Harford County basketball coaches weigh in on Nuggets-Heat NBA Finals match-up

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:40

Harford County high school basketball coaches seem to share common ground dissecting this year’s NBA Finals, pitting the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.

To get to this point, top-seeded Denver knifed through western conference foes Minnesota, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers. None of which, required more than six games to advance. The Heat, however, needed every last second of a play-in game against Chicago to make the playoffs as an eight seed. Miami deftly handled Milwaukee in five games but needed six and a hair-pulling seven to pass New York and Boston.

Game 1 tips off 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Here’s how a few Harford County coaches are seeing the matchup.

Brian Hulka, Fallston boys

Hulka just wrapped up his eighth season leading the Cougars and he’s confident the Heat can put up a fight. Hulka is taking Denver to close out the series in six games.

“Bam Adebayo will frustrate [two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola] Jokic,” Hulka said. “But the Nuggets are rested, healthy and have superior talent.”

Denver completed its sweep of the Lakers back on May 22. That’s a 10-day gap between playoff games, compared to Miami’s three-day break. Health has also been a past hindrance of this year’s overwhelming favorite. Point guard Jamal Murray missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season with an ACL tear while Michael Porter Jr. has undergone three back surgeries in five years; both are crucial pieces to what could be Denver’s championship puzzle.

Mario Scott, C. Milton Wright boys

Scott hedged his own thinking. He wants to predict Denver in five but said he has too much respect for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who famously rose the ranks, starting in the organization as a video coordinator in 1995 and named head coach in 2008. Scott’s pick is Nuggets in six for a few reasons.

“Nikola Jokic is by far the best player in this series and he may very well average a triple-double in the series,” Scott said. “To that end, I think Miami is going to have to make adjustments in their lineup, to include potentially starting Kevin Love or Cody Zeller to try to mitigate Jokic’s effectiveness as much as they possibly can. If they can play, it will help Miami’s matchups across the board. If not, things will get tough fast.”

Rebounding should be a decisive factor considering the size differences of the two teams, according to the Mustangs’ first-year coach. Advantage Nuggets there. He’s also looking for pick-and-roll adjustments. Miami frequently torched Boston — a team that switches everything — by hunting mismatches.

Three-point shooting will be the other stat to watch. Scott said, “To have any chance to win, Miami is going to have to win the 3-point battle. They did a great job of that in Game 7 at Boston, [shooting 50% from deep].”

Scott’s two players aside from the stars to look out for? Denver forward Aaron Gordon, a defensive stalwart who could give Jimmy Butler a hard time. And Caleb Martin for the Heat, who has been an unexpected premiere scorer in their playoff run.

Johnny Woods, Fallston girls

Denver will close out the series in six games, according to Woods. He’s leaning on the star power in this series, which favors Denver.

“Miami has done the unthinkable,” Woods said. “Jimmy Buckets is clearly one of the best playoff performers in the history of the NBA but the ‘Joker’ [Jokic] is the best in the world right now. Not to mention Murray looks like the playoff bubble Murray.”

Murray has been one of the playoff’s most gripping stories. He famously played at a very high level during the 2020 NBA bubble playoffs at Disney World in Orlando. He then tore his ACL on April 12, 2021. Having his 27.7 points, 5.9 and 4.9 rebounds in this playoff run as Denver’s second best player makes him a key cog in the organization’s first Finals trip since joining the league in 1976.

Woods said, “The Denver franchise will win their first championship.”


Categories: Local News

Photos: Lindsey Buckingham sells California mansion for $6.6 million

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:39
  • A poolside view of the La Quinta home previously owned...

    A poolside view of the La Quinta home previously owned by Lindsey Buckingham. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • The primary bathroom. (Photo by Chris Miller)

    The primary bathroom. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • The primary suite. (Photo by Chris Miller)

    The primary suite. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • A glass wall divides the formal dining room from the...

    A glass wall divides the formal dining room from the wine room. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • The kitchen. (Photo by Chris Miller)

    The kitchen. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • The lounging half of the great room. (Photo by Chris...

    The lounging half of the great room. (Photo by Chris Miller)

  • The entry courtyard. (Photo by Chris Miller)

    The entry courtyard. (Photo by Chris Miller)

Show Caption of


Lindsey Buckingham has sold his La Quinta golf retreat for $6.6 million.

The 73-year-old singer, best known as the lead guitarist and co-vocalist of Fleetwood Mac, got the price he sought when his custom residence in the luxury community of the Hideway hit the market in April. That amounts to 77% more than the $3.73 million he and his wife, Kristen, paid in August 2020, records show.

“The seller is happy, and the buyers are very excited,” said Valery Neuman of Compass, who handled both ends of the deal. “The whole family is in love with the home!”

Completed in 2014, the house spans 5,456 square feet on a lot just shy of a half-acre and overlooks the 5th hole of the course designed by Pete Dye. It has four bedrooms, five bathrooms and an open floor plan with disappearing glass walls in the common areas that extend indoors out.

A double-glass door opens into the walled-in entry courtyard with a custom fountain, lounge area and loggia with a flatscreen mounted over the fireplace. There’s a similar setup inside the house, in the great room.

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There’s a Calcutta marble-clad gourmet kitchen with two islands, top-of-the-line stainless appliances and a walk-in pantry.

A fireplace anchors the formal dining room and glass-enclosed wine room.

The primary suite has high ceilings with wraparound clerestory windows. A picture window and glass doors frame views the pool, golf course and mountains from the bedroom, sitting area and bathroom with a soaking tub and walk-through shower.

A casita sits off the front courtyard.

Outside, a dining and lounging loggia and a second entertainment loggia overlook the pool with its waterfall wall and zero-edge spa. Other amenities include a barbecue center and a fire pit seating area.


Categories: Local News

Man acquitted of igniting massive Holy fire in Southern California

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:36

Nearly five years after fast-moving flames tore through more than 20,000 wild land acres in Orange and Riverside counties, an Orange County Superior Court jury acquitted the man accused of igniting the massive blaze.

Jurors following a month-long trial in a Santa Ana courtroom deliberated for a little more than a day before finding Forrest Clark, 56, not guilty of three felony counts of arson.

The jury convicted him of one remaining count of making criminal threats against his neighbor.

Even before the fire was fully extinguished investigators accused Clark of igniting the Holy fire with prosecutors later arguing the alleged arson stemmed from a long-running neighbor dispute. During one press conference, DA Todd Spitzer referred to Clark as a “monster.”

But, during his Santa Ana trial, Clark’s attorney, Alternate Defender Jason Phlaum, sharply criticized what he characterized as a sloppy and inadequate investigation by U.S. Forest Service and Orange County Fire Authority officials, repeatedly arguing that it failed to prove the wildfire was intentionally set or that Clark was at fault.

“If this investigation was done right, they would have come to the conclusion that Mr. Clark is innocent,” the defense attorney said. “He didn’t set this fire, he is not responsible for this fire, he did not commit an act of arson causing the Holy fire.”

With no physical evidence directly tying Clark to the start of the fire, threats Clark apparently aimed at his closest canyon neighbor – along with seemingly self-incriminating comments a raving Clark made to fire investigators – were the focus of the prosecution case.

Days after being released from a mental health hold, Clark’s neighbor, Frank Romero, overheard Clark ranting in his own cabin, and recorded some of the comments, including Clark apparently referring to Romero as “a walking dead man,” saying he was “going to die” and that he had “(expletive) with the wrong person.”

Hours later, Deputy District Attorney Dominic Bello told jurors, the flames that would soon overtake Holy Jim Canyon ignited in the vicinity of Romero’s cabin.

“That is how this defendant feels about Mr. Romero, that he is nothing…. that (Clark) can do what he wants and get away with anything,” the prosecutor said during his closing arguments on Monday. “It doesn’t sound like he is too crazy. Sounds like he wants to make a threat, convey that threat and later on in the day make good on that threat. Which is what he ends up doing.”

Amid hot, dry and windy conditions, the Holy fire ignited on Aug. 6 within Holy Jim Canyon, a rural Orange County community comprised of several dozen cabins nestled in the remote expanse of the Cleveland National Forest.

It took scores of firefighters more than a month to fully contain the flames, after the wildfire had already consumed more than a dozen cabins, burned through an estimated 23,136 acres and forced thousands of residents in both Orange and Riverside counties to flee for safety.

Around 12:46 p.m. on Aug. 6, 911 callers reported seeing smoking coming from an area near Romero’s cabin, and a short time later flames were seen at the front of the residence.

While investigators with the United States Forest Service and the Orange County Fire Authority have expressed confidence in their determination that the fire was intentionally set, they have acknowledged not knowing exactly what ignited it or what accelerants were used. The prosecutor noted that several possibilities — including lighters, matches and gasoline — were found at Clark’s cabin.

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Clark’s own rambling statements drew the suspicion of fire investigators. At one point, Clark in response to their questioning speculated that the fire could have started with candles near the window of Romero’s cabin. At another point, when asked directly whether he started the fire, Clark responded “No,” then averted his gaze, paused and added “But maybe,” the investigators testified.

On the eve of an earlier court hearing, fire investigators acknowledged that they had been forced to re-assess their findings regarding the ignition point of the fire, determining it was in the general area of Romero’s cabin rather than inside of it.

But a pair of independent veteran fire investigation experts hired by the defense argued during the trial that the cause of the fire should have been officially deemed “undetermined” rather than attributed to arson.

The defense experts testified that the fire likely began closer to the main roadway, and said they were unable to rule out other potential, accidental causes such as a discarded cigarette or carbon offshoot from older vehicles traveling up a nearby incline.


Categories: Local News

Mets Notebook: Buck Showalter considering Kodai Senga on regular rest for the first time

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:35

The Mets have insisted that Kodai Senga needs extra rest, despite the right-hander’s own insistence that he can handle a four or five-day workweek like every other starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.

However, the Mets are now considering starting him on four days of rest Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays at home. There are contingency plans in place if he doesn’t pass some physical tests that the training staff is having him go through, but the Mets have done away with their six-man rotation and they’re seeing the results they want to see from Senga to have him on a more normal schedule.

“We’ll know Friday,” manager Buck Showalter said Thursday before the Mets played a matinee finale against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. “We’ll do some testing of things that they can do to see how he’s feeling.”

Senga has said that it’s nice of the Mets to consider him enough to create a work plan similar to the one he was on in Japan, but he would like to acclimate to a more typical MLB schedule. The Mets have given him seven days off at times and he has said that while he used the time to his benefit, he found it difficult to stay engaged with so many days off.

