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Mich. schools close amid threats tied to Maya calendar

School officials nationwide planned to beef up security on Friday — and in a few cases hastily canceled classes for the rest of the week — amid rumored threats of violence, some related to doomsday scenarios based on the Maya calendar.

Officials said they had uncovered no substantial threats, but erred on the side of caution considering that the rumors were coming less than a week after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

In Michigan, schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, north of Detroit, started the Christmas break Wednesday night, two days earlier than planned and two days before the predicted end of the world in the Maya calendar, a notion widely debunked by archaeological records.

In a note to parents posted on Michigan’s Lapeer Community Schools website, Superintendent Matt Wandrie said “numerous rumors circulating in our district, and in neighboring districts, about potential threats of violence against students” proved false. Officials found no credible threats against students, but he said the rumors “have been a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.” He canceled classes for both Thursday and Friday, “given the gravity of recent events” in Connecticut.

Tom English, superintendent of Michigan’s North Branch Area Schools, told the Detroit Free Press that rumors about potential threats were unsubstantiated, but added, “When children are thinking about that sort of stuff — about whether I’m safe — it’s very difficult for them to concentrate.”

In Wake County, N.C., interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey told parents that he’d asked local police for “extra support” in the schools where a rumor of violence was circulating.

In Hillsborough County, Fla., police said they’d increase security at schools on Friday. Jason Napoli of the county sheriff’s department said deputies were “extremely overwhelmed” with threats. “It is taking away our ability to monitor other things on campus,” he told The Tampa Tribune this week.

Elsewhere:

In Mesa, Ariz., authorities arrested a 16-year-old girl Thursday after she posted a threat on YouTube that she had a plan to kill people at her high school and then commit suicide. The Maricopa County Sheriff Office said the girl had access to guns at her home, but never brought firearms to Red Mountain High School.
In Anne Arundel County, Md., police were working to dispel Facebook and Twitter rumors of violent threats at 20 county schools on Friday; they said no credible threats had turned up. Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said it would be a personal decision if parents decided to keep their children home on Friday.
In Oak Creek, Wis., Superintendent Sara Burmeister said rumors of threats in southeastern Wisconsin were unsubstantiated, but she said police were tracking how the rumors were spread, “with significant consequences for those who provide false information or try to generate more threats.”

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Josh Hamilton gets clean start with Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The coldest details mean Josh Hamilton is tested three times a week for the substances that would wreck his life, that he travels with a professional companion who serves in the difficult times as his conscience, and that failing either would have dire professional consequences.

The Los Angeles Angels are into that now for $125 million, and so is Hamilton. That’s the daily process. He wakes up every morning and tries to put another day between himself and whatever was back there, and they wake up and hope their five-year commitment was a sound one.

It’s about accountability and, for Hamilton, God. It’s about living up to the contract and the Angels’ trust in him. It’s about the woman who sits beside him still, that being his wife Katie, who has seen the best and the worst of the last 10 years and keeps showing up, loving more.

So he answers to his faith and his best friend and his paycheck and his game and his accountability overseer. And that’s just part of it.

Hamilton arrived Saturday morning to a red carpet in a corner of Disneyland that has big-screen televisions and just about any beer you could think of on tap. He shook hands and signed autographs and, when asked for a photo, he’d seize the camera, hold it at arm’s length, lean in and take the shot himself. He laughed and hugged Arte Moreno, who’d made him feel wanted and then made him richer.

Angels fans welcomed Hamilton to his introductory news conference. (AP)Near the front door of the sports bar that would hold a news conference, Katie held a little girl, barely more than a year old. Three other little girls stood nearby. They were blonde and beautiful and a couple had his blue eyes. Once inside, the girls took seats assigned by white sheets of paper, their names in black Sharpie: Julia, Sierra, Michaela, Stella.

Yes, Josh Hamilton would leave the Texas Rangers, the organization that raised him as a major-league ballplayer, that guided him through relapses and stood by him during the fallout. He would leave the routine that pushed him when he awoke every morning and the structure that put another happy, constructive, clean day behind him.

In the months leading to his free agency, and certainly in the weeks of his free agency, the risks of his freedom came to define his free agency. He was – is – in the prime of a career that has been breathtaking. Among the best athletes to ever play the game, Hamilton, at 31, would not get the contracts Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez did at about the same age. Instead, he got a free agency treated casually by his former organization and then he got about half what Pujols and Rodriguez got.

Instead of a swarm of questions about a lineup of Mike Trout, Pujols and Hamilton, of what this means for the AL West and where the balance of power might lie in the American League (though there were some), he was asked if the Angels were right to believe in him and why.

