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2 men sentenced in Germany for art forgery scheme

A German court has convicted a former businessman and an art gallery owner of fraud and falsifying documents for selling fake paintings attributed to Russian avant-garde artists including Vasily Kandinsky.

The dpa news agency reported Thursday the two men, aged 45 and 72, received jail terms of two years and eight months, and three years respectively in Wiesbaden start court. Their names weren't reported.

The two were originally charged with selling 19 forgeries attributed to artists like Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova but the court ruled they could only prove fraud without a doubt in six cases. The men must also repay 1 million euros ($1.25 million) in profits.

German police said, when the men were arrested in 2013, that tips from Israel had prompted them to open the investigation.

Prince of Providence: Notorious mayor gets stage treatment

The story of the notorious late Mayor Buddy Cianci, who was forced out of office twice, is coming to the stage.

Trinity Repertory Company in Providence announced on Thursday that it has commissioned playwright George Brant to write a play or musical adaptation of "The Prince of Providence," the 2004 book detailing Cianci's tumultuous two decades at the city's helm.

Bringing Cianci's story to the theater is a natural step for a man who was often described in Shakespearean terms, said the book's author, Mike Stanton, a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut and a former reporter at The Providence Journal.

"Politics is theater, and Buddy's life was a huge drama," Stanton said in an interview. "Buddy was this larger-than-life persona, and I think it could be a really meaty role for someone."

Cianci (pronounced see-AN-see) was known for his colorful TV appearances and publicity stunts touting Providence and himself. But he was forced from office twice due to felonies.

He was accused of attacking a man with a lit cigarette and a fireplace log and pleaded no contest to felony assault in 1984 and resigned. He returned to office a few years later, but in 2002 he was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in federal prison. He died in 2016.

Trinity Rep is a well-known regional theater company that has helped launch the careers of actors including Viola Davis and Richard Jenkins. It said the yet-to-be written script about Cianci, a Republican turned independent, will be workshopped and then produced at Trinity in a future season. It said the cast will be announced later.

Brant is known for plays including "Grounded."

It's not the first time Cianci's life has been adapted to the stage. "Buddy Cianci: The Musical" played at the New York Fringe Festival in 2003.

Fox News extends anchor Shepard Smith's contract

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has signed a multiyear contract with the network.

21st Century Fox and Fox News Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch announced the contract extension on Thursday.

Fox News wouldn't comment on how many years the contract was extended.

Smith joined the network in 1996. He anchors "Shepard Smith Reporting" weekdays at 3 p.m. Eastern. He previously anchored "Studio B." and "The FOX Report."

Before joining Fox News, Smith worked for Fox affiliates in Los Angeles and Miami and several other Florida stations.

Drake plays 'Fortnite' with 'Ninja', helps break record

Grammy Award-winning rapper Drake helped Twitch break its record for the most-viewed stream by joining gamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins to play "Fortnite."

There were 630,000 concurrent viewers at its peak on the live-streaming platform Wednesday.

The rapper and singer says he's been playing the popular video game for a month or two.

He played with "Ninja" and then they were joined by rapper Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Report: ESPN president resigned over cocaine extortion plot

The former president of ESPN said he resigned from the sports network after an extortion plot by someone who sold him cocaine.

John Skipper told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Thursday that the drug seller, whom he did not name, tried to extort him in December. He said he hadn't had dealings with the seller before, and previously had been "careful" about buying cocaine.

"They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well," Skipper said.

He said he discussed the situation with Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger on Dec. 15, 2017, and they agreed Skipper "had placed the company in an untenable position." He resigned on Dec. 18 after leading ESPN since 2012, saying he was going to seek treatment for a substance abuse problem.

He said he used drugs recreationally and that it never impacted his work at ESPN.

"Look, it was inappropriate for the president of ESPN and an officer of The Walt Disney Co. to be associated in any way with any of this," he said.

"My drug use never had any professional repercussions, but I still have profound regret," he said. "I accept that the consequences of my actions are my responsibility and have been appropriate. I also have to accept that I used very poor judgment."

