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Hawaii considers making it official with ukulele
Written by SAM EIFLING, Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:14

HONOLULU (AP) β€” Its frisky four strings are the sound of Elvis's "Blue Hawaii," of Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips and lately, beyond all reason, of a popular "Bohemian Rhapsody" cover.

Above all, the humble ukulele β€” dubbed "the underdog of all instruments" by virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro who busted out his rendition of the aforementioned Queen classic in a recent performance β€” sounds like Hawaii.

Lawmakers here are considering a bill that would dub the ukulele the official state instrument, a designation that seems in some ways like a formal ceremony for a common-law marriage.

"Denying this bill would be like denying a significant part of who we are," Ani Martirosian Menon, a Honolulu resident by way of Los Angeles, told a House committee hearing Wednesday.

She credited the instrument with helping her, and anyone else who has ever come to Hawaii, to understand the islands. "It's a sincere melting pot," she said. "If you've never been here before, you're not going to know how to adjust. The ukulele is a really good entry point to connect with the local culture."

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Florida man executed in boy's rape, murder
Written by TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:12

STARKE, Fla. (AP) β€” The father of a 9-year-old South Florida boy raped and murdered in 1995 said he hopes the killer's execution sends a strong signal to other would-be child molesters and abductors.

"Don't kill the child. Because if you do, people will not forget, they will not forgive. We will hunt you down and we will put you to death," said Don Ryce, whose son Jimmy Ryce was kidnapped at gunpoint after getting off a school bus.

He spoke Wednesday night after Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Chavez was pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m., according to Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Chavez abducted Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on Sept. 11, 1995, in rural Miami-Dade County. Testimony showed Chavez raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, then dismembered his body and hid the parts in concrete-covered planters.

Ryce's parents turned the tragedy's pain into a push for stronger U.S. laws regarding confinement of sexual predators and improved police procedures in missing child cases. Their foundation provided hundreds of free canines to law enforcement agencies to aid in searches for children.

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Deaths, power outages in South; storm heads north
Written by KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:09

ATLANTA (AP) β€” Small armies of utility workers labored to turn the lights β€” and the heat β€” back on for hundreds of thousands of Southerners as a winter storm that left them without power threatened major cities further up the East Coast.

The Deep South remained a world of ice-laden trees and driveways early Thursday after several unusual days of sleet and snow brought by a powerful system that could bring more than a foot of snow to such metropolises as Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.

At least 12 deaths across the South have been blamed on the stormy weather and nearly 3,300 flights nationwide were canceled with another day of complicated air and road travel ahead Thursday, particularly in the Northeast.

Drivers in and around Raleigh, N.C., became snarled Wednesday in huge traffic jams and abandoned cars in scenes reminiscent of motorist woes in Atlanta during a storm two weeks earlier. In Atlanta, many streets were eerily quiet this storm, with drivers heeding dire warnings to stay off the roads. State troopers say they worked more than 200 crashes in Georgia.

For some on slick, snow-covered interstates in North Carolina, commutes that should take minutes lasted hours after many got on the highways just as soon as snow and sleet began at midday.

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New Orleans ex-mayor: From reformer to convict
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:11

NEW ORLEANS (AP) β€” Sixteen years after he burst on the New Orleans political scene as a charming, reform-minded businessman vowing to clean up city government, former Mayor Ray Nagin walked out of a federal courthouse as the glum embodiment of how far a politician can fall.

Nagin was convicted Wednesday on 20 criminal counts stemming from his two terms as New Orleans mayor from 2002 to 2010, including the recovery that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He is scheduled for sentencing June 11 β€” his 58th birthday.

Nagin was a cable company executive and political newcomer when he succeeded Marc Morial in 2002. Soon after taking office, he announced a crackdown on municipal corruption, starting with the city's vehicle safety inspection stations and issuing permits to non-eligible taxi drivers.

But federal prosecutors say his own corrupt acts began during his first term, continued through the Katrina catastrophe and flourished in his second term.

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Sid Caesar, comic genius of 1950s television, dies
Written by LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 16:36

LOS ANGELES (AP) β€” Sid Caesar, the prodigiously talented pioneer of TV comedy who paired with Imogene Coca in sketches that became classics and who inspired a generation of famous writers, died early Wednesday. He was 91.

Caesar died at his home in the Los Angeles area after a brief illness, family spokesman Eddy Friedfeld said.

In his two most important shows, "Your Show of Shows," 1950-54, and "Caesar's Hour," 1954-57, Caesar displayed remarkable skill in pantomime, satire, mimicry, dialect and sketch comedy. And he gathered a stable of young writers who went on to worldwide fame in their own right β€” including Neil Simon and Woody Allen.

"The one great star that television created and who created television was Sid Caesar," said critic Joel Siegel on the TV documentary "Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age Of Comedy," which first aired in 2001.

While best known for his TV shows, which have been revived on DVD in recent years, he also had success on Broadway and occasional film appearances, notably in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 16:51
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