Sunday, June 30, 2013

California dreaming? Travel deals to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Yearning for the land of starlets, sun, and surf? With these great deals on airfare and?accommodations, a California dream vacation is in reach.?

By Summar Ghias,?Contributor / June 29, 2013

A view of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. A California vacation is within reach with these deals on hotels, flights, and more.



California's tourism commercials that poke fun at some of the state's stereotypes definitely reinforce one thing: sometimes, we really do wish we could reside in the land of Hollywood starlets, daisy dukes, convertibles, beaches, and surf galore. While relocating may not be an option, a visit to Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco is made possible by these airfare, hotel, and experience deals. Cali, here we come!

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First, head west with a 1-way?flight on American's number one airline, Virgin America (from $59, a low by $3; expires June 30). Or, take advantage of roundtrip flights on United Airlines (from $178, a low by $10; expires June 30) that'll take you straight to SoCal or wine country.

Southern California: Los Angeles and San Diego Hot Spots

The City of Angels can be all glitz and glamour or beach bummy and relaxing. It's your choice: From Rodeo Drive to The Getty to Venice Beach you can explore all of L.A.'s neighborhoods from the centrally located Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites where a 1-night weekend stay starts at under $200 (a low by $10; expires June 30). The 4-star hotel is located in downtown LA, and is steps to the Philharmonic, the area's galleries, and famed eatery Bottega Louie.

Want to feel like a celebrity while you are at it? Indulge in a spa day at the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel & Spa ($99, a low by $101; expires June 29). The deal includes an 80-minute massage with luxurious hot stone and bamboo, a 15-minute body scrub, complimentary blended fruit smoothies, valet parking, and access to the sauna and steam room.

Don't stop there. Follow in John Travolta and Angelina Jolie's footsteps by piloting your own plane with a 90-minute private flying lesson (from $99, a low by $126; expires August 30). With an hour of ground instruction and 30 minutes in the air, you'll be able to control the cockpit and take in aerial views of plenty of Los Angeles sights, too.

Looking for something a little more romantic? Head an hour and a half south for a romantic summer escape to Southern California wine country. Stay in a deluxe two-queen or one king bedroom at the Temecula Creek Inn (from $89, a low by at least $21; expires July 1).?

A touch further south you'll find that San Diego's 70 miles of coastline and reliably sunny weather will keep your spirits high. The city also has plenty of sights to keep you giddy from start to finish. Tour the world-renowned zoo, visit the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and be sure to enjoy a fish taco or two. Once the sun goes down, rest your head in nearby Torrey Hills at the affordable Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Del Mar (from $154, a low by $18; expires June 30). With this offer, you'll also score a $50 dining or spa credit good towards the Serenity Spa and Salon, Bistro 39, or the NY Garden Deli.

Alternatively you could throw caution to the wind and stay at the AAA 4-Diamond Hilton San Diego Bayfront (from $179, a low by $20; expires June 30). The hotel is situated on the San Diego Bay and boasts easy access to the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park where you can catch a Padres game. If you prefer to kick back, take in the views from the hotel's renovated outdoor space and go for a dip in the saltwater infinity pool. And like the Hilton Garden San Diego Del Mar, you'll also enjoy a complimentary $50 dining credit to boot.

Northern California: Must-See San Francisco

San Francisco may not have the always-sunny and warm weather of SoCal, but it does happen to be "The City That Knows How." Head to the diverse Bay Area with a 3-night stay at the Laurel Inn ? A Joie de Vivre Hotel (from $1,050, a low by $50; expires June 29). Situated in the upscale Pacific Heights, the hotel sits on Sacramento Street amidst stylish boutiques and restaurants, so it's no wonder that the hotel also offers a wide range of high-end amenities including afternoon lemonade and cookie service in the lobby, coffee and tea service 24-hours a day, and more. To see the rest of this vibrant city, wander over to the nearby historic Presidio National Park and catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, meander Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and Union Square.

With these deals to California, you'll be enjoying the West Coast before you know it. But, if you've got different ideas for a vacation, be sure to check out our daily travel deals for other airfare, hotel, and vacation packages.

At the time of publication, these travel deals offered the lowest prices we could find. Deals may include blackout dates, additional taxes, and fees. Some of our prices may be based on mandatory double occupancy.

Summar Ghias is a contributor to, where this article first appeared.?

Original story:?


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Judge: Hobby Lobby won't have to pay fines

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) ? Hobby Lobby and a sister company will not be subject to $1.3 million in daily fines beginning Monday for failing to provide access to certain forms of birth control through its employees' health care plans, a judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton set a hearing for July 19 to address claims by the owners of Hobby Lobby and the Mardel Christian bookstore chains that their religious beliefs are so deeply rooted that having to provide every form of birth control would violate their conscience.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had said Thursday the companies were likely to prevail, comparing the companies to a kosher butcher unwilling to adopt non-kosher practices as part of a government order.

Until the hearing, the government cannot impose fines against Hobby Lobby or Mardel for failing to comply with all of the Affordable Care Act. The companies' owners oppose birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or the morning-after pill, but are willing to offer the 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care law.

"The opinion makes it very clear what is a valid religious belief and what is not," said Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group is representing the companies and their owners, the Green family.

Heaton asked the government and companies to seek some sort of solution before the hearing, given that the 10th Circuit has already cleared the way for the companies to challenge the law on religious grounds. While not binding beyond the states in the 10th Circuit, Thursday's ruling could benefit others that oppose all forms of birth control, Hardman said, such as Catholic hospitals.

"We got a fantastic opinion from the 10th Circuit, which will impact all the cases," she said.

The companies had faced fines totaling $1.3 million daily beginning Monday. Had they dropped its health care plan altogether, they could have been fined $26 million. The only alternative would be to pay for birth control that violates its religious beliefs, the companies' owners said.