However, this time it might be more beneficial to have him pitch in New York instead of Atlanta.

Should the Mets give him the extra start he has been accustomed to, it would line him up to pitch the first game of a crucial three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves. But Senga has been significantly better at home than on the road this season. He’s 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA at Citi Field and has held hitters to just a .136 average in Queens. Outside of flushing, the rookie right-hander is 2-2 with 6.12 ERA.

Those are drastic splits that he has attributed to some of the long road trips that MLB teams have to take. The travel in Japan featured shorter plane rides and more frequent days off, especially in between three-game series. The Mets have played a heavy road schedule in the first half, one of the heaviest in the league, and it will lighten up in the second half of the season, but it’s been one of the challenges that Senga has to deal with in his first season in North America.

“Pitching on five days rest has already been a little different for him,” Showalter said. “He has already made a lot of adjustments. That’s what’s been remarkable for me. I think sometimes we underestimate how many different things are going on in his pitching life, so it would not surprise me if he can make that adjustment. But right now, it’s more of a physical adjustment than it is a mental or emotional thing.”

The Mets are going to need Senga to pitch in Atlanta at some point, but it might be better for all involved to wait a little longer and give him one more start at Citi Field before embarking on another six-game road trip.


Left-hander Jose Quintana is off and running with his rehab from his spring bone graft surgery.

He’s about to graduate from throwing off a mound in the bullpen to throwing against hitters. He’ll throw live batting practice twice next week, once on Monday and once on Friday. If all goes well, he’ll throw a complete inning on June 13.


Categories: Local News

Pride celebration organizers grapple with new Florida laws on drag, transgender rights

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:28

In the small south-central Florida city of Sebring, a “Bearded Lady” contest almost got an upcoming Pride celebration canceled.

“Is that not really another name for a drag queen show?” Sebring City Council Member Terry Mendel asked Highlands County LGBT+ Caucus director Christopher Davies during a May 16 public meeting. Davies was seeking approval for road closures for the fourth-annual Highlands County Pride Fest on June 11.

“It does seem to me that this is going to result in inappropriate displays of sexuality in front of our children, so I’m very concerned about that,” Mendel said.

Davies told city council members the “Bearded Lady” contest is a costume contest and not sexual in nature. He added that the event would be closed off to anyone younger than 21 years of age, in an effort to comply with SB 1438.

The bill, signed into law last week, established penalties against businesses for hosting live performances that display unsuitable, salacious material in front of minors. Critics say it was vaguely written to allow the targeting of drag performers.

“[Mendel] was trying to draw out this false and deeply negative narrative that the gay community is out to groom your children, and that’s simply not the case,” said Jeffrey Schoop, executive consultant for the Highlands County LGBT+ Caucus.

Mendel’s remark, which mirrors anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that often baselessly implies a link between drag and child abuse, is an example of the kind of talking points, partly fueled by the recently enacted Florida policies, that are creating stumbling blocks for Pride event organizers in communities large and small across the state.

Like in Sebring, Central Florida organizations known for throwing Pride events and parades are facing a downpour of politically charged accusations, framing them as amoral for going forward with Pride festivities this year. At the same time, organizers are rushing to understand and adhere to new state laws that critics and several recently issued travel advisories say create a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ communities.

“We don’t agree with the legislation out there, but we’ll navigate it,” Schoop said. “It’s not that we’re about self-censoring, but we’re trying to throw the best event within the confines of how we need to act under the new laws.”

Organizations in Orlando and Lake County are also marching forward with Pride celebrations as a show of solidarity against recent attacks on LGBTQ+ progress in the state, but organizers say they are going over logistics with caution.

Come Out With Pride, the annual pride festival on Oct. 21 at Lake Eola, is still scheduled to take place. But the organization’s executive director, Tatiana Quiroga, said she paused planning efforts until it was clear which laws would pass.

“We wanted to make sure that we were fully aware of the rules of the game,” she said.” In theory, everything that we did last year falls fully within the legislation, but we’re still having to go back and assess what will be safe for our organization, what will be safe for our performers and also for our participants.”

Attendees are all dressed up during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 15, 2022. Thousands lined the streets for the yearly event supporting inclusion. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)User Upload Caption:Attendees dressed in drag attire celebrate during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 15, 2022. Drag performers have become a target of Florida’s GOP leaders. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)  ‘If something happens, can we live with it?

In addition to SB 1438, Gov. DeSantis signed three other bills that impact the lives of LGBTQ+ community members, including by banning gender-affirming care for minors and prohibiting trans people from using public bathrooms that don’t align with their assigned sex at birth.

“I think everyone assumes that the anti-drag bill is the one that directly impacts us, but unfortunately it’s more than that,” Quiroga said. “The bathroom ban was another conversation we had to start exploring to make sure that those in the trans and nonbinary [communities], and even part of the lesbian community, felt safe enough to use the bathrooms and facilities.”

While organizations try to move forward with Pride celebrations, others are choosing to opt out of festivities completely.

Last week, the president of Tampa Pride announced the organization canceled its annual Pride on the River event. The September festival has attracted up to 20,000 visitors in the past. Port St. Lucie Pride event organizers also canceled a Pride parade in April and enacted age restrictions to other Pride festivities, WPTV reported.

More recently, organizers of “PRIDE in St. Cloud” took to social media to announce they have been facing an increased amount of hate speech this year and therefore decided to cancel their upcoming Pride event out of fear for the safety of their patrons.

“After the legislation got signed it felt like people got a little empowered to speak up and have their derogatory comments come through, so that started coming in in increasing volume,” said Jerry Nikolaev, a director with PRIDE in St. Cloud. “We tried to moderate that as much as we could but the closer we got to the event, the more volume of that we saw.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shows an image from the children's book Call Me Max by transgender author Kyle Lukoff moments before signing the Parental Rights in Education bill during a news conference on Monday, March 28, 2022, at Classical Preparatory school in Shady Hills. At left is an image of The Genderbread Person, a teaching tool used for breaking the concept of gender. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shows an image from the children’s book Call Me Max by transgender author Kyle Lukoff moments before signing the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics call “don’t say gay,” on Monday, March 28, 2022, at Classical Preparatory school in Shady Hills. DeSantis has backed a slate of laws seen as an attack by LGBTQ advocacy groups. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP) 

Nikolaev said the team struggled to determine how much backlash the event would face.

“We just didn’t feel like it was the responsible thing to do, to have hundreds of people gather under our event name, knowing that we can’t provide the security to guarantee everyone’s safety,” he said. “It became a question of: ‘If something happens, can we live with it?’”

Deborah Bowie, executive director of the onePULSE Foundation in Orlando said the organization recently discussed whether it may be endangering a facility where the foundation hosted a stage performance of a Pulse survivor that showcased how drag saved her life.

“This was not a conversation we would have had just a few years ago,” Bowie said. “It’s incredibly sad to see where we are in accepting and loving people no matter who they are and how they live.”

The foundation said it has no plans to cancel any of its events in the near future.

“We are hopeful that the Orlando community will stand up strong in the face of all the hatred aimed at the LGBTQIA+ community,” Bowie said.

Quiroga of Come Out With Pride said the Orlando organization has “no intention of canceling, postponing [or] rescheduling” its annual festival, which has been taking place since 2005 and is anticipated to bring more than 200,000 people this year to Lake Eola Park.

“We feel that, if anything, this is the most critical time for us to gather and bring our community together,” she said. “Folks in our community need to see that they are loved and accepted and welcomed, especially in the City Beautiful.”

Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer waves during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 9, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer waves during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 9, 2021. Despite new state laws widely deemed hostile to LGBTQ+ people, Orlando and other communities in Florida have stressed they welcome all to visit and celebrate. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel) 

Lake County Pride has been in the making since 2019, organizer Danielle Olivani said. Initially canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the June 17 celebration at Wooten Park in Tavares will be the first of its kind in the county, but the event has seen some pushback as rhetoric against the LGBTQ community has grown more hostile statewide.

It has also lost thousands of dollars in sponsorships and new laws like the Protection of Children Act forced organizers to rethink its drag performances by tweaking the acts and the outfits to fit within the law, even as drag performances aren’t explicitly banned by state law.

But Olivani, who is nonbinary, doesn’t plan to cancel the event, calling the recent bills and hate against people like them “a scare tactic.”

“It’s a battle,” they said. “I definitely feel the fear, but I’m not going to live in it.”

‘A beacon of hope in this very dark time’

Over the last several weeks, civil rights organizations have been issuing travel advisories that urge travelers to weigh the risks of coming to Florida amid the enactment of laws and policies that jeopardize the well-being of minorities, immigrants and gay travelers.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign joined Equality Florida and other civil rights organizations in issuing advisories in response to the laws that directly impact LGBTQ communities.

LGBTQ+ tourism expert Rachel Covello said community organizers are strenuously trying to comply with and understand the implications of what she considers to be “vaguely written” laws targeting drag shows and restricting restroom use, as well as limit the use of preferred pronouns in public schools and ban certain gender-affirming care for minors.

Covello, publisher of the LGBTQ+ travel website Out Coast, said travelers seeking LGBTQ+ safe spaces in Orlando should use the advisories to decide what’s the best and safest option for them.

“But I also want to remind folks that the governor doesn’t speak for most destinations,” she said. “Florida still offers many LGBTQ+ welcoming destinations and our tourism partners are working hard to create a network of support to learn how [the LGBTQ+ community] can best move forward together.

During his annual “State of the City” speech on Wednesday, Mayor Buddy Dyer made a point to stress that Orlando is one such place, with an “unwavering” commitment to inclusion he said would be showcased by the Come Out With Pride Festival this fall.

“Right now it’s more important than ever to make it known that Orlando will always be a city that prioritizes compassion and inclusion, a community that encourages everyone to be their authentic selves,” Dyer said.

Covello, who is also organizing the upcoming inaugural Florida Out Coast Convention (FLOCC) in downtown Tampa this August, said the event will include discussions about the new laws.

“We have experts coming to really explain the laws because people are asking: ‘Can I host a drag show?’ ‘Is it okay to have it in a public space or are we getting in trouble?” she said.

As the Highlands County Pride Fest approaches, Schoop said, even with all the concerns posed by the laws, he’s excited to celebrate Pride month in Sebring. “While I do understand concerns, we’re not going to bow down,” he said.

“Someone has to be a beacon of hope in this very dark time and that’s what we’re here to do.”

Staff writer Cristóbal Reyes contributed.

