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Nov
30

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US President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he will be “leaving his business” to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest while in the White House, insisting he was not legally bound to do so.

In a series of Tweets, Trump said he would unveil his plans at a December 15 news Continue Reading…

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Oct
03

CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — Patrick Reed shook his fists with fury for every big putt he made. Phil Mickelson leaped higher than when he won his first Masters. Ryan Moore delivered the final point in this American masterpiece Sunday at the Ryder Cup.

The 17-11 victory over Europe was their biggest rout in 35 years at the Ryder Cup.

Only this was more than just three days of exquisite golf at Hazeltine. This victory began two years ago in Scotland, when Phil Mickelson publicly criticized U.S. captain Tom Watson and a process that he felt put the Americans in position to fail far too often.

“When put in the right environment, the U.S. team brought out some amazing golf,” Mickelson said. “And we’re bringing back the Ryder Cup because of it.”

Sure enough, that 17-inch gold trophy was gleaming on a table, right next to a couple of champagne bottles on ice.

This wasn’t about being maybe the best team ever assembled.

The Americans were a team, and that was all that mattered. For the first time since 1975, every U.S. player won at least one match. And for the first time since 2008, the Ryder Cup is staying in America.

Four years after Davis Love III saw his team blow a 10-6 lead at Medinah, he watched them make more birdies and eagles than he could count as they filled the scoreboard with American red and took any suspense out of the outcome.

“There was a lot of pressure on these guys over the last couple years,” Love said. “We haven’t had a good run lately, and I’m thrilled for them that they got the win. … This team has been questioned and beat up for a long time, and I’m proud of the way they came together.”

Europe, going for its fourth straight victory, never really had a chance.

Reed outdueled and outshouted Rory McIlroy in a match so dynamic that they halved three straight holes with birdies. McIlroy holed a 60-foot putt up the slope on the par-3 eighth and cupped his hand to his ear to a loud an occasionally obnoxious crowd. Reed followed with a 35-foot birdie putt, wagging his finger at McIlroy. They bumped fists and patted each other on the back. McIlroy’s putter went cold, and Reed holed a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to secure the 1-up victory.

Mickelson and Sergio Garcia combined for 19 birdies, eight of them over the last five holes. Mickelson made an 18-foot birdie on the final hole, crouched and then leaped in the air, capping off a big week under more pressure than usual because of his strong voice in all these changes.

One of the changes from the Ryder Cup Task Force that Europe mocked was to spread out the captain’s picks until the very end. The last one went to Moore, who was added to the team only last Sunday. A week later, he was celebrating a 1-up victory over Lee Westwood that clinched the cup.

“You’re only as strong as your 12th man right there,” Brandt Snedeker said to him.

There wasn’t much Europe to do. Thomas Pieters had the best showing of any European rookie by going 4-1. That was a lone bright spot.

“They did everything I asked of them. They tried their heart out. They worked hard. They fought hard,” European captain Darren Clarke said. “The American Ryder Cup team deserved to win. And we’re all gutted and disappointed. And we will be back stronger to fight in two years’ time in Paris.”

Mickelson already was looking ahead.

He had said the work of the task force — primarily for players and former captains to have more input in an event run by the PGA of America — was not about this year but the next 10 years of the Ryder Cup.

Even so, it was sweet to see that trophy just a few feet away.

“We need to build on this,” Mickelson said. “Otherwise, it’s all for naught. We created a very solid foundation this year. … Yes, it’s great that we had success this week, but it’s not about one year or one Ryder Cup. It’s about a multitude, for decades to come.”

About that time, Love popped the cork off a bottle of champagne.

“That’s my cue to shut up,” Mickelson said.

He spoke volumes in Scotland, and on the golf course.

The Americans stood atop a bridge to the left of the 18th green and sprayed champagne on themselves and the crowd, an enormous gathering that sent endless cheers of “U-S-A” and “Red, white, blue” across Hazeltine for three straight days.

Every U.S. player contributed a point.

For Europe, Westwood was among four players who ended the week without a point.

The Ryder Cup Task Force was dismantled after Love was named captain for the second time, though Mickelson and Tiger Woods remain on a committee for the next Ryder Cup in 2018 in France. Europe has not lost consecutive Ryder Cups since 1993.

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Oct
02

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CHASKA, Minn. — The scoreboards were all red Friday morning.

They turned blue in the afternoon.

And now, after a tale of two sessions, the 41st Ryder Cup is a struggle again.

