signed up Scott Baio to appear in a fictional alien history exhibit about humans in the 1980s. Snickers brings us Willem Defoe as a hungry Marilyn Monroe. Six celebrities such as Harvey Keitel and Serena Williams appear to praise the BMW Mini Clubman as a "chick car" and urge people to "defy labels." Christopher Walken compares the Kia Optima sedan to wearing colorful socks.
Anheuser-Busch, traditionally the biggest advertiser on the Super Bowl, has tapped Helen Mirren to stringently call out drunk drivers for being "pillocks" (British slang for idiots). Colgate-Palmolive is running a spot urging people to save water by turning off the tap when they brush their teeth. The NFL is back with a domestic abuse message for the second year with a somber ad that shows how texting can convey signs of domestic abuse.
Even Axe, known for its racy ads aimed at teenage boys, is going for a mature message that urges millennials to focus on what makes them unique rather than traditional status symbols. The tagline is "Find Your Magic."
Bud Light spoofs the presidential election furor with Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan drumming up enthusiasm for the make-believe "Bud Light Party." Jeff Goldblum plays piano and sings "Movin' on Up" while suspended in midair for Apartments.com. Kevin Hart stalks his daughter's date in a Hyundai spot.
And Mountain Dew takes weirdness to a new level with a "Puppymonkeybaby" — pretty much exactly what it sounds like — mascot in an ad for its Kickstart drink.
Acura introduces its luxury NSX sports car to the tune of Van Halen's "Runnin' with the Devil." Sheep sing Queen's "Somebody to Love" in an ad for Honda's Ridgeline truck. Steven Tyler sings "Dream On" with a portrait of himself ... made of Skittles. And Heinz' ad features adorable wiener dogs running in a field toward people dressed as Heinz ketchup bottles to Harry Nilsson's "Without You."
Taco Bell will be announcing a top-secret new food item. And watch for surprise ads from Amazon, Coca-Cola, and Chrysler during the big game.
NEW YORK (AP) — While waiting for Donald Trump to take the stage this week at a campaign rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, fans listened to a few hit songs by Adele, "Skyfall" and "Rolling in the Deep."
That has apparently hit all the wrong notes with the British superstar: She has said she'd like Trump to quit playing her songs at political rallies.
"Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning," said Benny Tarantini, an Adele spokesman.
But mega-best-selling Adele may not be able to stop The Donald here.
Legally, the Republican presidential candidate has paid for the right to blast pretty much any music he wishes, as long as he does it correctly.
"Mr. Trump's campaign paid for and obtained the legal right to use these recordings," said Hope Hicks, a Trump spokeswoman.
Copyright experts say campaigns don't need an artist's permission to play their songs at rallies as long as the political organization or the venue has gotten what's known as a blanket license from the performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI.
The license isn't for a single artist but for all the music in the licensing group's repertoire, which is staggering. ASCAP represents over 10 million musical works from over 525,000 songwriters and composers. BMI represents 10.5 million musical works created by more than 700,000 songwriters. The license is for the right to perform the song publicly.
"When the campaign bus pulls into a town square in Iowa and starts blaring music, most times they've learned to get a license for that so they're not violating a copyright," said Lawrence Y. Iser, a partner and expert in copyright law at the Santa Monica, California-based firm Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump & Aldisert.
The campaign then must pay a small fee to the performing rights organizations. BMI, for example, charges 6 cents for every campaign rally attendee at an event where the music is played. A portion of the 6 cents goes to the artist.
But the use of the music can't escalate much past the rally without more permissions. A political campaign, even with a blanket license, couldn't use Adele's music in a campaign commercial for TV or YouTube without permission and a separate license.
A long list of musicians, including Jackson Browne, Don Henley and David Byrne, have sued political campaigns for using copyrighted songs without permission in commercials or videos — but not for playing their music at rallies. Even so, artists have some recourse when it comes to blanket permission.
"We built into the license agreement a provision which allows a BMI songwriter or publisher to object to the use of their songs and, if so, we have the ability to exclude it from the license," said Mike Steinberg, senior vice president for licensing at BMI.
That's how Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler last year got Trump to stop using the power ballad "Dream On" at campaign events. He sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Republican presidential candidate and BMI told the campaign that it would yank the tune. (Trump tweeted that he wouldn't be playing the Aerosmith song anymore since he found a "better one to take its place.")
Iser, who has represented Jackson Browne and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne when their songs were used in campaign ads, has been called in again this political cycle to represent songwriter Sean Altman in a dispute with the Rand Paul campaign over the use of Altman's "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" in a campaign ad.
Iser said the issue for artists isn't about politics or how artists personally feel about candidates but about constitutional rights. "The Founding Fathers decided they get protection," he said.
Iser also said there is a bigger legal argument to be made that campaigns that use songs also tap into the artists' persona, voice and personality. "It becomes an endorsement," he said. But so far, that argument is a gray area in the law. "Nobody has gone after a campaign for using a song at a live rally."
Iser said one long-term solution to the fight over music played every election cycle would be to have ASCAP or BMI offer artists the chance to let them avoid having their music used at rallies entirely.
"It seems to me that there should be an opt-out ability where an artist — coming into an election cycle — who does not want BMI to license her music for any political campaign, should have that right," he said.
Steinberg of BMI said that idea might be feasible down the road.
"It's possible that may happen in the future. I think up until this point it's been more reactive in terms of an after-the-fact questioning of the usage," he said. "Perhaps it's something that we might evaluate in the future as a way to avoid circumstances like this."
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Organizations representing Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native Americans, who joined with the NAACP in 2000 to increase minority hiring in the TV industry, are broadening their focus to the big screen.
The Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition called Thursday on Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, Paramount and Disney to enter discussions aimed at bringing full diversity to on- and off-camera jobs, including the executive ranks.
The uproar over this year's all-white cast of Academy Award acting nominees helped set the stage for the new effort, coalition leaders said. Latino representation in the nominees was only behind the camera, led by the Mexican filmmakers of "The Revenant": director Alejandro Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
"Now is the time, while there's a lot of attention focused on this," said Daniel Mayeda, co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, one of the umbrella group's members.
While the movie academy hastily adopted new rules aimed at breaking up future white monopolies for the Oscars, the studios and their hiring practices are the root of the problem, he said.