The appeals court on Thursday had suggested the companies shouldn't have to pay the fines, but there were unaddressed questions pending at the lower court. Heaton resolved those Friday in the companies' favor: Hobby Lobby had shown they would suffer financial or spiritual consequences, and that an injunction was in the public interest.

In fighting Hobby Lobby and other companies that oppose some or all forms of birth control, government lawyers had said companies cannot pick which portions of the Affordable Care Act with which they will comply.

Spokesmen for the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly declined to comment on pending lawsuits over birth control coverage.

Electronic court filings did not show any response from the government to Hobby Lobby's latest injunction request, but Heaton said in his order that lawyers from both sides had weighed in.

Hobby Lobby's lawyers have said the U.S. Department of Human Services has granted exemptions from portions of the health care law for plans that cover tens of millions of people and that allowing the companies an injunction would be no great burden to the government at the expense of the Greens' religious freedoms.

The companies' lawyers calculated potential losses at $475 million in a year ? $100 per day for 13,000 workers ? while harms to the government are "minimal and temporary."


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Bahrain: Iran can help ease Syrian civil war

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) ? Bahrain's foreign minister on Sunday urged Iran's newly elected president to seek the withdrawal of Tehran-backed Hezbollah fighters from Syria as a gesture to try to ease the civil war there.

The appeal by Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, during meetings between the European Union and Gulf Arab foreign ministers, showed the widening shadow of Syria's 27-month conflict that has spilled across borders, involving Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey in varying degrees.

Bahrain and other Arab states have been highly critical of the intervention by Lebanon-based Hezbollah on behalf of the regime of Syria's President Bashar Assad, who is Iran's main regional ally. Bahrain has outlawed contact with Hezbollah, which it claims aids fellow Shiite groups in an Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain. More than 60 people have died in Bahrain's unrest since February 2011.

"The situation is critical in Syria, and we hope that Iran takes a serious steps to withdraw the foreign troops in Syria, specifically Hezbollah and other militias," Sheik Khalid told reporters at the gathering in the Gulf nation's capital, Manama. He welcomed the election of Hasan Rouhani as president of Iran and hope it could "open a new page" in Tehran's relations with the region.

Iran's president, however, has little sway over major policymaking, such as strategies in Syria or relations with Hezbollah. All Iran's key decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Bahrain's Gulf partners, led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, also have urged for stepped up weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, whose fight has drawn in some guerrillas from across the Muslim world. However, the emergence of Al-Qaida-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, has fuelled Western reluctance to supply heavy weapons to the opposition.

Participants in the meeting in Bahrain also expressed worry that political tensions in Egypt could spill out of control, as protesters opposing President Mohammed Morsi vowed to remain on the streets until he is pushed from power.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the EU envoys in Bahrain, told The Associated Press that "all are watching with concern" the unfolding protests in Egypt. She said she met last week with Morsi and members of the opposition in efforts to ease tensions.

"We encourage a dialogue to understand the current issues," she said.

Ashton faces pressure from rights groups to publicly criticize Gulf leaders for crackdowns around the region including widespread arrests for social media posts deemed insulting to rulers or raising questions about the scope of their power.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch urged Ashton and the EU to complain to Gulf leaders about the sentencing a week ago of seven critics in Saudi Arabia to prison terms of five to 10 years, mostly for Facebook posts. The sentences have not been published officially in Saudi Arabia.

A joint statement by Bahrain's opposition urged the EU to press the Gulf nation's leaders to free political prisoners and expand efforts for a political solution to the unrest. Talks since last year have failed to make headway in the strategic island kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.


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Philly rapper ordered to take etiquette classes

(AP) ? A judge has ordered rapper Meek Mill to attend etiquette classes and notify his probation officer before he takes any trips outside of the commonwealth.

Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley on Friday told the rapper, whose real name is Robert Williams, he must complete the classes before Aug. 4, The Philadelphia Inquirer ( reported.

The orders came at a probation violation hearing for Williams, who is on probation for a 2008 gun and drug conviction for which he was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in prison. He served eight months in jail and began five years of probation in the fall of 2009.

Assistant District Attorney Noel Ann DeSantis said Williams' statements on Twitter and other social media had been followed by threats to his probation officer from some of his fans.

Williams told the judge at the contentious hearing that detailing his travel plans was difficult because many of his business activities are arranged on short notice.

"I have my own record label with seven artists. ... I do radio. I do interviews," he said.

The judge said Williams needed etiquette classes to refine his use of social media and to help him explain the nature of his business to the court, adding that the etiquette classes were "more important than any concerts he might have."

Brinkley in December barred the rapper from touring for a month after finding that he violated probation restrictions. Williams' attorney argued at the time that the restrictions were preventing his client from earning a living, and said Williams didn't need to check in with his probation officer because his fans frequently take pictures of him when he's touring.

Williams' "Dreams & Nightmares" album debuted in October and he appeared in Jay-Z's Made In America festival earlier this year.


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer,


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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sky Beware, Sunset May Be Coming |

OPINION: The combination of foul weather and closed schools saw my family stoke up the fire and spend some quality time catching up on movies at home last weekend. One of my daughters' favourite wet-day movies is Cowboys & Aliens, an overproduced and outrageously conceived sci-fi western tale of nasties from outer space farming humans and stealing their gold in the Wild West.

However, rather than heading down to the local video store, my kids increasingly just go to the web to satisfy their cinematic appetite.

In this case the entire final cut of Cowboys & Aliens was available on YouTube. So rather than burn up fossil fuels and pay money, they just snuggled down on the sofa and enjoyed Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford for free.