In just over five hours, the battle in the Land of 10,000 Lakes shifted, which isn’t surprising as momentum swaps are a staple of this match-play tussle between the U.S. and Europe.

Led by Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, the Americans stormed to a 4-0 lead with a sweep of Foursomes (alternate shot), the first whitewash by the U.S. in the first session since 1975, when the recently departed Arnold Palmer captained the team to victory at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Pennsylvania.

History was on the U.S. side — no team ahead by three or more points after the first session has ever lost. And the team had the boisterous, massive crowd on its side, a rolling thunder of uplifting noise. The road to the team’s first win since 2008 seemed to be without a roadblock.

But Europe raced back behind its driving forces of Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy and flipped the script by winning three of the four Fourballs matches after the clock struck noon, leaving the U.S. with a 5-3 advantage going into Day 2.

U.S. captain Davis Love III would have taken that advantage at the start of the day; European captain Darren Clarke loved to gain the momentum at the end of the day.

“That’s the Ryder Cup,” Clarke said. “That’s what all these people come to watch. You know, historically, Europe has probably been stronger in the foursomes and America have always been stronger in the fourballs and that was completely turned on its head. The guys were disappointed with the way they played this morning and the way they performed. But they showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done this afternoon.”

Love said he was “frustrated” the team’s advantage wasn’t larger.

“We played really well in the morning, and we actually played pretty good this afternoon. They just made a bunch of birdies,” Love said. “We just ran into a couple of buzz saws. Our guys still played really well and I’m proud of them for fighting all day. …

“I think everybody played a lot of good golf today. It was a long day, frustrating a little bit to not come out a little bit further ahead.”

Olympic gold medalist Rose and Claret Jug winner Stenson put the first point on the board for Europe with a 5-and-4 rout of Spieth and Reed. Rose and Stenson made nine birdies in 14 holes and avenged the morning loss to Spieth/Reed, who roared early and late in a 3-and-2 victory. The morning defeat was the first in the Ryder Cup for the team of Rose and Stenson, who were 3-0 in 2014; the afternoon loss was the first for the team of Spieth/Reed, who were 2-0-1 in 2014.

“It’s one thing if you’re losing if you’re playing badly, but we were both pretty happy with our performance in the morning,” Stenson said. “We missed a couple of putts and that’s why we lost. We’re just going to go out and try and carry on, and we did that and made a few putts and got the point back. Makes it sweeter when you beat the guys you lost to in the morning, that’s for sure.”

Europe got its second point when Garcia partnered with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello for seven birdies in a 3-and-2 win over rookie Ryan Moore and J.B. Holmes, who didn’t win a hole until the 14th.

The heart of Europe, McIlroy, and rookie Thomas Pieters, both who were on the losing end of matches in the morning, teamed for a 3-and-2 win against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar in the anchor match in the afternoon. McIlroy ended the match with an eagle on the 16th, bowed twice to the crowd and emphatically shook hands and chest-pumped Pieters.

“This is my second Ryder Cup in the U.S., and the crowd is definitely a little more hostile than at Medinah (in 2012),” McIlroy said. “I just wanted to show them how much this means to us.”

The only bright spot for the U.S. in the afternoon was the pairing of Brandt Snedeker and rookie Brooks Koepka, who made seven birdies between them and never trailed in a 5-and-4 rout of Martin Kaymer and Masters champ and rookie Danny Willett. Snedeker provided the putter, Koepka the power.

“My job today was to come out and make putts, and just let Brooks do what he does,” Snedeker said. “Brooks played fantastic. It was an awesome win for us today. We needed it and we’re going to build on this thing going forward.”

It wasn’t bright at the start of the chilly morning as fog hung over the course for the first two hours of play, but nothing hindered the U.S. efforts as it made 19 birdies while Europe made just 8.

In addition to Reed and Spieth setting the tone in the first match, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker won the last five holes to beat Garcia/Kaymer, 4 and 2, while Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler turned their match around and beat McIlroy and Andy Sullivan, 1 up. Dustin Johnson and Kuchar were a hammer in the anchor match as they whipped Lee Westwood and Pieters, 5 and 4.

USA holds 5-3 Ryder Cup lead after early sweep

© Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports USA holds 5-3 Ryder Cup lead after early sweep

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Sep
30

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© Shutterstock/Rex Images Ann Marie Korkki and Robin Marie Korkki found dead in villa at luxury resort, Seychelles

Annie and Robin Korkki were experienced travelers, their brother, Chris, told the Associated Press.

