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Actor Robert Conrad dies at 84

FILE - In this June 4, 1980, file photo, actors Ross Martin, left, and Robert Conrad, right, are shown while filming a scene of the motion picture "More Wild, Wild West," in Los Angeles. Conrad, the rugged, contentious actor who starred in the hugely popular 1960s television series "Hawaiian Eye" and "The Wild, Wild West," has died at age 84. A family spokesperson says the actor died Saturday morning, Feb. 8, 2020, in Malibu, Calif., from heart failure. (AP Photo/Wally Fong, File)

LOS ANGELES — Robert Conrad, the rugged, contentious actor who starred in the hugely popular 1960s television series “Hawaiian Eye” and “The Wild Wild West,” died Saturday. He was 84. With his good looks and strong physique, Conrad was a rising young actor when he was chosen for the lead in “Hawaiian Eye.” He became an overnight star after the show debuted in 1959. In “The Wild Wild West,” which debuted in 1965, he was James T. West, a James Bond-like agent who used innovative tactics and futuristic gadgets (futuristic for the 1800s anyway) to battle bizarre villains. He was ably assisted by Ross Martin’s Artemus Gordon, a master of disguise. The show aired until 1969. The series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” followed in 1976 and was roughly based on an autobiography by Marine Corps ace and Medal of Honor recipient Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, who wrote of the raucous fliers he commanded during World War II. Throughout Hollywood, Conrad had a reputation as a tough customer and was sued more than a half-dozen times as a result of fist fights. Playing himself in a 1999 episode of the TV series “Just Shoot Me,” he lampooned his threatening, tough-guy persona. He was also featured in 1970s commercials for Eveready Batteries, with a battery on his shoulder, a menacing stare and a popular catchphrase, “I dare you to knock this off.”

Orson Bean, 91, hit and killed

LOS ANGELES — Orson Bean, the witty actor and comedian, was hit and killed by a car in Los Angeles. He was 91. Bean was walking in the Venice neighborhood when he was clipped by a vehicle and fell,. A second driver then struck him in what police say was the fatal collision. Both drivers remained on the scene. Bean enlivened such TV game shows as “To Tell the Truth” and played a crotchety merchant on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” He appeared in a number of films — notably, “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Being John Malkovich” — and starred in several top Broadway productions, receiving a Tony nod for the 1962 Comden-Green musical “Subways Are for Sleeping.” But fans remembered him most for his many TV appearances from the 1950s onward. “Mr. Bean’s face comes wrapped with a sly grin, somewhat like the expression of a child when sneaking his hand into the cookie jar,” The New York Times noted in a review of his 1954 variety show, “The Blue Angel.” It said he showed “a quality of being likable even when his jokes fall flat.”

Firework breaks world record

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — A massive firework launched over a Colorado ski resort town has set a record for the world’s largest aerial firework. The 2,800-pound shell flew 2,200 feet above the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival before it burst, turning the sky bright red and drawing gasps from the crowd, The Steamboat Pilot & Today reported. Tim Borden of Steamboat Springs headed the team that developed the firework over seven years. Borden first attempted to set the world record last year, but failed when the shell exploded inside the mortar without lifting off the ground, the newspaper reported. Guinness World Records representatives witnessed both attempts. Christina Conlon of Guinness said she verified the shell launched Saturday was the world’s largest. The firework was 400 pounds heaver than the previous record-holder, a 2,397-pound explosive launched in the United Arab Emirates in 2018.

Thailand mourns victims

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand — As mourning began for the victims of Thailand’s worst mass shooting, the country counted its losses: a mother shot dead at the wheel of her car as her son sat beside her, a 13-year-old student gunned down as he was riding his motorbike home and more than two dozen other people. Authorities said the attack was carried out by a single gunman — a disgruntled soldier who opened fire on strangers before he was fatally shot Sunday at a shopping mall. Another 58 people were wounded. The dead were mourned Sunday night in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand’s relatively poor and rural northeastern region. More than 1,000 people turned up for the vigil led by Buddhist monks. They lit candles and prayed and chanted in the town square featuring a statue of Thao Suranari, a governor’s wife who is revered for leading troops against invaders from Laos two centuries ago. Officials said the gunman was angry over a financial dispute with his commanding officer. He made Col. Anantarote Krasae his first victim before stealing guns from an army camp and heading to the mall, shooting wildly along the way at people inside and outside the building. The attacker was identified as Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, who holed himself up in the Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall filled with Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of landmarks from around the world.

