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1

Money Debt-laden 'zombie' firms threaten China's economy

Analysts say it is a positive sign that the government is allowing some firms to default. Related: The Chinese like capitalism more than Americans As China's economy slows, companies are seeing a lower rate of return on their investments, according to analysts at JPMorgan. After expanding at a lightning-fast rate, China's corporate debt market is now the world's largest at $14.2 trillion, according to Standard and Poor's.

After expanding at a lightning-fast rate, China's corporate debt market is now the world's largest at $14.2 trillion, according to Standard and Poor's.

Experts worry that too many of the loans have gone to underperforming firms that will never be able to repay -- especially in a slowing economy.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney often cite concerns over runaway credit growth, but many now single out corporate debt as a major threat to China's economy.

"The risk is that the high debt burden will eventually result in unproductive zombie banks and zombie firms, which are a drag on the economy," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

Related: The Chinese like capitalism more than Americans

As China's economy slows, companies are seeing a lower rate of return on their investments, according to analysts at JPMorgan. Firms also face higher interest rates -- making it harder to pay what they owe.

Already, the system is showing stress. China suffered its first corporate default earlier this year, when a solar firm failed to make a payment to bondholders. A few other small companies have followed suit.

So far, central government initiatives to restrain credit growth have largely flopped, especially since many firms have in the past been encouraged to spend their way out of a hole.

Chinese companies are even turning to unconventional financing options -- increasing their debt in the process.

Some firms, for example, have been using copper as collateral to secure loans. Experts are concerned that some companies are using the same copper stockpiles to take out multiple loans, borrowing far more than they can afford.

Related: $547,000 for a parking space in Hong Kong

For Beijing, the question is how to contain debt growth, without hurting the economy.

Analysts say it is a positive sign that the government is allowing some firms to default. The defaults show the government's commitment to reforms that will encourage consumption-driven growth, instead of expansion fueled by easy credit.

At the same time, the central government still wields enormous power over the economy -- a fact that will help Beijing limit damage to the financial system.

"China is somewhat of a unique case given the degree of state control over the system, and so we don't think a financial crisis is likely," Evans-Pritchard said.

CNN
Today
19 Points
1

Marshall calls Bears' 3-4 record 'unacceptable'

"We got a great, great group of guys and this is unacceptable. What did we put up? Fourteen points. Was it 14 points? That's unacceptable. That's unacceptable."Whether or not Marshall omitted Cutler purposefully or was so fueled with emotion that he skipped over him is probably worthy of debate."The Chicago Bears should not be 3-4 right now," Marshall said. "My confidence is there. Alshon Jeffery's confidence is there. Martellus Bennett's confidence is there, you know."What about Cutler.

It doesn't look like that schedule backloaded with home games is going to do the Bears much good.

Not this season.

The problem isn't just that the Bears lost 27-14 on Sunday to the Dolphins at Soldier Field. The issue is they were totally outclassed by a team that has been spinning its wheels, led by a coach, Joe Philbin, who has been on the hot seat long enough he receives mail there.

At 3-4, the Bears are two games behind both the Packers and Lions, and with an 0-3 record at Soldier Field, they join the lowly Raiders and Buccaneers as the only teams without a victory at home. That is some miserable company, the kind you find when you lose at home to Ryan Tannehill and the since-benched EJ Manuel.

Brandon Marshall called 3-4 "unacceptable" 17 times in responding to questions for 3 minutes, 40 seconds at his locker. If that is unacceptable, how is 3-6 going to feel after trips to New England and Green Bay? While the team may be better away from home, that is the direction this is headed.

Raw emotions in the form of yelling spilled over in the locker room afterward. It very much sounded like Marshall yelling, "When you play with heart, it's supposed to hurt! You just kick the ball.''

Asked if he yelled at kicker Robbie Gould, Marshall replied, "Doesn't ... what are you talking about?

"Were you in here? Were you in this locker room? That's a team matter. This has nothing to do with you. There are a lot of guys this means a lot to. We're 3-4. We need to play better. That's unacceptable. That's unacceptable. Unacceptable. Shouldn't have lost today. Shouldn't be 3-4. Offense gotta play better. It's as simple as that."

Twice Marshall listed offensive players without including Jay Cutler as he vented about scoring just two touchdowns.

"We got Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, we got a stud offensive line," Marshall said. "We got a great, great group of guys and this is unacceptable. What did we put up? Fourteen points. Was it 14 points? That's unacceptable. That's unacceptable."

Whether or not Marshall omitted Cutler purposefully or was so fueled with emotion that he skipped over him is probably worthy of debate.

"The Chicago Bears should not be 3-4 right now," Marshall said. "Absolutely unacceptable. And it starts on the offensive side of the ball."

Asked if the confidence still was there for an offense that averaged 27.8 points per game last season, Marshall again left out the quarterback.

"I don't know," he replied. "My confidence is there. Alshon Jeffery's confidence is there. Martellus Bennett's confidence is there, you know."

What about Cutler?

"Yeah, Jay is a gunslinger," Marshall said. "Jay is our guy. Jay is our leader."

Turnover-prone Cutler returned with a particularly bad interception and a sack/strip by Cameron Wake that turned into 10 points. Forte inexplicably had just two carries in the first half when the Dolphins surged to a 14-0 lead that led fans to boo the Bears on their way to the locker room.

There was no answer for the zone read option with Tannehill gaining 30 yards on a fourth-and-1 keeper. But it's time to make copies of that bull's-eye defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been wearing. Those should be distributed widely. Tucker would be only a scapegoat at this point, and the reality is the pass rush is the only thing that kept the game within two touchdowns in the first half.

Ever since the schedule was released in May, the idea was the Bears would be able to get on a roll in the second half when five of their final seven games are at home. Hand them a rope ladder. Barring something dramatic, like a sustained roll, they'll be searching for a way to climb out of the cavern they have created.