“They were frequent travelers both domestically and internationally,” Chris Korkki told the wire service. “They were kind and generous and compassionate, and were wonderful people that had a positive impact on a huge number of people.”

The Korkki sisters — 37-year-old Annie and 42-year-old Robin — died last week on an island in the Indian Ocean. The pair were vacationing in Seychelles; their bodies were reportedly discovered Sept. 22, but in the immediate aftermath of their deaths, few details were known.

The Seychelles News Agency reported last week that Annie and Robin Korkki were “unresponsive” when they were found at the Maia Luxury Resort and Spa, according to police.

They were taken to a medical center, where the sisters were “certified dead” by a doctor, police spokesman Jean Toussaint said in a statement released to the news agency. Authorities conducted a preliminary investigation of the bodies, the statement noted, but didn’t find any “signs of violence.”

“There were no marks on them whatsoever,” Seychelles Tourism Minister Alain St. Ange told NBC News. “They had a good time in the day and then they went to their room.”

Toussaint, the police spokesman, told Seychelles Nation that the sisters were drinking the night before and were helped to their villa by hotel personnel. A butler noticed that the villa’s door was still locked the next morning. He alerted hotel personnel after the day continued without any movement in the room.

“From the observation done by our police officers, there was no disturbance in the room and the two sisters were found unresponsive on the same bed,” Toussaint told Seychelles Nation.

Seychelles is off the east coast of Africa. According to the Seychelles News Agency, the sisters were scheduled to leave Saturday, and had arrived Sept. 15.

Chris Korkki told the AP that “his mother and brother have traveled to Seychelles for answers and to make arrangements to bring his sisters’ bodies back to the U.S.”

“At this point, the only details we know are the articles flying around online,” Chris Korkki told the Star Tribune. “My mom has been talking with people from the U.S. Embassy. I don’t think they’ve provided her with any information.”

The Star Tribune’s report continued:

The brother described his sisters as healthy and adventurous women who “definitely wanted to experience life to the fullest.”

He added, “Two things keep going through my mind: This isn’t happening, and we just want answers.”

In an email Thursday to The Washington Post, a State Department official referred questions about the investigation to local authorities.

“We are aware of the deaths of two U.S. citizens in the Seychelles last week,” the email said. “We extend our deepest condolences to family and friends, and stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”

The AP tried to check in with local authorities in Seychelles, as well as with the foreign ministry, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. NBC News also tried to get speak with those involved in the investigation, but their calls were not returned.

“It’s all very surreal,” Chris Korkki told KARE, an NBC affiliate in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. “We don’t know very much. Our family is still very much in shock. We’re devastated.”

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Sep
20

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© Courtesy Jaimi Hajzus A flier found on lawns in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, over the weekend.

Jaimi Hajzus woke up Saturday morning to a string of worried texts.

Friends in her hometown of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, said someone had gone house to house the previous night and left plastic Baggies filled with lollipops, rocks and paper fliers on dozens of lawns in the town’s main thoroughfare.

Inside, they found a disturbing message.

“Are there troubles in your neighborhood?” the fliers read. “Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan today!”

Printed on the crinkled slips of paper was an image of a hooded Klansman pointing a finger in the style of the iconic Uncle Sam recruitment poster, along with something of a slogan: “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.”

Hajzus said she and others believe a new white supremacist cell in the area might be behind the campaign, but they’re struggling to decide what the strange parcels mean for the town of 2,500, and how the community should respond.

“I feel like they’re trying to pick a fight, and I don’t want to bring a gun to a knife fight,” Hajzus told The Washington Post Monday. “It’s hard to know how strongly to approach this.”

Coudersport isn’t alone.

Similar packages have recently turned up in communities around the country — from California to Kansas to New Jersey — many of them in the roughly 15 months since Dylann Roof allegedly gunned down nine African Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Each incident follows a similar pattern, with residents waking up to find small plastic bags on their front lawns containing pro-KKK missives. The bags are often weighed down by rocks and sometimes come with a few candies stuffed inside.

Just a day after residents in Coudersport discovered the Baggies on their lawns, nearly identical packages showed up at homes in Whittier, California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The flier inside contained a disparaging screed against African Americans and came with a rock and a lollipop, one longtime resident told the paper. It also listed a phone number and a mailing address for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, she said. A week earlier, 100 residents in Fullerton, California, found similar packages at their homes, the LA Times reported.

