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Serena Williams accepts a new challenge - in Silicon Valley

Tennis star Serena Williams has 39 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic medals, major endorsement deals and her own line of clothing and accessories. Now she is embarking on a new mission: She says wants to help tech companies diversify their workforces and solve one of the industry's most vexing problems.

Williams, 35, will get her chance as she joins a Silicon Valley boardroom for the first time. Online poll-taking service SurveyMonkey announced Williams' appointment to its board on Wednesday, along with Intuit CEO Brad Smith.

"I feel like diversity is something I speak to," Williams said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Change is always happening, change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me."

Williams didn't offer specifics about her goals as a corporate director, implying that her very presence can help push the company — and, by extension, the industry as a whole — in a more diverse direction.

Individual board members don't usually exert great influence over the companies they oversee, although they are often compensated handsomely in cash and stock for their part-time work. SurveyMonkey, a private company, didn't say how much Williams will be compensated.

VALLEY DIVERSITY

Silicon Valley's lack of diversity has become a recurring source of embarrassment in a region that has long sought to position itself as an egalitarian place that doesn't favor one gender or ethnic race over another.

Yet that philosophy hasn't been reflected in high-tech workforces, despite the efforts of companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook to fix the problem. Not much progress has been made since diversity became a hot-button topic in Silicon Valley three years ago.

Williams has been hanging around Silicon Valley more frequently now that she is engaged to high-tech entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the online forum Reddit. Like many other African-Americans, she says she's disappointed that the vast majority of high-paying technology jobs are filled by white and Asian men.

At SurveyMonkey, which employs about 650 workers, only 27 percent of technology jobs are filled by women. Just 14 percent of its total payroll consists of African-Americans, Latinos or people identifying themselves with at least two races, according to numbers the company provided to the AP.

Williams' appointment is part of the solution, according to SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie. "My focus is to bring in change agents around the table who can open our eyes," he said.

STEPPING STONE

Racism is something Williams confronted and overcame at an early age when she began playing a predominantly white sport. She grew up to become the top-ranked female tennis player in the world.

Diversifying Silicon Valley isn't the only item on Williams' agenda. Like a lot of rich athletes, she is interested in becoming more involved in the business opportunities amid the high-tech boom in Silicon Valley. She says she is already exploring other opportunities in the area, but isn't ready to provide further details yet.

Her connection to SurveyMonkey came through her friendship with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and another member of SurveyMonkey's board. Sandberg's late husband, Dave Goldberg, was SurveyMonkey's CEO before he died in 2015 while the couple was vacationing in Mexico.

"I have been really interested in getting involved in Silicon Valley for years, so I have been kind of in the wading waters," Williams said. "Now, I am jumping into the deep end of the pool. When I do something, I go all out."

Defense raises race bias in Cosby jury selection process

With just one black person seated among the first 11 jurors chosen for Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial, defense lawyers are crying foul and accusing prosecutors of trying to systematically keep blacks off the jury.

The lawyers returned to court on Wednesday in Pittsburgh to pick a 12th juror and six alternates. Cosby arrived Wednesday just before 8 a.m.

For now, Judge Steven O'Neill has rejected the race bias argument.

Prosecutors said race was not a factor in their decision to strike two black women from the panel this week. They said one was a former Pittsburgh police detective who sued the city after she was arrested in a public scandal.

O'Neill pledged to revisit the issue if defense lawyer Brian McMonagle, who had accused prosecutors of "a systematic exclusion of African-Americans," presented statistical evidence to back that up.

The 100 people summoned to the Allegheny County courthouse for juror consideration so far have included 16 people of color. A new jury pool will be summoned on Wednesday.

The jurors selected on Tuesday included a black woman who said she knew only "basic information" about the case, a young white man who initially expressed a tendency to believe police and two people who said they don't read or watch the news.

The jury now consists of seven men and four women — all but one of them white— in a case that Cosby has said may have racial undertones.

The actor-comedian once known as America's Dad for his beloved portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" is charged with drugging and molesting a Temple University women's basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. He has called the encounter consensual.

Dozens of other women have made similar accusations against Cosby, 79, but O'Neill is allowing only one of them to testify at the June 5 trial in suburban Philadelphia. The jury from Pittsburgh will be sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

Cosby, in an interview last week, said race could be a motivating factor in the accusations against him.

"Race plays a role in every trial, but it shouldn't eclipse ... the evidence," Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said. "This case is frankly more about gender, celebrity, how women are treated (and) Bill Cosby's credibility. But race may take a more focused perspective because the defense has (raised it) recently."

The trial will take place in Montgomery County, where Cosby had invited Andrea Constand to his home in 2004. Constand said she went seeking career advice. She said Cosby gave her wine and pills that put her in a stupor before molesting her on his couch.

Constand was 30 and dating a woman at the time, while Cosby was 66 and long married to wife Camille. Cosby in sworn testimony has said he put his hand down Constand's pants, but said she did not protest.

Cosby has said he does not expect to testify.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward, as Constand has done.

Cosby was arrested Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

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Dale contributed from Philadelphia.

UK deploys 1,000 soldiers to protect key sites after bombing

British security forces arrested three more suspects Wednesday in connection with the Manchester concert bombing and sent hundreds of soldiers to secure key sites across the country, including Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament at Westminster.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the bomber, identified as British-born Libyan Salman Abedi, "likely" did not act alone when he killed 22 people and wounded dozens at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. She said he had been known to security forces "up to a point."

Many at the concert were young girls and teens enthralled by Grande's pop power. The youngest victim of the bombing named so far was just 8 years old.

Officials are examining Abedi's trips to Libya and possibly Syria as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats. The government said nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed Wednesday instead of police in high-profile sites in London and other locations.

Police said three men were arrested Wednesday in south Manchester, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched.

Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to "critical" after an emergency government meeting late Tuesday amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack.

The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was canceled Wednesday so police officers can be re-deployed, Britain's defense ministry said. The traditional ceremony is a major tourist attraction in London.

The Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, was also closed Wednesday to all those without passes, and tours and events there were cancelled until further notice. Armed police were also seen on patrol outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London, another popular tourist spot.

The Chelsea soccer team announced it would cancel Sunday's victory parade in London that was to have celebrated the team's Premier League title win this season.