This would be easier to explain away if the defense had been steamrolled or special teams had been a disaster. The Bears' problems are multiple, and the offense continues to underperform for an offensive coach in Marc Trestman who was hired because he was the man who would mesh with Cutler. Marshall called this the "tightest" locker room he's been part of in a nine-year career in which he's yet to reach the playoffs.

Instead of hitting stride with an off week sandwiched between road games against Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, quarterbacks who don't face this kind of turmoil with nearly as much regularity as Cutler, the Bears are left searching for answers, explanations for a team that once again is firmly entrenched in mediocrity.

"We just have to come back and win and more importantly stay together," defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said.

Both might be a challenge.

[email protected]

Twitter @BradBiggs

Chicago Tribune
Today
19 Points
1

Sports Can CU Buffs be resilient after blowout loss at Southern California?

Since CU joined the Pac-12 before the 2011 season, UCLA has won all three meetings . The BruinsUCLA at Colorado, noon Saturday, Pac-12 NetworkFor the record: UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a 36-34 victory at California, with the favored Bruins needing an interception by cornerback Marcus Rio at the UCLA 2-yard line with 51 seconds remaining. CU defenders bit or froze for an instant on Kessler's play-action fakes. He ran for 94 yards and another score.Who's not: Ball security.

Erase the game film.

That became the sentiment of Colorado players Saturday night after a 56-28 loss at then No. 22 Southern California as the Buffaloes headed toward the buses for a ride to the airport.

Colorado (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12) trailed 28-0 in the first quarter. USC junior quarterback Cody Kessler played only three quarters, but that allowed him more than enough time to establish a Trojans single-game record with seven touchdown passes.

"I don't think there is much to take away from this game," CU junior receiver Nelson Spruce said. "We just need to wash it from our memory."

In narrow losses to California and Oregon State, the Buffs had appeared to make some headway in their quest to become relevant in Pac-12 football.

But the City of Angels was not kind to the visitors from Boulder. Colorado was outgained 532 yards to 403. The game was even less competitive than the final score suggested. USC led 42-7 early in the third quarter.

"We're going back to the drawing board and put this game in the past," CU senior running back Tony Jones said. "We have to forget about this and move on."

There were disappointing signs of a young Buffs defense that was thoroughly outmatched. CU defenders bit or froze for an instant on Kessler's play-action fakes. And Colorado's secondary got mixed up on several occasions when USC bunched receivers to one side.

The stack is a favorite formation of the Trojans and Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said the defense practiced for it all week.

Also, there were far too many mental errors, especially for a midseason game. MacIntyre pointed out that the roughing-the-punter call in the second quarter against Buffs defensive back Marques Mosley came on a call where CU was supposed to block for a return rather than try to block the punt.

"We've got to do a better job of coaching, and our players have to do a better job of listening," MacIntyre said.

It doesn't get any easier for the Buffs. The remaining games on CU's schedule begin with the homecoming game Saturday against UCLA and follow with a home game against Washington, trips to Arizona and Oregon, and the season finale against Utah in Boulder.

UCLA (5-2, 2-2) is labeled nationally as a major disappointment, having been considered a top-10 team and a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 title. The Bruins always seem to be in fine form against Colorado, however. Since CU joined the Pac-12 before the 2011 season, UCLA has won all three meetings ? outscoring the Buffs 132-43.

Colorado fans will be watching to see if the Buffs can be resilient or if Saturday's disaster was the first sign of a regression.

"In a sense, this is (a step back)," CU sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau acknowledged. "We had done a good job this season of being consistent. But we just shot ourselves in the foot in this game. We just have to learn from this."

Tom Kensler: [email protected] or twitter.com/tomkensler

Eye on... The Bruins

UCLA at Colorado, noon Saturday, Pac-12 Network

For the record: UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a 36-34 victory at California, with the favored Bruins needing an interception by cornerback Marcus Rio at the UCLA 2-yard line with 51 seconds remaining. UCLA was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12's South Division but sits in fifth place, ahead of Colorado (2-5, 0-4).

Streaking: UCLA hadn't defeated California in Berkeley since 1998, although the Bruins were the favorite most years.

Who's hot: Bruins junior QB Brett Hundley, injured earlier in the season, threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns against California. He ran for 94 yards and another score.

Who's not: Ball security. Hundley threw an interception and lost a fumble in Berkeley, and running back Paul Perkins also fumbled. Those three turnovers led to 21 points for California.

Key stat: UCLA rushed for 237 yards and limited California runners to a net 56 yards on 31 carries.

FYI: UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who's regarded among the nation's best in that position, grew up in Raton, N.M., just across the Colorado border along Interstate 25. Mazzone played quarterback at New Mexico.

The Denver Post
Today
13 Points

The 10 semifinalists for World's Funniest Person

Leonardi has appeared in comedy clubs throughout South Africa, given talks on comedy to Mensa members and taught comedy at St. The following year he won the top award at Madrid's FIC comedy festival and recently toured Spain with his "Gay's Anatomy" comedy show. Mirani bills himself as "Dubai's much-loved comedic genius." He has performed his Komic Sutra comedy show in India, the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Maldives and several Middle Eastern countries.

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The 10 semifinalists in the World's Funniest Person competition are:

? Mustapha El Atrassi, France. Born in France to a Moroccan family, El Atrassi began doing stand-up as a teenager. He appeared in a one-man show in Paris at age 16 and two years later had his own sitcom in Morocco. Since 2008, he's hosted a morning radio show in France.

? Ishmo Leikola, Finland. He does stand-up in both English and Finnish, appearing at clubs throughout Europe. He won his country's stand-up rookie of the year award in 2003 and has been honored five times as the favorite performer at Tomatoes! Tomatoes!, the Nordic countries' largest comedy festival.

