Four-time NBA All Star Vin Baker is working at Starbucks

Vin Baker played for six different franchises over the course of his 13 seasons in the NBA. Baker was named to four NBA All-Star teams, and according to Basketball Reference made more than $97 million in salary.
Baker, 43, now works at a Starbucks in Rhode Island.
Baker struggled with alcoholism during his playing career, and in 2007 was arrested on an alcohol charge after failing a sobriety test. In a Providence Journal feature, Baker explains how he squandered his massive fortune and offers advice for young players.
“When you make choices and decisions and think that it will never end, and then you get into spending and addiction and more spending, it’s a definite formula for losing…. I would insist that you surround yourself with the person you trust the absolute most, someone who can tell you, ‘You’re wrong, don’t buy that, don’t go there, that person’s no good.’ I would also say be able to monitor every single dime that comes out of your accounts as if you’re a Starbucks barista. My check here I know exactly where my money goes. Don’t trust it with an accountant or a family friend. Make sure you’re aware and be responsible because next thing you know people are stealing from you.”
Baker is now training to become a Starbucks manager, and also serves as a minister at a church. Baker says he’s determined to rebuild his life to be an example for other troubled stars.
“I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they’re like ‘Wow.’ For me, I’m 43 and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces. I’m a father. I’m a minister in my father’s church. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back.”

'Obama Eight' adjust to life after life sentences

WASHINGTON — One is a high school counselor. Two or three work in restaurants. Some can't find a job. Others have slipped into obscurity.
The Obama Eight, as they call themselves, don't fit into easy categories, except for this: They were all convicted of drug crimes, and they were among the first to have their sentences commuted by President Obama.
And as Obama prepares to issue even more commutations in the last months of his presidency — part of an aggressive attempt to use his pardon power to shorten long drug sentences — many of them say they feel the weight of criminal justice reform on their shoulders. If any one of them returns to prison, it could taint the clemency initiative and make it harder for other deserving inmates to be released, they say.
They've become leading voices for leniency, especially for drug crimes. Last year, many of them came to Washington to lobby members of Congress and meet with Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff, the Justice Department official whose job it is to make clemency recommendations to the president.
After nearly three years without commuting a single sentence, Obama has now issued 89 commutations as president. It's a record that still ranks as one of the "least merciful" in presidential history, said P.S. Ruckman Jr., a political scientist who blogs about the president's pardon power.
Of those 89, one died shortly after her release. 47 have yet to be released, while 21 were released Tuesday. The 46 sentences Obama commuted this month won't be completed until Nov. 10. (As recently as the Clinton administration, people whose sentences were commuted were released the same day.)
The other 20 are free. The Obama Eight have been out the longest, most of them a little more than a year.
In many ways, the challenges they face are not unlike anyone else released from prison after a long sentence. Finding a job, reuniting with relatives, getting a driver's license and adjusting to the speed of an Internet-driven world that barely existed when they were sent away.

