Sunday, December 30, 2012

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New York Giants QB Eli Manning passed for 4 TDs in 1st half vs. Eagles, tying his career high for TD passes in a game. The Giants lead the Eagles 35-7.

Exclusive: Gallery owner left 100-page manifesto detailing lost love and financial woes before she committed suicide

She just couldn’t let go.


Lovesick Madison Avenue art-gallery owner Marijana Bego penned a 100-page manifesto before jumping from the building’s roof — and she called it the “most romantic story of all times.”

Bego’s note is a testament of her love for art and for business partner and boyfriend of nearly two decades Khedouri Ezair, 46 — a real-estate executive whom she never learned to stop loving, even years after they broke up.

“How she could all let it happen?” she wrote, her English broken at times, in the third-person missive mailed to niece Ivana Ristic in Serbia.

“All her life, all her endeavor for something — and what she has of it??! No husband, no kids, no savings, no health insurance, no any support.”

An impeccably dressed Bego, 54, plunged to her death on Dec. 22 from atop the Bego-Ezair Gallery — to which she dedicated years of her life.

She had been grappling with mounting financial pressures in the weeks leading up to her death, and often struggled thinking about how her life had reached such a low point.

“She took a cold, non-alcoholic O’Doulls beer by one gulp and thought how possibly she could feel and be this way now and here all by herself, all alone and almost abandoned,” she wrote, her penmanship often frantic, nearly desperate.

The final straw came a couple of months before her death, when Ezair, who managed the business’ finances, canceled her credit card and health insurance — despite Bego having broken her hand recently and needing ongoing treatment, according to her manifesto.

She tried to confront him on Oct. 18, but the conversation turned sour.

“He said to her, ‘Go away. You only spend the money. I can not stand you, either you leave my office or I’m going to leave!’ ” she wrote.

She fell further into desperation, her unrequited love for Ezair driving her to madness. “Her whole body is shaking, she could not recognize herself inside,” she wrote.

Her financial resources continued to dwindle. Pals close to Bego said she’d complain that art wasn’t selling well.

She fell into depression, despite the larger-than-life personality friends said she usually had.

After her manifesto was mailed, she jumped to her death.

Ristic found out about Bego’s death a few days later, when she received her aunt’s letter in Serbia.

“She was my support, my sun, my doll, my role model,” she told The Post via e-mail. “When I was little I wrote in my diary that I’d love to have her for mom.”

Despite Bego’s money troubles, it was the heartache of losing her greatest love that led her to “take her life away — as she felt betrayed, abandoned, left alone,” she said.

Ezair did not reply to several requests for comment.

For Mets, a month of magical pitching

NEW YORK -- Twelve days after Johan Santana achieved something the Mets seemed destined never to do -- more on that later -- Mike Nickeas crouched behind the plate as one of Santana's teammates, R.A. Dickey, continued doing something most pitchers could never do.

Throwing knuckleball after knuckling knuckleball, Dickey kept reeling off zeros without using much of anything beside his signature pitch. With some exceptions, Nickeas kept catching them, or at least blocking them, or at least making them come to rest some reasonable distance to either side of him.

"I'm running out of ways to try to explain how difficult it is," the Mets' then-backup catcher said that night, before offering one more attempt. "It's really tough."
 Nickeas was visibly upset after that night's game, because he allowed two knucklers to squirt by him in the ninth inning of a victory over the Rays, snapping Dickey's franchise-record run of consecutive scoreless innings at 32 2/3. He later apologized profusely to Dickey, which made some sense. This was a time of the year when the Mets, on a nightly basis, expected pitching perfection. The month of June began at Citi Field on a night that every Mets fan remembers -- a night that saw Santana mow down Cardinals batters without allowing a hit. It ended with Santana offering his other gem of June, an eight-inning, three-hit, no-run performance in Los Angeles. In between, Dickey put on a clinic, proving not only that the Mets had the starting pitching chops to compete in the National League East, but that their starting five possessed the potential to be elite.The jewel highlight came from Santana, whose first career no-hitter seemed destined by some sort of karmic baseball fate. A franchise that -- despite plenty of close calls, would-have-beens and could-have-happeneds -- had never experienced a no-no, finally achieved one on the first night of June.  That it required a leaping catch by Mike Baxter and a blown call by umpire Adrian Johnson made it seem all the more fated. "When things are meant to happen, they're going to happen," said former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who hit the would-be double in question. But to judge the month of June for the Mets on Santana alone would be to overlook a whole lot more greatness. Throughout the balance of the month, it was Dickey, not Santana, who was the Mets' best pitcher, firing consecutive one-hitters in June and amassing the bulk of his scoreless-innings streak. Barely two years removed from being the first player cut from camp, Dickey allowed a total of five earned runs over six June starts. That was good for a 0.93 ERA, to go along with 55 strikeouts and eight walks in 48 1/3 innings. During one six-start run from late May into mid-June, Dickey was 6-0 with 63 strikeouts, five walks, three complete games and two shutouts. In retrospect, that was the stretch that won Dickey the NL Cy Young Award. "I've never seen anything like it," manager Terry Collins said. He still hasn't. And Dickey was hardly on an island. Despite some post-no-hitter hiccups, Santana finished the month of June with a 4-2 record and a 2.77 ERA. Jon Niese was 3-1 with a 1.89 mark. Dillon Gee posted a 3.90 ERA in five June starts, and Chris Young chipped in with two wins and a 3.30 mark. The top three starters in New York's rotation combined to go 11-3 with a 1.79 ERA for the month, while the entire pitching staff finished with a 2.79 ERA -- a mark more than two-tenths better than that of any other Major League team. Opposing batters hit just .219 off the Mets in June. As a result, New York ended the month on an 8-4 run, sitting in first place in the Wild Card standings on the morning of July 1. It began with Santana's no-hitter, but it did not end there.
In retrospect, the Mets' stumbles in July and August came to define their season more than anything they did that June, though little of that was the fault of their starters. Even so, June gave the Mets hope, lifting their pitchers -- Santana and Dickey chief among them -- into the upper echelon of big league talent.

The hunt for the perfect serial killer

Written by Maureen Callahan


By last August, residents of Essex, Vermont — a small community of just 19,000 — had come to accept that their beloved neighbors, Bill and Lorraine Currier, would not be coming back.

Nearly 15 months had elapsed since the Curriers were last seen leaving work at 5 p.m. on June 8, 2011. Bill, 49, and Lorraine, 55, both worked in health care: Bill in animal care at the University of Vermont, and Lorraine in patient financial services at a practice in Burlington.

They had been married since 1985. They had no children but loved animals and often let their birds fly through their modest home, a single-story structure with white siding and a dark green door. The Curriers were typical Vermonters: Lorraine with her long red hair, parted down the middle and no makeup; Bill with his love of Simon and Garfunkel and playing guitar.

Bill and Lorraine were also notoriously punctual and rarely took vacation. So when neither showed up to their respective jobs that next day, a Thursday, their co-workers were concerned. Lorraine’s colleagues called over to Bill’s office, and by the middle of the day, word got to Bill’s sister, Diana, who called Essex police.

By 10 that night, cops were all over the Curriers’ house.

At the scene, cops admitted confusion. “It’s a real puzzler,” said Lt. George Murtie.

The Curriers’ car, a Saturn sedan — dark green, like the accents on the home’s facade — was missing from the garage. Bill was a big guy — at 6 feet, he weighed 220 pounds — and had chronic health issues that required daily medication, as did Lorraine. Their medicine was untouched.

The cops made no attempt to downplay the urgency of the search or the likelihood that something awful had happened to Bill and Lorraine.

“We’re treating the home,” Lt. Murtie said, “like a crime scene.”

It wasn’t until a year later, in June 2012, that Murtie got an unexpected call from law enforcement in Anchorage, Alaska. They finally knew what happened to Bill and Lorraine, and they had never heard of anything like it.


A DARK NIGHT IN ALASKA
On the evening of Feb. 1, 2012, a 34-year-old construction worker named Israel Keyes waited outside the Common Grounds Espresso Stand on East Tudor Road in Anchorage — a tiny shack of a store, with teal-blue siding, that sat in the parking lot of a local gym. It was already very dark — the sun had set at 5:06 p.m. — and snowing heavily. Keyes was waiting for the shop to close at 8 p.m., for the truck he knew was on its way.

Then he changed his mind.

Keyes was a patient, deliberate, methodical man. Born in Utah, he had grown up Mormon, and at some point during his childhood his family moved to Washington state, where they lived comfortably. In 1998, Keyes enlisted in the Army and served for two years, stationed at Fort Hood and in Egypt. In 2007, he relocated to Alaska, where he started his own construction business, living with his girlfriend and young daughter in a white, two-story house on a cul-de-sac in Turnagain, where they liked to entertain friends and family.

On this night in February, Keyes walked up to the drive-thru and asked the lone barista on duty for an Americano, then shimmied his way inside the window. He was wearing a mask and a hoodie and he had a gun, and there’s little chance 18-year-old Samantha Koenig was able to absorb what was happening. Keyes worked in seconds, and before she knew it Koenig was subdued and zip-tied and down on the floor of the shack with Keyes.

They stayed there, like that, for a bit. Koenig’s boyfriend, Duane Tortolani, was due to pick Samantha up at closing time. Keyes had been bored with going after lone targets and had recently begun challenging himself with couples, but something this night made him reconsider. He grabbed Koenig and pulled her up, and though the shack sat adjacent to a six-lane highway and there was little in the way of vegetation or construction or anything, really, that could obscure this armed kidnapping from view, only the shop’s security cameras caught the masked man taking Koenig away.

