Tuesday, December 07, 2021

January 5, 2021  CLEVELAND (AP) — Amid a masked, muted celebration in the locker room after the Browns ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought, coach Kevin Stefanski asked for a game ball and then told Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio to step forward. Stefanski flipped the ball to Bitonio, who had survived seven long seasons, 0-16 in 2017, the Johnny Manziel mess and numerous coaching changes.

“You’re going to the playoffs, 75,” Stefanki told Bitonio.

Two days later, nothing is certain with the Browns.

Positive COVID-19 tests have knocked Stefanski, Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge and at least two assistant coaches out of Cleveland’s wild-card game at Pittsburgh on Sunday night — the Browns’ first playoff appearance since the 2002 season.

The Browns announced Tuesday — 18 years to the day since their last playoff game — that Stefanski tested positive for the coronavirus, which has plagued the team in recent weeks and has thrown Cleveland’s plans this week into disarray for the wild-card game.

In less than 48 hours, joy for the Browns and their fans long-suffering fans was all but extinguished.

“Very sad,” Browns center and NFLPA President JC Tretter said. “It’s really unfortunate.”

Now, after beating the Steelers last Sunday to make the playoff field, the Browns are implementing contingency plans drawn up when the pandemic began.

Stefanski, who in his first year returned the Browns to respectability, can only coach virtually from home this week. He’ll be replaced by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, and the Browns will have to make other staff adjustments as tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard are also out.

Despite the Browns’ issues — they now have eight rotational players and five coaches on the COVID-19 list — league spokesman Brian McCarthy said the game is on schedule.

McCarthy added the league is continuing to conduct contact tracing to identify any possible high-risk close contacts. NFL rules state that anyone testing positive must be away from the team at least 10 days.

“If any players or personnel are identified as such, they would remain apart from the team and facilities for five days from the last exposure to a positive individual,” McCarthy wrote in an email. “They would be eligible to return to the team and play in the game.”

It’s still possible the Browns will lose other players after contact tracing is completed.

The genomic sequencing conducted by the league and its medical partner last week showed Cleveland’s cases were unconnected, meaning the cases came from outside and weren’t spread within the team’s headquarters.

Tretter said on a union conference call that he expects the building to remain closed Wednesday, when the Browns were scheduled to have their first practice this week.

Tretter said he had been in touch with Bitonio.

“I feel for him,” Tretter said. “Obviously with what he’s gone through, what he’s endured over his career and finally finding that success for the first time and then it being taken away at the last second, it’s hard. I feel for all the guys that won’t be able to play for the first playoff game.

“Extremely tough. This is just a terrible scenario for him and for everybody involved.”

Because Bitonio and Hodge played in the 24-22 win over the Steelers last Sunday, there would seem to be concern that some Pittsburgh players could be infected.

However, McCarthy said the league has “found no evidence of player-to-player transmission from practices or games throughout this season.”

With Stefanski out, coordinator Alex Van Pelt will assume Cleveland’s play-calling duties.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who spent a few minutes speaking with Stefanski on the field Sunday, said he’s not concerned about playing the Browns twice in eight days.

“I have complete confidence in the protocol outlined by the NFL,” Tomlin said. “We work hard to adhere to it; if we do that, we will minimize risk. That’s my mentality regarding it, so I won’t spend a lot of time worrying about those components.”

The Steelers have their own COVID-19 issues. Starting cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Eric Ebron missed Sunday’s loss after being placed on the COVID-19 list a day earlier. Haden tested positive; his status for the playoff game remains uncertain.

Cleveland has been one of the teams hit hardest by the virus. The Browns were without six players, including star cornerback Denzel Ward, and three assistants last weekend for their biggest game in years after a rash of positive tests.

Also, star defensive end Myles Garrett missed two games after contracting COVID-19. Garrett has had a difficult time shaking the disease and recently said he was still undergoing breathing treatments.

On Monday, Stefanski said he didn’t want to get into “hypotheticals” regarding Ward or any of the other infected players. Now, he won’t be able to be around his players or assistants while getting ready to play at Pittsburgh, where the Browns have lost 17 straight games.

The Browns are the second team to be without its coach during the pandemic. Detroit interim coach Darrell Bevell sat out the Lions’ Dec. 26 game at Tampa Bay because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Baltimore Ravens played a game against Pittsburgh without quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson after an outbreak, and the Denver Broncos didn’t have any quarterbacks active for a game at New Orleans due to contact tracing.

Priefer, who is from Cleveland and spent several years on Minnesota’s staff with Stefanski, was an interim coach for one game in 2016 when Mike Zimmer had eye surgery.

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Entertainment

September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

Fashion News

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