Islamic State recruiting offsets 15,000 killed by airstrikes in past year

WASHINGTON — In a sign of its resilience, the Islamic State appears to have recruited new fighters to offset 15,000 militants killed in a U.S.-led airstrike campaign approaching its first anniversary, U.S. military and intelligence estimates show.
More than 5,500 airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria that began Aug. 8, 2014, have forced the extremist organization to disperse its fighters into smaller groups, making them less of a threat to seize large chunks of territory, according to the military estimates. Despite the lethal strikes, the group continues to attract new recruits and replace leaders, highlighting the difficulty of fighting a movement that draws support from Muslims around the world.
A year ago, the CIA said it believed the Islamic State had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria. The estimate remains the same this year, according to a U.S. intelligence official, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to discuss the issue.
The U.S.-led coalition confirmed the 15,000 casualty number but would not discuss it publicly. The deaths are tracked as part of daily battle damage assessments and coalition efforts to avoid civilian casualties. Aerial surveillance is used to assess the impact of airstrikes, including enemy casualties.
One reason the military does not trumpet enemy death estimates is lingering embarrassment from the Vietnam War, when the Pentagon announced daily enemy death figures as a sign of military progress. Yet those counts proved to be exaggerated and U.S. troops ultimately withdrew from Vietnam, having failed to defeat the army of communist North Vietnam.
In the current conflict, the U.S. military has warned that casualty numbers are a poor measure of progress in the conflict. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told American servicemembers in Iraq this month that battling the Islamic State will last for years and will involve countering its brutal ideology in addition to battlefield showdowns.
Commanders said the daily air campaign, combined with successes on the ground by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, have weakened the militant organization and reversed the increasing strength it once enjoyed. “The tide of momentum has begun to creep against them,” said Brigadier James Learmont, a British coalition official in Baghdad.
When Islamic State militants swept through Iraq last year, capturing the country’s second-largest city of Mosul in June, they appeared invincible. Now “there is a sense of paranoia that is starting to creep into their rank and file,” Learmont said, adding there is evidence militants are being assassinated if they attempt to desert.
Military analysts disagree about the wisdom of withholding casualty counts. “If that was a good measure we would have won the Vietnam War,” said Andrew Krepinevich, an analyst at the Center for Budgetary Assessments. “Body counts didn’t work. They don’t show any signs of running out of people.”
But others say it is at least one measure of progress. “The magnitude of that number is pretty damn big,” said David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who served as deputy Air Force chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. “It does have an enormous psychological impact” on the enemy.

Wing debris same as missing Malaysia plane

Aircraft debris found off the coast of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean appears to belong to the same type of plane as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished more than a year ago, a U.S. official told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters at the United Nations that he sent a team to identify the wreckage.
Malaysia is heading up the investigation with the help of Boeing, the National Transportation Safety Board, French authorities and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said in a statement.
"In the event that the wreckage is identified as being from MH370 ... it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean," he said in the statement.
French aviation experts will examine an aircraft wing tip — possibly a flap — and other debris to determine whether it came from the Boeing 777-200ER, which disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014, bound for Beijing with 239 people aboard. No trace of the plane has been found despite months of aerial and sea searches over thousands of square miles of the southern Indian Ocean.
Truss, who has overseen the search in the ocean 1,000 miles west of Perth, said Malaysia is examining the debris with help from Boeing and crash investigators from France, the United States and Australia.
"The debris is being examined by experts to determine its origin," Truss said. "In the event that the wreckage is identified as being from MH 370 on La Reunion Island, it would be consistent with other analysis and modeling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean."
"Any new evidence will be used to further inform and refine ongoing search efforts," Truss added.
Investigators have a "high degree of confidence" that a photo of the debris shows a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, said the official, who was not identified.

3-hour Canadian tornado likely one of world's longest

The massive tornado that roared across the Canadian province of Manitoba late Monday was on the ground for nearly 3 hours — likely one of the longest-lasting on record in Canada and perhaps the world. No injuries or deaths were reported.
The longest tornado recorded is the infamous Tri-State tornado that lasted for about 3.5 hours, ravaging the Midwest in March 1925 and leaving hundreds of people dead in its wake.
"The path length distance of the Manitoba tornado might be shorter, but the duration may be comparable," Randy Cerveny, rapporteur of climate and weather extremes for the World Meteorological Organization, said, referring to reports that the Canadian tornado may not have moved as far distance wise as the 1925 twister.
The tornado tore a path through rural southwest Manitoba, reported Environment Canada, the Canadian version of the USA's National Weather Service. While it damaged trees, power poles, farms and roads, it missed every town in its path.
"This was probably one of the longest on the ground tornadoes we have had in Manitoba or on the Prairies," Natalie Hasell, Environment Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist, told the Winnipeg Free Press.
David Wills, an expert on tornadoes with Environment Canada, said if it is determined that the tornado was on the ground for three hours, "that would likely be among the longest tornado tracks in Canada ... Perhaps the longest," he told the Winnipeg newspaper.
Environment Canada meteorologist Mike Macdonald called it a "rare" event because tornadoes rarely stay on the ground longer than a few minutes in Canada.
"To be on the ground for 2½ to three hours is phenomenal ... and to miss everything is basically a miracle," he told the CBC.
The tornado was part of a wild weather system that brought also snow and cold to parts of the U.S. Rocky Mountains and ferocious winds and accumulating hail to the northern Plains.