"We can have the most diverse set of awards voters, but we're not going to have any nominations or wins for people of color if there are no roles," Mayeda said.
Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, agreed.
The Oscars and other awards "are the last in the line of this whole thing called show business. The real culprits are at the very top, with the film studios first and foremost," Nogales said.
The battle isn't the same for every ethnic group.
While all minorities struggle to gain a foothold in films, it's non-blacks who face the stiffest challenge. Last Saturday's Screen Actors Guild Awards offered a dramatic illustration: There were a number of minority winners, including Idris Elba, Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah and Viola Davis, all of them black.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV," Elba, who won two trophies, said onstage.
Mayeda called their recognition "fantastic," but said the diversity discussion has become "a little binary, a little black and white."
Don Cheadle made a similar point during a recent interview with The Associated Press.
"Diverse doesn't just mean more black people," he said during the Sundance Film Festival last month. "Diverse means more representation from the entire diaspora of what the United States has to offer, not just one particular minority group."
Nogales also lauded the winners. But he chides those who claim such instances represent progress for minorities in general, rather than one group in particular.
"When I hear 'people of color' it angers me, because when I look at who they're talking about, it's African-Americans," he said. "C'mon, guys, let's be real here. African-Americans are doing much better than any other minority in front of and in back of the camera."
Neither he nor Mayeda cast the demand for more inclusiveness as a zero-sum game that risks pitting one minority group against another. Instead, they said, the pressure is on the industry to expand opportunities for all.
The NAACP has committed its support to the new initiative but was unable to take part in its announcement because of other commitments, the coalition said. The black civil rights group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There's much work to do, Mayeda said, given how stubbornly the industry clings to tired practices. He cited minority characters that were either played by white actors — Emma Stone as an Asian-American in "Aloha," Ben Affleck as a Hispanic in "Argo" — or ethnic roles that were rewritten to accommodate white actors.
Studios ultimately must change as America does or lose out, Mayeda said.
The country's demographic shift to a non-white majority is predicted within three decades.
"This is not affirmative action. We're talking about how you make more money. More people would buy tickets if you featured people who look like us or reflect modern society," he said.
Coalition leaders said they are heartened by TV's increased diversity, from shows that feature minority casts ("black-ish," ''Jane the Virgin," ''Fresh Off the Boat") to more non-white writers and directors. But there is inequality: Three of the four major networks have a higher percentage of blacks in prime-time shows than exist in the general population, while all other minorities are underrepresented to varying degrees, The Associated Press reported last year.
The coalition is calling on studios to do with films what the group has pressed them to do for TV, including tracking minority employment and implementing or expanding "pipeline" programs to develop minority writers, directors and others.
BOSTON (AP) — Casinos worried that millennials aren't getting into traditional gambling like their parents and grandparents are bringing in tattoo studios, mixed martial arts competitions and other offbeat attractions to attract a younger clientele.
In New England, where a regional casino war is afoot, Connecticut's Foxwoods is remaking one of its gambling floors — now christened "The Fox" — as a hip, fun scene in the sprawling 30-year-old casino complex.
The casino floor bar was redone in January to include a stage where a mostly female ensemble covers pop songs. Just off the gambling floor, a swank new tattoo studio-slash-fashion retailer opened in the fall, not far from where Shrine, the casino's popular nightclub, is increasingly booking top electronic dance acts like DeadMau5 and Tiesto.
"It's kind of like the party place," says CEO Felix Rappaport. "It's really energized the casino floor."
In Rhode Island, the more modest-sized Twin River Casino removed 274 slot machines to make way for more poker and other table games favored by younger gamblers this past December. It's also been hosting mixed martial arts competitions at its event center, a nod to its popularity among younger fight fans.
Casinos are making the right move to draw in millennials if they're putting fewer slot machines on their floors in favor of table games, said Sunny Chopra, a 25-year-old from Falmouth, Massachusetts, as he considered betting at an electronic roulette wheel at Plainridge Park, a slots parlor and harness racing track in Plainville, Massachusetts.
"I've never played slot machines," Chopra said. "I'm not that old."
Casinos slow to pivot to millennials' preferences do so at their own risk, warned Steven Norton, a casino consultant based in Illinois.
Older members of the demographic are in their 30s, meaning they're entering their prime earning and spending years, he says. That's critical for an industry whose customers have historically been in their 40s and over.
"You want to develop good customers now so that we don't become the horse racing industry of the future, where all of our people have died off and we don't have any new blood coming in," Norton said.
It's too soon to determine whether any of these efforts will translate to sustained success with millennials, casino operators said.
But market research suggests new thinking is necessary, said Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, a $950 million resort casino expected to open in western Massachusetts in late 2018.
He pointed to a 2015 article by the Washington, D.C.-based Marketing Research Association suggesting current versions of slot machines are "widely viewed" by millennials as "antisocial, non-intuitive and generally boring."
To address the slot machine apathy, casinos in past years updated machines with more pop culture references, like Star Wars themed gambling machines. They also introduced electronic version of popular table games.
The newest trend? Electronic table games that feature live dealers.
Casinos are betting the blend of live table game action, easy slot machine-style play and lower minimum bets will appeal to younger and novice gamblers, says Carrie Nork Minelli, spokeswoman at Parx Casino outside Philadelphia, which unveiled a Shaquille O'Neal-themed electronic blackjack game where players are arranged "stadium-style" around a live dealer in late 2015.
Casinos are also increasingly launching "social casinos" — websites where players can play free, online versions of their slot machine and table game offerings for virtual credits that can't be converted to cash or redeemed.
The hope is that free online play generates paying customers at brick-and-mortar gambling halls, says Mario Maesano, senior vice president of marketing at Maryland Live, which launched a social casino just before Christmas.
At Connecticut's Mohegan Sun, where millennial-friendly nightlife and entertainment options like Vegas-style pool parties and rooftop concerts emerged almost four years ago, general manager Ray Pineault cautions the need to address the younger generation has to be balanced.
"You can't over emphasize millennials to the detriment of your other customers," he said. "They're still young and have less disposable income than their more established parents."
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A modern-day glassblower believes he has unraveled the mysteries of Renaissance-era Venetian glassmaking, a trade whose secrets were so closely guarded that anyone who divulged them faced the prospect of death.