Keyes was that good, and he knew it.

Two weeks later, the Koenig family had hope: Duane received a text message with directions to a specific site at a local dog park, where he could expect to find a ransom note. He did. On one side was a photo the abductor had taken of Samantha, tied up, with a copy of the Anchorage Daily News dated Feb. 13, 2012 — proof of life. On the other side was a typed-out note, a demand for $30,000, to be deposited directly into Samantha’s account.

The Koenings complied.

By now, all of Anchorage’s 380 cops were on the case, as was the FBI. The ransom note was good news: A demand for money delivered electronically meant the abductor would soon be leaving digital footprints, and just before midnight on March 8, 2012, Samantha’s ATM card pinged for the first time from the Lower 48, from a bank in Willcox, Ariz.

And somewhere in Willcox, an FBI agent got the call, jumped out of bed and raced to that location — where he would find nothing, because just after midnight on March 9, 2012, Samantha’s ATM card pinged again, this time from a bank in Lordsberg, NM, a one-hour drive away.

Survelliance video from both banks showed little. The figure seemed to be a man, but he was wearing layers upon layers of clothing — likely to make himself look heavier — as well as a full-face mask and glasses. Only one vehicle, however, was caught on tape at both locations within this time frame, and so the FBI knew they were looking for a man of average height driving a white 2012 Ford Focus, likely headed east on the I-10 corridor.

On March 13, up in Anchorage, Alaska, Officer Jeff Bell got a call. Electronic alerts had gone out to cops in the south and southwest, and a police officer had spotted a white 2012 Ford Focus in the parking lot of a Quality Inn in Lufkin, Texas. An undercover had since been sitting on that vehicle round-the-clock. The driver was a white male, 30s, average height, average build.

Police were ordered to tail the car and pull it over at the first possible opportunity, and when they did, for speeding, they found Israel Keyes, who had been asked to produce his driver’s license: Alaska.

The cops also found Samantha Koening’s ATM card and cellphone, along with the mask, a gun and a dye pack. Keyes had robbed a bank in Texas a few weeks back.


‘HE HAD DONE THIS BEFORE’
Bell and his partner, Detective Monique Doll, were immediately booked on the red-eye. By the time they reached the courthouse where Keyes was to be arraigned, they had been up for almost 50 hours straight. Bell and Doll walked into the interview room where Keyes was handcuffed and waiting.

“He definitely gave you a chilling feeling,” says Bell, a 17-year-veteran who is also a member of the FBI’s Safe Streets task force and the Anchorage SWAT team. “Detective Doll and I both had that sense — the hair on the back of your neck stands up. We knew Samantha likely did not have a good outcome.”

Doll, who was the lead detective on the case, spoke first. She presented Keyes with information that made it clear they knew Keyes had kidnapped Samantha. Doll was confident he’d realize there was no way out. She asked him question after question.

“There’s nothing I can do to help you,” he said.

Israel Keyes didn’t confess to the abduction of Samantha Koening until sometime around March 30, when he was back in Alaska, in custody. State prosecutors presented Keyes with overwhelming evidence: They searched his house and seized his computer, which contained news footage of Koening’s disappearance and the ongoing search.

“I just needed to sit down in a room with him and say, ‘We know you did this, we’re going to convict you of this,’ ” says prosecutor Kevin Feldis. “To explain to him why he’s going to go away for federal kidnapping.”

Within a matter of hours, Keyes confessed. He’d taken Samantha that night and threw her in his truck, stashed her in the shed near his driveway, then sexually assaulted and strangled her.

Keyes left her body there for two weeks, while he went on a cruise out of New Orleans. When he returned, he took that photo of Samantha holding the newspaper dated Feb. 13, having preserved her remains so expertly that he fooled even the FBI. Then he dumped her body in a lake.

“You could see the adrenaline coursing through his body” as he recounted the murder, Feldis says. “This didn’t seem to be the case of someone who had never done this before.”


A KILLER’S TWO LIVES
Investigators had also found news coverage of the Currier case in Vermont on the same computer, but it took weeks for Keyes to confess to that killing.

He expressed great concern for the privacy and well-being of his friends and family, and though it sounds odd, it did not surprise investigators: Most serial killers have not only friends and family but a kind of love, however deformed and utilitarian, for them.

“In some respects, serial killers really aren’t that different from the rest of us,” says Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University in Boston. “Most of us compartmentalize and draw lines between people we love and respect and people we don’t. Why do serial killers select strangers? Easy: to dehumanize. An organized serial killer” — as in the case of the fictional Dexter — “can live with a wife and children, but he reserves his thrill for those he doesn’t know.”

Levin says that in 99% of these cases, family and friends are shocked to learn the truth — serial killers, in daily life, present as utterly normal.

Keyes, as are most serial killers, was highly interested in control, and once he made plain his Achilles’ heel — keeping his girlfriend and daughter away from the media — prosecutors used that as leverage. He especially expressed concern about his daughter, in the near future, Googling his name, what she might discover. “We let him know that if he told us these things, we would be in a better position to keep the publicity under control,” Feldis says. “We tried to encourage that control.”

And that’s why the world has only just heard of Israel Keyes.

Once Keyes was convinced his family would be protected, he revealed himself to be a whole new kind of monster; for all he had in common with the typical profile of a serial killer, Keyes was an aberration, the kind of nightmare that we like to think lives only in horror movies or Stephen King novels.

Frank Russo, the assistant US attorney who worked on the case, has said that a national expert in serial killers told him that Keyes was among the top three organizational minds he’d ever come across.

“I don’t want to instill fear in people,” Feldis says. That said, “When you see Israel Keyes and talk to him about something unrelated to his criminal activity — you wouldn’t know he was a killer.”

Keyes was not only a killer: He was exceptionally ambitious, creating needless obstacles for himself along the way. Most serial killers stay close to home; their familiarity with their terrain means less chance of getting caught. Keyes, however, had small bags filled with guns, silencers, zip ties and other weaponry buried all over the country. Whenever he felt the urge to kill, he first delayed it as long as possible — staving off the gratification was a substantial part of the pleasure. Then, he would fly or drive to one of the areas he’d pre-selected, dig up his kit and choose his victims.

His rules: No children, because he was a father. Only use cash. Remove the battery from the cell whenever on the hunt.

In the case of Samantha Koening, Keyes broke almost all of the strictures that kept him off-the-radar: He kidnapped Koening even though he felt it was risky — he couldn’t control the urge. He demanded a ransom be deposited into her account, then began using her ATM card. And he killed, quite literally, in his own back yard.

“There is no one who knows me, or who has ever known me, that knows anything about me, really,” Keyes later told investigators. “I’m two different people, basically.”

Keyes was asked how long he had been that way. He chuckled softly to himself. “A long time,” he said. “Fourteen years.”


METHODICAL MURDER
In June 2011, Israel Keyes bought a plane ticket and flew to Chicago, then rented a car and drove 1,000 miles to Vermont, where he did a little fishing while looking for the right kind of house: “off the beaten path,” in his words, one with an attached garage for undetected egress and no evidence of children or dogs.

It didn’t take long for Keyes to find the Curriers’ house, and that’s why they were targeted: not for who they were, but where they lived. This house had a layout conducive to a break-in and kidnapping, and early on the morning of June 9, 2011, Keyes executed what he called a “blitz attack”: Having cut the phone line earlier, he got in through the garage, then smashed through a window and headed straight for the bedroom, guided only by the small bulb on his headlamp. He had Bill and Lorraine zip-tied within six seconds and left no DNA behind.

Keyes put the Curriers in their car and drove them to an abandoned barn. He removed Bill first, who was fighting as hard as he could. Once in the barn, Keyes smashed Bill’s head in with his shovel, then shot him to death. He went back for Lorraine, who by now had broken free from her zip ties and was frantically running toward Route 15.

Keyes tackled her and dragged her back to the barn, where he sexually assaulted Lorraine, then strangled her. He preferred that method of killing to guns: He liked seeing his victims suffer. Keyes then put the bodies in individual garbage bags and left them in the abandoned building, which has since been demolished. Their remains have never been found, but Keyes told investigators that he’d dumped that gun in a lake in upstate Parishville, NY, which was where cops found it. In fact, everything he told investigators bore out.


HIS FINAL MYSTERY
Samantha and the Curriers — those were the only three victims Keyes would name, no more.

“We were trying to narrow down when he first killed someone, and we think it was 2001, after he got out of the military,” says Feldis.

Keyes eventually confessed to the murder of four people in Washington state and one in New York state, but he would not name those victims or say when he had killed them or where they were buried.
The one thing that investigators are certain of, however, is that Israel Keyes was not crazy. He was far too methodical and organized. Feldis says that Keyes struck him as “smart, capable, with a sense of humor” — a kind of ironic self-awareness that would not be present in a deranged individual.

“Israel Keyes didn’t kidnap or kill people because he was crazy,” Detective Doll said at a press conference. “He didn’t kidnap and kill people because his deity told him to or because he had a bad childhood. Israel Keyes did this because he got an immense amount of enjoyment out of it, much like an addict gets an immense amount of enjoyment out of drugs.”

Investigators throughout the nation are revisiting cold cases. Russo has said that in many cases, cops and family members alike have been “resorting to Googling.”

For them, there is a grim, fascinating new Facebook page, founded by Samantha’s father: “Have You Ever Met Israel Keyes?”

The last time Feldis spoke with Keyes was on Thursday, Nov. 29. On Sunday, Dec. 2, Keyes was found in his jail cell. He’d slashed his wrist with a razor — where a prisoner in solitary got hold of a razor, the Alaska Department of Corrections won’t say — then strangled himself with his bedsheet.
Before killing himself, Keyes tortured one more person — prosecutor Kevin Feldis — and kept one last secret: He had never planned to be taken alive, and he was going to control the end of his story, leaving an untold number of bodies in his wake.