New Zealand's been late to the online video party, having been stuck with a small stable of free-to-air TV broadcasters, plus a dominant subscription provider in the form of Sky TV.

Over time Sky has proven itself to be very commercially successful at operating in this backwater, both by entering into some apparently eye-watering contracts with those who bundle its service (like TelstraClear and Telecom), and also by outnegotiating free-to-air broadcasters for the screening rights to some pivotal sporting events.

Two weeks ago a previously unheard of media company, Coliseum Sports Media Management, beat Sky at its own game.

In an audacious move, Coliseum signed up the rights to TV coverage of English Premier League football matches. It will broadcast the entire competition online and TVNZ will show one game on Sunday plus a highlights show.

Coliseum's pay-per-view website at premierleague launches in August and will show all 380 games live, with 250 available on-demand for about $150 a year. The TVNZ piece is smart as it shows a public-facing generosity and doubles as tease marketing.

There has been more change in paid broadcasting during the past 14 months than there has been in the previous 14 years.

In May last year, Swedish online music streaming service Spotify launched here with its monthly all-you-can-eat peer-to-peer service.

The service gave Kiwis access to 16 million songs for little or nothing. So as well as putting a further nail in the coffin of record companies, it looms as a damn decent threat to commercial radio.

Soon afterwards, Quickflix launched its video streaming service in New Zealand. Punters can consume movies and TV shows on their computer, TV and PlayStation for $14.99 a month, or tuck into new release movies for $6.99.

Eager to push back, Sky launched its Igloo prepaid service via a joint venture with TVNZ, offering customers free-to-air content via a $200 set-top box and some pay-per-view channels (for an extra $24.99 a month).

Despite the fanfare, Igloo has failed to deliver. In fact, Sky recently reduced its target from 50,000 subscribers to just 19,000 for this year - a sobering number when the service needs 40,000 customers to break even.

Why? Partly because at $199 the set-top box is about twice the price of a Freeview receiver, and the channels offered in the premium service are not exactly riveting.

Then, hot on the heels of last week's Coliseum announcement, the third largest ISP, Slingshot, announced it was removing the geo-block for its customers, the digital voodoo that has prevented Kiwis from accessing the big overseas providers like Netflix and Hulu. And while Slingshot has been careful how it's positioned its new "Global Mode", it means video content in Godzone will increase exponentially.

The biggest challenges are still to come. The first will be the rise of a local video-on-demand company, and that can't be far away.

The second will be the network effect of middle New Zealand waking up to the fact that the web is full of free movie content. First it was just the geeks who realised this. Then the kids found out. Once their folks wake it will become dinner-party conversation and the genie will be truly out of the bottle.

For a long time, Sky was the only shop in town with quality content at commercial rates. It proved incredibly adept at gathering rights to content and selling it. But quality content is no longer scarce and the commercials are being ravaged via the disintermediation and disruption of the internet. Back in March, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation sold its 43.6 per cent stake in Sky. This followed Todd Corporation offloading 11 per cent of Sky stock a few months earlier.

I'd guess they took a long view about the web-fuelled disintermediation on the horizon and decided there was a new sheriff in town.

At one stage in Cowboys & Aliens one of the protagonists, a rather fetching-looking cowgirl, emerges from the ashes of her destruction, phoenix-like and with more power than before.

I'm not sure the same will be true of Sky.

Mike "MOD" O'Donnell is a professional director and eCommerce manager. His Twitter tag is @modsta and he's always had a thing for cowgirls.

- ? Fairfax NZ News


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Fitch affirms U.S. AAA rating but outlook still negative

By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fitch Ratings on Friday affirmed the United States' top level credit rating at AAA but held the outlook at negative, saying still-elevated debt levels leave the country vulnerable to shocks without more deficit reduction.

The affirmation reflects strong economic and credit fundamentals, the firm said in a statement. In addition, Fitch cited the decline in the federal budget deficit to levels "consistent with debt stabilization."

U.S. market reaction was muted by the late hour of the announcement. Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields briefly dipped immediately after the news but quickly returned to their prior level of 2.48 percent.

Fitch said it will conduct a further review of the credit rating by the end of 2013, although it technically now has until June of next year to do so under its existing guidelines.

"The outlook remains negative due to continuing uncertainty over the prospect for additional deficit-reduction measures necessary ... over the medium to long term," Fitch said.

Fitch also said the negative outlook reflects "near-term risks associated with the expiration of federal appropriations authority at the end of the current fiscal year" September 30.

Fitch highlighted the diversity of the U.S. economy, its "extraordinary monetary and exchange rate flexibility," global reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar as well as the depth and liquidity of its financial markets as underpinnings for the top credit rating.

"Fitch's current assessment is that the economic recovery is gaining traction as the headwinds from private sector debt deleveraging ease. This is underpinned by a pick-up in the housing market and gradual decline in unemployment," the firm said.

In August, 2011, rival ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut the U.S. credit rating to AA-plus from AAA. On June 10, S&P revised its outlook on the credit to stable from negative, removing the near-term threat of a downgrade because of an improving economic and fiscal outlook.

Moody's Investors Service holds the U.S. rating at Aaa with a negative outlook, a position it has held since August 2011.


On May 14, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the U.S. federal budget deficit is shrinking faster than expected, and forecast this fiscal year would end with the smallest shortfall since 2008.

The CBO slashed the deficit forecast for the current fiscal year by $203 billion from its February estimate of $642 billion,.

Fitch said deficit reduction got a boost from a budget deal struck by Congress on New Year's Day 2013 to head off $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases.

Fitch expects gross debt level of the federal government to stabilize next year and over the rest of the decade at around 74 percent of gross domestic product. It expects the general government debt, which includes state and local governments, to stabilize at 107 percent of GDP over the same time period.