? Vittorrio Leonardi, South Africa. Leonardi has appeared in comedy clubs throughout South Africa, given talks on comedy to Mensa members and taught comedy at St. Mary's Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria. He's also the resident emcee at several South African comedy clubs.

? Saad Haroon, Pakistan. A founding member of the Pakistani improv group Blackfish and other comedy troupes, Saad also created the English-language Pakistani show "The Real News," a mix of political and social satire. He's performed on comedy tours in several countries, including the United States.

? Nitin Mirani, United Arab Emirates. Mirani bills himself as "Dubai's much-loved comedic genius." He has performed his Komic Sutra comedy show in India, the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Maldives and several Middle Eastern countries. The publication DNA India called his show, "A laugh riot!"

? Archie Bezos, Spain. Bezos has been described as a Spanish pioneer among openly gay comedians. He made his TV debut in 2012 with an appearance on a Comedy Central show featuring upcoming comedians. The following year he won the top award at Madrid's FIC comedy festival and recently toured Spain with his "Gay's Anatomy" comedy show.

? Vivek Mahbubani, an ethnic Indian comic representing his native China. Mahbubani, who performs in English and Cantonese, was honored as Hong Kong's funniest Chinese comedian in 2007 and its funniest English-language comedian in 2008.

? Tiffany Haddish, USA. Raised in foster homes in Los Angeles, Haddish says her social worker steered her toward a comedy camp for children after hearing her stories about her imaginary friends. She's appeared on "Def Comedy Jam," Comedy Central's "Reality Bites" and recently took part in a USO Comedy Tour in Japan.

? Waddah Swar, Saudi Arabia. Originally from Bahrain, Swar has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the pioneers of Middle Eastern comedy. He won the "Funniest in the Arab World" competition at the Kit Kat Comedy Break Show in Dubai in 2013.

? Lioz Shem Tov, Israel. A visual comedian, Tov frequently uses a range of props to work comically bad magic tricks into his act, which he can perform in either Hebrew or English. He made it to the semifinal round of the NBC series "Last Comic Standing" in 2008.

The Denver Post
Today
13 Points
1

Kyle Fuller hurts hip but Bears don't confirm broken hand report

But he came up in pain after the play and left the field.The Bears announced that Fuller suffered a hip injury and the rookie did not play again. Fuller fought off a block by receiver Mike Wallace on the play and attempted to avoid tight end Charles Clay as he maneuvered to make a tackle.

The injury wave that has been jostling the Bears’ defense through the season’s first two months claimed rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller on Sunday.

Fuller left the Bears’ 27-14 loss to the Dolphins midway through the third quarter, exiting after a 12-yard reception by running back Lamar Miller. Fuller fought off a block by receiver Mike Wallace on the play and attempted to avoid tight end Charles Clay as he maneuvered to make a tackle. But he came up in pain after the play and left the field.

The Bears announced that Fuller suffered a hip injury and the rookie did not play again. But a CBSSports.com report Sunday night indicated that Fuller also broke his hand during the loss.

The Bears did not confirm nor deny that report but emphasized that Fuller did not return to Sunday’s game because of his hip injury.

Fuller had been slow returning to the field after halftime and had his right hand wrapped, though it’s hard to pinpoint when that hand injury may have occurred.

A timetable for Fuller’s return from either setback is not yet known. But if he is out for any extended period of time, that will be a big blow to a secondary that lost cornerback Charles Tillman for the season in Week 2.

Fuller, meanwhile, was the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for September and he entered Sunday’s game with a team-high three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Chicago Tribune
Today
17 Points

Travel Ask Amy: Dating couple ponder part-time parenting (10/20)

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3½ years. We plan on going for half custody in the near future.The problem right now is that she cries for her mom when my boyfriend picks her up on Fridays and sometimes she'll cry all night. His daughter is now 7, but the child's mother is controlling and wouldn't let my boyfriend see his daughter alone.For any family events, she would show up for a few hours and then leave with their daughter.

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3½ years. When he was 20, his casual girlfriend became pregnant and had a baby. His daughter is now 7, but the

child's mother is controlling and wouldn't let my boyfriend see his daughter alone.

For any family events, she would show up for a few hours and then leave with their daughter. Two years ago (after spending thousands in court fees) my boyfriend was finally able to take his daughter every other weekend without the mother.

Obviously, things were difficult at the start but she has adjusted well. We plan on going for half custody in the near future.

The problem right now is that she cries for her mom when my boyfriend picks her up on Fridays and sometimes she'll cry all night. For the next two days she seems fine.

We used to let her call her mom but stopped that when the phone calls became 20 minutes long. We've sympathized with her, comforted her and tried to distract her, but nothing seems to work. We don't know what to do. I know she is exhausted with the new school year starting, so we try to put her to bed early, but do you have any advice on what to do to help her get through this? ? Puzzled and Frustrated

Dear Puzzled: My heart aches for this girl. If her mother is overprotective and controlling, as you claim, and the child is very attached to her, can you imagine what this is like for her? Even the most well-adjusted child would have a hard time switching homes under a court order to spend weekends with a parent ? and partner ? she is still getting to know. She is 7 years old!

She should be allowed to call her mother on Fridays when she is with you if she asks to. She should talk to her mother for as long as she needs to, within reason ? 20 minutes is very reasonable. Mom needs to support (not undermine) your efforts for her to adjust to your household.

Develop rituals she can look forward to: "Tomorrow morning we need your help making pancakes." If you are pet people, she might enjoy having a cat in the household she can talk to, take care of and pet when she is feeling lonely.

Your boyfriend (and you) should attend parenting classes. You should also seek professional mediation with the child's mother in order to work out visitation terms and reasonable contact when she is with you.