Today's glassblowers work with methane-fired furnaces, electric-powered kilns, good lighting and proper ventilation. The craftsmen of Murano, an island near Venice, didn't have such technology, yet they still turned out museum-worthy pieces known for their artistry and beauty, using techniques that remained exclusive for centuries.
Through years of researching Venetian glass collections at American and European museums and comparing the artifacts with more contemporary glasswork from Venice, plus his own experimentation and many trips to Italy, William Gudenrath has created an online resource he believes explains Venetian glassmakers' methods.
"The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking" — which contains videos, photographs and text — details how Gudenrath surmises glassworkers produced works of art with little more than wood-fired furnaces and metal blow pipes and tongs. The information was posted this week on the website of the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, where Gudenrath is a resident adviser and teacher of Venetian techniques.
The gilding and enameling the Murano glassmakers added to their glass products had to be fired at higher temperatures than the glass itself to make the decorations permanent. The Venetians couldn't simply turn a nob to regulate the temperature of their furnaces, Gudenrath said, yet they mastered the tricky art of glass decoration by continuously reheating and shaping the vessel after the decorations had been added, a process he demonstrates in several videos.
"It's just amazing to me that they did what they did in those conditions," he said.
Gudenrath's knowledge of Venetian glassmaking and his research into the process, something he has focused on for 25 years, are a "fantastic resource for artists," said Jutta-Annette Page, curator of glass and decorative arts at Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art.
Gudenrath, 65, became fascinated with Venetian glass while a teenager in Houston, where he started blowing glass at age 11. But finding written documents detailing how Murano glass was created proved difficult, a result of restrictions placed on the trade hundreds of years ago.
To prevent fires, the Venetian government ordered glass furnaces moved to Murano in the late 13th century. The move also was aimed to prevent secrets of the glassmaking guild from being smuggled to competitors. Anyone attempting to do so could be executed under Venetian laws created to maintain the city's monopoly on the European luxury glass trade.
"Industrial espionage and that sort of thing was taken very seriously," Gudenrath said.
Competition from other European nations eventually weakened Murano's hold, and Napoleon's closing of the factories after conquering Venice sent the industry into further decline. Venetian glass experienced a rebirth in the mid-19th century, but Gudenrath said much of the practical knowledge of the original, secretive methods had been lost.
Some of the old techniques have been reinvented and are being again used on Murano, still home to vibrant, albeit smaller, glassmaking operations and studios.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Jimmy Buffett musical will make its world premiere next year somewhere nice and warm — the La Jolla Playhouse in California.
Producers said Wednesday that the show, which combines Buffett's blend of rock and country tunes with an original story by writers Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley, will start grooving onstage on May 16, 2017.
Buffett has had hits with such beach-bum classics as "A Pirate Looks at Forty," ''Margaritaville," ''Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
The new musical is described "as the story of a part-time singer, part-time bartender, and fulltime good ol' boy named Tully who suddenly finds himself in uncharted territory — falling in love with a beautiful, career-minded tourist."
Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley, the director of the Tony-winner "Memphis," will direct the still-untitled show. The producers of the musical are Frank Marshall, Mindy Rich, Anita Waxman and Beth Williams.
Garcia is the creator of TV shows including "My Name Is Earl" and "Yes, Dear," which O'Malley also starred in.
Buffet and Marshall — the producer of such films as "Back to the Future" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — teamed up to create Parrothead Productions, which helped produce such Broadway shows as "Big Fish" and "Doctor Zhivago."
La Jolla Playhouse has been home to many big shows, including the musicals "Jersey Boys," ''Thoroughly Modern Millie," ''Cry-Baby," ''Bonnie & Clyde" and "Hands on a Hardbody."
NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast is trumpeting its best year for traditional TV services in nearly a decade, even though it continues to lose TV subscribers.
The number of traditional TV customers is still declining across the industry, and analysts say Comcast's TV gains are largely coming from competitors, like AT&T and Dish, rather than young new cable customers who have never paid for cable before.
Comcast says it is stemming its losses by luring customers with new TV-Internet packages, while keeping TV customers around for longer with the help of a fancier cable box. The company also says recent investments in customer service, long a blemish on its reputation, have helped.
Comcast said Wednesday that it added 89,000 TV customers in the last three months of 2015, which it said was its best quarter since the October-December period of 2006. For the full year, Comcast lost 36,000 TV customers, the smallest drop since its annual string of TV customer losses that began in 2007.
Other cable companies are improving, too, even as cable bills rise overall and people spend more time watching video online. Time Warner Cable posted a small gain of 32,000 TV customers for 2015, the first year it's added TV subscribers since 2006.
"Definitely what we're seeing is a share shift" to cable, largely from AT&T, said Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research Group, which tracks the industry. He said a large part of that is because AT&T is emphasizing its satellite provider DirecTV, which it bought in July, at the expense of its U-verse service.
And cable companies' resurgence isn't "a referendum on cord cutting," said Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research, referring to customers cutting or skipping traditional TV subscriptions in favor of online options. That continues to decline at nearly 1 percent a year. Instead, he sees the beginnings of a "long-term shift" of customers to cable companies from their satellite-TV and phone-company competitors.
Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne says cable companies are getting a boost from their relatively fast Internet offerings and from skinny bundles — cheaper packages with fewer TV channels.
Comcast's skinny bundles include Internet Plus — local TV stations, the Internet and HBO — and a service called Stream, which delivers channels over the Internet without needing a cable box.
On a call with analysts, Comcast said that 75 percent of its new TV customers were still "higher-end," bigger bundles. And the company defended the traditional bundle. Steve Burke, the head of NBCUniversal, said the big bundle is "going to continue to be a very good business for a very long time."
Comcast is also still rolling out its updated X1 cable box, which the company says has helped it hold on to customers longer. X1 users also tend to spend more on extra DVRs, meaning more money for Comcast. Comcast says 61 percent of its new video customers in the fourth quarter got X1, and that 30 percent of its customer base has it.
And like other cable companies, Comcast has seen its Internet-access business grow. It added 1.4 million Internet customers in 2015, including 460,000 in the October-December quarter.
That's largely due to a lack of choice for speedy Internet access at home. Two-thirds of the country's homes have just one option or none at all at the speed the Federal Communications Commission has deemed broadband: 25 megabits per second.