Both debt levels are below thresholds Fitch had identified as inconsistent with the U.S. retaining its AAA status. The threshold it set for federal debt was 80 percent, with a 110 percent threshold for general government gross debt levels.

In May, the CBO said a U.S. debt limit increase may not be needed until November, easing fears of a summer debt-limit showdown in the U.S. Congress. When S&P made its historic decision to cut the U.S. credit rating two years ago it cited political brinksmanship and gridlock in Washington for delaying an otherwise routine raising of the nation's debt ceiling.

"Fitch assumes that even in the unlikely event that the debt limit is not raised in a timely fashion, there is sufficient political will and capacity to ensure that Treasury securities will continue to be honored in full and on time," the firm cited as one of its key assumptions.

(Reporting by Daniel Bases and Pam Niimi; Editing by James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)


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Obama travels to South Africa as Mandela's condition worsens (cbsnews)

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The World's Fastest Ship Is Basically an Aquatic Concorde Jet

The World's Fastest Ship Is Basically an Aquatic Concorde Jet

This is no lumbering Staten Island Ferry. This is the Francisco, a wave-piercing catamaran loaded with modified jet engines set to blast commuters across the River Plate at 58 knots, faster than any other ship in the world.

Australia?s Incat shipyard built the 1516 ton-displacement Francisco, named after Pope Francis, on behalf of the Buquebus company, which plans to operate it crossing the 140 miles Rio de la Plata estuary between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.

The World's Fastest Ship Is Basically an Aquatic Concorde Jet

The ship's hull is crafted from "Two slender, aluminum hulls connected by a bridging section with centre bow structure at the forward end." The Incat website states, "Each hull is divided into nine vented, watertight compartments divided by transverse bulkheads. Two compartments in each hull are prepared as fuel tanks with an additional compartment prepared as a long range tank." It is powered by a pair of 59,000 HP GE LM2500 gas turbines, derived from those used aboard 747s to run on liquid natural gas (it uses either marine distillate to get the engines started and as an emergency fuel). These power plants run through a 7:1 gearbox that drives two Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets, propelling the ship up to 67 MPH.

?This is certainly the fastest ship in the world,? said Incat managing director Kim Clifford. ?Of course there?s a few speed boats that could surpass 58 knots, but nothing that could carry 1,000 passengers and 150 cars, and with an enormous duty-free shop on board.?

The Francisco beat out another Incat design to take the record, 1996's 53.8 knot Juan Patricio. It too is part of the Buquebus fleet and is still in service. Water taxis everywhere, take note!

The World's Fastest Ship Is Basically an Aquatic Concorde Jet

[Incat - GE - Top Image: Kim Clifford / Incat, Interior Image: Eric Graudins]


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WSJ: Apple finalmente firma con TSMC, camino del divorcio con Samsung http://bit...

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5 Options for Staging Your Home | Zillow Blog

Unstaged room

An unstaged home often leaves too much to the imagination, making it harder for potential buyers to imagine themselves living there.

For many sellers, the word ?staging? conjures images of an out-of-reach home in an upscale design catalogue with a giant price tag. The assumption is they can?t afford staging, or their homes don?t need it. Many sellers believe their homes already show well, they have nice furniture, and they?ve carefully chosen their paint colors ? all of which will help sell their homes.

The reality is, most sellers would benefit from at least some level of staging. And staging doesn?t have to involve a high-end designer who takes over your home, removes all your stuff and completely transforms it. There are many ways to stage a home. It can be as simple as a one-time, slight design and furniture placement consultation, or it can involve a complete renovation of your home in anticipation of your sale.

Don?t be turned off immediately if your agent suggests staging. The goal is to turn your home into a marketable ?product,? and just a little bit of work can go a long way. Here are five options for staging that sellers should consider before listing their home for sale.

1. A one-time consultation

Most home stagers are actually designers. They know what looks good, what sells and how to best showcase a home. Your home may need a good paint job, could use some new carpet or might even need some landscaping or help with curb appeal. A designer can offer advice about your current home and suggest paint colors, types of carpets, new light fixtures and all kinds of feedback to help you get your home ready for sale.

Think a designer will cost a fortune? Think again. A designer can come in and charge by the hour (as little as $75/hour and up to $200/hour, depending on your location) and consult with you on colors, fixtures and finishes. This can be one of the best few hundred dollars a seller spends prior to listing.

2. Partial staging

Partial staging is exactly what it sounds like. You may have some outdated furniture or lack good art for your walls. A stager/designer can come in and just do a little bit of work. Maybe you use one bedroom as an office. The stager can bring in a day bed and small dresser to help show this room as an office or a bedroom. You may want to get rid of your oversized sectional sofa and have a stager bring in something smaller to give the appearance of a bigger family room. Have some rooms that seem bare, cold or sterile? A stager can bring in carpets or throw pillows to give any room some life.

3. Fluff staging

Have some nice things but not sure your home shows at its absolute best? Have a stager come in and do some ?fluff? staging. Fluff staging might involve moving your current furniture around to best showcase a room or moving big pieces to the basement. You may have some great pieces hidden away or simply mismatched where they currently sit in your home. A stager working with your stuff can save you tons of money because they don?t need to bring in any of their own furniture. You can simply pay the stager by the hour to come in and redesign your current home.

4. Full staging

Do you need to move out before listing your home and don?t want to put your home on the market without furniture? Full staging is the answer.

Buyers sometimes have a difficult time imagining where the furniture goes or how they could potentially live in a home. A home without furniture won?t provide them any ideas or vision and may hold them back from falling in love with your home. Also, a home without furniture often echoes, feels empty, cold and sometimes sad. These aren?t the impressions a smart seller wants to give potential buyers. Full staging costs more, because the stager needs to hire the moving truck and use their furniture. But agents around the country highly recommend full staging on an empty home.