Please ? try to see the world through this child's eyes. Be very gentle, comforting, sympathetic and understanding.

Dear Amy: Whenever we entertain, our guests bring a bottle for my husband ? a wine he likes, or a favorite Scotch ? and nothing for me.

I don't drink, a fact that everyone knows.

This hurts; it suggests that they believe him to be the default "host," while my contributions are negligible.

I would love to get a hostess gift, or at least something we both can enjoy. Is there any way I can make this happen without being petulant about it? ? Silently Steamed

Dear Steamed: You cannot make guests bring different gifts ? because, like your meals, these gifts are offerings and should be received with gratitude, even if you are allergic or a teetotaler.

If your husband knows you feel this way, it would be very kind of him to give you a little gift on the day of a dinner party. I assume you would appreciate flowers, chocolates or nice candles, along with his acknowledgment of the hard work of co-hosting.

Dear Amy: I'd like to add to the chorus of people taking you to task for your response to "Very Disappointed," the grandmother whose 17-year-old granddaughter had a tantrum in her grandfather's hospital room after he asked her about her grades.

For all you know, these grandparents always put pressure on this girl. I bet they are very hard to please. ? Disappointed in You

Dear Disappointed: I do think the well-being of a very ill 87-year-old should take (temporary) precedence over the feelings of a 17-year-old, and the teen would benefit from a different perspective.

Send questions via e-mail to [email protected] or write to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

The Denver Post
Today
10 Points
1

Sports Peyton Manning sets NFL record for TD passes

The wide receiver got behind cornerback Perrish Cox on a go route.Manning also extended his active streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 45 games. DENVER -- Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, pushing his career total to an NFL-record 510.The Denver Broncos quarterback snapped a tie with the previous record-holder, Brett Favre, with 3:09 left in the second quarter when he connected for his 509th career touchdown throw.

DENVER -- Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, pushing his career total to an NFL-record 510.

The Denver Broncos quarterback snapped a tie with the previous record-holder, Brett Favre, with 3:09 left in the second quarter when he connected for his 509th career touchdown throw. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas caught an arcing, 8-yard pass front of cornerback Tramaine Brock on the left side of the end zone.

The record-breaking touchdown toss prompted a congratulatory tweet from the previous record holder as well as a brief in-game celebration with teammates rushing to congratulate Manning.

“Well deserved Peyton. Congratulations on breaking my record. #Onto600,” Favre tweeted.

Manning even got a congratulatory pat on the helmet from 49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch, who sacked him earlier in the game.

Manning wound up with the historic ball but only after enduring an impromptu game of keep-away that began with Thomas pretending to toss it to his quarterback before flicking it to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Then Sanders tossed it to wide receiver Wes Welker, who flicked it to tight end Julius Thomas before a smiling Manning finally ended up with the ball and a hug on the sideline from coach John Fox.

The Broncos played a congratulatory message from Favre on the stadium video board and the public address announcer informed the crowd that they had just witnessed history, drawing a rousing response.

“Look, I want to say congratulations for breaking the touchdown record,” Favre said. “I'm not surprised. You know, you've been a wonderful player and I've enjoyed watching you play, I enjoyed competing against you. I wish you great success for the rest of the season and the rest of your career.”

The only five-time NFL MVP, Manning equaled the mark with a 39-yard scoring pass to Welker, who dashed down the left sideline and dived into the end zone as he was being hit near the goal line by safety Antoine Bethea. The officials on the field ruled that Welker got the ball inside the end zone pylon before being knocked out of bounds. The judgment was confirmed by replay review.

Manning began the night by leading a drive that he finished with a 3-yard scoring pass to Sanders, boosting his career total to 507.

It was the first touchdown reception for Sanders, an offseason free-agent acquisition, from Manning, who extended his consecutive game streak with at least one touchdown pass to 45, fourth longest in NFL history.

Sanders was wide open on a slant route after 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson ran into umpire Mark Pellis as he was giving chase to Sanders.

In the third quarter, Manning and Thomas teamed up again on a 40-yard strike. The wide receiver got behind cornerback Perrish Cox on a go route.

Manning also extended his active streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 45 games. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (54) holds the NFL mark.

Chicago Tribune
Today
15 Points
1

#BringBackOurGirls: Will it happen? Nigeria says yes; Boko Haram silent

I remain resolute in my stand #BringBackOurGirlsAnother wrote, "I hope and pray this 189th day of the abduction of #OurGirls will be the last day we'll say #BringBackOurGirls. I fervently pray so!"Islamists remain silentBut Boko Haram remains silent on the deal the government says it signed with the Islamists in neighboring Chad last week.Instead, the group may be letting its weapons do the talking, continuing five years of war. And they have continued kidnapping.They have often sidelined Nigeria's army.

(CNN) -- Will they really finally go free?

The Nigerian government says that more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in April are to be released as early as Monday, after it signed a ceasefire agreement with the Islamists.

People around the world are hoping the girls will be set free, but there are skeptics -- and bad signs coming from Boko Haram.

After the girls were kidnapped from the village of Chibok, the hashtag mantra #BringBackOurGirls kicked off an avalanches of posts.

Celebrities like First Lady Michelle Obama, teen Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, and actor Sean Penn joined in.

Even Pope Francis took to Twitter to call for their release.

Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.#BringBackOurGirls

Now, after the government made the announcement of their possible release, the hashtag has reawakened with messages of hope and anticipation.

"I am desperate for their return. I must sing a new song of joy," one poster wrote.

Is our #ChibokGirls back? I am desperate for their return. I must sing a new song of joy. I remain resolute in my stand #BringBackOurGirls

Another wrote, "I hope and pray this 189th day of the abduction of #OurGirls will be the last day we'll say #BringBackOurGirls. I fervently pray so!"

Islamists remain silent

But Boko Haram remains silent on the deal the government says it signed with the Islamists in neighboring Chad last week.