Comcast typically promotes Internet speeds ranging from 25 to 150 megabits per second. The company announced Tuesday that it will offer gigabit Internet service — or about 1,000 megabits — in five cities this year through a modem upgrade, although it didn't say what the price would be. Rolling a faster service out nationwide should help Comcast continue to grow Internet customers, says Nomura's Anthony DiClemente.
Looking to the future, Comcast also said it may buy up wireless airwaves in the government's upcoming auction, which could help it offer cellphone service. The company has said that it is "exploring" what kind of wireless service it could do. Any cell plan from Comcast is expected to rely on Wi-Fi, but last year the company also confirmed that it was activating an option it had to resell cell service from Verizon's network.
As for Comcast's NBCUniversal business, TV ad revenue fell 2 percent to $9.18 billion for the year. For the quarter, ad revenue was largely unchanged at $854 million at cable channels like Bravo, CNBC and USA and rose 7 percent to $1.78 billion for NBC and Telemundo. The movie business got a boost from DVD and on-demand sales of hit Universal movies such as "Jurassic World," released theatrically earlier in the year.
Company-wide profit rose more than 2 percent to $1.97 billion, or 79 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. Adjusted for one-time costs, per-share earnings came to 81 cents. Revenue rose 8.5 percent to $19.2 billion.
Its shares rose $2.09, or 3.8 percent, to $56.68 in afternoon trading Wednesday. Its shares are up about 2 percent over the past year.
DENVER (AP) — One of the nation's fastest-growing motorcycle clubs is composed largely of military, police officers and prison guards.
The Iron Order also embraces the regalia and traditions of outlaw biker gangs — a choice that has provoked deadly clashes with other groups.
The club insists it is a law-abiding, charitable brotherhood of family men who just like to ride. But experts say its members are increasingly becoming entangled in violence with other biker groups, blurring the line between professionals who are sworn to uphold the law and a biker culture with a long history of criminal activity.
The latest skirmish happened Saturday, when the Iron Order and the Mongols motorcycle club clashed in Denver in a brawl that left a Mongols member dead.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An antiquities dealer who inspired tens of thousands to search the Rocky Mountains for $2 million in hidden treasure now leads an increasingly desperate mission to find one of his fans.
Forrest Fenn has been flying out in chartered helicopters or planes, searching remote stretches of the upper Rio Grande for any sign of Randy Bilyeu, now missing in the wild for more than three frigid weeks. Fellow treasure hunters also are searching for Bilyeu, who was last seen on Jan. 5 while trying to solve Fenn's mystery.
"Every time we go out and don't find Randy it's discouraging but we're not going to give up," Fenn told The Associated Press. "There are still places out there that I want to look."
Fenn, an eccentric 85-year-old from Santa Fe, has inspired a cult following since his announcement several years ago that he stashed a small bronze chest containing nearly $2 million in gold, jewelry and artifacts somewhere in the Rockies. He dropped clues to its whereabouts in a cryptic poem in his self-published memoir, "The Thrill of the Chase."
The hidden treasure has inspired thousands to search in vain through remote corners of New Mexico, Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere in the mountains. Treasure hunters share their experiences on blogs and brainstorm about the clues. The mystery has been featured by national media, igniting even more interest.
Fenn gets about 120 emails a day from people looking for his 40-pound box, and believes 65,000 people have searched for the stash, some using family vacations to venture into the woods.
"The hope of finding the treasure is one thing, of course, but there's a sense of adventure when you get out in the mountains and in the sunshine and the fresh air," Fenn explained. "One of my motives was to get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine."
But the search can be risky: Some have forded swollen creeks in Yellowstone and were rescued by rangers. A Texas woman spent a worrisome night in the New Mexico woods after being caught in the dark. Others have been cited for digging on public land, and federal managers have warned treasure hunters not to damage archaeological or biological resources.
No "Fenner" has been in a more dangerous a predicament than Bilyeu, a 54-year-old grandfather who moved to Colorado two years ago to follow this dream.
Family and friends say he bought a raft and set out on Jan. 5 after scouting for two weeks along the river west of Santa Fe. He had a GPS device, a wetsuit and waders, and brought along his little white dog, Leo.
More than a week passed before a worried friend reached out to his ex-wife in Florida, Linda Bilyeu, who filed a missing person's report on Jan. 14. His raft and dog were found the next day.
Bilyeu left maps with markings in his car that fellow treasure hunters are using to narrow their search. He also left a sandwich, suggesting that he hadn't planned to be gone long.
The New Mexico Search and Rescue team and state police scanned canyons and mesas along the river by air and on foot, even bringing in dogs to sniff for clues, but suspended their efforts after several days.
"Unfortunately, we just don't have anything to go on right now," State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said. "If someone were to find clothing or footprints or just something that might be indicative of the hiker, then we would have an area to go to. But we just have not found that yet."
The treasure hunters — led by Fenn — have not given up.
"We know that Randy studied this area very well. He even noted that certain areas were dangerous when the weather was bad and he had done quite a bit of research," said Sacha Johnston, a treasure hunter helping to coordinate searches. "He wasn't just randomly kayaking down the Rio Grande one day. He knew where he was going. He had a plan."
Fenn never meant for his treasure hunt to be easy: His poem points searchers to somewhere beyond "where warm waters halt ... in the canyon down ... too far to walk ... below the home of Brown."
Getting out would be dicey as well, he wrote: "... from there it's no place for the meek/The end is ever drawing nigh/There'll be no paddle up your creek/Just heavy loads and water high."
This was all supposed to be fun, of course. Now the search for Bilyeu is taking an emotional and physical toll on Fenn, who spends his days organizing, hiring aircraft, and worrying.
His fans stand ready to admonish anyone who dares blame Fenn for Bilyeu's disappearance, saying they're all responsible adults.
Fenn, for his part, has issued plenty of warnings, along with more clues. Among them: He says there's no point to searching in winter, when snow would hide the treasure. He also said "the treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level," but it isn't buried, nor in a graveyard, "nor associated with any structure."
And he has no plans to reveal its location.
"There have been too many people looking," Fenn said. "It would not be fair to them if we shut the thing down."
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban suicide bombing against a bus carrying employees of Afghanistan's biggest media company last month has shocked local journalists, who fear they are now in the cross hairs of an increasingly lethal insurgency.
Journalism has always been a dangerous line of work in Afghanistan, and reporters have long had to contend with threats and occasional attacks by various armed groups. But after Tolo TV, the most popular Afghan broadcaster, falsely accused the Taliban of mass rape in a report carried late last year, the insurgents declared war.