“The most we could get out of him was [that he killed] less than 12 people,” Feldis says. “Eleven is what I’ve come up with.

“But the exact number? We’ll never know.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Developing Story

Nearly 400 students, parents, faculty from Sandy Hook will attend Sunday's Eagles-Giants game.

Emotional Rex denies report that he wants out if Jets don't change offense

Jets coach Rex Ryan emphatically denied a published report that said he wants to be fired if the team does not make changes to its offense.


Ryan first addressed his team Friday morning and got very emotional, according to multiple people in the room. At one point, he even cried. He told the team the report was "all lies" and said he's spent all his time building this team and he would never want to leave it.

A few hours later, Ryan addressed the media and said the story was totally "untrue." He was particularly annoyed at the idea that he'd rather coach somewhere else in 2013.

"That's total garbage, that's garbage," Ryan said. "That's not the case at all. The premise that I'd rather go somewhere else to coach somebody's football team. No way. That's not it. I'd rather coach my players and my team. New England Patriots, anybody else, I don't care. I want this team. This is my team."

Ryan said he was disappointed and "mad as a hornet" when he read the article. He said he denied the story to the reporter on Thursday night but his denial was not included in the story.

"I wear Jets stuff every single day," Ryan said. "I'm proud to be a Jet. Sometimes I'm proud to be a Jet more than others, but I'm proud to be a Jet. This season's been a rough one, no question. This is my team. That's how I approach it. I believe we will get back, and this is really a topic for next week, but I believe that we can accomplish what I set out to do when I took the job and that's the truth."

The Jets are 6-9 and big changes are expected in the organization next week. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano both appear to be on thin ice.

The team's offense is ranked 30th in the NFL. The report states Ryan would like major changes made on that side of the ball or he'd rather be somewhere else next year.

"That is totally untrue," Ryan said. "The fact is, and it's simple, this is the only team that I want to coach, period. I think anybody that knows me knows that I'm telling you the truth. Has it been perfect? No. Would I like this player or that player? Of course. Anybody would. But I'm telling you this is my team. These are my players. I don't want to coach somebody else's players. This is the team I want to coach, period."


Veteran Diaz lands Minors deal with Yankees

NEW YORK -- The Yankees may have found a low-cost fit in their search for a right-handed-hitting outfielder, signing Matt Diaz to a Minor League contract.  The Yankees will extend a Spring Training invitation to Diaz, who turns 35 in March and had his 2012 season with the Braves cut short due to injury. The New York Daily News first reported the Yankees' agreement with Diaz, who would earn $1.2 million plus $800,000 in possible incentives if he makes the club, according to reports. "I'm very excited and thankful to be goin[g] to camp with the Yankees!" Diaz tweeted Wednesday. "This little boy's dream come true!!!!" Diaz is a career .291 hitter in 10 seasons with the Rays, Royals, Braves and Pirates. Because of a right thumb injury that required season-ending surgery in August, Diaz played in just 51 games for Atlanta in 2012, batting .222 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said that the club is looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder to serve in the role that Andruw Jones had filled over the last two seasons. New York currently has an all left-handed-hitting outfield -- Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki -- and had no interest in retaining Nick Swisher, who inked a four-year deal with the Indians.
The Yankees are believed to have shown a level of interest in free-agent outfielder Scott Hairston as well, but the right-handed-hitting option reportedly is seeking at least a two-year deal, something the club has been reluctant to offer.

FBI removes many redactions in Marilyn Monroe file

LOS ANGELES — FBI files on Marilyn Monroe that could not be located earlier this year have been found and re-issued, revealing the names of some of the movie star's acquaintances who drew concern from government officials and her own entourage.


The files had previously been heavily redacted, but more details are now public in a version of the file recently obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. The updated files reveal that some in Monroe's inner circle were concerned about her association with Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who was disinherited from his wealthy family over his leftist views.

The FBI's files on Monroe show the extent the agency was monitoring the actress for ties to communism in the years before her death in August 1962. A trip to Mexico earlier that year to shop for furniture brought her in contact with Field, who was living in the country with his wife in self-imposed exile. Informants reported to the FBI that a "mutual infatuation" had developed between Field and Monroe, which caused concern among some in her inner circle, including her therapist, the files state.

"This situation caused considerable dismay among Miss Monroe's entourage and also among the (American Communist Group in Mexico)," the file states. It includes references to an interior decorator who worked with Monroe's analyst reporting her connection to Field to the doctor.

Field's autobiography devotes an entire chapter to Monroe's Mexico trip, "An Indian Summer Interlude." He mentions that he and his wife accompanied Monroe on shopping trips and meals and he only mentions politics once in a passage on their dinnertime conversations.

"She talked mostly about herself and some of the people who had been or still were important to her," Field wrote in "From Right to Left." ''She told us about her strong feelings for civil rights, for black equality, as well as her admiration for what was being done in China, her anger at red-baiting and McCarthyism and her hatred of (FBI director) J. Edgar Hoover."

Under Hoover's watch, the FBI kept tabs on the political and social lives of many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Monroe's ex-husband Arthur Miller. The bureau has also been involved in numerous investigations about crimes against celebrities, including threats against Elizabeth Taylor, an extortion case involving Clark Gable and more recently, trying to solve who killed rapper Notorious B.I.G.

The AP had sought the removal of redactions from Monroe's FBI files earlier this year as part of a series of stories on the 50th anniversary of Monroe's death. The FBI had reported that it had transferred the files to a National Archives facility in Maryland, but archivists said the documents had not been received. A few months after requesting details on the transfer, the FBI released an updated version of the files that eliminate dozens of redactions.

For years, the files have intrigued investigators, biographers and those who don't believe Monroe's death at her Los Angeles area home was a suicide.

A 1982 investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office found no evidence of foul play after reviewing all available investigative records, but noted that the FBI files were "heavily censored."

That characterization intrigued the man who performed Monroe's autopsy, Dr. Thomas Noguchi.
While the DA investigation concluded he conducted a thorough autopsy, Noguchi has conceded that no one will likely ever know all the details of Monroe's death. The FBI files and confidential interviews conducted with the actress' friends that have never been made public might help, he wrote in his 1983 memoir "Coroner."

"On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe's suicide 'very probable,'" Noguchi wrote. "But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death."

Monroe's file begins in 1955 and mostly focuses on her travels and associations, searching for signs of leftist views and possible ties to communism. One entry, which previously had been almost completely redacted, concerned intelligence that Monroe and other entertainers sought visas to visit Russia that year.

The file continues up until the months before her death, and also includes several news stories and references to Norman Mailer's biography of the actress, which focused on questions about whether Monroe was killed by the government.

For all the focus on Monroe's closeness to suspected communists, the bureau never found any proof she was a member of the party.

"Subject's views are very positively and concisely leftist; however, if she is being actively used by the Communist Party, it is not general knowledge among those working with the movement in Los Angeles," a July 1962 entry in Monroe's file states.

Godzilla says goodbye: Matsui calls it a career

NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui, who arrived in the United States with great fanfare after a terrific career in Japan and stamped his Yankees years with an exclamation point as the 2009 World Series MVP, officially announced his retirement from baseball on Thursday.   Matsui, 38, held a news conference in New York to mark the conclusion of his 20 years playing professional baseball, having established himself as one of Japan's most dominant hitters with the Yomiuri Giants from 1993-02 before his seven seasons with the Yankees.  "I want to thank all my fans, in the past 20 years -- 10 years in Japan and 10 years in the U.S. -- who have supported me," Matsui said. "I was supported by many fans and wonderful coaches and teammates." Nicknamed "Godzilla" for his powerful swing, Matsui slugged 332 home runs in Japan and 175 more in the Major Leagues, 140 of which came in a Yankees uniform. Matsui also played with the Angels (2010), Athletics (2011) and Rays (2012). "Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most. 
"He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family." Following his time with the Yankees, Matsui batted .252 with 35 homers and 163 RBIs in 320 games with the Angels, A's and Rays. He batted just .147 in 95 at-bats with Tampa Bay in 2012 before being released in August.  "These past two years, I wasn't able to yield very good results, and from around five years ago, both of my knees hadn't been doing too well," Matsui said. "Even after going through surgery, my physical condition wasn't at its best." A career .282 hitter with 760 RBIs, Matsui owns the highest home run, RBI and walk totals for any Japanese player in Major League history. He played 1,250 consecutive games to finish his Japanese career and didn't miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, playing 518 straight contests before finally missing a game. That story, in its own way, has become a key prime example of Matsui's work ethic. After fracturing his left wrist attempting a sliding catch against the Red Sox in May 2006, Matsui released a statement apologizing to his teammates and then-manager Joe Torre for the injury.  "I've said it numerous times over the years, but it's worth repeating now," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "I've had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites. The way he went about his business day in and day out was impressive.  
"Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with." A three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star in Japan's Central League before signing a three-year, $21 million deal with the Yankees in December 2002, Matsui became the first Yankees player to hit a grand slam in his Yankee Stadium debut on April 8, 2003, and made two All-Star teams with the Bombers. Injury concerns following knee surgery limited Matsui's outfield play in his later seasons, but Matsui dedicated himself to improving his skills as a designated hitter and marked the end of his time in New York with a flourish.  Matsui hoisted the World Series championship trophy on the infield at the new Yankee Stadium as the MVP of the Fall Classic, an honor earned after he went 8-for-13 with three homers and eight RBIs in the Yankees' six-game victory over the Phillies.  "I have a lot of respect for Hideki," Jeter said. "He was someone we counted on a great deal and he's a big reason why we became world champions in 2009." In his final game as a Yankee, Matsui went 3-for-4 with a home run and six RBIs in the Yankees' World Series-clinching Game 6 win. The six RBIs tied the World Series record for a single game (also the Yankees' Bobby Richardson in 1960 and Albert Pujols in 2011). 
"I guess you could say this is the best moment of my life right now," Matsui said that November evening, pumping his fists into the air as his accomplishments were applauded on both sides of the Pacific. 
"Hideki is proof that baseball is an international attraction that brings people from all over the world together in their passion for the game," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He was the type of player and person you want young fans of this game to emulate. He played with pride, discipline and, of course, talent, and flourished when the lights were at their brightest.
"People naturally gravitated towards him, and that's a direct reflection of his character. He was a true professional in every sense of the word and it feels good knowing he was able to raise the championship trophy as a member of the Yankees."