"We are sure our fans will understand this decision," the team said, adding that the parade would have diverted police from the bombing investigation.

Suicide bomber Abedi was born in Britain to a Libyan family, grew up in Manchester's southern suburbs and once attended Salford University there.

Police on Tuesday raided his house, using a controlled explosion to blast down the door. Neighbors recalled him as a tall, thin young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress and did not talk much.

Manchester police arrested a man early Wednesday at a house just a 10-minute walk from Abedi's home.

Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children.

"There was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor ... and I realized there is something wrong here," he said. "They arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared."

He said he immediately suspected the arrest might be linked to the bombing since "somebody told me they were Libyans, or I read it somewhere."

He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque but "in the last 15 years, I haven't seen him in trouble at all. I haven't seen police come to his house."

Police also raided and searched a property elsewhere in Manchester where Abedi's brother Ismail is thought to have lived.

British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting Wednesday of her emergency security cabinet group to talk about intelligence reports on Abedi and concerns that he might have had outside support.

Officials are probing how often Abedi had traveled to Libya, which has seen an eruption of armed Islamist groups since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

France's interior minister said Abedi is believed to have traveled to Syria and had "proven" links with the Islamic State group. British officials, however, have not commented on whether Abedi had links to IS or other extremist groups.

Rudd said Britain's increased official threat level will remain at "critical" as the investigation proceeds and won't be lowered until security services are convinced there is no active plot in place.

She also complained about U.S. officials leaking sensitive information about Abedi to the press. Rudd said Britain's operational security could be harmed by the leaks, taking "the element of surprise" away from security services and police.

"I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again," she said.

In addition to those killed in the concert attack, Manchester officials raised to 119 the number of people who sought medical treatment after the attack.

Sixty-four people are still hospitalized, Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said Wednesday. Officials say 20 of them are being treated for critical injuries.

Many of them had serious wounds that will require "very long term care and support in terms of their recovery," Rouse said.

Officials said all those hospitalized had been identified.

As soldiers replaced armed police at Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament, London Police Commander Jane Connors said the goal is to "make our city as hostile an environment as possible for terrorists to plan and operate."

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Katz reported from London. Sylvia Hui in London, Rob Harris in Manchester and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

The Latest: Cosby arrives for Day 3 of jury selection

The Latest on jury selection in Bill Cosby's sex assault case (all times local):

8:20 a.m.

Bill Cosby has arrived for the third day of jury selection in his Pennsylvania sex assault case.

Cosby arrived at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh just before 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The 79-year-old Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee in 2004. Cosby has called the encounter consensual.

Cosby goes on trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. The jury from Pittsburgh will be sequestered nearly 300 miles from home.

Lawyers are bringing 100 new prospective jurors to the courthouse Wednesday. They hope to get the last regular juror and six alternates from this group.

The defense is crying foul after only one black person was seated among the first 11 jurors chosen.

Prosecutors say race was not a factor in their decision to strike two black women from the panel this week.

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12:00 a.m.

With just one black person seated among the first 11 jurors chosen for Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial, the defense is crying foul.

Prosecutors say race was not a factor in their decision to strike two black women from the panel this week. They say one was a former Pittsburgh police detective who sued the city after she was arrested in a public scandal.

Judge Steven O'Neill rejected the race bias argument, but said he would revisit the issue if the defense offered statistical evidence of any discrimination.

The lawyers return to court on Wednesday in Pittsburgh to pick a 12th juror and six alternates.

Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004.

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This story has been corrected to show that lawyers hope to get six alternates, not two.

Pitt baseball's Alex Amos lands on ACC All-Freshman Team

The Pitt baseball season ended with a 23-30 record, but one bright spot on the team this year was freshman Alex Amos. The team's starting second baseman was rewarded by making the ACC All-Freshman Team.

"Alex epitomizes Pitt baseball," said head coach Joe Jordano. "He has a blue collar approach to everything he does, both on and off the field. Alex certainly took advantage of his opportunity and played some great baseball for us, and it is awesome that he is being recognized for his effort. He is part of a freshman class that gained valuable experience this season and has laid the foundation for an exciting future."

Even though he was only a freshman, he was statistically one of the team's best players. Amos led the team with a .304 batting average (finishing a full .23 points higher than the next closest player) and was second in runs and walks.

There wasn't much great about the team this year. They were under .500 for the fourth consecutive season and were one of only two teams that failed to reach the conference tournament. But Amos' debut was a good one.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

The Latest: Man U fans pre-game: 'United against terrorism'

The Latest on the bombing at a pop concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Manchester United fans are congregating in Stockholm's city center, dominating bars and singing songs ahead of their team's match against Ajax in the Europa League.

A flag outside a bar in the Swedish capital displayed the words: "United against terrorism. Lest we forget 22.05.17" — the date of Monday's suicide bombing in the English city of Manchester.

The final will kick off at Friends Arena on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after a deadly bomb attack at a pop concert in Manchester killed 22 people.

There will be a huge security presence at the venue. A police helicopter was flying above the city center Wednesday afternoon.

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2:05 p.m.

Premier League champion Chelsea has called off its victory parade because of the concert attack in Manchester.

Chelsea says it would be inappropriate to hold a parade in London this weekend following Monday's bombing at a concert in Manchester and adds "we are sure our fans will understand this decision."

The club says "given the heightened security threat announced by the government, and recognizing that this is a developing situation, we have given this careful consideration."

Chelsea also says it does not want to divert emergency services.

English soccer champions traditionally celebrate by driving through the city streets on an open top bus, with players holding trophies and waving to fans.

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1:05 p.m.

Manchester police made an arrest early Wednesday at a house just a 10-minute walk from the home of suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children.

He says "there was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor ... and I realized there is something wrong here ... they arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared."

He said he immediately suspected the arrest might be linked to Monday night's concert bombing. He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque.

He says "in the last 15 years, I haven't seen him in trouble at all. I haven't seen police come to his house."

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12:45 p.m.

British police say they are now confident they know the identities of all the people who lost their lives in Monday's concert attack in Manchester.

But Greater Manchester Police said Wednesday that it could not formally name the victims until forensic post-mortems are concluded. The force said because of the number of victims, that is likely to take four to five days.