A spectator holds a flag during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 15, 2022. Thousands lined the streets for the yearly event supporting inclusion. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)User Upload Caption:A spectator holds a flag during the Come Out With Pride Parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, October 15, 2022. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel) 
Categories: Local News

Prosecutors Scrutinize Political Nonprofit Groups for Fund-Raising Fraud

N.Y. Times - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:26
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have sought recordings of calls made by two networks of groups that solicited money from donors for a variety of politically tinged causes.
Categories: Local News

India pauses plan to add new coal plants for 5 years

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:25

By Sibi Arasu | Associated Press

BENGALURU, India — The Indian government will not consider any proposals for new coal plants for the next five years and focus on growing its renewables sector, according to an updated national electricity plan released Wednesday evening.

The temporary pause in the growth of the dirty fuel was hailed by energy experts as a positive step for a country that is currently reliant on coal for around 75% of its electricity.

Updated every five years, the plan serves as a guideline for India’s priorities in its electricity sector.

India is the world’s third highest emitter and most populous country. It plans to reach net zero emissions by 2070, which would mean significantly slashing coal use and ramping up renewable energy.

In a draft of the plan released in September, the Central Electricity Authority, which is in charge of planning for India’s electricity needs, projected that nearly 8,000 megawatts of new coal capacity was required by 2027. But Wednesday’s strategy proposes the build out of more than 8,600 megawatts of battery energy storage systems instead.

Battery storage is crucial for round-the-clock use of renewable energy.

“This plan is a step in the right direction,” said Raghav Pachouri, an energy sector expert at Vasudha Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

Pachouri said one reason the plans for new coal might have been scrapped is because there are already some coal plants under construction.

The country is also experiencing longer summers and hotter weather in part due to climate change, meaning greater electricity demand during the scorching day, making it easier to fulfill energy needs with renewables, said Pachouri.

“When you need energy during the day, solar power can provide for it,” he said.

India plans to install 500 gigawatts of clean energy by 2030, enough energy to power anywhere from 150 to 500 million homes depending on power use, but is not on course to meet that target, according to Aditya Lolla, an energy analyst at the think tank Ember.

“We’re installing only up to 17 gigawatts a year, this needs to increase to 40 to 45 gigawatts to meet targets,” said Lolla.

The new plan goes on to project that new coal power will be built after 2027, but Lolla says this should be taken with a pinch of salt.

“Traditionally, projections for the coming five years are more concrete and those for the subsequent years are essentially placeholders,” said Lolla. “India wants to move towards a cleaner power system. With every electricity plan, the coal pipeline is falling.”

Lolla predicts that with the current volatile global energy picture, due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change and pandemic recovery, India will take a call on its longer-term energy plan at a future date, depending on how things progress by 2027.

Categories: Local News

Bay Area’s incoming NWSL team reveals its name and logos

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:15

The Bay Area’s National Women’s Soccer League team finally has a name: Bay FC.

The club revealed the Bay FC name nearly two full months after announcing it would become the NWSL’s 14th club and with only nine months until its first match next year.

“Bay FC will be a uniting force, building a culture of belonging and shared pride,” Aly Wagner said in a statement. “We will be a beacon of hope and connection, welcoming and embracing people of all backgrounds. While community is our foundation, our love of football is our reason for being. Bay FC will have the fire to be the best, and we will show up every day with intensity, competitiveness, passion and a drive to win.”

Wagner headlines the ownership group along with fellow former U.S. women’s national team stars Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osbourne and Danielle Slaton, as well as global investment firm Sixth Street. Alan Waxman, the co-founder and CEO of Sixth Street, is listed as the team’s principal owner.

Along with the name comes a logo and brand identity, which San Francisco-based ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) helped to create. The logo stylized the letter B in a gothic font, with the vertical line of the letter B designed to resemble a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bay FC, the expansion National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC)Bay FC, the expansion National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC) 

The team will also be seemingly using the Golden Gate’s distinctive hue as one of its three signature colors alongside fog gray and dark navy blue — though the club is calling its color “warm poppy red”, which differs from the “international orange” color of the bridge, as designated by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

The club didn’t specify which of the six logos it unveiled on Thursday was its primary, with a mixture of its three colors used as the logo or background.

Bay FC, the expansion National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC)Bay FC, the expansion National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC) 

The iconography intentionally pairs up the San Francisco landmark with a team that looks to represent the entire region.

“If anyone knows how to turn a big idea into a world-changing reality, it is the Bay Area,” Waxman said in a statement. “With the right investment, care, and culture, Bay FC will become as strong and dynamic as the incredible community of people it serves. We’re going to activate every muscle from across this region to drive this franchise toward setting new standards of excellence. This is the beginning of the Bay FC generation, and it is going to be powerful.”

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The club will also be hosting its first public event this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Presidio’s Main Parade Lawn in San Francisco, near the Golden Gate Bridge itself. The event will have a live concert, food trucks, giveaways and a first look at new team merchandise.

In addition to the four former USWNT stars, former Facebook CEO and FC investor Sheryl Sandberg is expected to attend the Saturday event and address the crowd, as will elected officials and local athletes.

The team still hasn’t finalized where it will play, though its likely home is PayPal Park in San Jose, about 50 miles south of the landmark depicted on Bay FC’s logo. Even without a home stadium announced, fans can now place ticket deposits for the 2024 season on the team’s new website.

Bay FC, the expansion National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC)Bay FC, the expansion National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC)  Bay FC, the expansion National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC)Bay FC, the expansion National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club in the San Francisco Bay Area, unveiled its name, logo and branding on Thursday, June 1. (Photo courtesy of Bay FC) 
Categories: Local News

Pride month kicks off with parades, parties and protests

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:11

By Deepti Hajela | Associated Press

NEW YORK — The start of June marks the beginning of Pride month around the U.S. and some parts of the world, a season intended to celebrate the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ communities and to protest against attacks on hard-won civil rights gains.

This year’s Pride takes place in a contentious political climate in which some state legislators have sought to ban drag shows, prohibit gender-affirming care and limit how teachers can talk about sexuality and gender in the classroom.

Events have been disrupted. Performers have been harassed. And in Colorado in November, five people were killed and several injured when a gunman shot them inside a gay nightclub.

“What we’re seeing right now is probably the worst that it’s been since the early days, in terms of the demonization of our communities,” said Jay W. Walker, one of the co-founders of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, a New York City-based group.

But that won’t stop people from coming out to mark Pride this month, he said.

“You can’t keep our communities down. No one can. It’s basic human rights,” Walker said.


June has been an important month for the LGBTQ+ rights movement since New York City’s first Pride march — then dubbed the “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day” march — on June 28, 1970.

That event marked an act of defiance from the year before, a 1969 uprising at New York City’s Stonewall Inn. After a police raid at the gay bar, a crowd partly led by trans women of color channeled their anger to confront authorities. It was a catalyst to what became a global movement for LGBTQ+ rights.

For more than a half-century, the annual marches have been an opportunity to demand action on specific issues such as the AIDS epidemic and same-sex marriage while also serving as a public celebration.


These days, Pride celebrations and events can be found all over the country.

Many of the nation’s largest cities — including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis — hold their main marches on the last weekend of June, while some cities host their events throughout the month or even at other times of the year.

Along with the marches, Pride organizers fill the month of June with events ranging from readings and performances to parties and street festivals.

In Florida this weekend, Orlando-area theme parks and hotels will play host to annual Gay Days events, which are going ahead even after Gov. Ron DeSantis and state legislators passed a series of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, some of which barred classroom discussion of sexual orientation.

Pride events are happening globally as well, drawing major crowds in places including Sao Paulo, Tel Aviv, Madrid and Toronto.

At some past events, there have been concerns about commercialism and corporate presence that overshadow real issues that are still unresolved. In New York City for the past few years, there has been a second event on the same day of the larger Pride march. The Reclaim Pride Coalition says their event hearkens back to the spirit of protest that animated Stonewall.

The New York City Dyke March channels the idea that Pride is about protest, not just parades.


Pride parades had plenty to celebrate in recent years, such as in 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

But the last several years have been more difficult; Pride events were restricted during the pandemic, and when they returned to in-person last year, it was with a sense of urgency, given the rise of hateful rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ legislative action.

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Around the country, at least 17 states have put restrictions or bans on gender-affirming medical care for minors, and transgender athletes are facing restrictions at schools in at least 20 states.

“This is a year where sentiment is going to be revolving around resistance and about finding strength and community and centering our joy and our right to exist and our right to be here,” said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign organization.

LGBTQ+ communities, Oakley said, need to “commit ourselves to continued resistance against the forces that are trying to prevent us from being our full, joyful, happy, thriving selves. … And band together and fight back against the very oppressive forces that are coming for us.”

Categories: Local News

Authorities recover bodies of 2 sisters after vessel found submerged in Alaska; 2 still missing

Seattle Times - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:09

Authorities have recovered the bodies of two sisters onboard a fishing charter boat that was found partially submerged off southeast Alaska amid rough seas.
Categories: Local News

Defendant store owner shot at suspected shoplifters before

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:01

By Jeffrey Collins | Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A store owner in South Carolina charged with murder this week after shooting a teen he wrongly thought stole water has shot at suspected shoplifters two other times in the past eight years and not faced charges, authorities said.

In 2018, Rick Chow confronted a shoplifter at his Xpress Mart Shell station in Columbia and the man attacked him, Richland County deputies said. Chow fired two shots and wounded the man, who pleaded guilty to charges in the case, in the leg. investigators said.

In 2015, Chow fired several shots at a vehicle after he tried to stop someone he suspected of shoplifting, and the suspect got into the vehicle and threatened to shoot Chow, deputies said. No one was hurt.

In both cases, authorities said Chow’s actions were not criminal. Self-defense law in South Carolina requires the shooter doesn’t instigate the incident, believes he is in imminent danger and has no way to avoid that danger.

Deputies decided that was not the case Sunday, when they said Chow and his son chased a 14-year-old from his store and killed him with one shot to the back. Chow is charged with murder and investigators are talking to prosecutors about possible additional charges against Chow or his son, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

Chow thought the boy had shoplifted four bottles of water. But Cyrus Carmack-Belton, who was Black, put the bottles back in the cooler. After an argument, Carmack-Belton ran off the store property and was still running away when he was killed, Sheriff Leon Lott said.

A gun was found near the teen’s body and Chow’s son told his father that Carmack-Belton was armed after the youth fell as he ran, Lott said. But the sheriff said there was no evidence the boy ever pointed the weapon at Chow or his son.

The sheriff’s department didn’t release additional information about the two other shooting incidents. They said deputies have been called to Chow’s store in suburban northeast Richland County hundreds of times over the past five years for assaults, shoplifting, personal theft, motor vehicle theft, vandalism, robbery and burglary.