Victim of brutal subway shove ID'd after attacked caught fleeing on tape

The victim of last night’s senseless and deadly subway shove has been identified as a hardworking native of Calcutta, India, who loved music and had recently started his own business.


Sunando Sen, 46, was pushed into the path of an oncoming 7-train at the elevated 40th Street station around 8 p.m. by a mumbling madwoman who remains on the loose.

“I think she’s crazy,” said Sen’s stunned and saddened roommate Ar Suman, 33, a taxi driver. “I can’t believe this right now.”

After quietly creeping up behind Sen and shoving him to his death, the portly perp then fled down the station’s stairs onto Queens Boulevard.
The victim had been looking westbound as the subway was approaching from the east, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“We’re still investigating. There were some witnesses on the platform. We’re getting some hotline tips,” Kelly added.

“We’re reasonably confident that we’ll identify the suspect. We are properly deployed in transit areas.”

Kelly said investigators were able to identify Sen using “information on his person and info called in.”

Cops found Sen’s laptop and wallet at the scene, a law enforcement source previously said. Sen’s mangled body was wedged underneath the second car.

Despite last night’s random attack being the second such nightmare to unfold on the city’s subway lines in the last month, Mayor Bloomberg assured residents that the city’s vast underground transportation network system is still safe.

“It’s the safest big transit system in the world...5.5 million people use it everyday. Cameras wouldn’t prevent what happened yesterday.”

The killer was recorded on surveillance footage from a nearby pizzeria running down 40th Street.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to prevent it. There’s always going to be a deranged person. But two is too many,” he said.

On Dec. 3, drifter Naeem Davis, 30, allegedly shoved Queens dad Ki Suk Han, 58, into the path of a Q train at the 49th Street station in Manhattan. Davis is being held on murder charges.

“ Our prayers go out to the families in these cases,” said Bloomberg. “It’s a rare occurrence and shouldn’t change our lifestyle. Everybody should exercise caution...you are so much safer here than anyway else.”

The mayor’s words were little comfort to Sen’s roommates who recalled him as a “quiet man” who “loved music” and “worked seven days a week.”

“I feel very much shocked,” said Suman.

Suman said that Sen — who was single and had no kids — had just opened a copy shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“My heart is broken because this guy was so nice and quiet,” added Sen’s other roommate, MD Khan, 33, a taxi driver.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Breaking News

Carmelo Anthony is 2nd to LeBron James in Eastern Conference All-Star balloting

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dodgers introduce Korean left-hander Ryu

LOS ANGELES -- The weekend agreements with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu should run the Dodgers' payroll for 2013 to $225 million.   But partner Magic Johnson and general manager Ned Colletti, speaking at Monday's introductory news conference for Ryu, said the club is just fulfilling promises to fans.  "We told everybody we'd spend money to improve the team and we have, but we've done it in a disciplined way," said Johnson. "We're not just spending crazy just to do it. We do it to help the team. We feel really good about every guy we've brought in. We're doing just what we said we were going to do.  "And guess who's excited -- Dodgers fans. It's good that the Dodgers' organization will go after free agents again, but do it in a disciplined way. Not a crazy way, do it just right."  Colletti was asked if the Dodgers still had money left over for a Clayton Kershaw extension.  "I believe so," he said. "As we get through the next few weeks, we'll look into that.  Johnson praised Colletti for delivering on management's offseason goal of upgrading the starting rotation, while Colletti said the flurry of signings is out of necessity but, hopefully, not a permanent trend.  "We're not going to be doing this forever," Colletti said of new owner Guggenheim Baseball Management's spending spree, which included picking up $300 million in contract obligations with summer trades. "Part of what we've done is catch up."  After years of neglect, the Dodgers have taken on payroll and added marquee players for today while reestablishing their presence internationally by adding scouts, lavishing $42 million on Cuban Yasiel Puig and now committing nearly $62 million on Ryu.  At Monday's event, packed with Asian media, Ryu reiterated his goals of double-digit wins, an ERA in the 2's and, eventually, to surpass former Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park's record of 124 Major League wins as the most for a Korean.  The Dodgers will happily take all of that in return for the six-year, $36 million contract they've given him. Ryu has an opt-out clause after five years. He can be traded, but he can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without his approval, a compromise for a 25-year-old left-hander who convinced Dodgers scouts he can make the adjustment from the Korean Baseball League to the Major Leagues off his step-up outings in the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics.  "He's built similar to David Wells," said new vice president of international scouting Bob Engle. "He definitely could come in and be a contributor to a Major League club immediately. He can reach back for just a little bit extra. He has real good mound presence. He has command of his pitches and of himself. He's an accomplished, polished pitcher."  Ryu's signing will be followed with the official confirmation of Greinke's record six-year, $147 million deal, the pair of additions giving the Dodgers eight starters. Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett join Greinke and Ryu in the rotation, while Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly become depth/excess/tradeable.  "Better to have more than less," said Colletti, who will be looking to deal for a fourth outfielder, left-handed reliever and/or backup corner infielder. "We set out to improve the depth and pitching and the caliber. I'm pleased with what we've been able to accomplish. Ryu is a big add for us." Although negotiations with Ryu came down to Sunday's deadline, that's what the Dodgers expected after having posted a $25.7 million fee for the exclusive negotiating rights to the seven-time All-Star.  "We had more background on him than we typically have because of our scouting," said Colletti.  "We knew he wanted to play in the Major Leagues. He was thrilled that the team was the Dodgers. We felt he didn't want to go back to Korea. We had that in the back of our mind that this was where he wanted to be and should be."  Indeed, as Park often told Ryu, the large Korean community in Los Angeles will make his transition easier than in any other North American city. Park was signed in 1994 as the first Korean to be a big leaguer. Ryu will be the first Korean Baseball League veteran to make the jump.  The Dodgers also picked Park's brain on Ryu. Park told the Dodgers Ryu was youthful, but had a veteran's feel for pitching.  The intro had its lighter side. Johnson, for example, issued a simple solution to any language barrier the Korean might encounter.
"Just tell him to throw strikes and the communication will be fine," Johnson said.

Fourth accuser sues Kevin Clash: Elmo's puppeteer had sensitive 'medical condition'

Elmo have hard problem.


The fourth man to accuse “Sesame Street’’ puppeteer Kevin Clash of inappropriate sexual contact says the older man couldn’t get it up when the two were getting it on in Clash’s New York City pad around 1995, according the alleged victim’s civil lawsuit filed today in Manhattan Federal Court.

At the time, Clash, then 35, blamed his penis problems on an unspecified “medical condition,” the lawsuit said.

The accuser, who is now in his 30s, said he was around 16 when he met Clash walking on a Miami beach and that the pair kept in touch over the phone.

After learning that the accuser had problems at home and wanted to run away, Clash, the squeaky voice of Elmo, promised to “be a dad” to him and lured him to the city “with promises to pay for his plane ticket ... and give him cash and a free place to stay,” the lawsuit said. The accuser was allegedly sexually abused after visiting Clash.

A previous accuser who says he was also 16 when he and Clash hooked up also had written in a memoir, “The game we played was father and son.”

Clash’s latest accuser remained unnamed in the suit. His lawyer is also representing two other accusers.

Clash’s rep did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ichiro, Yanks progressing toward one-year deal

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are making progress toward a new contract with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to multiple published reports.   ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported that Ichiro, 39, and the Yankees are expected to come to an agreement "within the next few days."  Ichiro's agent, Tony Attanasio, has said that Ichiro's first choice was to return to the Yankees, where he batted .322 with five home runs and 27 RBIs in 67 games after being acquired from the Mariners on July 23. A .322 hitter in the big leagues and the owner of 2,606 Major League hits, plus 1,278 more in Japan, Ichiro was reportedly irked by a lack of attention from the Yankees early in the free-agent process when the club was prioritizing starting pitching.  But having signed pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera for a combined $37 million in one-year deals, the Yankees began to turn their attention to offense at the Winter Meetings and held meetings with Ichiro's camp, among others.  Ichiro was in the final season of a five-year, $90 million deal when he was acquired by the Yankees, earning $17 million in 2012. The Mariners included cash considerations in the trade for pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. If Ichiro returns, the Yankees will have an all left-handed-hitting outfield, with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson in place. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that if that happens, a right-handed bat in the role that Andruw Jones filled in 2011-12 will become a priority.
The Yankees are also waiting on a response from free-agent infielder Kevin Youkilis, who is weighing a one-year, $12 million contract offer from the club.

Australian radio station behind Kate Middleton prank has history of dangerous mistakes

The radio station responsible for the Kate Middleton hospital prank call that lead to the shocking suicide of a nurse has a long history of jokes designed to cause devastation.