5. Full staging plus renovation

Moving out of your home, and it needs some updating? Have a few thousand dollars to invest? Bringing in a stager and some affordable contractors can be a wise investment, especially in the kitchens and bathrooms.

Stagers tend to work with contractors who don?t cost a fortune and can work quickly. Doing things such as replacing old appliances with new stainless steel ones can go a long way. Have old knotty pine cabinets in the kitchen? A cheap upgrade is to strip them down and paint them white. Take out your old Formica countertops and replace them with granite or Caesarstone.

Some other common renovations or improvements include upgrading outdated light fixtures, refinishing hardwood floors and taking out an old sink in the bathroom and replacing it with a smaller pedestal sink.

It?s all about putting your best foot forward

If you?re serious about selling your home this year, you should put your best foot forward. Any improvements, whether big or small, should be planned well in advance. Work with your real estate agent early in the process so you know how much work you need to do on your home, how long it can take, and what kinds of costs you?ll incur. Nearly all agents can recommend local stagers as well as painters, floor refinishers and contractors if you choose to go it alone.


Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor and one of the nation?s leading?real estate experts.??He has collaborated on multiple real estate books and his expert advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and Forbes. An avid investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the US and abroad and is licensed to sell in?California?and?New York. You can find Brendon on?Facebook?or?follow him on?Twitter?or?Google Plus.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


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With Mandela, end-of-life care dilemmas magnified

CHICAGO (AP) ? The emotional pain and practical demands facing Nelson Mandela's family are universal: confronting the final days of an elderly loved one. There are no rules for how or when the end may arrive. Some choose to let go with little medical interference; others seek aggressive treatment. Mandela's status as a respected global figure only complicates the situation, doctors and end-of-life experts say.

Mandela "is not only revered he is loved and profoundly admired by people all over the world and the sense of letting go must be difficult for everyone involved," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

In much of Africa, people are considered fortunate to live past age 60. For those who reach old age, death is still seen as sad, but friends and family typically celebrate with big parties to honor a life well-lived. Taking extraordinary measures to keep that person alive would be considered dishonorable, said Dr. Sola Olopade, the Nigerian-born clinical director for the University of Chicago's Center for Global Health.

If such measures are being used for Mandela, many could consider it "quite painful," Olopade said, "because those are not the last memories you want to have for someone with such an exemplary life."

U.S. doctors said Mandela's lung infection is most likely pneumonia, a very common cause of illness and death in the elderly.

The infection is usually caused by bacteria and causes lungs to fill with fluid or pus, making breathing difficult and often causing fever and weakness. Treatment includes antibiotics and extra oxygen, often from a mechanical ventilator.

In the United States, an elderly person critically ill with pneumonia would typically be hospitalized in an intensive care unit and put on a mechanical ventilator, or breathing machine, said Dr. J.P. Kress. He is director of the University of Chicago's medical intensive care unit's section on lung and critical care. Ventilators often require a breathing tube down the throat, and patients need to be sedated because of the discomfort.

These patients typically are hooked up to feeding tubes, intravenous fluids and all kinds of monitoring machines to check heart rate, blood pressure and other functions. For long stays, lying prone in a hospital bed, they have to be periodically moved into different positions to prevent bed sores; their arms and legs have to be exercised to fight muscle wasting.

Mandela has been hospitalized several times since December for a recurring lung infection, and he has had tuberculosis.

In a hospitalization in March and April, doctors drained fluid from around his lungs, making it easier for him to breathe. He got care at home until he returned to the hospital on June 8.

For elderly patients hospitalized repeatedly with lung problems, the chances for recovery are often grim, Kress said.

"It's possible he's sitting in a chair asking, 'When am I going to get out of the hospital?' but that's very unlikely," he said.

Patients so critically ill may have ups and downs, and small changes like needing a little less help from a ventilator may be seen as a sign of improvement even when the outlook remains poor, Kress said.

Schaffner, the Vanderbilt doctor, said, "There are always little glimmers of hope. It's not a straight line down ... when you're so gravely ill."

Ada Levine faced end-of-life decisions with her mother, Maria Robles of Chicago. And it was difficult even though her mother had made her wishes known. Robles died two weeks ago at age 75 after 12 years of heart failure and other problems that had her in and out of the hospital.

"It was not going to get better," Levine said. "You're hopeful. You believe in miracles and 'maybe.' At some point you realize there is no miracle and you have to be strong and do the right thing."

Her mother did not want life support, but following that directive is easier said than done, Levine said.

"It's brutal, very difficult, hard, to watch this person decline and think now you're responsible for making their decisions."

Schaffner went through the same experience with his mother. She died 10 years ago at age 84 after several strokes and then pneumonia.

When she was still lucid, the family discussed end-of-life care. She did not want to be kept alive on a ventilator. So when she developed pneumonia and was hospitalized, she got comfort care ? fluids, antibiotics and sedatives to calm her anxiety over struggling to breathe ? but no intensive treatments with fancy machines.

After several days, when it became clear "there was zero chance she was going to turn around," the family brought her home, with hospice care, and she died less than two weeks after falling ill, Schaffner said.

Loretta Downs, former president of the Chicago End-of-Life Care Coalition, said decisions about life support should turn around the patient's wishes.

"Very often it's not the person who's dying's choice," but the family's, she said. "Now that we can prolong dying there's this whole question of are we prolonging dying versus prolonging living? It's not comfortable to be on life support."


AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione contributed from Milwaukee and Andrew Meldrum contributed from Johannesburg.