A number of media outlets have made open records requests for police reports from those incidents, and authorities say they are working to gather them.

Chow, 58, is awaiting a bond hearing at the Richland County jail. His lawyer has said he is not talking about the case at this time. Chow faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

Chow owned the gun legally, but witnesses and surveillance video provided no evidence that he was in fear of his life, Lott said.

“You don’t shoot somebody in the back that is not a threat to you,” the sheriff said.

Anguish and grief spread after the shooting through the African American community in Richland County, where nearly half the population is Black.

The state’s only Black congressman, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, said Carmack-Belton’s family should be celebrating his completion of the eighth grade and heading to high school instead of mourning him at his funeral Saturday.

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“The criminalization of Black men and boys and the historic trend of painting them as aggressors have time and again led to deadly and heartbreaking circumstances,” Clyburn said in a statement. “Carmack-Belton has since been declared innocent, but his supposed crime of shoplifting a bottle of water should not have cost him his life. I pray justice is swift.”

Chow’s race in court records is listed as Asian.

Several dozen people gathered at the store Monday for a peaceful vigil that included pouring water on the ground, spelling out “Cyrus” with the empty bottles and a sign taped to the locked door reading “Water or Life? Which means more?”

But after dark, deputies said a different group spray-painted the store with “Cyrus” and “14,” broke windows and started stealing beer, cigarettes and other merchandise. Lott said when they find the people he called looters, they will be charged.

The entire gas station is now behind yellow crime scene tape and deputies are watching over it.

Categories: Local News

PlayOJO Casino Review, UK Edition: Pros & Cons, 80 Bonus Spins, and More

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 11:00


Sponsored Content

PlayOJO is an award-winning UK casino site that was launched in 2017. Thanks to a popular jingle and television ad campaign, it surged in popularity straight away and is now one of the UK’s biggest online casinos.

Suitable for all kinds of players – from bingo lovers to jackpot chasers – PlayOJO is home to more than 2,000 games, no wagering bonuses, and plenty of different ways to have fun. Withdrawals are fast and reliable and the site is easy to use.

But is it the right online casino site for you?

Read our PlayOJO Casino review to find out.

PlayOJO Casino Pros:
  • 50 bonus spins for new players
  • No wagering bonuses
  • 3,000+ online casino games
  • Over a thousand slots
  • Bingo available
  • 24/7 support
  • No minimum withdrawal
PlayOJO Casino Cons:
  • Not the best choice for poker players
  • Some games not available on mobile
Best PlayOJO Casino Bonuses Available Right Now:
    • 50 Bonus Spins – Deposit £10 and get 50 bonus spins to be used on Book of Dead. This is the Best PlayOJO welcome bonus with no wagering requirements.
    • OJO’s Bingo Welcome Package – If you prefer bingo, you can get 50 bingo tickets to play 90 ball bingo plus 10 extra spins for the awesome Starburst slot.
    • Kickers – Random bonuses are dropped into your account each day.
    • Bonus Wheel – Try the bonus wheel each day for the chance to win spins and cash prizes.

First deposit only. 50 Free Spins on Book of Dead slot. Bonus Spin valued at £0.10. Full T&Cs Apply.

Below, we take a complete look at the site, breaking down its standout features and what it does better than its rivals, as well as assessing what it does wrong. We’ll also show you how to sign-up and claim its bumper bonuses.

Let’s begin!

The Best Standout Features Of PlayOJO Casino
  • 2,000+ online casino games: PlayOJO doesn’t hold back when it comes to its game selection. There are more than 2,000 games in total, including game shows, live dealer games, bingo rooms, over a thousand online slots, and much more.
  • No wagering bonuses: PlayOJO gets you started with 50 bonus spins on the house – and the best thing is that this offer and all subsequent promos come with zero wagering requirements. All bonuses at PlayOJO come with no maximum wins, too. Full T&Cs Apply.
  • Regular rewards: All UK players get their own personalised Rewards section. This is where you’ll find your daily and weekly rewards, such as a go on the Ojo wheel for cash prizes.
  • Friendly and fluffy web design: PlayOJO is a colourful, breezy online casino site that welcomes anyone and everyone who wants to let off a bit of steam after work or at the weekend. Its web design is friendly and easy to navigate, with all the buttons, menus, and games rooms super simple to find.
  • Top-tier customer support: If you ever run into a spot of bother at PlayOJO, you can either shoot the team an email or contact them via 24/7 live chat for a quick and helpful resolution.
  • Ojo Plus: Ojo Plus is a cashback scheme that anyone is invited to opt into. Once you’re in, you’ll get money back anytime you play one of PlayOJO’s casino games.
Is PlayOJO Casino Legit?

Yes. PlayOJO has been servicing UK customers for six years now. It’s regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, which means it’s completely legit to operate on these shores.

It gets its games from some of the world’s biggest iGaming developers, which include the likes of NetEnt, Evolution Gaming, and Red Tiger. This ensures smooth gameplay and fair payouts, with all the games except the live dealer action using RNG (Random Number Generator) to ensure that the outcome of every single game is randomly determined.

The website is super transparent, with PlayOJO allowing you to meet the team and read their mission statement.

PlayOJO also takes responsible gambling seriously and helps you to stay in touch with a range of safer gambling tools like deposit limits and wager limits. You’ll also find PlayOJO on GamStop, a self-exclusion tool that prevents harmful gambling.

How To Sign-Up and Claim a Bonus at PlayOJO? 

How To Sign-Up and Claim a Bonus at PlayOJO?

PlayOJO is currently offering new UK players 50 bonus spins to be used on the popular slot game Book of Dead.

Here’s how to join PlayOJO and grab this amazing offer in a few easy steps:

1. Click “JOIN NOW”

Use this link and you’ll find the yellow “JOIN NOW” button in the left-hand column of the homepage.

2. Fill in the First Form

The first of three forms then pops up on your screen. For this one, you’ll need to enter your first and last name, as well as your date of birth.

Pop in your email address and mobile number, too, then click “CONTINUE”.

3. Create Your PlayOJO Login

For the second form, you just need to enter your home address.

4. Complete the Third and Final Form

You’ll be asked to create a unique username, as well as a password. Then, confirm you are aged over 18, as well as agree to the terms and conditions. Once you’ve done this, click “GO PLAY” and PlayOJO will launch your account.

5. Make a First Deposit

Now that your PlayOJO login is live, you can head over to the cashier section of PlayOJO and link a payment method (such as a debit card).

In order to claim the welcome bonus, it’s extremely important that you meet the £10 minimum first deposit.

In other words, as long as you deposit £10 or more straight off the bat, PlayOJO will automatically credit your account with 50 bonus spins that are each worth £0.10.

How Does PlayOJO Treat Its UK Players?

The key to a great online casino experience is to be treated well when it comes to customer support, payouts, and literally everything else. Let’s see how PlayOJO fares.

Customer Service

There are two ways you can reach the PlayOJO customer support team:

  • Email support
  • Live chat

This means that telephone support isn’t available.

Live chat, however, is reachable 24/7 and it’s almost always instant. This means that once you open a ticket, a live agent will get back to you within a few moments.

Email support takes a bit longer but we found PlayOJO’s agents to be friendly and informative. They also work hard to bring about a swift resolution to your issue.

There’s also a detailed FAQ page on the PlayOJO website that provides more answers.

Fast Withdrawals

PlayOJO accepts 5 payment methods:

  • VISA
  • MasterCard
  • PayPal
  • Apple Pay
  • Trustly

The minimum deposit for all methods is £10 and there is no minimum withdrawal, which means you can withdraw as much as £1 should you wish.

PlayOJO withdrawal times are on the whole excellent, with this fast payout casino site aiming to process all withdrawals within 24 hours. That said, most withdrawals are completed within 4-8 hours.

For your first withdrawal, you might be asked to upload a government-issued ID to verify your identity.

Easy KYC Process

Speaking of verifying your identity, PlayOJO makes it easy for you to join their casino site and there’s no need to upload any documents before you play any of their games.

However, you need to bear in mind that some players will be asked to upload extra documents, such as a government-issued ID, before they can make a withdrawal.

This isn’t the case for all players and it also seems to be reserved for certain payment methods, such as PayPal. You might be asked to provide a screenshot of your PayPal account/email, too.

However, PlayOJO walks you through the whole process and once you’ve uploaded the required docs, verification takes just a minute or two.

Responsible Gambling Support

PlayOJO is committed to safer gambling and is a GamStop casino site, which means if you choose to self-exclude, you won’t be able to access your PlayOJO account or create a new one.

This UK casino also has a number of different responsible gambling tools onsite, including deposit limits, a play history feature, as well as time checks.

They will also freeze your account and contact you if they ever feel that your gambling is a bit out of control.

On the whole, we found PlayOJO’s commitment to gambling support to be authentic and commendable.

Other Special Features

PlayOJO’s standout special feature is their OjoPlus scheme.

Essentially, when you join OjoPlus (and it’s entirely free, so why not?), you’ll earn cashback every time you place a bet on any game. The only catch is that you must re-bet any refunded funds.

PlayOJO also stands out from multiple other UK online casinos with its no wagering bonuses, as well as the fact that all their promos come with no maximum wins.

No minimum withdrawals will further appeal to those playing just for kicks and who don’t want to have to wait until they have X amount of winnings in their account before they can take it home.

PlayOJO Casino Review (UK): Why Should You Play Games Here? 

PlayOJO Casino Review (UK): Why Should You Play Games Here?

PlayOJO is popular among UK online casino players who want to play casino games in a fun, friendly, and inviting atmosphere.

Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so appealing.

Game Variety: 5/5

PlayOJO lets you take your pick from a whopping selection of more than 2,000 casino games. Mixed in and among these are 1,000+ online slots, 50+ live dealer games like live roulette and live blackjack, as well as bumper jackpot games and game shows.

It’s also one of the best UK bingo sites. There are over 20 bingo rooms here, with a collection of bingo games including Super Hero Bingo, Masked Singer UK Bingo and Diamond Dazzle Bingo.

Scratch games, meanwhile, have their own section, as do the dozens of Slingo games.

Extra Features: 4.7/5

One of the cool things we noticed about PlayOJO is that you can see exactly how many times a game was played in the last 6 hours. For example, when we checked the slot game Fishin’ Frenzy, it had been played 57 times.

PlayOJO also lets you see the current biggest win on each game – Fishin’ Frenzy, for instance, has a £2,365 biggest win. Such information lets you decide where you think your best chances of winning big are – and when you think the jackpot might land.