Skipper did not return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

He also said "rumors and speculations" that mistreatment of women contributed to his resignation were untrue, and he denied having any inappropriate relationships or sexually harassing anyone.

Skipper said he has received drug abuse treatment and therapy, and that process is ongoing. He hopes to re-enter sports media as a consultant.

"I'm actually quite excited," he said. "In some ways I have no choice but to make the best of it. And I do intend to make the best of it. I've been meeting with people, and that has gotten me even more excited. I'm healthy, and I'm ready to plunge back in."

Murder victim's mom to perform at Michigan comedy festival

The mother of a Michigan teenager who was murdered in 2016 is hoping to give back to those who helped her by performing standup comedy at a fundraiser.

Stacey Hilton told WOOD-TV that Gilda's Club helped her heal after the death of her daughter, 18-year-old McKenna Hilton. She wants to show appreciation by participating in the club's LaughFest fundraiser this year.

"Gilda's Club was the only thing that got me up and got me out and they offer a meal and that was about the only thing I was eating, too," Hilton said.

Hilton will perform with a group of first-time standup comedians Friday in Grand Rapids.

"I want to do something that makes other people laugh," she said. "And see that even though you are grieving, you can still have some laughter in your life and it's OK."

Hilton said she's excited to perform and thinks her daughter would be amused at the idea.

"I think she would be hideously embarrassed but I'm sure she would still be rooting me on," she said.

The festival honors comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Proceeds and donations from LaughFest support free emotional health care programs for children and adults living with cancer and grief through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.

A person walking a dog found McKenna Hilton's body Aug. 18, 2016, in a wooded area near Emerald Lake in Grand Rapids Township. Hilton's half-brother, Savon Schmus, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to between 40 and 100 years in prison in October. Schmus, 17, and McKenna Hilton shared the same father.


Information from: WOOD-TV,

Ed Sheeran, Gaga, more to cover Elton John across 2 albums

Elton John's songs will be reworked by top artists including Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson and Chris Stapleton.

John announced on Thursday the April 6 release of two albums. "Revamp" will include covers by pop and rock stars from Mary J. Blige to Miley Cyrus. Miranda Lambert and Dolly Parton will appear on the country album "Restoration."

Pink and Logic will team up for "Bennie and the Jets" and Florence + the Machine take on "Tiny Dancer." Other acts on "Revamp" include Sam Smith, Coldplay, The Killers, Mumford and Sons, Q-Tip, Demi Lovato, Queens of the Stone Age and Alessia Cara.

"Restoration" will feature Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Brothers Osborne, Dierks Bentley, Rhonda Vincent and Lee Ann Womack.

David S. Wyman, Holocaust scholar, dead at 89

David S. Wyman, a leading scholar of the U.S. response to the Holocaust whose "The Abandonment of the Jews" was a provocative, best-selling critique of everyone from religious leaders to President Franklin Roosevelt, died Wednesday at age 89

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies announced that Wyman died at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts, after a lengthy illness. Wyman was a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The grandson of Protestant ministers, Wyman was in graduate school when he began a long-term quest to learn what was done on behalf of the millions of Jews rounded up and murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.

He was best known for "The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-45," which came out in 1984 and sharply intensified a debate that began during the war. Drawing upon private and government records and contemporary media accounts, Wyman found widespread indifference and hostility to the Jews in Europe, even as their systematic extermination was conclusively documented. He faulted religious organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish; mainstream newspapers and movies; and the anti-Jewish feelings of the general public.

The federal government was slow to act, enforcing strict immigration quotas and refusing to bomb the concentration camps; waiting until well after the Holocaust had begun to establish a War Refugee Board, then forcing the agency to rely mostly on private funding. The blame rose right to the top, with Roosevelt, who Wyman alleged was more concerned about angering anti-Semites than about helping the Jews.

"If he had wanted to, he could have aroused substantial public backing for a vital rescue effort by speaking out on the issue," Wyman wrote, calling Roosevelt's inaction the low mark of his presidency. "It appears that Roosevelt's overall response to the Holocaust was deeply affected by political expediency. Most Jews supported him unwaveringly, so an active rescue policy offered little political advantage. A pro-Jewish stance, however, could lose votes."