The worst of the segments was on 2DayFM's "Kyle and Jackie O" show which had a long running lie detector bit that went horribly wrong in 2009 when a mother brought her 14-year-old daughter into the station to grill the teen on her drug and sexual life.

The young girl was strapped into the lie detector and was first asked some easy questions about partying and skipping school but then the mother's questions took a dark turn when she asked, "Have you ever had sex?" according to Australian newspaper The Sunday Morning Herald.
 
The terrified teen replied, "I've already told you the story about this...and don't look at me and smile because it's not funny."

Apparently that wasn't enough for the 2DayFM DJs because the girl then blurted out, "Oh OK...I got raped when I was 12 years old."

Without pausing to reflect on the shocking and embarrassing admission host Kyle Sandilands pressed ahead, "Right, is that the only experience you've had?"

The exchange lead to a police investigation and the DJs were suspended "indefinitely" but were only off the air for a week, according to TMZ.

Additionally host Sandilands lost his judging gig on the equivalent of "American Idol" in Australian, but the radio show actually grew in popularity after the incident.

In another joke gone wrong from 2009 the same "Kyle and Jacki O" show paid a listener to call her sister and convince her that their mother was seriously injured and in need of medical attention.
The panicked sister bought the schtick and called an ambulance only for the paramedics to find the mother in good health.

Once again, the show was investigated by police.

After these incidents and many others that Howard Stern would be proud of, the show hired a full-time censor and removed segments from their online archives including a feature where people stripped for money, another where they searched for the man with the smallest penis in Sydney and finally a photo gallery of Sandilands taking part in a sperm donation race, according to the Huffington Post.

With a history like that it is no wonder that a number of 2DayFM's show's have been slapped on the wrist for falling foul of Australia's broadcasting rules.

2DayFM's latest prank puts all the other's to shame however after 46-year-old mother of two Jacintha Saldanha killed herself 72 hours after she was pranked while working at the hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated for severe morning sickness.

The now infamous prank was pulled off by DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in order to trick Saldanha into transferring their call to the nurse who was attending to the future Queen of England.

Southern Cross Austereo, the parent company of 2DayFM, released a statement Monday saying Greig and Christian's show had been terminated and there would be a company-wide suspension of prank calls. The DJs themselves remain suspended.

Royals acquire Shields from Rays for prospects

KANSAS CITY -- Speculation became reality on Sunday night when the Royals hauled in No. 1 starter James Shields from Tampa Bay in a trade for their No. 1 prospect, outfielder Wil Myers.  And that wasn't all. The Royals also obtained another right-handed starting pitcher, Wade Davis, from the Rays. Going to Tampa Bay with Myers are pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard. Along with Shields and Davis, Kansas City is to receive a player to be named or cash. "It really wasn't too much of a surprise. Obviously, the initial shock of being traded," Shields said on Monday. "But I've been being talked about over the last year and a half, and I've been kind of prepping myself for this day. To be honest, I didn't know which teams were interested in me. You hear the rumors, but I'm excited to be a Royal. There's a lot of young talent." Shields is expected to jump right into the leadership role in the Royals' rotation, which was seen as the team's weakest department last season. "Well, yeah," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He was one of the premier starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball and someone that was highly sought after in trades this offseason and we're fortunate to have the prospect package that would allow us to consummate a deal of this caliber. Getting James Shields and Wade Davis upgrades our rotation immediately so we feel very good about where we are with the previous deals that we made -- trading for Ervin Santana and signing Jeremy Guthrie." In MLB.com's list of the Royals' Top Prospects, Myers was ranked first, Odorizzi third and Montgomery sixth.
"It's not easy to give up prospects but it's important that we start winning games," Moore said.

The Royals already are considered to have a solid starting lineup and a strong, deep bullpen, so this trade likely will place them among the title contenders in the American League Central.
 "Let's make something very clear. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar signed here long-term with the full expectation that we, as a baseball operations department, would do everything that we can to put the best team on the field every single night," Moore said. "That's what we've committed to our fans, that's what we've committed to our players, so when an opportunity comes along that you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields and Wade Davis, we have to do it." Shields, who'll turn 31 on Dec. 20, had a 15-10 record this year and a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts with 223 strikeouts. He piled up 227 2/3 innings, a big plus for the Royals who needed to lessen the load on a hard-worked bullpen. Moore indicated that Davis, 27, will resume a starting role after pitching exclusively in relief for the Rays this year. He had a 3-0 record with a 2.43 ERA in 54 games in 2012 after making a combined 64 starts for the Rays from 2009 to 2011. "I was working out to be prepared for that when the World Series was going on," Davis said of becoming a starter. "It was something I was hoping to get the opportunity to do, and I'll be ready."I think I've learned how to put my foot on the gas pedal and ... just be able to go out from the start of the game. ... I came up with [Shields], and he was the leader of the staff when I first got called up. He's the type of guy that rubs off on other people. Regular season and postseason, it was, 'We're going to go out and win every game,' and it didn't matter the opposing pitcher. 'We're going to be the difference.' He's brought that mentality onto all of us, and we've all latched on to it." The deal gives the KC rotation some size -- Shields is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and Davis goes 6-foot-5, 225. It also adds some salary to the Royals' payroll. Shields will make $10.25 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014, after which he could become a free agent. Davis' 2013 salary is $2.8 million and that goes to $4.8 million in 2014. Royals owner David Glass had said he was willing to boost the 2013 payroll past the $70 million level for the right players. This could take it about $10 million beyond that. "The Glasses have allowed us to create a great environment in which people like to work and they've given us the resources to build a strong farm system and make the necessary moves at the Major League level to improve and to win," Moore said. "It's time for us as an organization to win at the Major League level and we have to use all our resources. Our farm system is certainly one of them." Shields was one of the most popular players in Tampa Bay history. He owns a career 87-73 record and 3.89 ERA and is the Rays' all-time leader in wins, starts (217), innings pitched (1,454 2/3), strikeouts (1,250), complete games (19) and shutouts (eight).He got word of the trade from Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice-president of baseball operations. "I think I felt like something was going to happen this offseason," Shields said. "I was kind of hoping it wouldn't. I really like the organization and the Tampa Bay area. But Andrew felt like it was my time to go and here I am, I'm going to start a new chapter in my life and move on and try to help the Kansas City Royals." The seven-year veteran has made a club-record four Opening Day starts, and 2012 was his sixth consecutive season of at least 200 innings. In his final start for the Rays, on Oct. 2 against the Orioles, Shields collected a club-record 15 strikeouts in a complete-game two-hitter with no walks, but took a 1-0 loss. In 2011, Shields made the AL All-Star team and finished third in the AL Cy Young Award race. Davis went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 2010 and was third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. In 118 career outings, including 64 starts, his record is 28-22 with a 3.94 ERA. As a starter, he's 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA. Myers, who turns 22 on Monday, pounded a total of 37 home runs with 109 RBIs and a .314 average this year combined in Triple-A and Double-A. He was named the Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today, Baseball America and Topps. He's ranked No. 3 in the nation in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects. With B.J. Upton leaving the Rays for a five-year, $75.25-million deal with the Braves, Myers could get a shot at filling the vacancy in center field. Odorizzi, 22, was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 26 games this year combined for Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Called up in September, he made two starts for Kansas City and was 0-1. He was expected to have a chance to make the KC rotation this year. This was the second major trade in right-hander Odorizzi's career. He was part of the Dec. 19, 2010, deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers and brought Odorizzi, Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress to KC. Jeffress recently was dealt to the Blue Jays. "I was a little surprised by it, with the timing of the evening and all that, but I'm excited -- I'll have a lot of opportunities with Tampa Bay. It's a young team just like here in Kansas City," Odorizzi said. "So I'm going to take it as an opportunity and make the most out of it." The Royals announced the trade about 10 p.m. CT on Sunday. Montgomery, 23, made a bid to make the Royals' roster in Spring Training 2011 but followed that with two lackluster seasons in the Minor Leagues. This year he was demoted from Omaha to Northwest Arkansas and finished 5-12 with a 6.07 ERA in a combined 27 starts. Leonard, 20, hit 14 home runs with 46 RBIs and a .251 average in 62 games this year for the Rookie Burlington club. He was the Royals' fifth-round choice in the 2011 Draft. Depth in the Minor Leagues enabled the Royals to make the trade.
"If you're going to win consistently in the Major Leagues, you have to have a rotation that's going to give you innings and compete and give you a chance to win," Moore said. "That's what our goal is, to put together a very good rotation and we feel like we've been able to do that."

Hasidic leader convicted after repeatedly forcing himself on girl he was counseling

A once-revered ultra-orthodox Jewish leader was convicted in Brooklyn today of sexually abusing a young girl in his care from the time she was just 12 years old.


Jurors found Satmar Hasidic leader Nechemya Weberman guilty on all 59 counts against him, including the top charge of prolonged sexual conduct against a child.

Weberman, who was immediately cuffed after the verdict, faces up to 25 years behind bars on the top count alone.

Other counts included sexual abuse and child endangerment.

Weberman sat stoically as the guilty verdicts were read out loud.

He was taken into custody, and his defense lawyer didn’t even bother asking for bail pending sentencing.

The now-18-year-old accuser said she was forced by her parents and school to attend counseling sessions with Weberman because she did not conform to the strict rules of dress and behavior of the Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism.

Weberman, 54, was not a licensed counselor but he was still a long-time respected figure in Brooklyn’s insular Hasidic community.

The teen bravely withstood bullying from Weberman supporters who snapped her picture in court — later posted online — and glares from the defendant himself to take the stand against the revered Satmar leader.