There’s also an advanced search feature to help you find a game amidst the vast library, while bingo fans will love the Guide to Playing Bingo feature that uncovers all the key terms and shows you what bingo strategies work best.

Bonuses and Promotions: 4.5/5

The most eye-catching aspect of PlayOJO is the no wagering rules. Essentially, this means you get to take home whatever you win without having to meet any rollover requirements first.

We docked half a point off because PlayOJO doesn’t have any matched deposit offers – instead, all players are invited to get started with 50 bonus spins.

Regular bonuses then come thick and fast in the form of Kickers, which last for 24 hours. These include more bonus spins and other random prizes, such as a go on the bonus wheel. Make sure to keep checking your account to see what Kickers are waiting for you.

As we’ve already seen, you can claim cashback each time you bet, too, by joining OjoPlus.

Web Design and Usability: 4.5/5

While not everyone will sit and admire PlayOJO’s friendly and fluffy site design, we think most will. The pastel colours are easy on the eye and there’s a really fun flavour to everything.

What’s more, there’s plenty of substance to go with the stylings.

The user interface is superbly designed, with the website and app sporting a traditional online casino layout. This means that everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be – and in our experience, it’s impossible to get lost here.

Site speed is fab, too, and PlayOJO works just as well on mobile devices as it does on desktop.

>> Grab 50 bonus spins [PlayOJO]

PlayOJO Casino Review Score: 4.7/5

All in all, PlayOJO scores 4.7/5 for us. It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular.

This is one of the highest payout UK online casinos that’s got a huge selection of more than 2,000 online casino games, which means there’s something here for everyone. This includes online slots fans, bingo lovers, as well as those who prefer table games like blackjack and roulette.

And because each game is provided by a world-class iGaming developer, the graphics are amazing.

With tools like advanced search filters and the ability to see how many times a game was played in the last hour, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever be left scratching your head in regards to which game to play next.

No wagering bonuses really do round the whole package off, and while we would like to see some matched deposit bonuses here, it’s hard to argue with the no maximum wins and no minimum withdrawals.

Ready to get started at PlayOJO? 50 bonus spins on the house for new players!

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What Should You Consider Before Signing Up To PlayOJO Casino?

Before you go ahead and create an account at PlayOJO, it’s important that you register in a country where this casino site is legal. UK players are accepted, as are Canadian players, Mexican players, Chilean players, and Spanish players.

In fact, PlayOJO is also one of the best Canadian casino sites online.

£££’s are accepted and you can make a deposit and fund your account using PayPal, Apple Pay, Trustly and VISA, and MasterCard.

The minimum deposit to trigger the welcome bonus is £10 and this is something else to consider before you create your account.

What Are the Best PlayOJO Bonuses for UK Players? PlayOJO Welcome Bonus (50 Bonus Spins on Book of Dead)

PlayOJO Welcome Bonus (50 Bonus Spins on Book of Dead) 

New players can claim 50 bonus spins on Book of Dead just by creating an account and making a £10 minimum first deposit. Spins are worth £0.10 each and all winnings are paid in cash.

As we’ve seen, this offer comes with no wagering requirements and zero maximum wins. Please note that full T&Cs apply

Cashback (OJOPlus) 

PlayaOjo has a scheme called OjoPlus. This essentially functions as a cashback scheme that lets you recoup a portion of your losses anytime you place a bet.

Over time, you can rack the refunds up before cashing them out for bonus funds.



PlayOJO is the home of the OjoWheel, which you can spin for the chance to win a number of different prizes, ranging from more bonus spins to be used on slots games to actual cash prizes.

PlayOJO will let you know anytime you’re eligible for a go on the OjoWheel and exactly what prize you can compete for will depend on your speciality level.

OJO Kickers

OJO Kickers

PlayOJO might not have matched deposit bonuses or reload bonuses – but their promos are usually super creative.

Like their Ojo Kickers, which are their “special perks” that give you access to personalised offers and rewards. They randomly drop in your account each day, they last for 24 hours and they boost your playtime at PlayOJO.

Not quite what you were looking for? Check out some more casino promos here:

Other Casino Sites For UK Players Like PlayOJO

Still not sure about PlayOJO? Here are 3 awesome alternatives that you can sign-up to in the UK.

Grosvenor Casino – More “Professional” Feel Than PlayOJO 


As a brand, Grosvenor Casino goes all the way back to the 1970s in the UK. It made the transition to online gambling over 15 years ago and is today known for its high-quality casino games and sports betting opportunities.

New players can deposit £20 and play with an extra £30 worth of bonus funds, with regular offers including a Scratch of the Day, 10% weekly cashback, and the chance to become a Grosvenor Casino member so that you can enjoy perks and treats at their land-based casinos. Please note that full Terms and Conditions apply.

We especially have praise for Grosvenor’s live dealer games, where bet limits range from low to high, and where you can play alongside players in local real-life clubs 24/7.

A few more payment methods wouldn’t go amiss but it’s a PayPal casino site and withdrawals are always fast.

>> Visit Grosvenor Casino

Magic Red – Another Great Casino Like PlayOJO for UK Slot Players 

Magic Red - Another Great Casino Like PlayOJO for UK Slot Players 

First Deposit: 100% up to £25 + 25 Spins on Starburst. Min. Deposit £20. After first deposit made, customers will get + 25 Spins on Starburst. Offer only applies to new players. Please note the full T&Cs apply.

We feel that Magic Red is a solid shout for those looking to play online slots. It’s home to a bumper selection, including popular slot games like Starburst and Book of Dead, as well as high RTP and jackpot slots. There’s also a range of brand-new UK bingo games.

You can also play table games here like American Roulette and European Blackjack, and while online poker is missing, there’s a good collection of video poker games.

As a new player, you’ll be eligible for a 100% matched deposit bonus that’s worth up to £25 and which also comes with 25 bonus spins. Please note that full Terms and Conditions apply. You can also try your luck on the Drops and Wins each month for the chance to win a slice of the £2,000,000 prize pool.

Magic Red plays host to betting tournaments, too, including the iSoftBet tournament that welcomes players from all over the UK. What’s more, you can claim 10% cashback in the live casino every weekend.

>> 100% welcome bonus at Magic Red

LuckLand – Best PlayOJO Alternative for Sports Bettors 

LuckLand - Best PlayOJO Alternative for Sports Bettors 


LuckLand is a top online casino that combines casino games with sports betting action.

When you create an account, your online casino account is mixed with your sportsbook account, which means you can play the slots before placing a footy bet straight after with ease.

When it comes to casino games, you’re stuck for choice, with LuckLand getting their action from some of the world’s leading iGaming developers. There are hundreds of slots, dozens of table games, as well as a handful of speciality games.

There are plenty of ways to score a jackpot win here, too, with LuckLand letting you know which games are the biggest winners, as well as who won what in the last few hours.

UK players can get started with a 100% welcome offer that’s worth up to £50, with LuckLand also throwing in 50 spins as part of this deal. Please note that full Terms and Conditions apply.

You can then compete in regular slots tournaments and races for the chance to win more cash prizes, as well as try your luck on the so-called Daily Spin Frenzy for 50 bonus spins.

>> 100% welcome offer at LuckLand

Other PlayOJO Reviews Online

For the purpose of a balanced and transparent PlayOJO review, we took a look at what other PlayOJO customers are saying about this casino site.

The general consensus is that PlayOJO is an exciting UK online casino that excels when it comes to customer support, fast withdrawals and great game selection – with users especially  praising PlayOJO’s swift responses to their questions.

PlayOJO Review Verdict: Ready to Sign Up?

We’ve crossed the finish line, and it’s time to sum up our PlayOJO Casino review.

It is a fun casino site that gives you lots of choice when it comes to games and treats you to fab bonuses.

Its no-wagering offers are a huge part of its appeal, as are its minimum withdrawals and friendly site design.

This casino is especially suitable for those who hate having to meet play-through requirements before taking home their bonus winnings, as well as anyone who wants to play bingo and jackpot slot games.

High rollers are also welcome too, with high-limit tables available in the live dealer casino.

You can get started today with 50 bonus spins and all you need to do is create an account, make a £10 deposit – and you’re on your way.

Good luck and please remember to gamble responsibly!

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for entertainment purposes only. Gambling imposes many risks and does not guarantee financial gain. It must only be done for entertainment and not as a solution to any financial challenges. If you suspect you’re becoming addicted to gambling or have any knowledge of someone who may be going through the same, dial the National Gambling Helpline at 0808-8020-133.

Be aware that gambling websites are strictly rated 18+ only. Always practice due diligence and check your local laws and policies to make sure gambling is allowed in your region.

If you’re looking for free gambling addiction resources, you may find them in these organizations:

Affiliate Disclosure: This is an affiliate post. We don’t offer casino games ourselves. Instead, we help you find a place to play. When you go to a casino via our site and play there, we receive compensation.




Article paid for by: PlayTogga, partners@playtogga.com
The news and editorial staffs of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this post’s preparation.


Categories: Local News

Racial bias in testing likely led to underdiagnosing Black men with lung problems, study suggests

Seattle Times - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:59

A new study suggests racial bias built into a common medical test for lung function is likely leading to fewer Black patients getting care for breathing problems.
Categories: Local News

Don Bonker, former Southwest WA congressional representative, dead at 86

Seattle Times - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:54

May 31—Don Bonker, who represented Southwest Washington in Congress for 14 years, yet rarely missed his children's phone calls or baseball games, died Tuesday in Silverdale. He was 86 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder last week. While representing Washington's 3rd District from 1975 until 1988, Bonker helped establish the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and ...
Categories: Local News

US court to hear challenge over Prince Harry’s visa following drug revelations

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:51
By Jack Guy and Lauren Said-Moorhouse | CNN

Prince Harry’s US immigration records should be unsealed in the light of revelations about drug-taking in his recent book, a conservative think tank will argue in a federal court next week.

The Heritage Foundation is suing the US government to find out if it acted according to procedure when it granted the Duke of Sussex a US visa. Under US immigration law, evidence of past drug use can be grounds to reject an application.

The case will be held in front of a federal judge on June 6 at the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Heritage Foundation filed a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act, attempting to compel the government to release Harry’s immigration file. “The requested information is of immense public interest,” reads an amended complaint filed on May 5.

“Widespread and continuous media coverage has surfaced the question of whether DHS [Department of Homeland Security] properly admitted the Duke of Sussex in light of the fact that he has publicly admitted to the essential elements of a number of drug offenses in both the United States and abroad,” it continues.