Parallel parking eliminated

LAS VEGAS — The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has eliminated the parallel parking portion of the driving skills test. The test still meets the national standards set by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators even without the parallel parking element, Department public information officer Kevin Malone said. Nevada joins several other states, including California, Colorado and Florida that have removed parallel parking from their driving skills exams. The changes are expected to reduce the number of repeat visits by drivers who can pass everything but parallel parking, officials said.

Gunman ambushes NYC cops

NEW YORK — A gunman was arrested after he ambushed police officers in the Bronx twice in 12 hours, authorities said, wounding two in attacks that brought outrage from officials who blamed the violence on an atmosphere of anti-police rhetoric. Robert Williams, 45, of the Bronx, was captured after he walked into a police station in the Bronx and started shooting shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday, police said. His shots struck a lieutenant in the arm and narrowly missed other police personnel before he ran out of bullets, lay down and tossed his pistol, officials said. That attack came just hours after Williams approached a patrol van in the same part of the Bronx and fired at two officers inside, wounding one before escaping on foot, police said. All of those shot are expected to recover, authorities said. “It is only by the grace of God and the heroic actions of those inside the building that took him into custody that we are not talking about police officers murdered inside a New York City police precinct,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a news conference.

Crosses Atlantic in less than 5

For the first time in years, a commercial passenger plane has flown across the Atlantic in less than five hours. A British Airways flight landed early Sunday morning at Heathrow Airport in London after leaving John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York just four hours and 56 minutes earlier. That set a new speed record for subsonic — or slower than the speed of sound — commercial aircraft to fly between the two cities. The previous record was held by a Norwegian Air flight, which flew between the two cities with a flight time of five hours and 13 minutes. The flight had been expected to take 102 minutes longer. The recent average flight time between New York and London is 6 hours and 13 minutes, according to Flightradar24. The wind and air currents were ideal for a fast flight, said Ian Petchenik, Flightradar24’s director of communications. “In the winter, the jet stream dips down a bit,” he said. “It’s kind of in a perfect spot for flights across the North Atlantic to take advantage of it.” British Airways just narrowly beat out a Virgin Atlantic flight, which arrived in London at around the same time but one minute slower.

Cannabis-related degree set

PUEBLO, Colo. — A university in Colorado will offer a cannabis-related degree program after receiving approval from the state. Colorado State University is expected to launch the program this fall at its Pueblo campus about 115 miles south of Denver. The Cannabis, Biology and Chemistry program would focus on the science necessary to work in the cannabis field and emphasize natural products and analytical chemistry, officials said. “It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry,” College of Science and Mathematics dean David Lehmpuhl said. “Hemp and marijuana has really come to the forefront in a lot of economic sectors in the country. We’re not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we’re about will be the science, and training students to look at that science.” The curriculum would be similar to double-majoring in biology and chemistry, officials said. The lab is licensed to grow industrial hemp and students might work with CBD,.

$45.6M in unpaid parking tickets

CLEVELAND — More than one out of every three parking tickets in Cleveland have gone unpaid over the last three years, resulting in millions in unpaid fines, according to an analysis of city records. The analysis by WEWS-TV found the city is owed $7.8 million in unpaid tickets over the last three years and $45.6 million for tickets dating back to 2000. The city had not collected 36% of parking fines issued in the past three years, according to the analysis. To enforce collection, Cleveland increases fines on delinquent tickets and can place a registration hold on vehicles with three delinquent tickets, which prevents registration renewal until the fines are paid. Vehicles with five delinquent tickets that are found parked downtown can be towed The city issued 8,800 registration holds and towed 145 cars in 2019. Columbus, which uses a collection agency to collect fines greater than $25, has $16.2 million in unpaid fines since 2001, and a collection rate of 87.5%. Cleveland formerly used a collection agency, but found that method was not cost-effective, said Obie Shelton, a spokesman for Cleveland Clerk of Courts Earle Turner, whose office is responsible for collecting parking fines.