It said all the families affected have been contacted and trained officers are supporting them.

Officials said 22 people were killed in the suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, including teenagers and children. Some of them have been named by friends and family. The youngest victim was 8-year-old Saffie Roussos.

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12:05 p.m.

A school near Manchester says it is "in shock" and heartbroken as it announced that one of its students, teenager Olivia Campbell-Hardy, was killed in the Manchester concert attack.

Tottington High School, in Bury near the city of Manchester, said in a statement that Olivia, reportedly 15, had been with a friend during Monday night's attack on the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. The friend has undergone surgery to treat injuries from the bombing.

Her mother, Charlotte Campbell, who had been appealing online for news of Olivia, wrote in a Facebook posting early Wednesday: "RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far too soon, go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much."

Police and health officials say 22 people were killed and 119 wounded in Monday's attack.

— This story corrects the high school's name to Tottington.

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11:40 a.m.

Manchester health officials have raised the number of wounded in the concert bombing, saying 119 people sought medical treatment at the city's hospitals after the suicide attack Monday night.

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership gave the higher figure on Wednesday.

Jon Rouse of the agency said 64 people were still hospitalized. He said the number of overall wounded was raised due to the "walking wounded" who came in hours after the attack.

Rouse said many of those hospitalized had serious wounds that would require "very long term care and support in terms of their recovery."

The attack after the Ariana Grande concert also killed 22 people.

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11:20 a.m.

Officials say no decision has been reached yet on whether to postpone planned London concerts by pop singer Ariana Grande.

The American pop singer's next two concerts are scheduled for Thursday and Friday night at London's 02 Arena.

Representatives of 02 Arena said Wednesday they are in contact with her promoters but haven't made a final decision. They say a decision will be made shortly.

Grande's concert in Manchester on Monday night was targeted by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded 64. The singer was not injured but said later she was "broken" by the attack.

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11:05 a.m.

The head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency has canceled his attendance at an international anti-terrorism meeting.

MI5 chief Andrew Parker pulled out of the upcoming meeting in Berlin following the deadly attack on a pop concert in Manchester.

British authorities believe a suicide bomber carried out the attack that killed 22 and wounded dozens in the city in northwest England on Monday.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency confirmed Parker's cancellation to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The May 29 meeting in Berlin is titled "Western democracies' responses to the threat of Islamist terrorism" and also features senior intelligence officials and experts from Europe and Israel.

Parker's attendance at the meeting would have been a rare public appearance for the MI5 chief.

10:55 a.m.

Britain's defense ministry says the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace has been cancelled so that police officers can be re-deployed in the wake of the Manchester concert attack.

The traditional ceremony at the palace in London is a major attraction that draws crowds of tourists.

Officials also announced Wednesday that the Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, will be closed to all without passes. That comes after Britain's national security threat level was raised to "critical," the highest level, following Monday's attack in Manchester.

All tours and events at Parliament were immediately cancelled until further notice.

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10:35 a.m.

Police in Manchester say they have arrested three more men in connection with the suicide bombing at a pop concert that killed 22 people.

They said Wednesday the arrests had been made in the south of the city, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched.

Police are trying to establish if bomber Salman Abedi acted alone or whether there could be a risk of further attacks.

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10:05 a.m.

Israel's defense minister says he doubts the devastating bombing in Manchester will have any impact on European counterterrorism tactics because of the continent's "politically correct" character.

Avigdor Lieberman says every bombing in Europe results in much talk, but little action. He told Israel's Army Radio Wednesday the problem is extremism among Muslim youths who are not integrated into society.

He said nothing will change until these residents are ready to adopt "universal, European values."

At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was British-born and of Libyan descent. The official threat level in Britain has since been raised to its highest point.

Lieberman says Israel and Britain enjoy close intelligence cooperation and Israel offered its assistance following the attack.

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9:55 a.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May is chairing a meeting of her emergency security cabinet, known as Cobra.

The Downing Street meeting is dealing with intelligence reports about the investigation into Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

Police and intelligence agencies are trying to determine if he was part of a network that may be planning further attacks in the coming days.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has criticized U.S. officials for leaking information about Abedi to the press as the investigation is unfolding.

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9:35 a.m.

Poland's foreign minister says that a Polish couple were killed in the concert blast in Manchester.

Witold Waszczykowski said Wednesday the couple came to collect their daughters from the Ariana Grande concert Monday night. The daughters were unharmed.

He did not give the couple's names, but the daughter of Marcin and Angelika Klis has been publicly searching for them since the explosion.

Waszczykowski also said that another Polish citizen was wounded and had undergone surgery in a hospital.

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9:05 a.m.

Germany's interior minister has ordered that flags on federal government buildings be flown at half-staff following the attack in Manchester.

Thomas de Maiziere's ministry said Wednesday that flags will be lowered to half-staff for the day on Wednesday. It described the order as "a signal of sympathy and solidarity after the cruel attack in Manchester."

At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert.

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8:55 a.m.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd says Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known "up to a point" to the British intelligence services and police.

She said Wednesday the investigation is continuing and declined to provide further details about Abedi, whose improvised bomb killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester.

Rudd says Britain's increased official threat level will remain at "critical" as the investigation proceeds.

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8:45 a.m.

France's interior minister says that the suicide bomber who targeted Manchester is believed to have traveled to Syria and had "proven" links with the Islamic State group.

Gerard Collomb said on BFM television Wednesday that British and French intelligence have information that British-born attacker Salman Abedi had been to Syria. He did not provide details, and said it is unclear whether Abedi was part of a larger network of attackers.

Collomb, who spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May after the attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22, said the two countries should continue cooperating closely on counterterrorism efforts despite Britain's pending exit from the European Union.

With France still under a state of emergency after a string of IS attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron is holding a special security council meeting Wednesday.

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8:30 a.m.

Britons will find armed troops at vital locations after the official threat level was raised to its highest point following a suicide bombing that killed 22.

Officials say soldiers will be deployed to places like Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament. They will replace armed police as Operation Temperer takes effect Wednesday.