End-of-life care:


AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at


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Friday, June 28, 2013

Some gay couples now due to receive benefits under 'Obamacare'

By Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday that same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits will mean more gays and lesbians can reap the benefits of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul that take effect January 1, advocates say.

In a landmark decision, the court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in California and struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples federal benefits such as healthcare.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act already bans discrimination in health coverage based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law, known as "Obamacare," was passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court nearly a year ago.

With the Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples who live in states that recognize them can apply for the law's tax subsidies, meant to offset healthcare costs, as a couple rather than as two individuals, said Tim Jost, a health law expert and law professor at Washington and Lee University. This will help the law reach more people, he added.

Some couples will be newly eligible for spousal protections under Medicaid, a federally funded program that provides care to low-income parents, children, seniors and people with disabilities. It covers more than 62 million Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If couples decide to file taxes jointly, though, they may no longer qualify for Medicaid or tax credits because their combined income will put them above the level for eligibility.

In the District of Columbia or one of 12 states that have legalized gay marriage - where about 40 percent of same-sex couples live - applying for health coverage through federal employers and the exchanges will be as simple for them as it is for heterosexual couples, said Kellan Baker, associate director for LGBT progress at the liberal Center for American Progress.

But outside of those borders, it is more complicated.

"We know from the IRS there's a lack of clarity about how exactly marriages are recognized across state lines," Baker said. "There's the legal question of, does the IRS consider you married if you're living outside of the state that recognized your marriage?"

Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the court did not take up, does not require states to recognize gay marriages that took place in other states.

Despite the uncertainty, many advocacy groups lauded the court's decision because it will improve access to healthcare for many gay couples.

Obamacare establishes state and federal exchanges so people can explore all of their health coverage options in one place.

States that run their own exchange programs decide who qualifies as family members, but the court ruling means that now the 26 federally run exchanges "have no bar to recognizing and including same-sex spouses as protected family members," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Supreme Court ruling will also enable older same-sex couples to receive marital benefits under Social Security and Medicare, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders said in a statement.

"Many of these federal benefits, from Social Security to Medicare, are founded on the presumption of marriage," the group said, "yet (the Defense of Marriage Act) denied access to these benefits even to legally married same-sex couples."

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Lisa Von Ahn)


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Montana T. Rex gets new home in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian is finally set to welcome a T. rex into its hallowed halls.

In October, one of the rare near-complete skeletons of the dinosaur will be hauled from Montana to Washington, D.C., where the fossil will be displayed in the National Museum of Natural History as part of a 50-year loan agreement, the Smithsonian announced Thursday (June 27).

The specimen is known as the Wankel T. rex after Kathy Wankel, a rancher who discovered the dinosaur's arm bones in Montana's Fort Peck reservoir in 1988. [See Photos of the Wankel T. Rex]

"She brought them to the museum to be identified, and I remember our curator Jack Horner asking her 'Can you find this site again?' because what she'd brought in were the first arm bones of a T. rex ever found," Shelley McKamey, the director of the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, told Smithsonian Magazine.

Wankel's discovery was just the tip of the iceberg. In the excavations that followed at Fort Peck, Horner and a field crew found 80 to 85 percent of the dinosaur's skeleton, including the skull, making it one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found.

The skeleton, which measures 38 feet (11.5 meters) long and weighs 7 tons, was unearthed on federal land, and it belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. From 1990 to 2011, the Army Corps loaned the fossil to the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, where it was prepared and put on display in its original "death pose." Under the new loan agreement,?the Smithsonian will get the Wankel T. rex for 50 years.

The T. rex will be the centerpiece of the museum's new dinosaur hall, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2019 and will feature other key specimens from the Smithsonian's collection of 46 million fossils.

"We're thrilled to welcome this extraordinary fossil to the Smithsonian," Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History, said in a statement, adding that the move will make the Wankel T. rex will be "the most viewed T.rex fossil in the world." The museum has more than 7 million visitors annually, according to the Smithsonian.

T. rex, which roamed North America some 68 million to 66 million years ago, was one of the largest known carnivorous dinosaurs and one of the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. Fossil hunter Barnum Brown found the first T. rex bones in Montana in 1902 at the Hell Creek Formation.

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Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Link shown between Crohn's disease and virus

June 27, 2013 ? A new study reveals that all children with Crohn's disease that were examined had a commonly occurring virus -- an enterovirus -- in their intestines. This link has previously not been shown for this chronic inflammatory intestinal disorder.

The findings are being published in the latest issue of the international journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology.

These findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, but they are important, as this connection has never been pointed out before. This paves the way for a better understanding of what might be involved in causing the disease, says Alkwin Wanders, one of the scientists behind the study at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital.

In Sweden several thousand adults live with Crohn's disease, and each year about 100 children and adolescents develop the disorder. The disease affects various parts of the gastrointestinal system and causes symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhea, and weight loss -- in severe cases fistulas, or strictures in the intestines.

The cause of Crohn's disease is not known. Mutations in more than 140 genes have been shown to be associated with the disorder, but this genetic connection is not a sufficient explanation. Many of these genes play key roles in the immune defence, which has prompted theories that the disease might be caused by impaired immune defence against various microorganisms. In that case, the disease would be a consequence of interplay between heredity and environment.

Recent research has shown that some of the genes that are strongly linked to the disorder are important for the immune defence against a certain type of viruses that have their genetic material in the form of RNA, so-called RNA viruses. Using this as a point of departure, an interdisciplinary research team was established in Sweden to investigate what role this type of virus plays in the disease.