Instead, the group may be letting its weapons do the talking, continuing five years of war. Over the weekend, gunmen believed to be Boko Haram fighters attacked two villages and a town, killing at least eight and kidnapping others.

David Cook, who studies jihad, has doubts about the deal going through.

"It remains to be seen whether this truce will actually materialize, whether it is merely an election ploy for Nigeria's embattled president, Goodluck Jonathan, and most crucially whether it will bring about the release of numerous captives taken by Boko Haram during the past year," he wrote in an analysis for CNN.

President needs a success

The Islamists have employed particularly bloody tactics this year, killing thousands,

Boko Haram has gone after Christians, foreigners and educated people, driving them out of the country's northeast. And they have continued kidnapping.

They have often sidelined Nigeria's army. And government soldiers have at times mutinied, complaining of lacking support from the government.

Jonathan needs some good news going into February's polls.

Analyst Richard Joseph from the Brookings Institution shares Cook's doubts.

"This is a case when we will actually need to see the girls emerging from their six-month confinement before we can truly believe," he wrote after the government's announcement.

He fears that after so much war, the group may be disjointed and any ceasefire deals made with some members may not be heeded by others.

And like ISIS, Boko Haram has ambitions for a caliphate or religious state, which would mean it has long-term ambitions to keep fighting, Cook said.

But he believes that a deal could still be in Boko Haram's interest. They could use it to rest and regroup.

The kidnapping lookback

On April 14, Boko Haram militants raided the village of Chibok and kidnapped an estimated 276 teenage girls from a boarding school. Officials there say some of the girls were able to escape.

It is believed that the Islamist militants were able to hold on to more than 200 of them.

Three weeks later, a man claiming to be a Boko Haram leader threatened to sell the girls into slavery. "Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women," he said.

More than a month after their abduction, the White House announced it had sent 80 U.S. troops to Chad to help search for the kidnapped schoolgirls.

In spite of many promises to find and free them, the girls have remained in the terrorists' hands.

CNN
Today
11 Points

Travel The 10 semifinalists for World's Funniest Person

Leonardi has appeared in comedy clubs throughout South Africa, given talks on comedy to Mensa members and taught comedy at St. The following year he won the top award at Madrid's FIC comedy festival and recently toured Spain with his "Gay's Anatomy" comedy show. Mirani bills himself as "Dubai's much-loved comedic genius." He has performed his Komic Sutra comedy show in India, the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Maldives and several Middle Eastern countries.

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The 10 semifinalists in the World's Funniest Person competition are:

? Mustapha El Atrassi, France. Born in France to a Moroccan family, El Atrassi began doing stand-up as a teenager. He appeared in a one-man show in Paris at age 16 and two years later had his own sitcom in Morocco. Since 2008, he's hosted a morning radio show in France.

? Ishmo Leikola, Finland. He does stand-up in both English and Finnish, appearing at clubs throughout Europe. He won his country's stand-up rookie of the year award in 2003 and has been honored five times as the favorite performer at Tomatoes! Tomatoes!, the Nordic countries' largest comedy festival.

? Vittorrio Leonardi, South Africa. Leonardi has appeared in comedy clubs throughout South Africa, given talks on comedy to Mensa members and taught comedy at St. Mary's Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria. He's also the resident emcee at several South African comedy clubs.

? Saad Haroon, Pakistan. A founding member of the Pakistani improv group Blackfish and other comedy troupes, Saad also created the English-language Pakistani show "The Real News," a mix of political and social satire. He's performed on comedy tours in several countries, including the United States.

? Nitin Mirani, United Arab Emirates. Mirani bills himself as "Dubai's much-loved comedic genius." He has performed his Komic Sutra comedy show in India, the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Maldives and several Middle Eastern countries. The publication DNA India called his show, "A laugh riot!"

? Archie Bezos, Spain. Bezos has been described as a Spanish pioneer among openly gay comedians. He made his TV debut in 2012 with an appearance on a Comedy Central show featuring upcoming comedians. The following year he won the top award at Madrid's FIC comedy festival and recently toured Spain with his "Gay's Anatomy" comedy show.

? Vivek Mahbubani, an ethnic Indian comic representing his native China. Mahbubani, who performs in English and Cantonese, was honored as Hong Kong's funniest Chinese comedian in 2007 and its funniest English-language comedian in 2008.

? Tiffany Haddish, USA. Raised in foster homes in Los Angeles, Haddish says her social worker steered her toward a comedy camp for children after hearing her stories about her imaginary friends. She's appeared on "Def Comedy Jam," Comedy Central's "Reality Bites" and recently took part in a USO Comedy Tour in Japan.

? Waddah Swar, Saudi Arabia. Originally from Bahrain, Swar has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the pioneers of Middle Eastern comedy. He won the "Funniest in the Arab World" competition at the Kit Kat Comedy Break Show in Dubai in 2013.

? Lioz Shem Tov, Israel. A visual comedian, Tov frequently uses a range of props to work comically bad magic tricks into his act, which he can perform in either Hebrew or English. He made it to the semifinal round of the NBC series "Last Comic Standing" in 2008.

The Denver Post
Today
9 Points

Travel On the road to find the world's funniest person

And yet, that's what he's trying to do with what he calls the first Funniest Person in the World competition.Masada has scoured comedy festivals from Afghanistan to South Korea and Egypt to Israel for candidates and had online voters winnow the list to 10 semi-finalists who would perform at the Laugh Factory and before a worldwide Internet audience on Oct. 20.After online voters narrow the list to five, the finalists will travel to the Laugh Factory's sister club in Las Vegas.

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? It was last summer and Israeli-Palestinian tensions were at the highest they'd been in some time when Jamie Masada hit on a formula for world peace: Forget about guns and bombs, and just tell jokes to each other.