In July, hundreds of residents in three Indiana counties received fliers — also stuffed into bags with rocks — criticizing immigrants and homosexuals and calling on people to “wake up” and join the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Indianapolis Star reported. Similar Baggies have turned up in Michigan, New Jersey, Kansas, Alabama, and elsewhere since 2015.

© Courtesy Jaimi Hajzus
Whether it’s all part of a national campaign or individual KKK cells around the country mimicking one another is hard to tell — Klan groups tend to be highly decentralized, and members typically haven’t claimed responsibility for their publicity campaigns. But one state KKK leader told the Daily Beast last year that the Klan has stepped up its recruitment efforts as calls have grown to remove the Confederate flag from public spaces.

“We’re doing this from the East Coast to the West Coast, just to let people know the Klan’s in their community,” Robert Jones, the grand dragon of the North Carolina-based Royal White Knights, said. “Especially with all the stuff that’s in the news — in South Carolina they’re wanting to take the Confederate flag down.”

Police response has generally been muted. Aside from keeping an eye on local KKK activities, police departments tend not to conduct deep investigations because the fliers are protected by the First Amendment.

“There’s nothing we can do about it except be aware about it,” one police officer told the IndyStar in July.

In Coudersport, Hajzus said community members are taking matters into their own hands.

Hajzus, 35, said she lives a couple hours away from Coudersport, but travels there regularly to see family. She said the community was already on high alert about hate groups in the area, which was once home to the Aryan Nations leader August Kreis, who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence fort sexually molesting a child.

In August, Hajzus and about 40 residents in the area got together to protest a rally by an apparently new white supremacist group in a neighboring town. So when the pro-KKK fliers showed up on Saturday, she moved quickly, she said.

Hajzus and a local resident, Joe Leschner, started a Facebook group to organize concerned community members and spread the word. Local police told PennLive that 10 to 15 homes hit, but Hajzus and Leschner said they believed it was several dozen.

Leschner, a store manager in the area, called on people who had received the Baggies to send them to him so he could ship them back to the KKK chapter listed on the flier.

“It’s really creepy,” Leschner said in a Facebook Live video posted Saturday. “I have no idea what this mess is, but it’s not wanted in our town.”

A 1-800 number advertised on the flier as a “24-hour Klanline” went straight to a full voice mail box on Monday night.

Hajzus said she doesn’t know who is behind the fliers, but said she has been “taunted” on social media recently by members of a National Socialist group in the area since the attended the protest in August. The group has used the European social network VK to promote a “national socialist meeting” in nearby Ulysses, Pennsylvania, on October 8, saying “all white patriots welcome.”

Hajzus said she hopes the community will come out against the group’s activities — as well as other hate groups in the area.

“As much as some of us would love to ignore something like this and hope it goes away, the problem is that the same flier has been distributed in other places,” she said. “If this is actually a resurgence of a hateful and violent group, then we need to take a stance.”

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Sep
11

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Spencer Platt | Getty Images
A soaring beacon of hope: The Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center.

Lower Manhattan, the neighborhood that was home to the Twin Towers and which endured the brunt of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has spent the last decade and a half in a state of healing and recovery. Today that process appears to be paying off.

It hasn’t been easy. According to data provided by the Alliance for Downtown New York , 90 percent of Lower Manhattan stores saw revenues decline for a full year after the attacks, and 47 percent of the neighborhood’s retailers, services and restaurants reported layoffs.

It was also hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis. At the time of the 2001 attacks, it boasted almost 237,000 private-sector jobs. In 2009 it could account for less than 200,000. Anyone could have been forgiven for wondering if the area could recover from two disasters in a single decade.

By the end of 2015, the picture had changed considerably. More than 232,000 people were employed in Lower Manhattan, and the number continues to grow. It’s nothing less than a rebirth, which is a by-product of the grit and resilience of neighborhood residents and small-business owners who were determined to stick it out.

One such business owner and neighborhood denizen is Todd A. Spodek, managing partner at Spodek Law Group P.C. The firm was founded in 1976 by his father and has always operated out of Lower Manhattan, even when business took a big hit in the wake of 9/11.

“After 9/11, new business stopped for a considerable amount of time,” Spodek told CNBC.com. “The entire city was in shock, and certainly people were not running downtown to relive this nightmare every day.”

Against all odds: Todd Spodek survived 9/11 and grew his law firm despite all the challenges.