The research team includes the paediatrician Niklas Nystr?m, the pathologist Alkwin Wanders, virus researchers Gun Frisk and Oskar Skog, the molecular biologist Mats Nilsson, and the geneticist Ulf Gyllensten at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital, along with cell biologists Jonas Fuxe and Tove Berg the paediatrician Yigael Finkel at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

This unique composition, with complementary clinical and scientific expertise, has been extremely fruitful for our studies, says Alkwin Wanders.

In the present study the researchers investigated whether the RNA virus were present in children with Crohn?s disease. They focused in particular on the prevalence of enteroviruses, a group of RNA viruses that are known to infect the intestinal mucous lining.

The results showed significant amounts of enteroviruses in the intestines of all of the children with Crohn?s disease, whereas the control group had no or only minimal amounts of enteroviruses in their intestines. Similar results were obtained using two different methods. Enteroviruses were found not only in intestinal mucous linings but also in so-called nerve cell ganglia in deeper segments of the intestinal wall. Receptors for a group of enteroviruses were also found in both the intestinal mucous linings and nerve cell ganglia, which may explain how the virus can make its way into the nerve system in the intestine.

Another interesting finding is that the enterovirus could be thought to be stored in nerve cells in the intestine and to spread to different parts of the intestine via nerve fibres. This would explain both the fact that the disease is periodic (comes and goes) and the fact that it often affects multiple segments of the intestines, says Alkwin Wanders.

The present study comprises nine children with advanced Crohn's disease and fifteen children with incipient Crohn's disease symptoms. The research now wants to go on to examine larger groups of patients and more control individuals. They also want to pursue experimental research to investigate the link further.

The study was funded by, among others, Uppsala County Council, the Swedish Society for Medical Research, Cancerfonden, Karolinska Institutet, and the Swedish Research Council.


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Camp takes students beyond computer science |


Photo by: Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

Instructor Jenny Ye, 18, left, works with Joy King, 13, Sidney, at Girls Engaged in Math and Science.

CHAMPAIGN ? A day camp for middle-school girls on the University of Illinois campus is centered around computer science, but that doesn't mean the students involved are only concerned with computers.

Instead, the camp coordinators at the Girls Engaged in Math and Science Camp are teaching them about how computer science can solve worldwide problems, how it can be artistic as well as technical and how it's accessible to them, perhaps as a career.

"It's not a week of geek camp," said Cinda Heeren, who is a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and a camp coordinator.

The camp was founded in 1994, and traditionally covered lots of different math and science topics.

When founder Edee Wiziecki retired, Heeren said, organizers saw it as a "an opportunity to get serious about outreach" specifically related to computer science.

Last week, 25 girls attended the camp's first session at the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science. This week, 24 are attending. Many of them are local, but some are from the Chicago area and around the state, said Bri Chapman, who is a sophomore computer science student at the University of Illinois and the camp's other coordinator.

The camp also had a waiting list of almost 100 that included students from neighboring states, she said.

The camp is free for those participating, and Heeren said a promise was made to Wiziecki to keep it open to anyone.

Throughout the one-week sessions, campers are learning about computer science and how it applies to the food industry. However, they're also doing puzzles and other activities that require logical thinking, away from computers. They're also hearing from guest speakers who use computer science professionally, including software engineers and people who work in food systems, technical engineering and user interface design.

Sumayya Gurmen, who is 13 and lives in Savoy, said she liked hearing from those who used advanced technology in their work.

"You get an idea of how it's used in every day life," Gurmen said. Gurmen said she's also enjoying building apps and was working Wednesday on a drawing app using AppInventor. With it, you can select various background images and clear your drawings by shaking the tablet.

She got the idea from an tutorial within AppInventor and then built her own to be more advanced.

"You can use your imagination to make whatever you want," she said about using AppInventor. "Whatever I think of, I can put in it."

She's learned that when making apps, you have to be very specific about every single cause and effect.

She's also learned more than just about computers and technology, Gurmen said.

"I've learned that computer science isn't only with computers," she said. "It can be problem-solving or logical thinking."

The campers are picking up on the camp's lessons incredibly quickly, Chapman said, going through what she expected to be a week's material in the first day.

Chapman, who said studying computer science was "a natural move" after attending the camp herself seven years ago, said she wants the campers to see computer science as "a way to reach a massive audience quickly and to distribute (information) easily," she said.

"My goal is for them to see computing as a way to ... solve world problems," she said, adding that middle school students are very socially conscious.

The camp also incorporates music while students work and even the occasional dance break. That environment is reflective of the environments in which computer scientists actually work, Heeren said, and the field can be fun and creative.

"I can't imagine a more exhilarating thing to do, to control technology and use it for creative purposes and social good," Heeren said.

Computer science is typically a field dominated by men, although that's not something Heeren said has even been mentioned to those attending the camp.

"We want to be done with that," she said, and she doesn't want the campers to think of possible barriers.

There's also a need for educational opportunities involving computer science and young people, Heeren said. For example, the camp coordinators tried to find similar offerings in Chicago for those from that area who wanted to attend at UI.

They couldn't find any to recommend, she said.

Their efforts seem to be opening campers' eyes to the idea of working in the field.

Last week's participants completed a survey at the end of the week, answering an open-ended question unanimously that they're interested in computer science. They want to create apps, run simulations and work in other diverse fields related to computing.

"We care that they can consider it a possibility," Heeren said.


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98% Before Midnight

All Critics (146) | Top Critics (38) | Fresh (142) | Rotten (3)

Hawke and Delpy remain as charming as ever, and their combined goofiness is more endearing than annoying.

Love is messy here, life cannot be controlled, satisfaction is far from guaranteed. Romance is rocky at best. But romance still is.

Though "Before Midnight" is often uncomfortable to watch, it's never less than mesmerizing - and ultimately, a joy to walk with this prickly but fascinating couple again.