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, praised Wyman for his "courageous, lucid, painful book." And "The Abandonment of the Jews" received several honors, including the National Jewish Book Award, and a nomination from the National Book Critics Circle.

Most scholars accepted his general argument that the U.S had done too little, but some disagreed with individual aspects, such as whether the U.S. could have disrupted or destroyed the Nazi camps. Roosevelt defenders, meanwhile, believed Wyman had failed to appreciate that the president's options were limited.

"FDR well understood that it would be fatal to let the war be defined as a war to save the Jews," historian and Roosevelt biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote in Newsweek in 1994, around the time a television documentary based on Wyman's book aired. "He knew that he must emphasize the large and vital interest all Americans had in stopping Hitler, and that is what he did. And he knew that winning the war was the only way to save the people in the concentration camps."

Wyman's book was credited with helping to inspire the American rescue of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews stranded in Sudan in 1985. John R. Miller, a congressman and later an ambassador for combatting human trafficking, told a Wyman Institute conference that he had given copies of the book to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and his top aides. According to Miller, Bush called "Abandonment of the Jews" a major factor in the U.S. decision to airlift the Jews and eventually bring them to Israel.

Bush later sent the author a handwritten note of gratitude.

Wyman continued his investigations with "The World Reacts to the Holocaust" and "America and the Holocaust," a 13-volume compilation of documents used for "Abandonment of the Jews." He would often invoke the Holocaust as a defense of Israel. "I'd come here and die for Israel if I were ever of any use," he said in 2012 while speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

A book released in 2013, "FDR and the Jews," by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, contended that Roosevelt had been judged too harshly and that his actions compared favorably to those of future presidents responding to genocide.

In response, the Wyman Institute published Rafael Medoff's "FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith," which alleged that Roosevelt had a long history of anti-Jewish actions and opinions. (Ironically, Roosevelt was often the target of anti-Semitic attacks in his lifetime, with some opponents labeling the New Deal programs of the Depression the "Jew Deal").

Wyman was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1929 and recalled his parents imparting "not just tolerance, but a high degree of respect for all different people." He studied history as an undergraduate at Boston University and received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1962. He had intended to focus on the Progressive era of the early 20th century until he had an epiphany while walking in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard is located.

"Out of nowhere comes this question: What did the United States do while the Jews were being persecuted and mass-murdered?" he would recall.

Wyman taught elementary school and high school in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and was a history lecturer at Clark University and Northeastern University before joining Amherst in 1966 and remaining for 25 years.

In 1950, Wyman married Mildred Smith, with whom he had two children, Jim and Teresa. Mildred Wyman, often called Midge, died in 2003.


AP investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report.

Danny Boyle says he's working on script for James Bond film

Danny Boyle says he's working on the script for the next James Bond movie.

The British director has been rumored to be at the top of the list to direct the 25th film in the spy action franchise. He says he's collaborating with John Hodge, who wrote Boyle's "Trainspotting" and its 2017 sequel, "T2: Trainspotting."

Boyle says the two are "working on a script at the moment." He says he can't offer more details.

MGM, which produces James Bond films, has not confirmed who will direct the next installment.

Boyle made the comments on the red carpet Wednesday at the New York premiere of "Trust."

The 10-part television miniseries on the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III premieres on FX at 10 p.m. Eastern on March 25.

"I do": Queen gives her consent for Harry-Meghan wedding

Well, that's a relief.

Queen Elizabeth II has given her formal consent to the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The British monarch has issued a declaration consenting "to a Contract of Matrimony between My Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle."

The prince, fifth in line to the British throne, and the American actress are to marry May 19 at Windsor Castle.

Alongside the declaration that was made public Thursday, the queen signed an Instrument of Consent, a formal notice of approval, transcribed in calligraphy and issued under the Great Seal of the Realm.

Harry is among a handful of senior royals who must seek the monarch's permission to marry or have their descendants disqualified from succession to the crown.

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