Senate confirms Marine general as Joint Chiefs chairman

The Senate confirmed Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday after a brief dispute between Pentagon leaders and the chamber's leading critic of military sexual assault policy.
The spat between Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and military officials had nothing to do with Dunford's credentials but instead centered on data of sexual assaults at large military bases, information she has been seeking for years.
She stalled the confirmation process for about two days until Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered assurances to her Wednesday morning that the information would be made available soon.
Dunford, who has served as commandant of the Marine Corps for the last year, was confirmed without opposition just a few hours later.
He received near universal praise from senators after he was tapped for the post, and most of the criticism at his confirmation hearing focused not on him but the White House's national security strategy.
Dunford served as commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan from February 2013 to August 2014, and previously commanded the 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His career ascent has been rapid, going from a one-star general to four stars in about three years. He'll take over the top military spot in September, when Gen. Martin Dempsey is slated to retire.
The Senate vote comes amid a slate of confirmations in the waning days of the summer session.
Earlier this week, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva was confirmed as the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Darren McDew to replace him as the new head ofU.S. Transportation Command.

Ferguson preps for anniversary of Michael Brown's death

FERGUSON, Mo. — Several new city leaders will beon the front lines in 10 days when the #BlackLivesMatter spotlight returns here Aug. 9, the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death.
Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson started work July 22, taking a six-month leave of absence from his job at the Glendale, Ariz., Police Department in suburban Phoenix. Interim City Manager Ed Beasley was hired June 9 after working in Glendale from 2002 to 2012.
Both are black, better reflecting the population of this St. Louis suburb of 21,000 residents, which is more than two-thirds African American. Two black City Council members were elected in April, joining one previously serving on the six-member council.
The Missouri Supreme Court also assigned Judge Roy Richter to Ferguson Municipal Court on March 9 after the U.S. Justice Department released a report describing a profit-driven municipal court system, expected to generate a quarter of the city budget through fines and fees, that heightened tensions between the city's primarily white police department and its mostly black residents.
And all of the city officials know that any missteps as protesters mark the anniversary of Brown's death will receive national attention.
"I've asked the police department to adopt four things as we start: We want to embrace professionalism, we want to embrace respect, we want to embrace community engagement and we want to make the community safer," Anderson said.
Just since the start of this year, at least 664 people have died at the hands of police, including at least 174 blacks, according to a Guardian database. The British newspaper has been gathering data through news reports to count deaths caused by law-enforcement officers across the USA.

CVS, IBM partner for technology-based health care

CVS Health and IBM announced Thursday they will join forces to improve health care management services to patients with chronic diseases with the help of advanced technology.
The partnership between the health care company and software company will provide the technology behind IBM’s Watson computing systems to CVS Health practitioners and pharmacists. The technology can analyze large amounts of data, interpret and evaluate information and build knowledge over time. The Watson computing system can access health records, pharmacy information and other resources to help CVS Health employees provide guidance to patients and work with primary care doctors.
Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Health, told USA TODAY the new technology will be able to access more research and information than the organization can do now.
“This is going to be a new tool for disease prevention,” Brennan said.
The partnership focuses on improving services for patients with chronic diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The collaboration uses IBM Watson Health, an IBM business unit, which aims to better allow doctors, researchers and practitioners to use the data and technology collected by the computing system to provide better health care.
“The ultimate goal is the improvement in the outcomes, reduction of costs and an overall better experience for patients at the end of the day,” said Shahram Ebadollahi, vice president, innovation and chief science officer at IBM Watson Health.
The collaboration also uses IBM Watson Health Cloud, which gathers information on nutrition, medical history and lifestyle, among other factors, to present a personalized look at health. IBM already partners with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to provide access to this data.
CVS Health encompasses the CVS brands, including its pharmacy, MinuteClinic, Caremark and specialty programs.
This isn’t the first partnership for the two companies. In July 2014, CVS Caremark and IBM announced a $1.5 million grant program called “Technology Solutions for Smarter Health,” which supports the use of technology in health centers.
The use of the technology will begin at CVS at the beginning of 2016.
“Manning these two companies together, and doing it at a scale only these companies can do, will greatly affect the long term —and short term — for patients and do many of them good,” Ebadollahi said.

Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry starred in an old Windows 95 instructional video

In the mid ’90s, Friends was the biggest thing on TV, and Windows 95 was a breakthrough operating system that introduced millions of users to Microsoft.
And this unbelievable Microsoft video, unearthed by a brilliant YouTube user, brings the two together for “the world’s first cyber sitcom” — also known as an instructional video — starringJennifer Aniston (sporting “the Rachel”) and Matthew Perry.
The video is an amazing relic of the ’90s, a time when “personal computing” was a brand new thing, fax machines were all the rage, and saxophone interludes still punctuated every joke people made on TV.
Watch the video below — trust us, it’s worth your time.
In the mid ’90s, Friends was the biggest thing on TV, and Windows 95 was a breakthrough operating system that introduced millions of users to Microsoft.
And this unbelievable Microsoft video, unearthed by a brilliant YouTube user, brings the two together for “the world’s first cyber sitcom” — also known as an instructional video — starringJennifer Aniston (sporting “the Rachel”) and Matthew Perry.
The video is an amazing relic of the ’90s, a time when “personal computing” was a brand new thing, fax machines were all the rage, and saxophone interludes still punctuated every joke people made on TV.
Watch the video below — trust us, it’s worth your time.

Thursday's forecast: More scorching heat South, West, East

Late July heat will continue unabated for much of the country Thursday, though a few showers in portions of Florida, the Northeast and the Southwest might help ease the worst of it.
West: Parts of the Southwest and Four Corners will see some afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures will soar into the 90s and 100s in much of the Far West, except for right along the coast.
Central U.S.: Blistering heat and humidity will roast the central and southern Plains on Thursday. Some showers and storms are also possible in the central Plains.
East: Heat and humidity will be the rule for most of the East Coast and Southeast. A cold front will trigger some thunderstorms in the afternoon in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Florida's ongoing soggy pattern continues Thursday.
Weather history for July 30: In 1965, the temperature rose to 107 degrees in Portland, Ore., tying an all-time record high. In 1999, the dew point in Chicago rose to a record high of 83 degrees.

Judy's sweat-stained 'Wizard' dress to sell

A sweat-stained dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz could become one of the world's most expensive costume dresses if it sells at auction later this year for more than an expected $1 million.
Who could ever forget Dorothy Gale's blue-and-white gingham dress? It's one the most memorable dresses in film history, one as unmistakably American as a Kansas cornfield.
Even better is the tell-tale imprint of the iconic American actress/singer who wore it in the 1939 classic.
"What is great about this is it has signs of use: There are sweat stains around the neck, but it is still in fine condition,” Catherine Williamson, director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams, told the SWNS news service.
Bonhams is set to auction the dress, at a starting price of $1.2 million, at its "Treasures from the Dream Factory" sale on November 23 in New York.
If the dress hits this price tag, it will become one of the most expensive dresses in history — as much thanks to Garland's star quality as its prominence in a beloved film.
"Judy Garland is in the top tier for collectability alongside Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and this costume is in the top ten of dresses," Williamson says. "I think the market will be international."
Although Garland was a 17-year-old starlet at the time, the dress was designed to make her look closer in age to her 12-year-old orphan character. Wizard helped make her a global star, as famous for her troubles as her talent.
Williamson believes the universal appeal of Wizard will mean high levels of interest for this sale.
"The dress is one of those costumes which are instantly identifiable," she says. "You immediately know it was Judy Garland who wore it as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. It is the costume she wears throughout the film, which is a great movie and the definition of a classic... It is a privilege to be selling it."
Demand for props and costumes from Wizard is at a high. Even a "test dress," which wasn't used on screen, sold for $245,265 last year at Bonhams, Williamson says.
The Lion costume, however, sold for a staggering $2.9 million.