"We saw in late 2015 a statement from the very highest levels of the Taliban staking out a very clear position that they are going to be deliberately targeting as 'military objectives' two of Afghanistan's largest TV networks," said Ahmad Shuja, a researcher with the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Calling it "a watershed moment," he said the Taliban now equate attacks on media with "any other military operations they've done and taken credit for — and the implications are chilling."
In the Jan. 20 attack, a suicide bomber struck a bus belonging to the Moby Group, Tolo's owner, killing seven people and wounding at least 25. The Taliban claimed responsibility, calling Tolo a tool of decadent Western influence and warning that other media outlets could be next.
The Taliban were angered by a Tolo report last year alleging that the insurgents had raped female university students during their brief occupation of the northern city of Kunduz. The station has acknowledged the allegations were false and said it clarified the report, but the Taliban have shown no sign of backing down.
"The Taliban came to the conclusion that media have become an obstacle against their war strategies, and they would have (attacked) it anyway," said Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee. "But the incident in the Kunduz report gave the Taliban an excuse on which to build and further to justify their attacks."
Afghanistan's intelligence service said it has arrested eight people in connection with the Tolo attack, all associated with the Haqqani network, a close Taliban ally based in neighboring Pakistan.
But many journalists have yet to return to work, fearing further attacks. An executive at 1TV, the other major media outlet that was threatened, said the intelligence service told him to move to a new home and buy a weapon. He also said a car bomb was recently defused outside the station's gate. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns.
The escalation in violence has cast a pall over the surprisingly vibrant media landscape that emerged after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.
Afghanistan has 75 television networks, 175 radio stations and hundreds of newspapers, magazines and websites employing thousands of journalists, mainly young people who came of age after the brutal rule of the Taliban, who banned television. Afghan journalists are often alone in reporting from the front lines of the conflict, and have defied intimidation to challenge claims by the government, local warlords and the insurgents.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Afghanistan 122nd out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index last year, up from the previous year but well below 2004, when Afghanistan was 97th. The low ranking reflects the dangers faced by local journalists, who work in conflict zones and face threats from all sides.
"Not all of us are everyday heroes," Shuja said. "There's only a certain amount of risk that all of us can take in the face of a diabolical enemy such as the Taliban."
Relatives of those killed and wounded in the bus attack have complained about the security measures taken by Moby.
"What really kills me is that Tolo knew about the threats, even on that day, and didn't insist on sending them in smaller cars, rather than in one bus — and then they were all attacked," said Zahara Mirzaee, whose 25-year-old daughter Zainab, a boom operator, was killed.
The Afghanistan Journalists' Federation has called on media owners to provide protection and compensation for their employees in accordance with existing laws. President Ashraf Ghani has promised to support and monitor media safety through a ministerial commission.
The Mirzaee family meanwhile fears for another daughter, Golsum, 27, who works at 1TV dubbing Turkish soap operas into Farsi. She hasn't returned to work since the attack, despite the fact that she and her late sister were supporting the family.
"I'm afraid, but I just don't know what to do," she said. "If I don't go back to work, then there will be no money coming in... I was going to go back yesterday, but I heard that the security service defused a car bomb at the gate. The risk is now very high."
NEW YORK (AP) — No GoDaddy. Not a bikini in sight. Service messages instead of crotch or fart jokes. As the Super Bowl turns 50 and faces middle age, will this be the year that advertisers stick to — gasp — good taste?
The Super Bowl remains advertising's biggest stage, especially as the broadcast TV audience fragments further thanks to Netflix and other on-demand TV services. Advertisers are spending as much as an estimated $5 million per 30 seconds to capture more than 114 million viewers expected to tune in. Debate over the game-day ads will start on social media before the game and carry over to work the next day, so it's crucial to stand out, without going so far as to offend.
But this year, amplifying a trend seen the past few years, advertisers seem to be playing it extra safe. And that might mean a repeat of last year's "Somber Bowl," when viewers were turned off by too-serious ads.
Distinguished British actress Helen Mirren will deliver a lecture about drunken driving and why it's a terrible idea. Many others are going with anthemic or public service-style messages: Colgate Palmolive will urge viewers to "Save Water," while outdoor brand Marmot urges people to spend more time outside and BMW showcases people who "Defy Labels."
Slapstick, crass humor and sex seem to be relegated to the sidelines. Internet address provider GoDaddy, which for 11 years walked the line of bad taste with ads that showed skimpily clad women and an extremely long close up of a kiss, is sitting it out, citing the need for more targeted advertising.
"People want to be entertained. They don't want somber messages or to be reminded of their problems," said veteran ad man Richard Kirshenbaum, CEO of ad agency NSG/SWAT. "The Super Bowl is America's great campfire. People want to gather around and have a great time."
Of course, light-hearted humor will be in abundance when the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off on CBS on Sunday. There are the requisite talking animals and celebrities galore. Doritos' ad shows dogs trying to check out at a grocery store, and Ryan Reynolds plays all of the residents in a town called "Ryanville" for Hyundai, for example.
And there are still several major advertisers, including Chrysler and Coca-Cola, whose super-secret ads could deliver big surprises.
Cinematic or serious ads can be Super bowl hits. Chrysler has garnered kudos for years for its spots about American engineering and its cars featuring stars like Eminem and Clint Eastwood. Attaching your brand to a social cause can be a way to engender goodwill.
But advertisers can't afford another crop of ads like last year. Those ads struck viewers as depressing, most notably a dark PSA from insurer Nationwide. It featured a child's death to highlight the risks of preventable household accidents. (Nationwide is not returning this year.)
"The Nationwide ad sucked the oxygen out of the room at every Super Bowl Party in America," said Peter Daboll, CEO of AceMetrix, which measures the advertising effectiveness.
Squarespace is one advertiser that is sticking to comedy, enlisting comedy duo Key & Peele to promote its website services. Last year's ad starred Jeff Bridges meditating in a couple's bedroom that was deemed by some as too esoteric.
"One of the things we really wanted to make sure we were doing is being entertaining," said Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena. "At the end of day watching Super Bowl, it's a sporting event, you're with friends. We wanted to make something that people had fun with."
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The former district attorney who declined a decade ago to bring sex-crime charges against Bill Cosby testified Tuesday that his decision binds his successors and forever closes the door on prosecuting the comedian.
Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor took the stand as part of a bid by Cosby's lawyers to get the case against the TV star thrown out because of what they say is a non-prosecution agreement from Castor.
The current district attorney has said there is no record of any such agreement.
Cosby, 78, was arrested and charged in December with drugging and violating former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. He could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Castor said Tuesday that he believed Constand was violated but that proving it would have been problematic because of serious flaws in the case, and so he declined to bring charges in 2005.
He said that he made the decision as a representative of the state — as "the sovereign," as he put it, over and over — and that it would last in perpetuity.
"For all time, yes," Castor said when pressed.
And he suggested that Cosby and his lawyer at the time had the same understanding, because Cosby later agreed to testify without invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a lawsuit brought against him by Constand.
"Cosby would've had to have been nuts to say those things if there was any chance he could've been prosecuted," Castor said, referring to the damaging testimony unsealed last summer.
Castor said he hoped, correctly, at the time that the decision not to prosecute would free the comedian to testify in the lawsuit and help Constand win damages. She eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.
The former DA said he "wanted there to be some measure of justice" for Constand, explaining, "I thought making Mr. Cosby pay money was the best I was going to be able to set the stage for."
He added: "I was hopeful that I had made Ms. Constand a millionaire."
He said he relayed word to Cosby's then-attorney, Walter Phillips, that Cosby would not be charged. However, Castor said the two lawyers did not have an actual agreement that Cosby would testify in exchange for not being prosecuted.
Phillips has since died.
Kevin Steele, the newly elected DA who is pursuing the case, has said Cosby would need an immunity agreement in writing to get the case thrown out. He has said he has no evidence one exists.
It was not immediately clear when Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O'Neill would rule.
While Castor was called as witness by Cosby's side, the former DA said he is rooting for the prosecution.
"I'm not on your team here," Castor told Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle. "I want them to win."
In a barrage of allegations that have destroyed Cosby's image as America's Dad, dozens of women have accused the former TV star of drugging and sexually assaulting them since the 1960s. But this is the only case in which he has been charged.
The unsealing of the testimony from Constand's lawsuit prompted Castor's successors to reopen the case and ultimately charge Cosby.
Cosby admitted in the deposition that he had affairs with young models and actresses, that he obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with and that he gave Constand three pills at his home. He said he reached into her pants but insisted it was consensual.
Castor defended his decision not to bring charges, testifying that he saw Constand's year-long delay in reporting the allegations, inconsistencies in her statements and her contact with a lawyer before going to police as problematic.
Castor said Constand's delay was of "enormous significance" in his consideration of the case. He said it thwarted his ability to test her hair or fingernails for evidence she was drugged.
Still, Castor said, he investigated the case thoroughly because he wanted to show authorities in Constand's native Canada that celebrities don't get preferential treatment in America.
Anne Poulin, a law professor at Villanova University, said the defense has a high bar to meet to get the case thrown out early on. But "if they can win without this ever going to trial, then they've done their client a big service."
In related news, a Los Angeles judge ordered Cosby to attend another deposition in a lawsuit filed by a woman who says the comic forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15.
Also Tuesday, model Chloe Goins dropped a lawsuit accusing Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008. Goins gave no explanation.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alphabet now comes before Apple atop the list of the world's most valuable companies.
The shift occurred in Monday's extended trading after Alphabet, Google's new parent company, released a fourth-quarter earnings report that highlighted the robust growth of the digital ad market. Apple Inc.'s iPhone, meanwhile, is suffering its first downturn since it debuted eight years ago.
Alphabet Inc. earned $4.9 billion on revenue of $21.3 billion in the fourth quarter. If not for employee stock expenses and certain other items, Alphabet said it would have earned $8.67 per share. That figure easily topped the average estimate of $8.10 per share among analysts surveyed by FactSet.
The report provided the most detailed breakdown yet on the profits pouring in from Google's dominant search engine and ad network. (Google reorganized itself under Alphabet last October.) Investors pushed up Alphabet stock $35.73, or 4.6 percent, to $806.50 in extended trading.
Based on that after-hours bump, Alphabet's market value stood at $555 billion while Apple's was at $533 billion, based on the most recent regulatory filings showing the company's outstanding shares. The rankings could quickly change again in regular trading Tuesday.
Apple's stock has been sliding amid concerns over slowing iPhone sales. Meanwhile, Alphabet's stock has surged by 45 percent since the end of 2014 when it was still trading under Google's name.
The fourth-quarter report marks the first time Alphabet has spelled out the costs of running still-experimental businesses that are trying to do everything from eliminating human drivers to curing cancer.
Until now, Google chose to hide the expense of running those peripheral operations in its financial statement. The company's opaque accounting made it difficult to know just how much profit Google reaped from its primary business — selling digital ads next to everything from search results to YouTube videos.
In the fourth quarter, Google produced an operating profit of $6.8 billion on revenue of $17.1 billion, after subtracting ad commissions. That translates into a whopping profit margin of 40 percent. Apple registered an operating profit margin of 32 percent in its most recent quarter.
Meanwhile, Alphabet's other companies together produced an operating loss of $1.2 billion on revenue of just $151 million. Alphabet labels that category "other bets." For the full year, Alphabet's other companies lost $3.6 billion on revenue of $448 million.
The optimism surrounding Alphabet stems in part from hopes that the company is developing more financial discipline as it discloses more earnings details. Google had become known for its free-spending habits and reluctance to share information with analysts.
The change in sentiment coincided with Google's hiring of a new chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, last May. Porat, a Wall Street veteran, has consistently signaled her intent to rein in spending.
Under the previous setup at Google, "things had always been a little muddy," said Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson. "The hope now is that management will continue to show greater cost discipline."
Porat signaled her resolve again Monday in a conference call with analysts. "Our priority remains revenue growth but that doesn't give us a pass on a rigorous approach to expense management," she said.
Google is also counting on advertisers to gradually pay more for marketing messages on smartphones. They still aren't paying as much for mobile ads as on personal computers because ads on smaller smartphone screens strike many as less valuable. That's one reason Google's average ad rates, measured as "cost per click," have been declining for more than four years.