She told jurors she hid the years of abuse so she wouldn’t be banished by her parents and the rest of the insular Brooklyn community.

“Satmar would have kicked me out, and if Satmar kicks you out, nobody accepts you,” she told a rapt jury — providing a rare glimpse into the secret culture of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidim. “No one in Williamsburg would accept me.”

Weberman began abusing her during counseling sessions when she was just 12.

“I thought they would never believe me, since he was supposedly a god in Williamsburg,” she testified.

When asked her status in her community at the time, 2007 to 2010, the teen replied, “Nothing. Just someone sitting there.”

When asked her status at the yeshiva, she said, “A piece of dirt.”

The teen said she feared Weberman because of his role in a powerful group that demands Jews in the community follow strict religious rules and dress codes enforced by Satmar thugs.

She cried for the first time during the trial when she graphically recounted the things Weberman made her do.

In one particularly chilling story, the teen recounted how Weberman told her how he had watched her playing as a child.

“He said he used to watch, and he said he always had a feeling I was going to go to him and he couldn’t wait,” she recalled.

Much of the teen’s testimony spoke to the powerless role she held in Hasidic Brooklyn.

She also testified that after she finally reported Weberman to police in 2010, she wrote a letter to the school saying she was “the girl they put through hell for three years” and, “They should do better for girls who wanted to speak up in the future.”

The teen said she was sent to Weberman for counseling after she talked to a boy and got into trouble at school for not following strict dress codes.

Because the Satmar sect provides no sex education for women until shortly before they marry, she
said she didn’t understand what Weberman was doing at the time.

Greinke's deal with Dodgers pending physical

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Monday were close to finalizing a deal with free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke, whose physical is expected to be completed on Monday.   Greinke's deal would be the largest in history for a right-handed pitcher and, along with Sunday's signing of Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, it would send the Dodgers' 2013 payroll past $225 million, a Major League record.  Greinke and Ryu would provide the Dodgers with unprecedented starting pitching depth. With Clayton Kershaw ahead of them and Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett behind, the Dodgers now have the luxury of dangling Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly for potential trades.  In contrast to recent years, when the Dodgers scrambled to plug holes with modest signings, they entered this offseason with new owners, bold wealth and clear targets. They quickly re-signed closer Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract, but left the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., last week with no other additions while focusing on Greinke.  On the business end, their coffers will soon be refilled with a new media deal that has been rumored at $6 billion or more, a significant return on the $2.15 billion purchase price out of bankruptcy earlier this year by Guggenheim Baseball Partners from Frank McCourt.  The Greinke deal will no doubt provide a benchmark in anticipated contract extension negotiations for Kershaw. Kershaw is signed for 2013 for $11 million, the second and last year of a $19 million deal. He will be eligible for salary arbitration in 2014, then free agency in '15, and general manager Ned Colletti has said the club would probably talk about an extension this winter. Earlier Monday, Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson tweeted: "Dodger Nation I am happy to announce we have signed P Zack Greinke, the best pitcher on the Free Agent Market!" Greinke, 29, is a Floridian who was a first-round Draft pick out of high school in 2002 by the Royals. He reached the Major Leagues in 2004, pitching in Kansas City until he was traded to Milwaukee after the 2010 season. It was in Kansas City where Greinke won the 2009 American League Cy Young Award, playing for manager Trey Hillman, who is now the bench coach of the Dodgers. Hillman provided management with insight into Greinke's talents on the mound and idiosyncrasies off it. In 2006, Greinke opened the season on the 60-day disabled list to deal with depression and social anxiety disorder. In 2008, he was a 13-game winner, and in '09, after signing a four-year, $38 million contract, he went 16-8 with a league-leading 2.16 ERA, was an All-Star and won the Cy Young Award. In 2011, he went 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA, going 11-0 at home after beginning the season on the disabled list with a broken rib suffered in a Spring Training pickup basketball game. In 2012, Grienke went a combined 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA, being traded by the Brewers to the Angels on July 27. Greinke has approached his free agency the way he does just about everything -- differently. Methodical and analytical, he has driven the process in interviews with club executives, leaving few details untouched. As one of his former coaches said at the Winter Meetings, "Greinke is different -- but in a good way." A former teammate dubbed him "Captain Weirdo." Hillman said Greinke was a good teammate, just not a talkative one.
Greinke is not fond of idle chitchat, as he once told a new locker mate upon their meeting. But he's a power-pitching competitor, which put him at the top of the Dodgers' list for available pitchers coming into this offseason.

Man brutally shot in head in broad daylight in Midtown

A man was fatally shot in the head in broad daylight on West 58th Street and Broadway this afternoon in a shocking act of violence, authorities said.


The incident occurred about a block from Carnegie Hall, in front of the St. Thomas Choir School located at 202 W. 58th St. around 1:50 p.m., the FDNY said.

The victim, Brandon Lincoln Woodard, 31, of Los Angeles, was approached from behind by his killer and shot once in the back of the head, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. He was pronounced dead at St. Luke's Hospital.
"The victim was walking westbound on West 58th street in front of St. Thomas Choir School when a male black, unknown age, in a dark coat, dark hood and khaki pants began walking westbound behind the victim," said Browne. "The shooter came up at close range and shot the victim one time in the back of the head."

The street was crowded with passers-by at the time of the shooting.

After the shooting, stunned witnesses ran over to a nearby fire house and said Woodard had been shot in the face, sources said.

The firefighters then rushed over to Woodard and tried to aid him, sources said.

The suspect, described as a black male wearing a dark coat, dark hood and khaki pants, hopped into the passenger side of a light-colored Lincoln MKZ sedan, Browne said.

"The shooter got into the passenger front seat of that awaiting vehicle, which had the driver in it and they drove out of the parking space and proceeded eastbound toward Seventh Avenue on West 58th street," Browne said.

"The gun was a silver semiautomatic pistol and a shell casing was recovered at scene," Browne added. "We're canvassing for videos and witnesses."

The shooter appeared calm and determined to carry out the execution-style shooting, according to
cops.

"There was no rush," Browne said. "He just walked up, shot him and walked away."

The NYPD has obtained video of the shooting.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chapman bittersweet about move to rotation

CINCINNATI -- Aroldis Chapman certainly likes the idea of moving into the Reds rotation in 2013. But the left-hander will also miss being a closer.  "One part of me is happy for it. The other part is not," Chapman said via interpreter Tomas Vera during his appearance at Redsfest on Saturday. "The part I don't like is I enjoyed being a closer and now I'm going to miss it. I still like it as a starter. I would love to do both, because I've had fun doing both." Last week, the Reds re-signed free agent reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million contract with the intent of making him the closer. The club would like to see if Chapman can succeed as a starter, which was what he was doing when signed out of Cuba in 2010 to a six-year, $30.25 million contract. Chapman, who will turn 25 in February, was 5-5 with a 1.51 ERA, 23 walks and 122 strikeouts in 68 relief appearances last season. Although he did not become the closer until May 20, Chapman was tied for third in the National League with 38 saves in 43 attempts. He had a single-season record 27 consecutive saves from June 26-Sept. 4. Of course, Chapman also brought ninth inning electricity that came with his 100-plus mph fastball and shutdown ability. However, he was the Reds' best starter in Spring Training last year before injuries to Ryan Madson, Nick Masset and Bill Bray forced the club's hand to use him in the bullpen.
"They talked to me and told me I'm going to be back as a starter," Chapman said. "All I'm doing is getting ready and preparing to work as a starter."

Dodgers nearing deal with Greinke

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke are close to a multiyear agreement, according to a baseball source. The Texas Rangers, Greinke's other prominent suitor, were notified Saturday that they are no longer under consideration, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.  Greinke has been the top free-agent target this winter of Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who wants to load up on starting pitching by sliding the former Cy Young Award winner behind ace and former Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Colletti said he would sign two starters this offseason if they were "the right two." The Dodgers also have Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly as starting pitchers on their roster and have been negotiating with Korean free agent Ryu Hyun-jin, with a deadline of Sunday at 2 p.m. PT to have him signed or return him to Korea. The deal, six years and $145 million according to the Los Angeles Times, would be the largest in history for a right-handed pitcher and would assure the Dodgers a 2013 payroll in excess of $200 million. Greinke, 29, is a Floridian who was a first-round Draft pick out of high school in 2002 by the Kansas City Royals. He reached the Major Leagues in 2004, pitching in Kansas City until he was traded to Milwaukee after the 2010 season. It was in Kansas City where Greinke won the 2009 American League Cy Young award, playing for manager Trey Hillman, who is now the bench coach of the Dodgers. Hillman provided management with insight into Greinke's talents on the mound and idiosyncrasies off it. In 2006, Greinke opened the season on the 60-day disabled list to deal with depression and social anxiety disorder. In 2008 he was a 13-game winner and in 2009, after signing a four-year, $38 million contract, he went 16-8 with a league-leading 2.16 ERA, was an All-Star and won the Cy Young Award. In 2011 he went 16-6 with an ERA of 3.83, going 11-0 at home after beginning the season on the disabled list with a broken rib suffered in a Spring Training pickup basketball game. In 2012 Grienke went a combined 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA, being traded by Milwaukee to the Angels on July 27. Greinke has approached his free agency the way he does just about everything -- differently. Methodical and analytical, he has driven the process in interviews with club executives, leaving few details untouched. As one of his former coaches said at the Winter Meetings, "Greinke is different -- but in a good way." A former teammate dubbed him "Captain Weirdo." Hillman said Greinke was a good teammate, just not a talkative one. Greinke is not fond of idle chit-chat, as he once told a new lockermate upon their meeting. But he's a power-pitching competitor, which put him at the top of the Dodgers' list for available pitchers coming into this offseason. With Greinke slotted into the rotation behind Kershaw, the Dodgers would turn to adding yet another pitcher. They will know by Sunday if it's Ryu, because that's the deadline to either sign the lefty or send him back to Korea with the club's $25.7 million posting fee refunded.
If they don't sign Ryu, the next free-agent target would be Anibal Sanchez. But the Dodgers also are pursuing trades for two very different but equally dominating starters -- Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey of the Mets and James Shields of the Rays.