The Heritage Foundation has long been one of the most influential conservative think tanks in Washington. Nile Gardiner, director of the foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, tweeted on Thursday that there was a public interest in disclosing Harry’s records.

“Given his extensive drug use admissions, normally disqualifying for entry into the United States, the American people deserve answers to the serious questions raised by the evidence,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “Did DHS in fact look the other way, play favorites, or fail to appropriately respond to any potential false statements by Prince Harry?”

CNN has asked a representative for Prince Harry for comment.

Harry most recently confessed to taking various recreational party drugs in his explosive memoir “Spare,” which was published in January.

The Duke of Sussex admitted to having taken cocaine, smoked marijuana and tried magic mushrooms. Harry, who moved to California with Meghan in 2020, has opened up about his experiences with cocaine as a teenager.

“Of course. I had been doing cocaine around this time. At someone’s country house, during a shooting weekend, I’d been offered a line, and I’d done a few more since,” Harry revealed.

“It wasn’t much fun, and it didn’t make me particularly happy, as it seemed to make everyone around me, but it did make me feel different, and that was the main goal.”

Harry described himself as a “deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo.”

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Elsewhere in the autobiography, the fifth in line to the throne discussed graduating from smoking tobacco to weed during his days at Eton College, as well as revealing that he tried magic mushrooms during a trip to the United States.

Harry said he briefly stayed at actor Courteney Cox’s house where “we spotted a huge box of black diamond mushroom chocolates” and he and a friend ate several and “washed them down with tequila.”

Prince Harry’s autobiography was not the first time the royal had touched upon his recreational drug use when he was younger.

He previously spoke with Oprah Winfrey of how he abused drugs and alcohol in his late 20s and early 30s as a coping mechanism for the pressures of royal life.

“I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs,” he said. “I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.”

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Categories: Local News

NBA Finals betting guide: Nuggets-Heat odds, prop bets and key terms

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:50

The NBA Finals have arrived in Denver for the first time and along with that comes all kinds of excitement, pomp and circumstance, media coverage and, of course, gambling opportunities.

As sports gambling continues to proliferate in the United States, hoops fans and casual observers alike will see a raft of advertising, sponsorship and array of wagers to be made around the Finals.

Here’s some betting information ahead of Game 1 between the Nuggets and Miami Heat on Thursday night. Bottom line: In both the game and the series, Denver is a heavy betting favorite.

Series odds

Favorite: Nuggets -400

Underdog: Heat +310

* Odds are via DraftKings as of Wednesday morning. 

Game 1 Odds

Money Line:  Nuggets -390 / Heat +310

Spread: Nuggets -9 (-106) / Heat +9 (+114)

Point total: 219.5 (-110)

* Odds are sportsbook consensus provided by vegasinsider.com as of Wednesday morning

NBA Finals prop bets

Jokic’s stellar run continues: Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is the runaway favorite to win NBA Finals MVP, but he’s not the only candidate. Currently, Jokic checks in at -350 to win the award, according to BetMGM. After him, Miami’s Jimmy Butler is +350 and Denver’s Jamal Murray is +1200.

Top scorer: Jokic, not surprisingly, is also the favorite to lead all scorers in Game 1, but not by as wide a margin as the MVP race. He checks in currently via FanDuel Sportsbook at +160. Other candidates to lead the pack Thursday night include Butler (+185) and Murray (+220) before bigger reaches like Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. and Miami’s Bam Adebayo at +3300 each.

Triple-double machine: Jokic is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The odds he will average a triple-double in the finals is -120, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

A sweep upcoming?: How long will the series last? You can bet on that, too, naturally. FanDuel has the Nuggets at +450 to sweep. It has the most likely outcome pegged, based on implied odds, as Denver finishing the job in five games (+210). Bettors can also get the Heat in six games at +900 or in a sweep at +4800.

Rare heights: Former Lakers star Elgin Baylor is the only player in NBA history to top 60 points in a Finals game when he scored 61 against Boston in 1962. Caesars puts the odds at +6,000 that someone will reach 60 in a game this series. That said, three players — Butler, Jokic and Murray — have topped the 50-point mark previously in the playoffs.

Key terms

Odds: The betting favorite will have a minus (-) in front of the total money needed to risk in order to win $100. A betting underdog will have a plus (+) in front as the total money you’ll win for every $100 risked. Example: If betting on the Nuggets to win the title at -400, you must wager $400 to win $100 — plus your $400 bet back — for a total payout of $500. There are several betting calculator services available online.

Money line: A wager on a team’s odds to win the game outright. Example: The Nuggets are -390 to win Game 1, so a winning $10 bet would result in winnings of $2.56 and a payout of $12.56. A winning $10 bet on Miami at +330 would result in winnings of $33 and a payout of $43.

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Team prop bets: A wager that predicts how a specific team will perform. Example: Common bets in this category are team points total (114.5 for the Nuggets in Game 1) and margin of victory.

Parlay: A series of wagers tied into one bet that the bettor must win all of in order to collect. Example: In Game 1, DraftKings has a same-game parlay featuring the Nuggets money line (Denver winning by any margin) and Nikola Jokic recording a triple-double that pays out at +110.

Categories: Local News

Kurtenbach: The 49ers mere mocked for drafting a kicker in the third round, but they’ll get the last laugh

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:45

SANTA CLARA — If the Warriors or Sharks had their leading scorer in each of the six seasons leave the team, it would be a pretty big deal.

But when that exact thing happened to the 49ers this offseason with kicker Robbie Gould’s exit, more attention was paid to when the team drafted his replacement.

Kickers get no respect — even when you really need them.

Kyle Shanahan knows how important they are, though. Gould’s reliability within 50 yards and ability to nail kicks in even the most adverse conditions were a significant part of the Niners coach’s offensive plan since both arrived here in 2017.

So the 49ers selected Michigan kicker Jake Moody in the third round — a ludicrously early pick to folks in the “analytics community” — to be the next Gould, a steady and reliable force.

And perhaps a bit more, too.

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“[He’s] Everything we thought he was,” Niners special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said Wednesday of Moody. “Just really consistent, really even-keeled, and exactly what we hoped he’d be.”

It was Schneider who was tasked with finding Gould’s replacement this offseason, and that meant, above all else, finding someone who would not get rattled by big moments. For all of Gould’s qualities and faults, he made big-time field goals in big-time moments.

But how do you test for mental toughness in a workout environment?

Bad snappers.

Schneider chalks it up to good luck for him and terrible luck for Moody, but the draft prospect’s long snapper for his one-on-one pre-draft workout with the Niners was, according to the coach, “atrocious.”

“Great guy, love him to death, but he’s terrible at snapping,” Moody said of the Michigan tight end and emergency snapper who will remain nameless.

“I absolutely loved it,” Schneider said.

Like golf, kicking is as much a mental game as a physical one. A slight deviation in a leg swing can create a spiral of mechanics and confidence.

Only four kickers before Moody had been selected in the third round or earlier in this century. The last kicker selected on Day 2 of the draft — Roberto Aguayo, the No. 59 overall pick in 2016 — flamed out after one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aguayo might have been the most accurate kicker in the history of college football but the pressure of the NFL was too much for him, and Tampa Bay didn’t find out until he was on the roster, missing easy kicks in preseason games.

That’s the cautionary tale every NFL team carries with them when they’re looking to draft a kicker.

So the Niners coach leaned into the adversity of the terrible snaps. He wanted to break Moody in that workout. What’s this kid made of?

“He was frustrated, like anyone would be in a job interview where some things are out of his control,” Schneider said. “[But] I’m just looking at him, and he’s still stone-faced — really cool disposition.”

And when Schneider, sensing a make-or-break moment, called for a scramble drill kick and the snap bounced twice on the way back, what did Moody do?

“Smoked it,” Schneider said. “Just like I’ve seen on tape, so consistent with his approach and finish and trust.”

“Thankfully, he got it up at the last second,” Moody, a man of few words around the facility, said of his holder. “I didn’t kick his hand off, and I made it.”

“After that I told [Shanahan and GM John Lynch], I don’t care where you take him, this is the guy,” Schneider said. “I felt that strongly about him. That’s not my job to figure out where we should draft him. I just know I really like the talent, I really love the kid. I love everything about him, so to me, it was like I think this is the best and they have to figure that out.”

Shanahan and Lynch decided the third round was the spot — they couldn’t risk waiting a day to take him.


Another reminder: Kickers lead their teams in scoring every year.

They’re like a romantic partner — they might be temperamental, a bit of a head case, and you might complain about them to your friends, but when you don’t have a good one, you’d do just about anything to change that.

The Niners lost a good one this winter. The last thing Shanahan wants to worry about is special teams. So if he had to pay a premium to land the best kicker in the draft, so be it.

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Remember: Shanahan paid Gould well over market value after the kicker’s ridiculous holdout in 2019. But no one thought about the kicker’s salary when Gould hit that game-winning 45-yard field goal amid snow, a swirling wind, sub-zero temperatures, and frozen grass at Lambeau Field in the 2021 playoffs.

Ultimately, we won’t know if Shanahan and Lynch are geniuses or reactionaries until there are fans in the stands, but if the early returns are to be believed, and they are proven correct that Moody is the real deal, no one will care where the kicker was drafted.

The Niners’ offense might look a bit different in the process, too.

I’ve long wondered how Shanahan would call plays if he had a kicker he could trust to make a 60-yard field goal.

With Gould, it was really 40 yards and in, expanding later in his career with appreciable success.

But Moody has a much bigger leg and should be just as accurate. Back to golf: Moody’s 3-wood off the tee is Gould’s driver.

There have been countless times throughout Shanahan’s tenure where he’s set up a drive for a field goal with conservative play-calling in adverse situations.

Holding penalty inside an opponent’s territory? Here come the four Rs — three runs and Robbie.

But with Moody, the Niners’ scoring range could expand all the way to the 50-yard line (and perhaps a bit beyond, wind permitting).

Does Shanahan look to go for a first down on a third-and-long now?

Does the offense open up a bit now that he has a kicker who can steal points, as opposed to merely securing them?

Overlook kickers all you want, but the permutations of this move to Moody could be massive.

And of course, that could swing in either direction.

But so far, Moody is practicing, and acting, like the kind of kicker who should be around for a long time.

The kind of kicker who, perhaps a few years from now, might end up getting some respect.

Categories: Local News

Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat: 5 things to watch and predictions

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:44

The Denver Nuggets enter their first NBA Finals in franchise history to face the Miami Heat. Here’s a breakdown of their matchup:

Who has the edge?