The onetime stand-up comic is, after all, the owner of the venerable Hollywood nightclub The Laugh Factory, so the idea wasn't unfamiliar. Still, it's one thing to get a liquored-up audience laughing at lines like, "Take my mother-in-law ? please."

It's another to bring people from across the world who dislike each other together ? and hope they will laugh at each other. And yet, that's what he's trying to do with what he calls the first Funniest Person in the World competition.

Masada has scoured comedy festivals from Afghanistan to South Korea and Egypt to Israel for candidates and had online voters winnow the list to 10 semi-finalists who would perform at the Laugh Factory and before a worldwide Internet audience on Oct. 20.

After online voters narrow the list to five, the finalists will travel to the Laugh Factory's sister club in Las Vegas. There, following another competition and vote, the winner will be crowned on Oct. 24, United Nations Day.

"It might sound stupid," Masada says. "But some people, they sit down, they break bread together, they never hurt each other. Some people, they sit down, they laugh together, they never hurt each other."

He says he has already seen the approach work ? at least on a small scale.

During the latest Palestinian-Israeli tensions, Masada, an Iranian-born Jew, got the idea of defusing them for at least one night by hosting a comedy exhibition featuring locally popular Jewish comedians sharing the stage with their Muslim counterparts.

The idea was that both sides would get together and learn a little something about each other. Instead, both sides gathered on opposite ends of the club and engaged in an unnerving stare down that prompted Masada to start the show early.

Sunda Croonquist, a black, Orthodox Jew who lives in Beverly Hills, opened things by pointing out to the audience that white people frequently mistake her for Puerto Rican: "I tell them there are two groups of people who know that I'm black.

"Other black people and the Beverly Hills Police Department," she said.

Soon jokes were flying about wearing a keffiyeh, an Arab headdress, to an airport and watching people cower in fear. Or of mischievous Muslims who crank up Persian music on the car stereo because they have found it frightens white drivers even more than hip-hop.

And, suddenly, both sides were laughing.

"At the end of the night they were hugging each other," Croonquist marveled, and Masada was off in search of the world's funniest person.

Some suggested he might save time simply by putting in calls to people like Dave Chappelle, Jay Leno or numerous others who have headlined The Laugh Factory over the past 35 years. But Masada was having none of that.

The comedy impresario wanted an Olympics-style competition, and even if the contestants weren't strictly amateurs ? which they aren't in the Olympics, anyway ? they would be from all over the world.

So in Europe he found Mustapha El Atrassi, a French-born Muslim comic who sometimes dons a helmet and parodies the French music duo Daft Punk.

"They say we hide our faces to keep up the mystery," he tells the audience in thickly accented English as he impersonates both members of Daft Punk. "But it's not true. We just hide our faces because we are very ugly."

From Finland was Ishmo Leikola, who says he has found the solution to America's national debt problem: don't pay it. "The country has an army. The bank has four cashiers and a cleaning lady."

Masada, meanwhile, learned that comedy already is an international sport.

"I'm looking forward to the competition because the Chinese guy, the Pakistani guy are friends of mine and I've crossed paths with a couple of the others on the comedy festival circuit," one of the 10 finalists, United Arab Emirates representative Nitin Mirani, said during a phone interview ? from India.

But can comedy really facilitate peace?

Mirani, for one, thinks so, if you spread the jokes far and wide enough. "I think comedy is one of the most sincere ways of entertaining and educating people," he says. "I connect with you, you connect with me and we have a good time."

The Denver Post
Today
9 Points
1

Travel Is customer service dead? No, but you may need to work hard to get it

No surprise: C able TV and phone companies cause the most grief, but customers complain about the lack of customer care in most industries."Everyone is stressed," says Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University. As one neighbor told me, "Just talking about my customer-service issues brings back bad memories, like having PTSD." A customer-rage study by the W.P. Be prepared.Keep any notes, receipts and anything else pertinent at hand.

During 20 years as a professional mediator, Barbara Powelson never found a situation she couldn't resolve.

Then, she and husband Kenneth invested $3,000 in a new mahogany front door from a Denver-based company. Everything went according to plan until the installation. That's when she noticed the door jamb and trim were a different color from the door.

Instead of fixing the problem, the company procrastinated.

Finally, weeks later, the shop owner came by. "The owner began bullying me," she recalls. "He insisted there was nothing wrong with the door, and he would do nothing further." At one point he grabbed a paint brush and slapped gray stain across the top of the door. Then, he stormed out.

While the couple negotiated a $500 discount, it will likely cost them $1,000 or more to have the door sanded and restained by another company.

Is good customer service a thing of the past? It sure feels like it.

Everyone has a horror story. There's the woman whom a cable company keeps billing for a converter box and TV package, only she doesn't own a television and streams the service through her computer. Or the cellpone client who spent four hours on the phone with six different reps because she is paying $180 a month for what the company advertises as a $100 deal.

As one neighbor told me, "Just talking about my customer-service issues brings back bad memories, like having PTSD."

A customer-rage study by the W.P. Carey School of Business shows more Americans than ever are dissatisfied with the products and services they buy. Some 50 percent experienced a problem in 2013. And two-thirds who had issues were "extremely" or "very" upset.

No surprise: C able TV and phone companies cause the most grief, but customers complain about the lack of customer care in most industries.

"Everyone is stressed," says Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University. "We feel we waste our time on a problem or complaint talking to people who don't understand and/or can't help."

Blame the recent recession. Many businesses cut costs by axing workers, employing offshore call centers and slashing training budgets, notes Bitner. "Though business is now on the rebound, many have yet to reinvest in their people or service."

But a lagging economy isn't the only reason consumers are angry. Customer-service expert Shep Hyken says consumers simply have come to expect more at a time when many companies have decided to offer less.