Officials believe this will free up police to fight the threat of further extremist action against civilian targets, amid fears that another attack may be imminent

Police are trying to determine whether suicide bomber Salman Abedi acted alone when he set off his explosives at the end of a pop concert at a Manchester arena. The government Tuesday night raised the threat to "critical", its highest level, following an emergency Cabinet session.

Nicole Kidman vows to support female filmmakers

Nicole Kidman criticized Hollywood's rate of hiring women directors and vowed to support female filmmakers at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.

Kidman said that women "have to support female filmmakers — that's just a given now." She was speaking on behalf of Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled," one of three films directed by women in competition for the Palme d'Or in Cannes.

"The Beguiled" is a remake of Don Siegel's 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, but told from a female point of view. It's a Civil War thriller in which a wounded Union soldier is taken in by an all-girls school in Virginia.

Kidman noted that only 4 percent of major releases in 2016 were directed by women. Said Kidman: "Everyone keeps saying 'It's so different now. But it isn't."

Playboy model who shot nude of unwitting woman due in court

A Playboy centerfold who ignited a backlash of criticism when she secretly snapped a photo of a naked 71-year-old woman in a locker room and posted it online mocking the woman's body is expected to appear in court Wednesday to resolve a criminal charge.

Dani Mathers is planning to show up at a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on a misdemeanor charge of invasion of privacy, her lawyer said.

Mathers, 30, has apologized for taking the photo at an LA Fitness club in July and posting it on Snapchat with the caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

The posting was accompanied by a selfie of Mathers in a tank top with her hand over her mouth as if she's gasping in horror.

The 2015 Playmate of the Year was roundly criticized for the so-called body shaming incident. Mathers said she intended to send the photo privately to a friend and accidentally posted it publicly.

Defense lawyer Dana Cole argued unsuccessfully that the charge should be dismissed because the woman in the photo can't easily be identified.

The victim, who has not been named, is expected to testify if the case goes to trial, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney.

Cole said he's hoping to work out a settlement Wednesday. He said prosecutors want a guilty plea and community service on a highway crew. Wilcox said no plea deal has been offered.

Deputy City Attorney Chadd Kim did not return phone and email messages seeking comment, but in court papers said Mathers had shown no remorse and needed to face consequences for her "cruel and criminal act."

The defense has argued for a more lenient outcome, saying in court papers that Mathers has already lost modeling work and a job as a radio host. They have recommended she use her notoriety to bring attention to the issue of body shaming.

Tom Cruise reveals 'Top Gun 2' to start filming soon

The Danger Zone may have gotten old and dusty, but Tom Cruise says he's about to fly back in.

The 54-year-old actor says the long-discussed sequel to "Top Gun" is a sure thing and should start shooting soon.

Cruise made the announcement Wednesday in response to questions from anchors on the Australian morning news show "Sunrise."

The actor said filming will likely begin within the next year. He added, "It's definitely happening."

Cruise has said in similar interviews that the film was in development and a strong possibility, but has not offered such clear confirmation.

The 1986 Reagan-era flyboy epic propelled Cruise to superstar status.

Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the original, had been dropping hints too. He posted a picture of himself and Cruise on Saturday's 31st anniversary of the original's release.

Jay Bilas adds criticism of Duke handling of quarterback Thomas Sirk to Pitt/Cameron Johnson situation

I really hate to bury the lede here, but recapping the last few days surrounding the Pitt/Cameron Johnson/Jay Bilas fiasco is important from a contextual purpose. So if you've been following along already, please bear with me.

For the past few days, ESPN's Jay Bilas has been highly critical of Pitt's handling of the Cameron Johnson transfer situation. My stance was that, even if schools should not be able to place restrictions on transfers (and, for the record, I'm not so sure that's a horrible thing, anyway, if we don't want players jumping ship left and right ... but that's not the real issue here), it certainly wasn't fair to call out a particular school for doing so since it is commonplace in college sports. Right now, this is probably happening in any number of transfer situations across the country.

Counting today, Bilas had made it his point to single Pitt out in a series of tweets spanning three days now. And while it's true that he has called schools out before, my real issue was with calling anyone out unless you are willing to give each school the same amount of criticism every time it happens. Pitt hasn't broken any rules and certainly shouldn't be taken to task any more or less than others.

One of our readers here pointed out to me in this thread that Duke had done this very thing regarding quarterback Thomas Sirk, restricting his transfer options. I was grateful for that because, despite looking myself, I came up empty. I imagined that Duke had done this in the past and would be shocked if it was limited to this lone example. In summary, Sirk graduated from Duke and then was not allowed to play for ACC schools after he decided to transfer - the same thing Pitt is doing to Johnson.

Previously, Bilas had not mentioned this, which I thought was a bad look. Quite likely, it was because he was not aware of it since it wasn't the sport he covered. I pointed it out in a tweet and a few others mentioned the situation/link directly to him after that. He basically ignored it until replying to Jim (yes, our Jim), who repeated it in a reply to Bilas. Bilas concluded that it was wrong as well.

While acknowledging it, I wasn't thrilled with that response. A one-off reply that most people would not even see acknowledging his stance is simply not the same as the level of how he took Pitt to task in several tweets on the issue over a three-day period. So I was glad when Bilas upped his criticism of Duke, which he did on Tuesday.

I won't post them all here, but on his Twitter account, Bilas heavily criticized Duke for the Sirk handling as well.

Frankly, it was great to see him take the same stance. My argument has never been with his opinion of how transfers should be treated. In some ways (probably not all, I imagine), I agree with him. The greater issue I had is how he was content to drag Pitt through the mud while the situation occurred everywhere - including at his Alma Mater.

Now that it's over, though, what I want to see is Bilas focusing his efforts more on getting the NCAA to make its own rule regarding transfers in situations like this. Right or wrong, that's where it needs to start. Bashing a school for taking advantage of the freedom they have with regards to kids transferring isn't really the answer. Schools have been operating this way for years and while that doesn't necessarily make it right, the idea to restrict players from jumping directly to their competition at least has some measure of logic to it. It seems unfair to crush schools for making a decision that, in essence, could help them win more games if transfers are not playing for teams on their schedule.

It would be one thing if this was a unique situation and only a few schools practiced it. It's quite another when it is virtually commonplace across the board.