Guards: Maybe Nikola Jokic has inadvertently stolen some of Jamal Murray’s shine, but Denver’s combo guard has been almost unstoppable throughout Denver’s historic playoff run. Far from a bubble phenomenon, Murray’s averaging 27.7 points per game in the playoffs, which is, gasp, more than he averaged when the Nuggets were sequestered in Orlando. The Lakers didn’t have an answer for him when he filleted their backcourt, and outside of Heat star Jimmy Butler, there are no obvious defensive matchups for Murray. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are both scrappy guards, each capable and willing to shoot from outside. The Heat is a team made up of more than the sum of its parts, but Denver’s got a significant advantage in the backcourt. Edge: Nuggets.

Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets during the NBA Finals media day practice at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Denver Nuggets play the Miami Heat in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets during the NBA Finals media day practice at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Denver Nuggets play the Miami Heat in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post) 

Wings: Don’t underestimate Butler, the two-way wing who thrives in the face of doubt. The unquestioned leader of the Heat, Butler is a menace inside the arc, getting downhill and drawing fouls. He’s also the type of competitor you’ll have to stomp out, twice, before you know you can turn your back. Aaron Gordon will draw the assignment, adding to a murderer’s row of wings he’s had to stymie. Imagine having to stop Kevin Durant and LeBron James, only to be rewarded with Butler. That’s what Gordon’s looking at. Caleb Martin erupted in the conference finals and had a plausible case as the series’ MVP. Expect Denver’s best perimeter defender, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to try and disrupt his rhythm from 3-point range. Michael Porter Jr.’s going to have a significant advantage over his matchup in terms of size and length. Porter’s 3-point shooting could also zap Miami’s zone. Expect a heavy emphasis on crashing the glass, from Porter and Gordon, given the zone’s vulnerabilities. Edge: Even.

Jimmy Butler (22) of the Miami Heat during the NBA Finals media day practice at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Miami Heat play the Denver Nuggets in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)Jimmy Butler (22) of the Miami Heat during the NBA Finals media day practice at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Miami Heat play the Denver Nuggets in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post) 

Big men: Bam Adebayo has the right strength and athleticism to deal with Jokic, but does he have the stamina? Anthony Davis didn’t. Scoff all you want, but Jokic is in elite condition. Capable of clearing the defensive glass and kick-starting a break the other way, Jokic is at the heart of Denver’s transition offense. It’s one of the preeminent battlegrounds of the series. And if Adebayo is already giving up a few inches to Jokic down low, the Heat better be careful he doesn’t get into foul trouble. There’s a steep drop-off in talent beyond him in the depth chart. Will Miami single cover Jokic or throw double-teams at him? Like a junk ball pitcher, the Heat will toss the kitchen sink at Jokic, varying their looks throughout the series. It might not matter. Edge: Nuggets

Bench: The Nuggets are expecting Tyler Herro to return sometime in the middle of the series from a broken hand. He’s a spark plug scorer who can catch fire off the bench. Beyond that, both Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love are battle-tested, each having played in the Finals before. Duncan Robinson’s 3-point proficiency can turn a game quickly. Denver’s best counter, for most of Miami’s depth, is Bruce Brown. He’ll no doubt see some time on Butler, or whichever Heat starter staggers with its second unit. Does Christian Braun get back in the rotation after sitting Game 4 vs. the Lakers? How much production can Denver expect out of Jeff Green? Nuggets coach Michael Malone said it’s the Finals, and everything is on the table. Might there be some surprise minutes looming on Denver’s bench? Edge: Even.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra during the NBA Finals media day at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Miami Heat play the Denver Nuggets in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra during the NBA Finals media day at Ball Arena May 31, 2023. The Miami Heat play the Denver Nuggets in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday evening. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post) 

Coaching: Erik Spoelstra is the best coach in the NBA never to win Coach of the Year, and he might not even need that caveat. He might just be the best. Spoelstra’s teams are consistently competitive regardless of who’s on the roster. It was also difficult to dismiss his bravado while promising they’d find a way to seize Game 7 in Boston last round. Malone has the benefit of the series’ best player, home court advantage and a massive rest edge. His players lauded their practices leading into Game 1 in that he hammered their conditioning throughout the break. Malone has played out the disrespect card, and that should no longer be a talking point. The Nuggets deserve to be where they are and don’t need anymore motivational gimmicks. Now it’s about executing and making history. Edge: Heat.

Mike Singer, The Denver Post

Five things to watch

1. Experience matters: If the Heat holds one advantage over the Nuggets heading into their championship series, it’s simply the fact that Miami’s been here before. Not only is this the first NBA Finals trip for Denver, it’s the first for all but two Nuggets (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jeff Green). All told, Miami has 72 games of Finals experience compared to 10 for the Nuggets. But that comes with a couple of caveats: 1. More than half of those games (42) belong to reserves Udonis Haslem (27) and Kevin Love (15), neither of whom played a minute of the conference finals; and 2. Another significant chunk (24) is from Miami’s six-game series against the Lakers in the Orlando bubble.

2. Miami’s Herro: Microwave scorer Tyler Herro has been wearing a bucket hat instead of a uniform for most of the Heat’s postseason run after fracturing his hand in the team’s first-round series vs. Milwaukee. The timeline originally provided by the Heat indicates that last year’s Sixth Man of the Year could return to the lineup at some point in this series. But just how effective can Herro be after missing all but one of the Heat’s 18 playoff games? If it’s anywhere close to what he produced over 67 games during the regular season (20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists), that would be a significant add to an already deep roster.

3. Rest vs. rust: After sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets will have gone nine days between when they last played May 22 in L.A. and tip-off of Game 1 inside Ball Arena. Will that extended rest be an advantage against a Heat team that only closed out the Celtics three days earlier? Or will it produce a sluggish start with the Nuggets needing time to shake off the rust? There is a precedent for this earlier in the postseason: The Nuggets had a week of rest while first-round opponent Minnesota grinded through a pair of play-in games prior to the first round. The Game 1 result? A 109-80 thrashing of the T-Wolves that was over by the end of the third quarter.

4. Bombs away: In a nod to the times, the last two teams standing in these NBA Playoffs also happen to be the two best 3-point shooting squads in the postseason bracket. While the Heat comes in at No. 1 at 39.0% over 18 games, with an average of 13.1 3-pointers per game, the Nuggets are just a tick behind at No. 2 (38.6%, 12.1 3s/game). Could this series come down to who defends the 3-point line better? Both teams have been quite good in that regard, with the Nuggets giving up just 9.9 triples/game at a 34.2% clip this postseason, and the Heat 12.3 at 32.5%.

5. Mile High advantage: As befitting its status as just the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals since 1999, the Heat has been road warriors throughout its run to the NBA Finals, going 6-4 away from South Beach, including three wins at Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. There’s just one small problem with that: Miami has lost six straight at Ball Arena, with those losses coming by an average margin of 12.6 points. Throw in the games at Kaseya Center, and Miami is just 2-10 against Denver since the start of the 2017-18 season — a period that just so happens to coincide with the rise of the Nuggets as perennial playoff contenders. Throw in Denver’s perfect record (8-0) at Ball Arena during these playoffs, and the odds are clearly stacked against the Heat.

Matt Schubert, The Denver Post

The Denver Post staff predictions

Mike Singer, Nuggets beat writer: The Nuggets have come too far to underestimate a No. 8 seed that’s standing in the way of their first title. While Michael Malone is correct that this series will be the hardest test they’ve ever had, Miami, on short rest, just doesn’t match up well against Denver. Nuggets in six.

Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: The Heat is feisty, Erik Spoelstra is a coaching genius and Jimmy Buckets can win a Finals game on any given night by himself. But the Nuggets’ run to their first championship in franchise history is too powerful a story for ESPN naysayers or Miami to deny. Nuggets in six.

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Jimmy Butler is magic. He’s also 5-7 over his last 12 games vs. Denver, head-to-head, and 1-3 as a member of the Heat. Bam Adebayo is 2-10 over his last 12 tussles with the Western champs. You get the drill. Nuggets in six.

Bennett Durando, sports reporter: I was ready to cast my Celtics-in-seven pick Monday night, haunted by memories of a 2004 St. Louis baseball team that encountered a destiny-bound Boston squad fresh off a 3-0 comeback. But hey, we don’t have to touch that topic now. The South Beach waters clearly harness dark magic, but I see no way Miami matches up. Nuggets in five.

Ryan McFadden, sports reporter: Miami’s performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals showed the Heat has something left in the tank after an exhausting series against the Celtics. But that will not be enough to stop the Nuggets, who are hungry and rested. Plus, no team has yet to solve Nikola Jokic in the postseason. Nuggets in five.

Matt Schubert, sports editor: Fear Jimmy Buckets’ relentless confidence. Tremble at Coach Spo’s big basketball brain. Quake at the undeniable force that is Heat Culture. Then just give the basketball to the best player on the planet (aka The Joker) and watch him slice it all into little bits. Nuggets in five.

NBA Finals schedule Game Location Date Time TV Game 1 Miami at Denver Thursday, June 1 6:30 p.m.  ABC Game 2 Miami at Denver Sunday, June 4 6 p.m. ABC Game 3 Denver at Miami Wednesday, June 7 6:30 p.m. ABC Game 4 Denver at Miami Friday, June 9 6:30 p.m. ABC *Game 5 Miami at Denver Monday, June 12 6:30 p.m. ABC *Game 6 Denver at Miami Thursday, June 15 6:30 p.m. ABC *Game 7 Miami at Denver Sunday, June 18 6:30 p.m. ABC

* If necessary 

Categories: Local News

LGBTQ+ people flock to Florida for Gay Days Festival

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:40

By Mike Schneider | Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people are flocking to central Florida this weekend to go on theme park rides, mingle with costumed performers, dance at all-night parties and lounge poolside at hotels during Gay Days, a decades-long tradition.

Even though Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers have championed a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ laws — spurring the most prominent gay rights group in the U.S. and other civil rights organizations to issue warnings the Sunshine State may no longer be safe — Gay Days organizers are still encouraging visitors from around the world to come to one of Florida’s largest gay and lesbian celebrations.

They say a large turnout will send a message that LGBTQ+ people are not going away in Florida, which is continually one of the most popular states for tourists to visit. If the hoped-for 150,000 or more visitors come to the half-week of pool parties, drag bingo and thrill rides at Orlando’s theme parks and hotels, then “that’s the point,” said Joseph Clark, CEO of Gay Days Inc.

“Right now is not the time to run. It’s not the time to go away,” Clark said. “It’s time to show we are here, we are queer and we aren’t going anywhere.”