DJs who pulled Middleton prank, leading one of the nurses to kill herself, are victims, too: boss

The DJs who tricked a London nurse into patching through a prank phone call to her colleague caring for Kate Middleton won’t be fired — and their boss even painted them as victims.


“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it,” said Rhys Holleran, the CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM.

“I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered,” he said today in Melbourne, adding that the pair had been offered counseling.

“These people aren’t machines, they’re human beings. We’re all affected by this,” he said.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found dead yesterday after she transferred the call from the shock jocks posing as the Queen and Prince Charles, to the nurse attending to the Kate Middleton, the Dutchess of Cambridge, who was being treated for morning sickness.

That nurse — who has not been identified — gave up sensitive information about Middleton’s state to the snickering jockeys.

Scotland Yard has reached out to Aussie cops, who want to interview DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian over the death, which was classified as “unexplained.”

Greig and Christian were in hiding as the King Edward VII hospital ripped into the pair, saying the prank resulted in “the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients. The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.”

Saldanha’s husband mourned her loss on Facebook.

“I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India.”

Their 14-year-old daughter Lisha also posted, ‘I miss you, I loveeee you,” on Facebook.

Saldanha’s inlaws in Mangalore, India said she did not say anything about the pranks.

“Benedict used to call every day but he nor Jacintha said anything about what had happened. Everything seemed normal,” said her mother-in-law Carmine Saldanha, 69, according to Indian media.

“We got a call last night from Benedict informing us that Jacintha had died. He was crying and couldn’t speak much. We don’t know whether we’ll be able to bring her dead body back to India but we desperately hope so.”

Benedict’s sister said he was shattered.

“He was totally broken, sobbing uncontrollably,” said Irene, 63.

Greigs and Christian are unlikely to face prosecution, but the radio station is taking a financial hit after several sponsors cut their advertising over the flap. The station is not running any commercials this weekend.

Greig called the hospital around 5:30 on Tuesday, posing as the Queen Mother, and asked to speak to Middleton, who was hospitalized with severe morning sickness.

Saldahna patched her through to the nurse, who told Greig that Middleton was resting comfortably and had stopped vomiting.

The radio station initially apologized for the prank, but continued to advertise it on its website as the “biggest royal hoax ever” — even after Saldanha’s death was reported.

Prince Charles even joked about the prank on Thursday.

“How do you know I’m not a radio station?” he quipped when a reporter asked about Middleton’s pregnancy.

Rangers deal Young to Phils for pair of righties

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have traded seven-time All-Star infielder Michael Young to the Phillies for right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom and Minor League pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla.   Young departs after 12 seasons with the Rangers and is their all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and triples. He was considered the undisputed clubhouse leader on a team that went to two straight World Series in 2010-11 and was five times voted as the club's Player of the Year.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus tweeted: "Super sad that our captain Michael Young is gone wish the best for him and his family."

The Rangers, who have emerged as the favorites to sign free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke, discussed the trade for Young with the Phillies at the Winter Meetings. Young had the right to reject any trade because he has at least 10 years of Major League experience and five years with the Rangers.
 But accepting this trade allows him to play third base for the Phillies rather than be stuck in a utility infielder role for the Rangers that would likely have reduced his playing time. The Rangers are expected to pick up as much as $10 million of Young's $16 million salary for 2013. Lindblom, 25, was a second-round pick by the Dodgers in 2008 First-Year Player Draft and was traded to the Phillies, along with two other players, on July 31 for outfielder Shane Victorino. He was 3-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 74 combined games, allowing 7.7 hits, 4.4 walks and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings.  Bonilla, 22, was 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 21 relief appearances at Double-A Reading this past season. He allowed six hits, 4.6 walks and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Bonilla started the year at Class A Clearwater and had a 1.35 ERA in 10 games, with 6.1 strikeouts, 2.7 walks and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He was ranked No. 15 by MLB.com among the Phillies' top prospects.  Young hit .277 with the Rangers, his lowest since 2002, with eight home runs and 67 RBIs. His .682 OPS was the lowest of his career.  The Rangers are looking to revamp their lineup. They still want to re-sign Josh Hamilton, but they have also talked to the D-backs about a trade for right fielder Justin Upton. If the Rangers acquire Upton, then it could mean that Nelson Cruz ends up as their designated hitter.  The Rangers have also been trying to sign Greinke, the top free-agent starting pitcher on the market. The Dodgers and the Angels have been viewed as their primary competition. But both Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto left the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., this week expressing doubt that their club would be able to sign Greinke. Dipoto said the Angels were ready to "move on" from the right-hander.  There could be other teams quietly involved on Greinke. But Rangers CEO and president Nolan Ryan has made it clear from the beginning how much he likes Greinke, and general manager Jon Daniels has said all along the club is trying to add a starting pitcher.  Greinke, 29, was 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 starts for the Angels and the Brewers this past season. He was 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts for the Angels after being acquired on July 27. The Rangers also tried to acquire Greinke at the Trade Deadline.  It's still unclear if the Rangers would be able to sign both Greinke and Hamilton. Ryan said that would be a decision made by Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, the co-chairmen of the Rangers' ownership group.
If the Rangers don't acquire Hamilton, they could still trade for Upton, move Cruz to DH and go with a platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in center.

A-Rod committed to 'hard road back' after hip surgery set for mid-Jan.

MIAMI — Alex Rodriguez went to see doctors with hopes of finding something wrong. When they actually located a problem, only then did he start feeling a bit better.


The New York Yankees' third baseman said Saturday that not only are plans set for him to have surgery on his left hip in mid-January, but that he's also eager to embrace the challenge of coming back from both the operation and an unbelievably abysmal finish to last season. It's expected that Rodriguez, who will be making his sixth trip to the disabled list in six seasons, could be sidelined until the All-Star break.

"I'm not concerned," Rodriguez told The Associated Press. "I'm actually, in many ways, relieved that there's something tangible that we can go fix."

Rodriguez had surgery on his right hip in 2009, missed about the first month of the season and still finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs — plus helped the Yankees win the World Series. This surgery is more complex, since it'll repair not only a torn labrum but also a bone impingement and a cyst. The surgery is next month because it was determined he needed some time to strengthen the hip first.

"I am fully committed to a very hard road back," Rodriguez said. "We've done it before in '09 and it was a great result, both on a personal level and on a team level, more importantly. I take it as a great challenge and I'm excited for the challenge."

A 14-time All-Star and baseball's priciest player at $275 million, Rodriguez plans to further discuss the hip situation at a news conference later Saturday afternoon.

He batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs in last season's playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers. He originally thought he was having issues with the right hip again — he wasn't — and it wasn't until November that the issues within the left hip were detected.

Rodriguez finished this past regular season batting .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. He now has 647 career homers, fifth-most in baseball history and 13 shy of the No. 4 player on that list, Willie Mays.

Rodriguez was in Miami, the city he calls home, on Saturday to host a pair of events for children — his basketball tournament which he started a decade ago, and a toy giveaway at a Boys & Girls Club where he was a member until getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners.

He addressed about 150 players at a breakfast honoring the eight basketball teams in the morning, telling them stories about his upbringing and earliest days as a student and athlete that many in the room did not likely know.

"You're probably sitting there saying, 'Now, how can you relate with us? You play for the Yankees. You make all this money. You date so-and-so,'" Rodriguez told the basketball players. "What you guys don't know is we're all alike. I was sitting in that chair just 15, 18 years ago. My mom had two jobs. I didn't know if I would ever have a steak dinner. That didn't exist in my house."

He also met privately with some of the athletes afterward, advising them about upcoming decisions, such as what to look for in a college. Rodriguez also posed for several photos with the teams and their coaches.

"I can't say enough good things about him," said Brother Kevin Handibode, the president of Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, where Rodriguez attended as a freshman. "I know about all the good work he does, and you don't hear about it. You just don't hear about the good that Alex has done in a very, very quiet way."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pirates acquire three in deals with KC, Boston

In anticipation of next week's Winter Meetings, and possibly of Friday's deadline to make contract offers to arbitration-eligible players, the Pirates on Wednesday reshuffled their 40-man roster.  The club designated for assignment infielders Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro, needing their spots for two players acquired from Kansas City in trade: First baseman Clint Robinson and right-hander Vin Mazzaro, in exchange for young pitching prospects Luis Rico and Luis Santos. In another transaction, Pittsburgh acquired right-hander Zach Stewart from Boston for a player to be named later. All three newcomers have limited Major League experience, the least by the most intriguing of them: Robinson, a strapping 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefty swinger who had a four at-bat big league debut last summer. Three of those at-bats came in PNC Park, during an Interleague series. Robinson, 27, immediately looms as an alternative to two arbitration-eligible first basemen on the roster, Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones. Robinson also slides in as a replacement for Hague, who was given a fair shot to make an impression last season (with a three-week run as the primary first baseman), but could hit only .229, with little extra-base pop. At Triple-A Omaha last season, Robinson batted .292 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs. Perhaps most impressive for a guy with his big swing: He had more walks (79) than strikeouts (65) in 570 plate appearances. Mazzaro, 26, has a 15-21 record with an ERA of 5.22 in four seasons split between the A's, who'd drafted him in the third round in 2005, and the Royals. His 66 big league games include 45 starts.Neither Rico, 19, nor Santos, 21, has yet to pitch domestically. Both had been in the Pirates organization for two years, pitching last summer in the Dominican summer league.
Stewart, 26, has been on the move since being the Reds' third-round choice in the 2008 Draft. This is already the fourth trade in which he has been involved, having gone from the Reds to the Blue Jays to the White Sox to the Red Sox. The veterans he has exacted in those moves -- Scott Rolen, Edwin Jackson, Kevin Youkilis -- hint of Stewart's potential.