'Wet Hot American Summer' goes back in time

That's three-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, spectacularly cheesy in a pink shirt, teaching wide-eyed kids all about his passion for theater.
And yes, that's his stage partner Amy Poehler, equally giddy and every bit as exuberant, in the preposterous, eagerly anticipated Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. 
The 2001 cult movie about counselors at a sleep-away camp, a flop that morphed into an unlikely fan darling, returns  Friday on Netflix as an eight-episode prequel set earlier in the summer of 1981.  The original cast, including Paul RuddElizabeth Banks, Cooper and Poehler, is back for a hot-blooded romp at Camp Firewood, a low-rent institution in Maine. And they're joined by new additions including Jason Schwartzman,Josh CharlesLake Bell and Jon Hamm. More than a decade later, the actors play (slightly) younger versions of their original characters, clad in standout '80s garb: cut-off denim shorts, friendship bracelets and tube socks. Some spent only a day or two on set.
"We’d been talking about it in a sort of pie-in-the-sky kind of way for a really long time," says co-creator Mike Showalter. "Around the time of the 10-year anniversary of the movie, there were some retrospectives, (and) there was some excitement around this thing that keeps on going."
Schwartzman came on board after he geeked out over the original, which earned $295,000 at the domestic box office but had a steady afterlife on DVD and Netflix.
“I saw it shortly after it came out and it instantly was something I knew I’d be referring to and drawing on from here on out. It had a profound effect on me, to say the least,” he says. “It was a feature film that felt like anything could happen at any moment. That was an exciting thing for me to watch.”
Being on set, he says, was “super-surreal. I’m looking around at these people who have had a big impact on me as these characters. You need a character like my guy, a camp counselor who is a bit of a fuss bucket. He’s the guy who’s the same age as them in theory, but he would not get invited to hang out with them very often. He plays by the book. He likes having authority.”
Like the original, the series is truly an ensemble. Some of the actors have soared professionally — Cooper starred in last year's American Sniper, and Banks directed the summer hit Pitch Perfect 2 and has a key role in the blockbuster Hunger Gamesmovies.
This time, summer kicks off at Firewood with the arrival of campers — who engage in a burp-off, among other misadventures — and an undercover reporter (Banks) set out to write an exposé. One counselor (Bell) elicits lustful looks. Another (Rudd) preens and does push-ups. Ben and Susie (Cooper and Poehler) craft the mother of all theater productions, with the help of a washed-up stage veteran (John Slattery). And across the lake, a rival preppy counselor (Charles) seethes and plots.
Charles, who also is appearing on this season’s Masters of Sex, based his character, Charles Blake, on the villains from classic ‘80s movies such as Pretty in Pink and The Karate Kid. “Doesn’t he know that caviar and corn dogs don’t mix,” snarls Charles upon spying his girlfriend being wooed by Rudd.
Charles was a "big fan" of the original film. “My friends were in it and the idea to be with them, for a couple of weeks, giggling, was too good to be true,” he says. “I didn’t bother to ask questions.”