Hurricane-force winds pound UK

LONDON — Storm Ciara battered the U.K. and northern Europe with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains Sunday, halting flights and trains and producing heaving seas that closed down ports. Soccer games, farmers’ markets and cultural events were canceled as authorities urged millions of people to stay indoors, away from falling tree branches. The storm, named by the U.K.’s Met Office weather agency, brought gales across the country and delivered gusts of 97 miles per hour to the Isle of White and 93 mph (150 kph) to the village of Aberdaron in northern Wales. Propelled by the fierce winds, a British Airways plane was thought to have made the fastest New York-to-London flight by a conventional airliner. The Boeing 747-436 completed the 3,500-mile transatlantic journey in 4 hours and 56 minutes, landing 102 minutes early and reaching a top speed of 825 mph (1,327 kph), according to flight tracking website Flightradar24. Two Virgin Airlines flights also roared across the Atlantic, with all three smashing the previous subsonic New York-to-London record of 5 hours and 13 minutes, Flightradar24 reported. Storm surges ate away at beaches and pounded rock cliffs and cement docks. The Met Office issued more than 250 flood warnings, and public safety agencies urged people to avoid travel and the temptation to take selfies as floodwaters rose. Residents in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in northwest England battled to protect their homes amid severe flooding as the River Eden burst its banks. At least 10 rail companies in Britain sent out “do not travel” warnings, while nearly 20 others told passengers to expect extensive delays. The strong winds damaged electrical wires and littered train tracks with broken tree limbs and other debris, including a family trampoline.

China virus cases rise again

BEIJING — Mainland China has reported another rise in cases of the new virus after a sharp decline the previous day, while the number of deaths grow by 97 to 908, with at least two more outside the country. On Monday, China’s health ministry said another 3,062 cases had been reported over the previous 24 hours, raising the Chinese mainland’s total to 40,171. Earlier, France closed two schools after five British visitors contracted the virus at a ski resort. Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam reported one new case each. Meanwhile, the mother of a physician who died last week in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan said she wants an explanation from authorities who reprimanded her son for warning about the virus. Monday’s rise was a turnaround from a significant reduction in new cases reported Sunday, 2,656, down by about 20% from the 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour period. That had prompted optimism that the “joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures have worked,” in the words of a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.

Rivals now targeting Buttigieg

DOVER, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg spent Sunday on defense as his Democratic presidential rivals attacked him on everything from his struggle to connect with black voters to accepting campaign contributions from large donors in an effort to blunt any momentum heading into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who essentially tied with Buttigieg in last week’s Iowa caucuses, blasted the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for taking contributions from the very wealthy, suggesting Buttigieg won’t stand up to “Wall Street tycoons” or “the corporate elite.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren voiced similar criticism, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “the coalition of billionaires is not exactly what’s going to carry us over the top.” Former Vice President Joe Biden told the same program that Buttigieg hasn’t been able to “unify the black community.” The volley of criticism was fresh evidence that Buttigieg, who was virtually unknown in national politics a year ago, has become an early front-runner in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. The developments usher in a new phase of the campaign that will test how Buttigieg responds to the pressure, especially as the contest moves to more racially diverse states where he has struggled to gain traction. Buttigieg hit back at Biden, who on Saturday lamented comparisons between the former mayor and former President Barack Obama. “Oh, come on, man,” Biden told reporters. “This guy’s not a Barack Obama.”

Trump budget to face obstacles

WASHINGTON — Confronted with the threat of trillion-dollar-plus deficits for as far as the eye can see, President Donald Trump is offering a $4.8 trillion budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year that rehashes previously rejected spending cuts while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits untouched. Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget plan, to be released Monday, isn’t likely to generate a serious Washington dialogue about what to do, if anything this election year, about entrenched fiscal problems that have deficits surging despite a healthy economy. The new budget, according to senior administration aides and a copy of summary tables, sees a $1.08 trillion b udget deficit for the ongoing budget year and a $966 billion deficit gap in the 2021 fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The budget’s most significant policy prescriptions — an immediate 5% cut to non-defense agency budgets passed by Congress and $700 billion in cuts to Medicaid over a decade — are nonstarters on Capitol Hill. But the Trump budget is a blueprint written as if Trump could enact it without congressional approval. It relies on rosy economic projections and fanciful claims of future cuts to domestic programs to show that it is possible to bend the deficit curve in the right direction. The budget would reduce the deficit to $261 billion within a decade if enacted in its entirety and promises balance after 15 years. Trump’s budget blueprint also assumes 2.8% economic growth this year and growth averaging 3% over the long term.

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