In the latest quarter, Google's cost per click fell by 13 percent from the same time in 2014. But Porat cited in increase in mobile search requests as one of biggest reasons that Google's revenue rose by 18 percent from the previous year. As people increasingly search for information and shop on their phones, the company expects advertisers to ramp up their spending on smartphones, too.
NEW YORK (AP) — On the field, the four-legged fur balls of the Hallmark Channel's Kitten Bowl III were all business.
But off? Well, let's just say there were some impurr-prieties dogging these feline paw-thletes.
"Sometimes we get into an issue or two. They tend to like to really delve into the catnip, and that type of thing sometimes gets a little out of control," quipped Boomer Esiason, the Feline Football League commissioner for the Super Bowl Sunday event on Feb. 7.
It was Esiason's second turn as commissioner. He kept his tongue firmly in cheek in fending off any appearance of influence peddling this time around with the fielding of his own team of kittens, the Boomer Bobcats.
"I'm not like that. I'm above all of that, and my quarterback Ben Roethlis-purrger — we like to call him Big Ben — is just so cute and cuddly. I'm telling you he's going to knock everybody's socks off this year."
Big Ben's human doppelganger being Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
In addition to Esiason, Hallmark got some help from host Beth Stern and the North Shore Animal League America, which supplied nearly 100 rescue kittens to fill up Hallmark's bite-size football field. It was decked out with scratchy goalposts and plenty of cat toys to keep the action moving when the event was taped in October.
All of the tiny footballers were later adopted. A few were taken home for fostering by Stern herself. Her husband, Howard Stern, is the official cat namer of their family that includes six resident felines and a steady stream of fosters.
Beth Stern, a spokeswoman for North Shore Animal League, is the master of the cat-human selfie on Instagram. Her secret?
"With the selfie I have to look good, of course, so I always have to put the iPhone up high. But I can never get a bad angle of the kittens," she said.
Human wranglers ringed the elevated Kitten Bowl set, sending little slackers trying to escape back on the field. Hydration came in metal water bowls on the sidelines, along with a couple of handy litter boxes.
Esiason, an NFL most valuable player and four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, was happy to help out worthy kittens, but back home it's all about the dogs. He has two, to be exact. He used to have a cat, a Himalayan with bright blue eyes called Frankie, named for his college roommate.
He said he's got nothing but love for the adorable, feisty participants in the Kitten Bowl.
"The kitten players," Esiason offered, "are so much easier to deal with than human players."
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — What happens when you put Peyton Manning, Miss Universe, an orange-and-blue leprechaun and 200 TV cameras into the same room?
Answer: Super Bowl Opening Night.
The NFL took a good idea gone surreal — what used to be known as "Media Day" — gave it a new name, added a live cover band and moved the whole thing to prime time Monday to kick off Super Bowl week between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
This new and amped-up interview-fest came complete with a guy walking around inside an inflatable football and a newly choreographed players' introduction that involved all 60 players from each team walking out onto a four-story-high catwalk.
"I had no idea that was a bridge we were standing on," said Manning, getting ready for his fourth Super Bowl.
And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
"Will you kiss my wife?" one questioner shouted to Panthers QB Cam Newton, who answered his hour's worth of questions with a sports-drink-themed towel wrapped around his head.
"I don't think I can do that," Newton said.
Suffice to say, Manning and Newton — one a five-time MVP, the other a strong favorite to win his first later this week — couldn't have seen a lot of this coming, no matter how hard they prepared.
Who would play you in a movie? "Maybe a young Robert Redford," Manning said.
Another reporter — or make that, person with a credential — asked Manning to look into the camera and wish a Happy Chinese New Year to all his friends in that part of the world.
At one point, a reporter from a Spanish-language station cranked up some bass-heavy music and pleaded with Newton to dance.
He passed. "Got to be feeling it," he explained.
All of this thoughtfully brought to prime time by the NFL for the first time in the 50-year history of the Super Bowl.
For decades, Media Day was a Tuesday-at-noonish affair — scheduled so as not to interrupt the teams' schedules and to give writers the rest of the week to craft the stories.
But this year, the NFL moved it to Monday night, where minor details like dress code, off-color banter and 8-year-olds asking football players questions after bedtime barely raise an eyebrow.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora described the scheduling change as one that allows "more fans (to) experience what has grown to become a very unique, popular Super Bowl event."
Conveniently, the NFL-owned NFL Network captured all the action live.
Surprising they didn't do this earlier. It's a nod to the reality that "Media Day" has long been a "journalism-free zone" — one in which fans have willingly, for the last five years, paid money for tickets that allow them to sit in the stands and watch the madness unfold.
Speaking of which ...
Late in the Broncos session, Rocky the Leprechaun — a regular at Broncos games over the years — laid a dollar bill out on the blue carpeting of SAP Center and waited to see if someone would pick it up. Several minutes passed. Nobody did.
"Crazy to see that," he said.
What makes this week so great?
"There's a lot of happiness," said the gnome-turned-sociologist. "This world needs all the happiness it can get."
Only one team will be happy come Sunday night. The Panthers are favored. Manning is a sentimental favorite; at 39, many people expect he'll retire after this one.
That was one of the few actual news angles being worked on during Denver's hour of fun behind the mic.
"I haven't made up my mind and I don't see myself knowing until the season's over," Manning said.
Also, the Broncos were involved in a minor bus crash after practice. There were no injuries. "Just adds to the intrigue of what we've had all year," Manning said.
Back to the important stuff.
Miss Universe, one of the 5,500 "reporters" with credentials for Super Bowl-week festivities, answered more questions than she asked. Most had to do with Steve Harvey. "Yes, I am the real Miss Universe," she said, referencing Harvey's embarrassing gaffe a few weeks back.
Harvey was a no-show at this one.
No one missed him.
From the costumes, to the beauty queens, to the guys dressed up like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, this prime-time special had pretty much everything — except for Donald Trump, who was waiting on caucus results in Iowa.
Manning was asked to recollect a meeting with Trump a few years back. Maybe someday, Newton will meet The Donald, too.
"I tell kids, that oval-shaped pigskin can take you a lot of places," said the Panthers quarterback, who won the national college championship with Auburn a few years back. "It's taken me to the White House."
And to this place. Kickoff is less than a week away.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Absent Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidates strained to take advantage of a rare opportunity to step out of the front-runner's shadow in Thursday night's debate — a staid, policy-heavy contest that offered a glimpse of what the GOP contest might have been without the unpredictable businessman.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As the digital advertising market booms and demand for smartphones wanes, Alphabet Inc. could soon dethrone Apple as the world's most valuable company.