Again, though, I can see both sides of it. And my problem with Bilas' handling of the situation had far less to do with his own personal opinion of how transfers should be treated and much more about singling Pitt out for this. I imagine that while Bilas was critical of Pitt for the Johnson situation that many other transfers across all sports in the works at the same time had similar restrictions by their schools.

I like Bilas and haven't made any secret of that over the years. He gets a lot 'right' and generally has a good sense of how things work and should work. But those schools participating in the same practices were essentially let off the hook by Bilas, who understandably cannot keep up with every single one. But if it's happening almost everywhere and you cannot reference each case, doling out criticism equally, it also isn't fair to send out a PR hit on Pitt simply because it is a higher-profile example.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Alcoholics Anonymous sues for return of 12-step manuscript

Alcoholics Anonymous is demanding the return of its 1939 original manuscript describing the "Twelve Step" program of recovery from alcoholism.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. in New York state court last Thursday sued an Alabama man, Ken Roberts, who owns the manuscript, a New York art gallery and a California auction house.

The manuscript is to be sold June 8 at auction. The lawsuit said the manuscript was gifted to a man who left instructions for it to be given to Alcoholics Anonymous upon his death. But it never was.

Now, it is being advertised by Profiles in History, which plans to auction it in two weeks. Aron Gerson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-area auction house, declined comment. A man who answered the phone at QuestRoyal Fine Art in Manhattan, where the manuscript was displayed over the weekend, said he could not comment.

On a web page devoted to the auction, Profiles in History described it as "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous" and "The Bible to Millions," saying its 161 typed pages included handwritten edits by AA founders, including William Griffith Wilson, also known as Bill W. It said it had sold 30 million copies since 1939, been translated into 43 languages and has been ranked by the Library of Congress as a top non-fiction book that shaped America.

The auction house estimated it will sell for between $2 million and $3 million.

The lawsuit said the original working draft copy of the manuscript is "an original, historical document of unique importance." It said it "indisputably belongs" to Alcoholics Anonymous after Barry Leach, who received it from Wilson's widow, signed and notarized a letter in April 1979 saying it would belong to the organization upon his death. He died in 1985.

The lawsuit blamed "either extreme negligence or potentially wrongful actions" around the time of Leach's death for it never reaching Alcoholics Anonymous.

As a result, it said, the manuscript was sold at auction in June 2004 at Sotheby's to William A. Shenk for $1.57 million. The lawsuit said Roberts bought it at a Sotheby's auction in 2007 for $850,000 at a time when Alcoholics Anonymous was not aware of Leach's notarized letter.

The lawsuit said Roberts informed Alcoholics Anonymous on April 7 that he planned to sell the manuscript on June 8. A phone message left for Roberts was not immediately returned.

FCC: No punishment for late-night host Colbert's Trump joke

There will be no fine for Stephen Colbert's risque joke about President Donald Trump.

A Federal Communications Commission spokesman said Tuesday that the agency received "thousands" of complaints about the late-night host's May 1 show, so it reviewed the material as "standard operating procedure." It's the FCC's job to police obscene or indecent material on TV when it receives complaints.

The agency found that the joke, which involved Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a crude word for penis, did not warrant punishment.

Colbert's politically-tinged "Late Show," rife with Trump jokes, has become the most popular of the late-night circuit.

Ariana Grande fans tremble as they recall Manchester attack

Rihanna Hardy had been excited about seeing Ariana Grande ever since she got her concert ticket as a Christmas gift. So when the day came, the 11-year-old left school a couple of hours early to make sure to get to Manchester Arena on time.

Her parents, Ryan and Shauna, took the afternoon off work, and the family drove the 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Newcastle to Manchester. They struggled to find the arena's multistory parking lot, and barely managed to buy Rihanna a black Ariana Grande tour sweatshirt before the concert started.

But what was supposed to be a special night for Rihanna and thousands of other young concertgoers turned into a tragedy when a suicide bomb blasted off just outside the cavernous hall. It killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl, and injured 59 — the deadliest attack in Britain in more than a decade.

"Poor Rihanna ... just kept asking every five or 10 seconds, 'Are we going to die?' Those were her exact words," her father said.

The family took their seats, close to the stage, just before the first of two supporting acts warmed up the crowd. The arena, which seats 21,000, was packed. Many clutched pink balloons and donned cat ears, like those the 23-year-old Grande is famous for wearing.

As the former star of the Nickelodeon series "Victorious" sang and danced her way through her set, the arena heated up. Young children and their parents glistened with sweat.

Then, as the concert ended, the horror began.

Just a few minutes after Grande finished her final song, "Dangerous Woman," blew a kiss to the audience and left the stage, the house lights came back on. People began filing toward the exits.

It was then that a suspect identified as 22-year-old Salman Abedi set off his suicide bomb in the foyer, near a road linking the venue to the city's railway station. Witnesses described seeing bolts and other bits of metal at the scene of the blast.

The boom echoed through Manchester Arena, shaking the floor with a hollow thud. Thousands of Ariana Grande fans — many of them youngsters accompanied by their parents — fell silent for a few seconds, in shock. Then the screaming started.

"I thought we were going to die. It was just horrendous," said Rihanna's mother.

Panic descended on the hall.

"It was just sheer chaos," said Kirstyn Pollard, who had a seat close to the stage. "People were trying to get off the balconies. It was awful."

Melissa Andre and two friends clambered over a security barrier in their rush to get out. It was already dented from other concertgoers fleeing the arena, as officials tried frantically to restore order.

"A security official was on stage saying 'Be calm, everything's fine,'" said Andre, 20. "I think they were just saying that to calm people down before they got out. And then when we got out, the alarm went off."

Police were called in at 10:33 p.m. As they arrived, a smell hung in the air — a bit like smoke, a bit like burning, nothing the Hardys had ever smelled before.

"I can't describe it. It was a really awful smell," Shauna Hardy said. "And there was just alarms going off, police everywhere. Sirens everywhere. People running, screaming. It was just crazy. Absolutely crazy."

Ryan Hardy desperately tried to slow down his wife and daughter as they left the arena, worried they might fall in the crush of people fleeing the carnage. They emerged from the stifling heat of the concert hall into the cool night.

"Everyone else was running out the entrance while he was walking out the entrance," Rihanna — still wearing her Ariana Grande sweatshirt — said Tuesday, looking up proudly at her dad.