"Businesses such as Nordstrom, Ace Hardware and Apple have set a high benchmark for great service," he says. "We compare others to them and get upset when they don't meet our expectations."

Max Campanella wanted to show off Longmont to some out-of-town friends, so he took them to one of his favorite restaurants for breakfast. As usual, he ordered a large grapefruit juice. When it came out in a 6-ounce glass, he asked the waitress for the large size as ordered, but was told that was what he had received.

Campanella asked the owner about the new "large" size. "She said I'd been getting 'free' juice and that's why the restaurant had been losing money for so long."

Expressing his disappointment, Campanella told the owner he might not come back. "Pointing to the crowded waiting area, the owner said, 'It's all right. I have plenty of customers.' "

Could he have posted a nasty review on a website like Yelp? Sure.

According to the customer-rage study, one-third of all complainers share their problem with their friends and followers on Facebook or Twitter. But we are 11 times more likely to complain using the phone than the Internet. As Bitner puts it, "We use the phone to complain; social media to vent."

Campanella's recourse was limited. "I was clearly told by the owner that our business wasn't needed. If it's the owner telling you (that), who do you go to?

"My family, close friends and entire team at work aren't going back," he says. "But honestly, she was right. There is always a line out the door. We really were all disposable."

Until businesses need us more than we need them, with customer service you can expect the worst, but hope for the best.

Rewarding the good guys

While we love to gripe about rotten customer service, there are businesses who do it right and earn customer loyalty.

Laurie Brock was dining at Jax Fish House in Glendale when her friend casually mentioned to the waiter that they were celebrating Laurie's birthday.

"We looked at the dessert menu, but were full, so we didn't order anything. Within a minute the waiter, Josh, brought me a birthday card with a gift certificate for a cocktail the next time I dine, since he couldn't buy me dessert," Brock says.

"I'll return and I've told many people this story. It's as important to spread the good word as the bad."

But how can you engender the kind of customer service worth spreading the word about?

From the get-go, follow the golden rule, suggests customer-service rep Hyken. Treat those waiting on you with the same dignity and respect you expect.

"When you walk into a business, make contact with that waiter, clerk or customer-service rep. Introduce yourself. Engage in conversation. Give them a vested interest in ensuring you have a good experience.

"You may find them eager to please. Smart companies know that a good relationship with a customer is their key to success," she says.

An estimated 56 percent of customers report they got nothing in response to their complaints about product or service problems. Here's how to be part of the 44 percent that gets what they want ? whether the source of the problem is a major appliance, a cruise or a skimpy glass of juice at a restaurant.

1. Stay calm; stay focused.

Ask the agent's name and use it. Say, "I know this wasn't your fault, but can you help me?"

2. Get to the right person.

Don't waste time outlining your complaint until you know you are speaking to someone who can help. The guy in tech support can't help with a billing issue.

3. Be prepared.

Keep any notes, receipts and anything else pertinent at hand. If you worry you'll forget something, write out a simple script with talking points.

4. Use powerful words.

Mention you are "shocked" and "disappointed" in the company. Ask to be "escalated" to a supervisor. (Seriously. That one word ? "escalated" ? works miracles.)

5. Be specific.

What will make you happy: a refund, a replacement, a simple apology? Know what you want and tell the right person. If you don't ask, the answer is always no.

The Denver Post
Today
9 Points

Political Blotter: Drama in East Bay Assembly races

) If the Giants win, Cleaver will send Pelosi a President's BBQ Platter from Kansas City's Gates BBQ.(Ed. Note: I LOVE Gates BBQ.)"There are many savory delights that Kansas City has to offer, and I can't wait to savor them, but nothing would be sweeter than a Giants victory," Pelosi said. A $2,500 contribution buys a luxury suite ticket, food and drinks; a $4,100 contribution gets two tickets.Oct.

This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Oct. 16

There is all kinds of drama popping up in the East Bay's hottest Assembly races.

In the 16th Assembly District, it's a tale of dueling endorsements. Steve Glazer, the Orinda Democrat and former Jerry Brown political adviser who lost in June's primary, essentially endorsed Republican Catharine Baker in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Nobody thought there was any love lost between Glazer and the Democrat in this general-election race, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, given the scorched-earth campaigns they ran against each other this past spring. But some thought Glazer might've kept quiet, having already burned his bridges to the Democratic Party and the unions that are its biggest backers.

Meanwhile, Sbranti on Wednesday rolled out Gov. Jerry Brown's endorsement -- not a shocker, but certainly an effort to jump on the chief executive's coattails as he coasts into a fourth term.

Over in the 15th Assembly District, Democrat Tony Thurmond, of Richmond, launched his first television ad Thursday, touting his accomplishments and endorsements.

But his rival, fellow Democrat Elizabeth Echols, is calling attention to the independent spending that's being done on Thurmond's behalf, which now tops $255,000 worth of research, polling, mailers and field expenses in the past few weeks.

"The California Independent Petroleum Association has now put $450,000 into two groups working to defeat my campaign," Echols wrote in an email to supporters Thursday. "They are the driving force in the effort to expand fracking in California. One has to ask why they have chosen to get involved in my race, given the progressive tradition of our district. Luckily, their involvement has only motivated my supporters."

The email went on to invite supporters to a fundraiser Echols is holding Oct. 28 at the Sierra Club's office in Berkeley, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, the California League of Conservation Voters, state Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Thurmond has a fundraiser scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 19 -- at the Oakland Raiders-Arizona Cardinals game. A $2,500 contribution buys a luxury suite ticket, food and drinks; a $4,100 contribution gets two tickets.

Oct. 17

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver have laid their bet on the upcoming World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals -- and it sounds delicious.

If the Royals win, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will provide the Kansas City congressman with a basket of her city's finest chocolates. (Ghirardelli? Recchiuti? Poco Dolce?) If the Giants win, Cleaver will send Pelosi a President's BBQ Platter from Kansas City's Gates BBQ.