Source: Alex Zhik
Against all odds: Todd Spodek survived 9/11 and grew his law firm despite all the challenges.

The firm’s business didn’t dry up completely — its ongoing caseload kept its doors open in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. But Spodek conceded that it was two or three years before the firm experienced any significant uptick in new business. Today, however, he believes that both his firm and the neighborhood it calls home have returned to full strength. Spodek Law Firm currently houses six lawyers, four support staff and pulls in $3 million in annual revenue.

“At this point the neighborhood is booming,” he said. “We have since moved directly next to the World Trade Center, and it’s a fantastic neighborhood. There’s a tremendous amount of new restaurants, bars and businesses. … I think that the neighborhood has bounced back completely.”

Another small-business owner who stayed in Lower Manhattan after 9/11 is Mary White, founder and CEO of BnBFinder.com, an online guide to bed & breakfasts and inns. She started it as a home business in 1998, and she was working and living directly across the street from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Her building was forced to close for two months to recover from the damage, and she considered shutting down. However, the programmers who hosted her site out of Dallas wouldn’t hear of it, and offered to run the business for free until she could come back. She rented a temporary apartment to work from with her single employee, and she kept going. She had to, anyway, because work never let up.

“What stands out to me is the number of inquiries we got from brides and others scrambling to make plans for weddings, honeymoons, family reunions and other trips that they could drive to, because of the general fear of flying,” she told CNBC.com. “That holiday season we sold what was then a record number of gift certificates, because a number of articles were written about giving time, something not material, being with loved ones, and our gift certificates made this possible.”

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BnBFinder.com survived 9/11 and grew right along with the internet, with the gift certificate business in particular seeing great success. In November 2008 it relocated to Broad Street, in the Financial District, where it remains to this day. The company has 2,000 clients and pulls in $800,000 in annual revenue.

Lower Manhattan’s recovery is likely to see a further boost, courtesy of the Westfield World Trade Center, a shopping mall within the World Trade Center complex that opened in August. Occupying 365,000 square feet, it serves as home to approximately 60 businesses, including an Apple store and Kate Spade, with Crabtree & Evelyn and Victoria’s Secret still to come. It’s all part of the long rebirth that the neighborhood has undergone in the last 15 years.

Business aside, the rebirth of Lower Manhattan would never have happened without people like Spodek and White, who never lost faith in it. White has since moved out of her old apartment, but her new one is on Fulton Street, with the Freedom Tower in plain view. From the sound of it, she seems to be a Lower Manhattan lifer.

“I am committed to downtown and love living and working here,” she said. “I’m just glad we’re no longer calling it Ground Zero.”

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Sep
11

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U.S. fund investors are bolstering their bets that the Federal Reservewill bypass an interest-rate increase later this month by pouring new cash into corporate bonds and emerging markets as well as U.S. stocks.

Investment-grade bond funds nabbed $2.8 billion during the week through Sept. 7, Lipper data showed on Thursday, the best result for those products since the week through July 13 and adding to a near-unbroken streak of inflows since March.

“The main driver we’re seeing out there in the market is the Fed, and trying to read the Fed,” said Pat Keon, research analyst for Thomson Reuters Lipper. “The general consensus is no for September.”

Corporate debt has become a hot commodity amid increasingly negative bond returns and expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low for a while.

Rising rates erode bond prices. Fed officials have sought in recent weeks to revive expectations of a rate hike this year, perhaps as soon as their Sept. 20-21 policy meeting, but some weak U.S. economic data seemed to suggest such a move might be unlikely.

Emerging markets continued to shine, with equity funds focused on the sector taking in $439 million, their 10th straight week netting cash.

Developing market debt funds added $293 million, their 11th week of inflows in the past 12. Higher rates raise borrowing costs for indebted emerging markets. Those countries often borrow in U.S. dollars, which often rise in value alongside rates. U.S. funds focused on domestic shares, like the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, took in $609 million. That contrasts with international stock funds offered in the United States, which posted $879 million in outflows.

Overall, U.S.-based taxable bond funds took in $3.4 billion in cash during the week, Lipper said. Yet investors did continue to cut exposure to so-called “bond proxies,” relatively high-yielding segments of the stock market that could see a pullback if rates rise. Utilities sector funds, for instance, recorded their sixth straight week of outflows, totaling $333 million.

Higher rates could make it harder for such companies to borrow. At the same time, yields on bonds could rise, drawing away investors from such stocks to bonds. fifth straight week of inflows.

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