Unlike most of the country, which celebrates Pride in June, Orlando holds its Pride in October. Gay Days is a bonus celebration.

It’s not lost on the organizers that the highlight of the weekend will be a Saturday meetup of LGBTQ+ visitors at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, where the first Gay Days started as a single-day celebration in 1991. Traditionally, participants wear red shirts to identify themselves, and they meet for the afternoon parade in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

Currently, Disney is embroiled in a legal fight with DeSantis over the governor and Republican lawmakers’ takeover of Disney World’s governing district — after Disney officials publicly opposed legislation that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

At first, the law banned classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity up to third grade, but this year it was expanded to apply to all grades. On top of that, Florida lawmakers recently passed bills making it a felony to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender minors, as well as banning people from entering bathrooms other than their sex assigned at birth, and prohibiting children from some performances, which takes aim at drag shows.

The administration of DeSantis, who launched a campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination last week, also moved to revoke the liquor licenses of a Miami hotel and a performing arts center owned by the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation after they hosted drag shows where investigators claim minors were present.

In response, some Florida cities, including St. Cloud near Orlando, have canceled Pride events altogether.

“These laws have created a climate of fear and hostility for LGBTQIA+ people in Florida,” organizers for St. Cloud’s Pride events wrote to announce the cancellation. “We believe that holding an LGBTQIA+ event in this environment would put our community at risk.”

Responding to Florida’s new laws and policies, the Human Rights Campaign — the largest LGBTQ+ rights organization in the U.S. — recently issued a travel and relocation warning for the state, joining the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Equality Florida.

While the LGBTQ+ advocacy group said it wasn’t calling for a boycott of all travel to Florida, it said it wanted to highlight new laws passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature that they said are hostile to the LGBTQ+ community and restrict abortion access, as well as make the state unsafe for many by allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Some participants in the Pride Cup athletic competitions at Gay Days decided not to come, forcing the cancellation of dodgeball and flag football tournaments. But the multi-sport competition that is held annually at Gay Days will still have beach volleyball, golf, pickleball and kickball.

Even before these travel advisories were issued, some regular Florida visitors were reconsidering their plans. Sara Haynes, who lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, decided not to visit the state after lawmakers started planning legislation to restrict treatment options for trans people.

“It’s less a crusade and more like, ‘I’m not going to spend my money where bad things are going on,'” Haynes said.

But the organizers of Gay Days and their supporters say that Orlando is as gay-friendly a city as they come, earning a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign index, which measures how inclusive cities are of LGBTQ+ residents and visitors. They say tourists can support the LGBTQ+ community by visiting cities like Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and St. Petersburg, which also received perfect scores.

“We live in a bubble here in Orlando, where even with the chaos in Florida, we feel safe here,” said Jeremy Williams, editor-in-chief of Watermark Publishing Group Inc., a Florida-based media company that is one of the sponsors of Gay Days.

Gay Days has survived past challenges, including in the early years when Disney posted signs at the Magic Kingdom’s entrance warning visitors there was a large gathering of gays and lesbians and offering passes to other parks for guests who might be offended. Over the last three decades, though, the theme parks and resorts have thrown down the welcome mats as Gay Days has become a profitable bounce between the spring break and out-of-school summer crowds. SeaWorld’s water park, Aquatica, is a sponsor this year.

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Other groups have adopted hostile attitudes in the past. During Gay Days in the 1990s, hundreds of anti-abortion activists with Operation Rescue protested outside Walt Disney World, and the Southern Baptist Convention cited the gathering in calling for a boycott of all things Disney. Some Christian groups tried to buy air time during Gay Days in the late 1990s to pressure people to renounce their sexual orientation, but mainstream TV stations in Orlando rejected the ads.

If Clark, the CEO of the Gay Days business, had his wish, DeSantis would accept an open invitation to see one of the drag shows during this year’s festivities.

“Come on out and see that not everything you hear out there is reality,” said Clark, as if he were directly addressing DeSantis. “There’s a part of me that hopes that if he were to see a show, maybe his mind would change, or maybe he would see the people his actions are affecting.”

Categories: Local News

Grammy-winning pop act supports No. 1 album with 3 California shows

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:39

Luke Smallbone clearly remembers his Steph Curry moment.

It came right after he and his brother Joel — collectively known as the pop duo For King & Country — had sung the national anthem before a game between Curry’s Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

As he was walking off the court, Smallbone — a huge Warriors fan — happened to cross paths with the future Basketball Hall of Famer.

“We walked by him and (Curry) kind of motioned like ‘Hey, good job’ or whatever. And I just looked at him and said, “Sup, man” and kept on walking,” said Smallbone, realizing that had blown his chance at looking cool in front of his sports hero. “That was my terrible Steph Curry story.”

“Luke had never said ‘Sup, man’ before,” Joel Smallbone adds for emphasis.

Bay Area fans will have the chance to say “Sup, men” to the brothers Smallbone when For King & Country performs June 8 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $36-$206, mountainwinery.com.

The multi-Grammy-winning act also headlines two major Christian music events — Spirit West Coast at the Stockton Arena on June 9 and Fishfest at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Jun 10 — with CeCe Winans, Pat Barrett and other acts also on the bills. (See transparentproductions.com for information on both of those shows.)

I recently had the chance to chat via Zoom with For King & Country about the band’s latest No. 1 album, “What Are We Waiting For?” We also spoke about the Nashville duo’s upcoming film, “Unsung Hero,” which follows the Smallbone family — which also includes Grammy-winning vocalist Rebecca St. James — from their home in Australia to the U.S. and, eventually, the top of charts. (Visit unsungheromovie.com for details).

Q: Promoters have lined up a lot of talent for this year’s Spirit West Coast and Fishfest. It must be fun to play those types of festivals.

Luke: Anytime you get to do these events and you get to see all these genres of music, that obviously come with a similar message — you’ve got gospel with CeCe, you’ve got Pat Barrett with the worship side of things — that’s always a special thing. You get to hear all these different flavors.

Q: I’ve been to Spirit West Coast before and it was great.

Luke: To be honest, California is probably one of our favorite states to play in America. It always seems like it’s California, Texas and Florida where the crowds — and just the enthusiasm and passion — are amazing. So, I we look forward to making those new memories with Californians.

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Q: Danny Gokey once told me that those festivals are basically the only times when the artists get to catch up with each other – even though everyone lives right down the road from each other in Nashville.

Joel: To a level, at least, there is that strange moment where you are like over in Norway and you haven’t seen one another in like four years, and yet you do live three miles from one other. And this is what it took for us to actually have an audience with each other.

But you’d be surprised, Jim, Nashville — even with all its development — is still a remarkably sort of big small town.

Where I live there’s a community — a lot of artists are in there — and there’s a little coffee shop. And you’ll have Brad Paisley walk through or Cody Carnes or Kari Jobe, who is just down the road, or Carrie Underwood.

Q: And people just go about their business.

Joel: Luke has it harder than me because he’s taller and he’s got super recognizable hair that he hasn’t changed in 20 years. So, people notice him more than they notice me.

But there’s a sweetness still to the low-key nature of being home and having your home be Nashville, Tennessee.

Q: I still have to think that Carrie Underwood stops the crowd when she walks in to get her nonfat mochaccino.

Joel: No. Carrie is actually pretty good because she puts a hat on, and she is with a couple of girlfriends, and is pretty low key.

Q: Did you know what type of album you wanted to make with “What Are We Fighting For?” when you first went into the studio? Or did its overriding themes – of unity, peace, working together — sort of crystallize along the way?

Luke: We wrote and recorded it during the pandemic. And we didn’t necessarily want to write pandemic songs. But I do think we wanted to write lessons that we had learned from the pandemic, because I think they were lessons that you could apply at any time.

Q: And they are ones worth remembering, for sure.

Luke: I think life became fragile for people. And I think they starred in a little bit of a mirror and some people realized they have these stored-up dormant dreams that they haven’t gotten to live out. And in some cases, those things might be their very callings and yet they have just sort of gone through the motions.

I think there was a litany of lessons that came from that period of time.

Q: Some of those lessons can certainly be found on the album’s lead single, “Relate,” which is such an uplifting cry for trying to understand one another.

Joel: I wish artistry happened in this way that you are like, “I have this vision. This is what it is going to be” and then you put pen to paper and it’s actually what you think.

But there are all these twists and turns and you have to stay more subject to the creativity then the creativity is subject to you.

With that in mind, “Relate” was actually one of the last songs we wrote. We wrote it and, within a day, we called everyone and were like, “Hey, this is actually what we’ve been trying to get at this whole time.”

It’s one of the songs that we feel was really given to us to steward.

Q: Tell me about the “Unsung Hero” film.

Luke: Our family’s story, coming from Australia to America, is one that we have told from stage for a lot of years. We had a lot of people come up and kind of mention writing a book. At the end of the day, it kind of started to hit me that where we find ourselves culturally — families need some encouragement these days — I think that telling a story about a family that remains together under enormous stress and a lot of very strange circumstances is worth telling.

Q: The “Unsung Hero” in the film is your mom. Why was it important for people to know about her story?

Luke: I think people are looking for heroes to look up. In some cases, it’s the things that people do behind closed doors that actually change the trajectory of people’s lives — that change history. And I think of our mother when it comes to that. So, we are pretty thrilled to be able to tell this story.

Hopefully, (the film) will be out sometime February or March. We are working for Lionsgate to bring it to theaters.

There is a lot of be thankful for and a lot of work to do and a lot to be excited about.

Q: I know you are familiar with my buddy Scott Smith from the “Scott & Kelli” show on K-LOVE radio. When I knew I was interviewing you two, I texted him for advice on what to ask you. He told me to ask Joel what it was like to play the role of his own father in the movie.

Joel: I’ve dubbed it, Jim, a very expensive therapy session. But I will say this, in all honestly, it’s a great exercise. One thing you do in counseling and therapy is you often go back to the moment of either trauma and life experience and you kind of look at the environment, you look at the people associated with it, and that’s where you find healing and forgiveness and empathy.

And while this genuinely wasn’t a traumatic experience for either of us — in fact, it was a really great adventure in many ways as young kids — going back and living out their trauma, particularly our dad’s trauma, and understanding the weight of moving continents with six kids and one on the way just put so much of their story and his journey as a man into perspective.

Q: Scott also suggested that I ask Luke whether or not he thought Joel nailed the role.

Luke: I think Joel did a really good job of doing a lot of the things that made dad dad, but also making him a much more approachable figure in the sense of understanding the internal struggles that our father had in the early ‘90s.



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