"Before Midnight" is heartbreaking, but not because of Jesse and Celine. It's the filmmakers' passions that seem to have cooled.

Before Midnight is fascinating to watch, and so long as Celine and Jesse are communicating, there's still hope.

How (Jesse and Celine) try to rekindle that flame is what drives Midnight, a film that feels so authentic it's like overhearing a conversation you're not sure you should be hearing.

Loving words mix with personal attacks, the magic moments with the unintended slights, as we witness the occasional desperation of imperfect people doing the best they can when life moves beyond meet-cute and courtship. That's authentic.

Linklater and his players bring an end to the fantasy and welcome the thrilling ups and bitter downs of reality to this love story.

Like the first two films, it reflects the real world in a way that seems almost preternatural. It's just that, here, the real world is a harsher, more disappointing place.

The duo, clearly so comfortable in their characters' skin, indulge in intelligent banter, sharp humour and emotional truths.

So much better written than contemporary novels, this film is a literary as well as cinematic achievement to cherish. For grown-ups.

As before, it's often very funny, with Jesse and Celine swapping Woody Allen-esque one-liners - nicely snarky, appealingly abrasive.

The acting, the dialogue and direction are superb.

None of the films is faultless in itself, but, tinted with complementary tones, the complete cycle comes as close to perfection as any trilogy in cinema history.

Marvelous. It's impossible to shake the feeling that we are merely eavesdropping on reality. Witty, wise, and -- most important of all -- truly romantic in ways that movies usually aren't.

It's been 18 years since Hawke, Delpy and Linklater introduced us to Jesse and Celine, and their story just gets richer, funnier and more punchy each time we see them. In 1995's Before Sunrise, they were idealistic 23-year-olds.

Hawke and Delpy are as believably real as any screen couple can ever be.

This is one of the few sequels for which the cliche 'eagerly awaited' is truly applicable.

Predictably, it's just as great as the first two.

By the end, Before Midnight inches towards a dawn of charm. But it's a troubled trip.

As an organic experiment in collaboration between actors and director, it is a triumph, co-created and co-owned by Delpy, Linklater and Hawke.

Hawke and Delpy, who are both credited on the script too, have never found co-stars to bounce off more nimbly or bring out richer nuances in their acting.

The performances and dialogue are wonderfully naturalistic; a reminder that the best special effects are often the cheapest.

Before Midnight is about the nature of long-term relationships, and the way love deepens and grows but also finds itself subject to the complications of maturity. Smart, insightful, and poignant.

For those who witnessed Jesse and Celine's tentative getting together as inter railing students almost twenty years ago, it's reassuring to see them still in love.

Brilliantly directed, superbly written and impeccably acted, this is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging drama that perfectly complements the previous two films.


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

gdgt's best deals for June 26th: Panasonic 42-inch LED HDTV, Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard

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Rare jaguar spotted roaming Ariz. mountains

Jaguar photographed by motion detector camera (photo: Fish and Wildlife Service)Jaguar captured by a motion-detector camera (Fish & Wildlife Service)

Photos of an extremely rare jaguar roaming Forest Service land near Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains have been published by the Arizona Daily Star, which got the images from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The male jaguar, believed to be the lone known unconfined jaguar in the U.S., has been in the area since at least September 2012, when its image was captured by a hunter's motion-detector camera.

Jeff Humphrey, public outreach specialist with the Fish & Wildlife Service, who spoke with Yahoo News, explained that around the time the hunter captured the photo, the Fish & Wildlife Service and the University of Arizona began using funds supplied by the Department of Homeland Security to monitor the movement of jaguars along the Mexico border. The mission of that project is to learn how border patrols affect jaguars, Humphrey explained.

As part of the project, the university installed motion-activated cameras. For the past seven months, "whenever [researchers] go and download the pictures of things moving in the woods, they've collected photos of the jaguar as well as ocelots."

It's presumed, he noted, "that it's from a wild population of jaguars that occur in northwest Mexico."

Humphrey added that there has been no attempt to capture the jaguar. "We're letting the jaguar do its thing," he said. "We're trying to ascertain what area it is using by using photo detection."

According to a news release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "Once fully operational, up to 240 paired cameras will be in place throughout the project area to capture images of ... detected animals."

Federal wildlife officials are considering whether to designate more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as a critical habitat for the jaguar.


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Torrential rains prompt flood warnings in Midwest

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Torrential rains slammed Illinois and other Midwest states on Wednesday, triggering flash flood warnings and causing flight cancellations, commuter train delays and road closings.

Up to 5 inches of rain fell in some places and the National Weather Service warned residents in the region to brace for more downpours and possibly severe thunderstorms Wednesday night.

The weather service issued multiple flash flood and flood warnings for counties in northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana and southeastern Wisconsin.

The storms, which threatened eastern Illinois, Indiana, and parts of Kentucky and Ohio, could include large hail, flash flooding and damaging winds of more than 60 mph, said.

At O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest, 403 inbound and outbound flights had been canceled by Wednesday evening, according to the site which tracks delays and cancellations.

The heavy rain also caused hour-plus delays for other flights, according to the city's aviation department.

Metra, the Chicago area's commuter rail service, also reported delays of more than an hour on one of its lines. Part of one line north of the city was shut due to flooding.

Parts of some arterial roads were closed on Wednesday morning due to flooding, according to the Illinois State Police.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in seven southwestern counties after touring flood damaged areas on Wednesday.

Several communities in northeastern Iowa on the Wapsipinicon River were also dealing with flooding. In Independence, volunteers filled sandbags to avert flooding and local officials closed several roads.

Grandstand and grounds events were canceled on Wednesday at the Linn County Fair due to possible flooding along the Wapsipinicon River.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Carol Bishopric and Cynthia Osterman)


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