'Killer' nanny pleads not guilty in hospital to child stab deaths; wants press barred from hospital

Now she wants sympathy.


In a cowardly plea for special treatment, accused child-slaughterer Yoselyn Ortega begged a judge to bar the press from her hospital bed arraignment today -- claiming through her lawyer that she's too visibly sick, too "pathetic" to be seen.

"It is a pathetic woman who lies here," public assistance defense lawyer, Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg, told a Manhattan judge as Ortega lay at her side, handcuffed to her bed at New York-Presbyterian hospital.

"My client does not wish to have the press in here," the lawyer said, in asking unsuccessfully for Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone to bar a reporter from watching as Ortega pleaded not guilty to the bathtub slashing deaths of two young Upper West Side children under her care.

Lucia and Leo Krim perished in the brutal, Oct. 25 slashing. The girl was 6 years old; the boy was 2.

They were found bleeding to death in the bathtub of their W. 75th Street apartment by their mother, Marina Krim, upon her returning home with the third child, Nessie, 3. Ortega was still in the apartment, and had slashed her own self in the throat, authorities said.

"She's lying in a hospital bed. She has a neck brace, and her hand that you can see is shaking," the lawyer argued today.

"She is in a very debilitated condition. She has tubes running out of her torso. She has a right to privacy."

The lawyer added, "You have a profoundly injured, severely injured individual… you are chilling her right to be free from being observed in this condition."

In allowing the proceeding to be covered, the judge said he recognized that sometimes "there are things that become uncomfortable with respect to the press." He added, "That is the cost that we must bear in connection with the civil liberties."

The judge ordered Ortega to undergo a psychiatric exam to determine if she is mentally fit to proceed, and kept her on suicide watch.

Ortega appeared alert but did not speak at the ten-minute proceeding, during which she lay under a white blanket, her hair in a blue hair net. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

The purpose of the hearing was to formally inform Ortega that she's been hit with the top homicide charge in the books -- murder in the first degree, reserved for slayings of judges and cops, serial killings, killings deemed cruel and wanton, or, as in Ortega's case, in which there were multiple victims.

The nanny had been suffering mental and financial difficulties, and told cops that she resented the Krim family for asking her to do an extra five hours a week of housework.

The judge set Jan. 16 as her next court date.

With AP

The Phantom of the Opera Review

By writer/reporter Brandon Julien
 
Midtown- The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway’s longest running show, and it had the honor of being the first Broadway show I’ve ever seen.
The central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine DaaƩ, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius. From what I saw, this is where the title comes into play.

In the beginning (Act I), we begin our journey in the middle of an auction, which seems causal (to me) to begin a show. Lot 666 is a shattered chandelier that, the auctioneer says, has a connection to "the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera…a mystery never fully explained." As the chandelier is uncovered, it lights up and slowly rises over the audience, and that scared me half to death.
And trust me, the surprises didn’t end there. Throughout the show, the special effects almost had my heart racing and at the edge of my seat. The only other time I had seen stuff like this was at a movie theater, so this was very impressive in my standards.

Marini Raab, who plays Christine DaaĆ© in this play (Samantha Hill plays her in the Monday and Thursday evening performances), honestly has a great singing voice. During the singing scenes (making this a Broadway show/musical), her voice has such clarity, precision, and emotion, I honestly thought like I was going to cry. On another point, Hugh Panaro, who plays the Phantom of the Opera, was magnificent in scaring the audience with the special effects, and also at catching the audience off guard. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. In Act 2, Scene 3, when most of the characters are on stage, one of them reads a piece of paper that looks like a note. And as they read the note, we can hear the Phantom’s voice, but he’s not on the stage. That honestly had me a little bit creeped out.
But what this play does good, and better than any other book or movie I know is switching from laughing to romantic to dramatic from scene to scene.

My recommendation: This is a Broadway show worth seeing. This show makes you laugh, makes you cry, and it makes you hold on to the edge of your seat asking for more. And with the action, the romance, the drama, and the beautiful singing, it is definitely worth the 2+ hours.

Out of a possible 10, The Phantom of the Opera gets a 9.5.
Reporting from Midtown, I’m Brandon Julien.

Angels, Madson finalize one-year contract

Ryan Madson, a product of Moreno Valley, Calif., can boast about it now: Growing up, he was an Angels fan.  


Madson attended games at Angel Stadium as a kid, met Troy Percival, looked up to Wally Joyner -- "In my dream," he said, "I was a first baseman, but I threw too hard" -- and envisioned a time when he'd actually get to play for them.

But this was a negotiation; Madson had to be subtle about that this winter. "I was a little concerned with letting Jerry [Dipoto] know about wanting to play for Anaheim," Madson said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, shortly after the Angels' general manager signed the potential closer to a one-year, incentive-laden contract. "I'm glad that he picked that up and didn't take advantage of it."

Perhaps Dipoto didn't take advantage of it, but he did net quite the bargain. After an entire season spoiled by Tommy John surgery, the Angels were able to get Madson -- one of baseball's top late-inning relievers with the Phillies -- for a $3.5 million base salary and up to $3.5 million more in incentives. Madson -- a client of tough-negotiating agent Scott Boras, no less -- can rake in up to $2.5 million for time spent on the roster and up to $1 million based on games finished.

Madson is confident he can be ready by Opening Day, and he believes he'll finish a lot of games for the Angels.

"As long as my arm is 100 percent and I feel like I can throw the ball how I'm capable of, then I expect to have the [closer's] role," Madson said. "I don't think anything's going to be given to me, but I'm definitely going to come to Spring Training and earn the job and show them that I'm healthy in that way, and I think I should have it."

The Angels have quite a familiarity with Madson. The 32-year-old right-hander, who lives in Temecula, Calif., had his Tommy John surgery performed by Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum and rehabbed in Anaheim under the watch of team doctors this past season.

Madson, nearly eight months removed from the procedure, is currently doing 100 to 110 throws from 90 to 100 feet, making him "very confident" that he'll be "ready to go at the beginning of the season."

"I'm way ahead of where I thought I'd be at this point," he said, "and I've actually had to back down a little bit."

In a relievers' market where Jeremy Affeldt ($18 million with the Giants), Brandon League ($22.5 million with the Dodgers) and Jonathan Broxton ($21 million with the Reds) got lucrative three-year contracts, the Madson deal is essentially low-risk, high-reward -- the type that leaves the Angels with payroll flexibility to fill at least two holes in the rotation, perhaps keeping them alive on Zack Greinke.

But it's only a bargain if Madson reverts back to form after a lost 2012 in Cincinnati, taking control of the ninth inning and creating the kind of domino effect that will help the Angels return to the playoffs by improving on an American League-leading 47 saves the last two years.

Without going into specifics, Dipoto said he isn't done addressing the bullpen "by any stretch," a sentiment that may hinge on how the starting pitching market plays out. With Madson joining the likes of Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs, though, he can breathe a whole lot easier.

"Our ability to get the last nine outs just got a lot better," Dipoto said. "If Ryan Madson is throwing the ball like he has over the course of time in the big leagues, and particularly the last five years before Tommy John, he's one of the premier relievers in the game."

The 6-foot-6 Madson solidified a late-inning role with the Phillies from 2008-11, using a mid-90s fastball and a devastating changeup to compile a 2.86 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, while averaging 68 innings, 68 strikeouts and 18 walks per season. He became the full-time closer in 2011, posting a 2.37 ERA, going 32-for-34 in saves and giving up only two home runs while pitching mostly out of Citizens Bank Park, the hitter-friendly facility that was home to many big playoff games.

Just 12 months ago, he would've been a lot more expensive. At around that time, the Phillies offered him a reported four-year, $44 million contract to return as their closer. But for some reason, they quickly turned their attention to Jonathan Papelbon, giving him a record $50 million while Madson was left dangling in the free-agent market until signing what Boras likes to call a "pillow contract" with the Reds on Jan. 13.

Madson's hope was to prove once again that he can be a full-time closer, then cash in on a more fruitful market this winter. But his plans were derailed in Spring Training, when right elbow irritation that appeared non-threatening evolved into a blown-out elbow that would make him go under the knife on April 11, making him start over once more.

"If you know anything about me, you know that I'm a pleaser," Madson said. "I want to please, in any fashion I can. For me, it's the baseball field. And I wasn't able to do that for the Reds. They gave me such a great opportunity, just like the Angels have this year, and it just didn't work out. I was emotional."

Now the emotions are a bit different. Now the emotions come with the thrill of playing for his hometown team, in a situation that may be ideal for a guy trying to prove he's a legit closer once more.

Madson feels he's better equipped to handle that now -- "I'm an experienced guy, so I know the emotions aren't going to take over," he said -- and Dipoto thinks it can be a great advantage.

"That's something I don't think you can take for granted -- someone who's willing to go out there and
fight for something that they've wanted to do their entire lives," Dipoto said. "There's a romantic edge to that, but there's also something that creates an edge that you just can't go out and replace."