Court blocks release of NYPD chokehold death testimony

NEW YORK (AP) — The public can't see the testimony a grand jury weighed before declining to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man, an appeals court said Wednesday, citing longstanding reasons for grand jury confidentiality.
"The public interest in disclosure was outweighed by the dangers inherent in violating the secrecy of the grand jury proceeding," judges in the state Supreme Court Appellate Division's Second Department wrote.
Grand juries have operated for centuries behind closed doors, for reasons ranging from shielding witnesses to protecting the rights of targets who don't get charged. Transcripts are rarely disclosed — with some notable exceptions, as after an officer wasn't indicted last year in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Wednesday's ruling echoed a lower-court decision in the case of Eric Garner, whose fatal encounter with police was recorded on video.
But city Public Advocate Letitia James, the New York Civil Liberties Union and theLegal Aid Society said they would appeal. They're seeking the transcripts, detailed descriptions of evidence and other documentation in the Garner case, which was fueled by the online video and led to widespread protests about police treatment of minorities.
"The public deserves to know what happened with that grand jury and why what we saw with our eyes did not match the failure to indict those responsible for Eric Garner's death," James said in a statement.
Garner's relatives were disappointed in the decision, as they feel releasing the information is the only way to address their doubts about the fairness of the grand jury process, said one of their lawyers, Josh Moskovitz.

Trevor Noah addresses Wyatt Cenac comments, defends Jon Stewart

What does future Daily Show host Trevor Noah have to say about his predecessor cursing out a colleague in public?
“What happened there with Jon (Stewart) is exactly what the writers room is for,” Noah said at a Television Critic Association panel, which our Bill Keveney attended.
Noah was referencing the story former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac told on the WTF podcast, about how Stewart made him, a correspondent, cry for expressing concern over a segment’s racial insensitivity.
But Noah understands why the heated exchange happened, and thinks it’s OK.
“You’re supposed to fight about things,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is find the best way to tell the best joke about what’s happening in the world we’re living in. … You hope you get to a point where you’re really passionate about a subject because then when you get the show on screen, we’ve already had this fight. … It’s being handled.”
He went on:
“Any joke can be seen as offensive. That’s the great thing about ‘The Daily Show.’ We have a diverse staff: male-female, black-white, young-old. The whole point of having a great writing team is trying to find the best voice for the show.”

How Jason Segel transformed for 'Tour'

There were serious doubts when Jason Segel was cast as the tragic genius David Foster Wallace inThe End of the Tour.
Segel, 35, has made a career portraying affable, endearing personalities — from Gary, BFF to a muppet named Walter in The Muppets, to goofy Marshall in TV's How I Met Your Mother.
But in Tour (opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles), Segel steps up to the complex role of Infinite Jest author Wallace, who struggled with depression and killed himself in 2008 at age 46. The film depicts a five-day interview with Rolling Stone writerDavid Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).
"We sometimes buckle when someone we know takes on a more dramatic role," saysTour director James Ponsoldt. "Perhaps it shows the limits to our imagination."
The doubts have turned to accolades for a performance The Hollywood Reporter calls "heartbreaking" and even early awards talk for Segel.
Here's how Segel made the transformation.
Employing the hair and bandanna: Wallace's unorthodox look is striking right off and a significant discussion point in Tour. Segel couldn't grow his hair out while shooting the end of Mother, so he relied on hair extensions.
"You can take the bandanna, the long hair or those clothes, individually," says Segel. "But when they all came together, that's when I felt really comfortable to walk out as David Foster Wallace."
The filmmakers took pains not to fixate on a physical imitation of the author. "We basically tried to get as accurate as possible without making it feel like an impression or a sketch," says Segel.
Reading Wallace's work: The voluminous writings — especially Wallace's seminal 1,079-page Infinite Jest — were key to understanding the author. Segel, who wrote The Muppets and is working on The Lego Movie spinoff Billion Brick Race, started there.
"It's a massive undertaking as a reader. And that puts in perspective what a massive undertaking it was as a writer," says Segel.
Every week, he'd read 100 pages and discuss the work on Sunday with three friends in a book club. "It was one of the best experiences I have ever had," says Segel. "To have four people with different life experiences and having this (book) resonate speaks so much to the writing's universality."