(Ed. Note: I LOVE Gates BBQ.)

"There are many savory delights that Kansas City has to offer, and I can't wait to savor them, but nothing would be sweeter than a Giants victory," Pelosi said. "The Royals are a fine team, but they are no match for the talent, toughness, and heart of our Giants. I look forward to enjoying the Giants' latest championship with some fine Kansas City BBQ."

Cleaver replied the Giants "are a worthy team, but they underestimate the Kansas City Royals at their peril."

"With their spirit, their skill, and their sweeping victory in the ALCS, the Royals will surely succeed in the World Series," he said. "I don't usually gamble, but I will make an exception and wager some of the finest barbecue Kansas City, Missouri, has to offer. Victory shall be sweet indeed."

San Jose Mercury News
Today
11 Points
1

Sports Fuller suffers hip, hand injuries in Bears loss

He came up in pain after the play and left the field.The Bears announced that Fuller suffered a hip injury. But at day's end, it ultimately felt hollow after a loss."Right now feeling good ain't a thing," said Ratliff, who also had a team-best seven tackles.Ratliff's third sack of the day went for a loss of 7 yards on a third-down play that pushed the Dolphins back to the Bears' 32. Five of the Bears' nine possessions were either three-and-outs or ended with a turnover.

The injury wave that has been jostling the Bears' defense claimed rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller on Sunday.

Fuller left the Bears' 27-14 loss to the Dolphins midway through the third quarter, exiting after a 12-yard reception by running back Lamar Miller. Fuller fought off a block by receiver Mike Wallace on the play and attempted to avoid tight end Charles Clay as he maneuvered to make a tackle. He came up in pain after the play and left the field.

The Bears announced that Fuller suffered a hip injury. But a CBSSports.com report Sunday night indicated that Fuller also broke his hand during the loss.

The Bears did not confirm nor deny that report but emphasized that Fuller did not return to Sunday's game because of his hip injury.

Fuller had been slow returning to the field after halftime and had his right hand wrapped, though it's hard to pinpoint when that hand injury may have occurred.

A timetable for Fuller's return from either setback is not known. But if he is out for any extended period of time, that will be a big blow to a secondary that lost cornerback Charles Tillman for the season in Week 2.

Big game spoiled: Jeremiah Ratliff hadn't had a sack since Dec. 22, in Week 16 of last season against the Eagles. And that was a takedown of Nick Foles he had to share with Shea McClellin. But on Sunday, the 10th-year defensive tackle made his presence felt early and often.

Ratliff recorded 3½ sacks of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first half, a dominant surge that energized the Bears defense. But at day's end, it ultimately felt hollow after a loss.

"Right now feeling good ain't a thing," said Ratliff, who also had a team-best seven tackles.

Ratliff's third sack of the day went for a loss of 7 yards on a third-down play that pushed the Dolphins back to the Bears' 32. Kicker Caleb Sturgis then missed a 50-yard field goal.

In the final minute of the half, Ratliff combined with Jared Allen for another third-down sack that pushed the Dolphins back 8 yards to the Bears' 41. Miami then punted.

Ratliff hadn't had a multi-sack game since Dec. 27, 2009, when he was with the Cowboys.

"The guy is a beast, a force," Allen said.

Loud and clear: Bears fans showered Sunday's performance with boos, displeasure several players took note of. Right guard Kyle Long said he was not upset by the reaction but did express disappointment.

"To be getting booed at home when you're walking off the field down two possessions is unacceptable," Long said. "Especially when there is not a lot of noise being made on third down. Period."

Tight end Martellus Bennett offered fans at Soldier Field the benefit of the doubt after another lackluster loss.

"If I go see a bad movie, I boo," Bennett said. "This is the entertainment business. ? They pay for their tickets. The show wasn't up to their liking. If I go to a movie, I usually walk out if I don't like it. Like 'Transformers 3' was terrible. I didn't stay for the whole film. I walked out."

Where'd he go? Allen had few explanations for what the Dolphins did to compile their 137 rushing yards, including 48 from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"Nothing special. We've got to play it better," he said.

Allen was also flustered by his lack of third-quarter playing time, when he logged only two snaps during a 13-play, 83-yard Miami touchdown drive. The reason?

"I don't know," Allen said. "You'll have to talk to Coach about that."

Extra points: As expected, linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) sat out Sunday's game. They were joined on the inactive list by fellow starter Jon Bostic, who missed his second consecutive game with a back issue. ... Five of the Bears' nine possessions were either three-and-outs or ended with a turnover.

Chicago Tribune
Today
13 Points
1

2 killed when vehicle hits police car, slams into building

Two men were killed and a Chicago police sergeant was injured late Sunday night when a vehicle slammed into a squad car, then crashed into a taco restaurant in the Little Village neighborhood, police said.Police said a black vehicle was speeding westbound on West Odgen Avenue before hitting a Chicago police car sitting in traffic about 11 p.m.

Two men were killed and a Chicago police sergeant was injured late Sunday night when a vehicle slammed into a squad car, then crashed into a taco restaurant in the Little Village neighborhood, police said.

Police said a black vehicle was speeding westbound on West Odgen Avenue before hitting a Chicago police car sitting in traffic about 11 p.m. The car then crashed into a building at the intersection of Ogden and Pulaski, according to Chicago News Affairs Officer Amina Greer.

Two men in the black vehicle were pronounced dead at the scene. Names and ages of the deceased were not available. The police sergeant was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Greer said.

The car crashed into a business called Sanchez Tacos, at 4001 W. Ogden Ave. There were two workers and a customer in the shop at the time, but no one in the restaurant was injured.

 

 

 

Chicago Tribune
Today
13 Points
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