Police and paramedics rushed to aid the wounded, wrapping some in foil blankets to keep them warm and ward off shock. Others hobbled off into the night, their clothes torn and stained by blood.

Charlotte Fairclough, 14, was part of the rush to flee.

"Everyone was like scrambling over each other," she said. "Quite a few people got knocked over. It was like just a race to get out."

When Charlotte got out, she immediately called her mom, Stacy, who was waiting to pick up her daughter and a friend. The she called again to say she'd heard a big bang.

Her mother, at the time, wasn't too worried.

"I'd heard fireworks earlier in the night, so I wasn't too concerned to start with," she said.

The full scale of the attack did not hit home until they turned on the news at a hotel.

The Hardy family escaped unscathed, but the shock of the night endured even as they tried to sleep it off. When a door slammed loudly at half past five in the morning, Rihanna got frightened.

"There are a lot of people killed, a lot of people injured, a lot of people missing," Shauna Hardy said. "And we just feel so so lucky that we are all together."

____

Associated Press writer Rob Harris in Manchester contributed.

Hemingway house changes hands, still off limits to public

Ownership of the Idaho house where Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his last works before killing himself in the main entryway in 1961 has changed hands but will stay off limits to the public.

The Nature Conservancy transferred the two-story, 2,500-square-foot house in the Idaho resort town of Ketchum earlier this month as a gift to the Community Library, a privately funded public library.

Library officials say an apartment in the house will be renovated for a residency program for visiting writers, scholars and artists starting next year.

"What having the Hemingway house does for the Community Library is situate our Idaho community in this global network," executive director Jenny Emery Davidson said Tuesday.

Hemingway aficionados frequently take to what's called the Hemingway trail, which includes stops tied to the globe-trotting author's many adventures. The area in Idaho is packed with such areas, including Hemingway's grave in the Ketchum cemetery.

The house has many of the author's personal possessions, and some will be put on display at the Sun Valley Museum of History, Davidson said. They include a bull's tail given to Hemingway following a bullfight in Spain, correspondence with locals Hemingway befriended and hunting paraphernalia, she said.

Hemingway owned the house from April 1959 until his suicide in July 1961 at age 61, when he feared that he had lost his ability to write to his standards, biographers say. The author worked on "A Moveable Feast" and "The Dangerous Summer" at the house, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

The author's wife, Mary Hemingway, who died in 1986, gave the house to the Nature Conservancy but with restrictions that precluded operating it as a public museum. The group used the house as a field office before outgrowing it.

Owning the house has never been a good fit for the conservation organization dedicated to preserving the kind of wild places that drew Hemingway to Idaho. That made it difficult for the group to justify the annual upkeep on the house built in 1953 above a tree-lined river with views of snow-topped mountains.

The 13.9 acres (5.6 hectares) included with the house are worth millions, but the house is small and outdated compared with the mega-mansions common in the area.

The Community Library has a base of wealthy locals to draw from to help pay for what it estimates is $1.5 million in annual expenses for upkeep and its plans for the house.

The Carr Foundation supplied the initial money to make the transfer of the Hemingway home feasible. Davidson declined to say how much philanthropist Gregory Carr, who was born in Idaho and owns a home in the Ketchum area, donated.

"People are interested in Hemingway, but the people who have stepped up so far are people who care about Idaho," Davidson said.

She also said the home is a perfect fit for the library, which has a regional history division and is keen to promote the area's literary icon. She said it's even possible new insights could be discovered.

"We have not told the story of Hemingway and the American West as we could," she said.

The home will not be opened to the public like Hemingway's other homes in Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, but there will be some access, Davidson said.

"We plan to treat it as a home," she said. "Sometimes people invite small groups of people to their home."

The Nature Conservancy didn't respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

With an arched brow, Roger Moore found humor in Bond, life

Sir Roger Moore always made sure to laugh at himself before the audience could.

With a mere arch of an eyebrow, Moore, whose wit was drier than James Bond's martinis, could convey a skepticism of his accidental profession, disarming good looks and the suave characters he often played, from Bond to Simon Templar, all while saving the day and charming a scantily clad girl in the process.

Sporting a posh accent and square jaw, Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, looked the part of a movie star and a debonair international spy. But beneath the surface, the policeman's son from South London, a sickly child and plump kid who always chose a joke over a street fight, saw the inherent ridiculousness of 007 — and left an indelible mark on the role, and a generation, because of it.

"You can't be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is," Moore often said. "That's just hysterically funny."

A large part of his charm is that Moore never set out to be an actor. As a teenager, on a lark, he tagged along with some friends doing crowd work on the Vivien Leigh and Claude Raines film "Caesar and Cleopatra" and caught the eye of someone who thought he should meet the director,

"He said I think you should be trained. I said, 'Oh how wonderful,'" Moore recalled in an interview. "So I rushed home and told my mother I was going to be Stewart Granger."

Stardom did not come immediately, however. Moore toiled as a working actor, in television and films in the UK, and then in the U.S. as a studio contract player for MGM before breaking through in a few television roles, in "Maverick" and then "The Saint." The long-running show "The Saint" about the witty and charming romantic hero Simon Templar, many noted, was not unlike Moore himself — and would inform how he chose to play James Bond over the course of seven films, starting with "Live and Let Die" from 1973 and ending with "A View to a Kill" in 1985.

For many, "The Spy Who Loved Me," from 1977, is one of the greatest Bond films, and certainly the best for Moore — even though praise at the time was almost backhanded.

"Roger Moore is so enjoyably unflappable that you sometimes have to look closely to make sure he's still breathing," wrote critic Janet Maslin in the New York Times. "But his exaggerated composure amounts to a kind of backhanded liveliness. Though Mr. Moore doesn't compromise the character, he makes it amusingly clear that hedonism isn't all it's cracked up to be."

Moore knew his own shortcomings, and would joke about them readily. He liked to say that the difference between The Saint and James Bond was in the eyebrow.

"In 'The Saint' I did raise my eyebrow," Moore would say. "I don't think I ever raised my eyebrow in Bond ... except possibly when a bomb went off."

He spent a lot of his time talking about those eyebrows that some critics tried to lance him for, drolly explaining that he had only three emotions — one eyebrow raised, the other, or both.