If it happens, Alphabet will move to the head of the class just five months after Google reorganized itself under the holding company.
The Silicon Valley rivals could trade places as early as Friday, given how rapidly the financial gap between them is narrowing. At the end of trading on Thursday, Apple's market value stood at $522 billion; Alphabet was worth $515 billion.
That's a dramatic swing from where things stood just 13 months ago. Apple then boasted a market value of $643 billion, almost twice Google Inc.'s $361 billion.
Since then, investors have soured on Apple Inc. The company has struggled to come up with another trend-setting product amid slumping sales of its most important device — the nearly 9-year-old iPhone, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of Apple's overall sales.
Apple has already acknowledged the iPhone will begin this year with its first quarterly sales decline since it debuted in 2007. The slowdown helped push down Apple's stock price by 15 percent since the end of 2014.
In contrast, Google has maintained its leadership in the lucrative Internet search and ad market while building other popular products in video, mobile, web browsing, email and mapping. That bundle of Google services brings in most of Alphabet's revenue, and is expected to deliver growth in the 15 percent to 20 percent range as marketers shift even more of their budgets to digital services.
Alphabet also has impressed investors by reining in its spending. Google hired a Wall Street veteran, Ruth Porat, as its chief financial officer last May.
In addition to reversing a long expansion of Google's operating expenses, Porat also persuaded Alphabet's board to spend $5 billion buying back its own stock. That move signaled a more shareholder-friendly approach to managing the company's cash hoard.
Investors also have applauded the creation of Alphabet, which is structured to provide more information about the cost of the company's experimental ventures into self-driving cars, Internet access services, health science and city management.
All of those factors have helped lift Alphabet's stock — previously Google's — by 41 percent since the end of 2014.
It's a potentially big shift for Apple, which has held bragging rights as the world's most valuable company for most of the past four-and-a-half years. (ExxonMobil seized the high ground for a brief time in 2013.)
Alphabet would become the 12th company to rise to the most valuable spot, according to Standard & Poor's.
BGP Financial analyst Colin Gillis believes the potential changing of the guard reflects a wider recognition that Alphabet is fostering a "culture of innovation" while Apple has lost some of its magic since the October 2011 death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. "I no longer see a sense of urgency at Apple," Gillis said.
If Alphabet doesn't surpass Apple's market value on Friday, it could do so early next week after it releases fourth-quarter earnings on Monday. Investors expect a big quarter after Google's closest competitor in digital ads, Facebook Inc., announced that its revenue soared 52 percent in the period.
Of course, Apple isn't just rolling over. It's reportedly working on new products such as self-driving cars, virtual reality and Internet TV that could conceivably re-ignite its revenue growth — as could any resurgence in the iPhone itself. Alphabet has shown no signs of letting up on Google's grip in Internet search or its expansion into other markets.
Which means we could see Apple and Alphabet continue to trade places in the market-value rankings over the next few years, as both race to be the first company worth $1 trillion.
NEW YORK (AP) — Poor Barbie. She had plastic surgery to become more socially acceptable. But a lot of her critics still don't like her.
Barbie's manufacturer, Mattel, announced Thursday that the doll has three new body types — curvy, tall and petite. Barbie will also now come in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said the product is evolving to "offer more choices" to make "the line more reflective of the world girls see around them."
But Kris Macomber, who teaches sociology at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, says she's "reluctant to celebrate Barbie's new strategy because it doesn't change the fact that Barbie dolls and other kinds of fashion dolls still over-emphasize female beauty. Sure, all body types should be valued. And, sure, all skin colors should be valued equally. But why must we keep sending girls the message that being beautiful is so important?"
Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said Barbie's changes are a testament to activists who for years have challenged her "unrealistic and harmful body type." But body type "was only one of the criticisms," he said. "The other was the brand's relentless focus on appearance and fashion."
Kumea Shorter-Gooden, co-author of "Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America," has said in the past that Barbie has a bigger impact on black girls struggling with messages about skin color and hair. Shorter-Gooden applauded Mattel "for diversifying the size and look of Barbie," but noted that "European-American hair still prevails," and that the dolls' outfits still "convey a traditional and constraining gender norm about how girls and women should look."
Aside from whether Barbie's looks will ever measure up to society's changing expectations, another question worth asking is whether kids still want to play with Barbies. Barbie sales fell 14 percent in the most recently reported quarter, with worldwide sales falling every year since 2012. A study by BAV Consulting found that consumers perceive the Barbie brand as being "less relevant" than 80 percent of 3,500 brands in 200 categories BAV studied. BAV's data analysis also found that consumers perceive Barbie as being in the bottom third of all brands when it comes to social responsibility but in the top 2 percent when it comes to being traditional.
Mattel said it will still sell the original 11.5-inch Barbie. The new versions will begin arriving on U.S. store shelves in March and will roll out globally after that. They are available for preorder at shop.mattel.com, and will ship in February.
Quiana Agbai, an African-American mother of two who has written about "the effects of dolls not looking like my 5-year-old daughter" on her blog, www.harlemlovebirds.com, said Barbie's new look is "a step in the right direction" but noted that "there are brands already filling this need in greater detail." Agbai's husband's family is Nigerian, so she found a Nigerian princess doll for her daughter from a line called Queens of Africa. Agbai herself grew up playing with the American Girl doll Addy, whose story line involved escaping from slavery.
Some, however, saluted the new Barbie wholeheartedly.
Trina Finton, a Hispanic mom from Simi Valley, California, who works in tech and once bought herself an engineer Barbie from the doll's career line, was "thrilled" to hear about Barbie's new looks, especially the curly hair. In the past, when she's taken her 3-year-old daughter to Target, "I avoid the Barbie aisle. I just don't want her to feel bad that she can't see a doll that looks like her."
Kelly Brownell was a Yale psychology professor when he concluded in a 1995 study that young girls notice the body shapes of icons such as Barbie and translate them into unhealthy images. Today, as a dean at Duke University, Brownell said the new Barbie "represents real progress, not only by having additional skin tones but by beginning to correct the wildly unrealistic body shapes and sizes of earlier days.
This story has been corrected to show that Barbie sales fell 14 percent in the most recently reported quarter, not 4 percent.