"A lot of the time, I laugh at myself as a defense mechanism," Moore said, always aware that his "even features" were both an asset to stardom and an impediment to being considered a serious actor. There might have been some truth there. Though well-known, Moore never rose to prestige roles. Even in his most well-known part, as Bond, he was doomed to always be compared to his predecessor Sean Connery.

Moore accepted this fate with good humor, insisting throughout his life that Connery's Bond, more macho and a killer, is the definitive and best interpretation.

In fact, most of his accolades, including his knighthood, came from his work off-screen humanitarian with UNICEF, which he found through his friend Audrey Hepburn.

"He does not regard everything as a laugh, but he would die rather than let you see," said his friend Michael Caine.

But he carried on the act, like a good soldier, throughout his life. Even recently, when asked what audiences can expect from his well-reviewed one-man stage show, Moore hesitated only to laugh.

"Two hours good sleep," he said.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Hannity backs off story about murdered DNC staffer

Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity said Tuesday he's backing off his speculation about the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich after talking with Rich's family, which had appealed to the media to stop.

The decision took Hannity off a potential collision course with his network, which earlier Tuesday had removed a week-old story about the case from its website because "it was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting."

The report quoted a private investigator suggesting that Rich had some connection to WikiLeaks and its leaks of Democratic National Committee emails during the last campaign.

Rich's family has said they don't believe their son, who was shot in July 2016 in Washington, gave any information to WikiLeaks. The investigator has since recanted his claim, and the independent researcher Politifact.com has said the notion that Rich was involved in the leak was flimsy and illogical. No arrests have been made in the shooting. Washington police have said they think Rich was killed in a random robbery attempt.

Hannity, Fox's biggest star and a leading conservative radio talk show host, has said he doesn't believe the robbery theory. Some Trump supporters have been pushing a supposed WikiLeaks connection to counter stories about Russian involvement in the last election.

Hannity said Tuesday that he had corresponded with Rich's brother and that "out of respect for the family's wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time."

"My heart, my soul, my prayers, everything goes out to them in this very difficult time," he said.

He then pivoted to talking about the "destroy Trump" media that he says is continuing to talk about the Russian story without any evidence of collusion in the last election.

Hannity sent mixed signals about whether he was actually through with the Rich story, both on his show and in a later tweet.

"To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth," he said. He added that, "at the proper time, we shall continue and talk a lot more."

He said "liberal fascists" were trying to urge his advertisers to leave the show. Fleeing advertisers played a role in last month's drama over Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who was fired by the network following reports of settlements paid to women to keep quiet about allegations of harassment.

"I serve at the pleasure of Fox News Channel and I am here to do my job every night," he said, adding "as long as they seem to want me."

Hannity is the last remaining star of a prime-time lineup that only a year ago also included O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren. Kelly and Van Susteren now both work for NBC News. Hannity was close to former Fox co-president Bill Shine, and publicly defended Shine after questions were raised about how much Shine knew of alleged harassment by O'Reilly and the late Fox chairman, Roger Ailes. But Shine left the network shortly thereafter.

Although Fox removed the Rich story from its website, its statement did not say the story was wrong. The network said it will continue to investigate the story and provide updates as warranted.

The network had no other comment beyond the published statement on Tuesday.

7 Tax Tips for New College Grads

Graduating from college brings huge life changes — many of which have big effects at tax time. Here are a few ways you can save a little money — or even snag a refund — come filing time.

1. Take interest in interest

Student loan payments are a fact of life for many new graduates. But up to $2,500 of the interest portion of those payments can be tax-deductible if your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, is below $80,000 for singles ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). And you can still qualify for the tax break if the loan’s in your name but your parents make the payments — though if you want the deduction, they can’t claim an exemption for you on their tax return.

2. Get a move on

You can’t deduct job-search expenses if you’re looking for full-time work for the first time or in a new career field, but moving to a new city for that first job can come with major tax breaks.

The cost of movers, utility hookups, storage, and even hotel stays during your drive to the new city can all be deductible. Be sure to check the rules, though — they’re detailed. Your first 9-to-5 must be at least 50 miles from your old home, for example, and only expenses racked up within a year of your start date count. Moving expenses your employer pays might not count, either.

3. Let your boss help

“One of the biggest and most frustrating things that we see is people not taking advantage of their benefits offered through their workplace,” says Alex Hopkin, an associate planner at Gen Y Planning, a financial planning firm for millennials.

Contributing to a company 401(k) can shelter up to $18,000 per year from income taxes — and you’ll get a jump start on retirement saving, plus free money if your company offers a match. If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, contributions to a health savings account could shelter another $3,400 per year if you’re single and $6,750 if you have family coverage. And putting money into a flexible spending account could keep another $2,600 out of your taxable income. Be sure not to procrastinate, Hopkin says — you might be able to sign up for your company 401(k) at any time, but enrollment for HSAs and FSAs usually happens just once a year.

4. Don’t sideline that side gig

New grads planning to freelance or be their own bosses can claim huge deductions for business expenses. That means keeping careful records and filing a Schedule C. And be sure to set aside about 25% of what you earn for the IRS, Hopkin advises.

“In your workplace, chances are you’re having the taxes withheld. But for any sort of side gig, you’re responsible for those taxes,” she says.

5. Keep learning

A degree can take you a long way, but many people need extra certifications or classroom training to move up in their career field. That’s when the Lifetime Learning Credit can come into play.

If your MAGI is below $65,000 as a single filer or below $131,000 as a married person filing jointly, you could claim a tax credit of up to $2,000 per year for post-secondary work at eligible educational institutions. You don’t need to be in a degree program — a single class can suffice.

6. Save yourself

Start stashing cash for retirement now, and that money could balloon over time. Saving can also cut your tax bill. For example, you might be able to deduct up to $5,500 of contributions to a traditional IRA each year.

And if you’re single and have an adjusted gross income, or AGI, of less than $31,000 (or $62,000 if married and filing jointly), you might qualify for the Saver’s Credit. That can slash your tax bill by up to 50% of the first $2,000 (for single filers) or $4,000 (married filing jointly) you contribute to an eligible retirement plan.

7. Be a tax deal-seeker

Chances are your tax situation is as uncomplicated as it’ll ever be, so don’t overpay for tax software or help. Most major tax software companies offer free packages to people with simple tax situations, and the IRS’s Free File program provides free tax software to people who make less than a specific AGI (currently $64,000). If you need human help, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or other programs could hook you up with a pro at little or no cost.

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

Boston museum doubles reward for stolen artwork to $10M

A Boston museum has doubled its reward to $10 million for information that leads to the return of 13 works of art stolen more than two decades ago in the largest art heist in U.S. history.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's board of trustees announced the increase Tuesday.

"It is our fervent hope that by increasing the reward, our resolve is clear that we want the safe return of the works to their rightful place and back in public view," said Steve Kidder, president of the museum's board.

Two men dressed in Boston police uniforms gained entrance to the museum on March 18, 1990, by telling the security guard at the watch desk that they were responding to a report of a disturbance, according to authorities.

The guard did not follow museum policy and allowed the men into the museum. The thieves handcuffed the museum's two guards on duty and put them in separate areas of the museum's basement.

The suspects robbed the museum of about $500 million worth of masterpieces that included works by Rembrandt, Manet and Vermeer. The FBI told The Associated Press in 2015 that two suspects are deceased.

"Typically stolen masterpieces are either recovered soon after a theft or a generation later," said Anthony Amore, the museum's security director. "We remain optimistic that these works will ultimately be recovered."

In 1997, the museum increased its reward from $1 million to $5 million. The new $10 million reward is available immediately but expires at midnight Dec. 31.

Amore said anyone with information should contact the museum directly. The museum guarantees complete confidentiality, he said.

Former Pitt star Aaron Donald misses start of Rams OTAs with reported contract negotiations

Former Pitt defensive tackle left the Panthers only a few years ago and is one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Now entering his fourth year in the league, it sounds as if he is (understandably, I might add) hoping for a big payday.

The Rams' OTAs (offseason organized training activities) began this week but Donald was noticeably absent. A report seemingly suggests he could be staying away to avoid an injury before a new deal can be reached. His agent, reportedly, did not deny that.

None of this is really all that out of the ordinary. While it might be ideal to have Donald there, it's not a big deal that he isn't. And there wasn't any indication that a deal wouldn't get done so having Donald for training camp in the fall still seems likely.

It's beyond obvious at this point but Donald deserves to be paid like one of the top defenders in the league. In three years at tackle, he's amassed 28 sacks and four forced fumbles to go along with 163 tackles.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Broadway's box office coffers soars but attendance retreats

On Broadway, there's great financial news to sing about but a sour note amid the flush times: Box offices are enjoying the highest grossing season in history but attendance has dipped after four consecutive seasons of gains.

The Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry, said Tuesday that box offices reported a record total gross of $1.45 billion for the season that began May 23, 2016, and ended Sunday— up 5.5 percent from the $1.37 billion earned the previous season.

The trade association for theater owners, operators and producers said attendance was up to 13.27 million ticket buyers, down 0.4 percent from the 13.32 million the season before and despite more offerings.

The new numbers come during a season that saw a new theater — the Hudson Theatre — joining the 40 existing ones. It also saw the average ticket price soar from $97.33 last season to $113.85 this time.

A total of 45 shows opened during the season. There were 20 new musicals, 20 plays and five special events. Last season saw 39 shows open.

It was an unpredictable season, heavy on revivals and not always kind to visiting Hollywood celebs. Sally Field returned in a stripped-down production of "The Glass Menagerie" and got a Tony nomination but reviews were poor and it struggled to earn more than half its weekly potential, closing early.

Cate Blanchett, an Oscar-winner making her Broadway debut in Anton Chekhov's "The Present" and earning a Tony nomination in the process, didn't sell out her theater each week — not by a long shot. Nor has Glenn Close, in a widely praised revival of "Sunset Boulevard."

Diane Lane, in a revival of "The Cherry Orchard," often saw her show's weekly take dip below 50 percent of its potential. And interest in the Liev Schreiber-led "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" seemed to plummet as the run went on.

Bette Midler, naturally, has packed audiences into the Shubert Theatre to see her in "Holly, Dolly!" and Jake Gyllenhaal earned praise and box office clout in his sold-out revival of "Sunday in the Park With George." Josh Groban helped make "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" a hit but it remains to be seen what happens to the show when he leaves in July.

One clear winner this season was "Dear Evan Hansen," a musical which centers on a profoundly lonely 17-year-old who fabricates a prior friendship with a classmate who has just committed suicide. The acclaimed musical has songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (recent Oscar winners for "City of Stars" from the movie "La La Land").

New plays, overall, have had a hard time this season, with "Sweat," ''A Doll's House, Part 2" and "Indecent" all struggling, although "Oslo" and "The Play That Goes Wrong" have done relatively well. "Significant Others," a drama with no stars, turned in one of the most underwhelming box office performances in years, at one point earning just 17 percent of its potential weekly earning.

Revivals of plays like "The Little Foxes," ''Six Degrees of Separation" and the Kevin Kline-led "Present Laughter" have done OK, while "Heisenberg" was a rare bright spot for plays in the fall and the celebrity-heavy revival of "The Front Page" was a financial smash.

Some new musicals — including "Bandstand," ''War Paint" and "Groundhog Day" — are fighting financial headwinds and "Amelie," led by "Hamilton" alum Phillipa Soo closed early. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has shrugged off mixed reviews to become a hit.

Some recent favorites like "Beautiful" and "Kinky Boots" have been chugging away but new revivals of two big, bombastic shows in "Miss Saigon" and "Cats" are doing only modestly well.

There were some nice surprises. The coming-of-age musical made from the film "A Bronx Tale" was an unlikely hit, attracting theater-goers who had previously made the now-closed "Jersey Boys" a destination. "Come From Away," the rare musical born in Canada and one dealing with 9/11, got a boost when Canadian premier Justin Trudeau came to cheer it on. "Anastasia," with no real stars, was packing them in.

"Waitress," the quirky and lovely musical whose arrival was somewhat overshadowed by "Hamilton" last season, proves to be resilient and popular, especially when songwriter Sarah Bareilles stepped into the heroine role herself and broke several box office records. "School of Rock," which also arrived last season, was doing fine in its second season.

___

Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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