He’ll probably bat third and play left field, and he’ll stand out there with their name on his chest and his across his shoulders. He’ll believe, because that’s what he does, because he’s bigger and stronger and faster. He can play the sport like few ever have when he is right in mind and body, and that’s the job, of course. There is upheaval in a new job, new professional expectations, new surroundings and new people. Maybe there is risk. And Josh Hamilton, ultimately, chose to leave the Texas Rangers.

Hamilton’s four daughters and wife Katie give him reason to stay on the straight and narrow. (Getty Images)”I think structure is important in anybody’s life, period,” he said. “When you have idle time, sitting around doing nothing, that’s when you get in trouble. It’s funny to me listening to everybody report – ‘the support system is in Texas, he’s comfortable in Texas’ – it was like, here we go. I’ve talked about my support system, God, my wife, my kids, [accountability partner] Shayne Kelley. Wherever I’m going to be, they’re going to be. Like anywhere, no matter where I was at, I need structure. That’s in the offseason being with my family, going to church, doing all the things I need to do to be a better man and father and husband. During the season it’s that routine of doing bible studies and hanging out with my teammates and creating relationships there. And having that routine of what you do on a daily basis before you go out and perform that night. … All that stuff applies no matter where I’m at.”

He sat on a stage with all the grownups. He explained himself, his life again. He wore the uniform, smiled like he does, and said, “Feels good. How’s it look?”

From their chairs, those four little girls – his little girls – looked up at him and smiled back. They’re in this too. The parts of the story they haven’t lived, they’ve heard about, and they did again Saturday morning.

They are why Josh Hamilton is easy to believe in, but not so he can play baseball and make the Angels winners. They need a happy, constructive and clean dad. They need to laugh at his goofy jokes. They need to hear the front door open at the end of the workday. And they need to wake up every morning and know he’s about to put another day between himself and whatever was back there.

Yeah, Josh Hamilton left the Texas Rangers and whatever worked there. And the Angels are into whatever’s next for $125 million. Maybe some think it will work here because the money and the career are too good to throw away, maybe some aren’t too sure.

I think it’ll work because of Julia, Sierra, Michaela and Stella.

“It comes to a point of making choices,” he said. “What choices are you going to make?”

Megatron continues historic pace, but last-second loss to Colts dilutes the buzz

We all know that Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is great, but just how amazing has he been this season? With a quarterback in Matthew Stafford, an ostensible second receiver in Titus Young who can’t stay out of the doghouse, and precious little in the way of a run game through most of the season, “Megatron” is on pace to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 receiving yards despite the fact that every defense facing the Lions knows that Johnson must be covered with more than one defender on every play.

Or, at least every defense is supposed to know that. Johnson made an amazing one-handed sideline grab against the Indianapolis Colts with just one defender on his heels. He later brought in a 46-yard touchdown from Stafford, and he caught 13 passes for 171 yards.

However, the Lions fell to 4-8 on the season, losing 35-33 to the Colts, as Andrew Luck threw a touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time ran out.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Stafford said of Johnson after the game. “I even missed him on a couple, could have had a really big day. So still some things to iron out, but obviously we leaned on him when [WR Ryan] Broyles went down. Then [TE Tony Scheffler] went down for a little bit so we leaned on him big-time.”

The Colts were more effusive in their praise of the receiver nobody seems to be able to stop these days.

“That dude’s a beast,” Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. “Every year, as long as he’s in the league, I don’t care what he’s doing, he’s got my Pro Bowl vote. The guy’s an awesome kid. I remember him coming in as a rookie and just seeing his work ethic. And what he’s doing now, I expect that because he’s an unbelievable player and does great things. He’s truly a good teammate.”

“I mean how many teams done stopped him? None,” Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughan added. “He gets paid the big bucks for a reason and Calvin’s a great player. He’s the best player on that team, hands down. And we knew he was going to get his, but we were going to contain him as much as we could. It wasn’t about him getting everything. Our focus wasn’t on ‘we got to keep him from getting so many catches’. We got a team win. We stopped the run first.”

The 8-4 Colts did get a team win, but Johnson can bask in some amazing individual accomplishments. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Johnson’s 1,428 yards through the first 12 games of the season is tied for the most in a 12-game stretch with Lance Alworth of the AFL’s San Diego Chargers in 1965. Only Charlie Hennigan of the 1961 Houston Oilers (1,541) and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch of the 1951 Los Angeles Rams (1,495) have more in any 12 games in NFL history.

Johnson needs to average 105 yards per game in the Lions’ last four games to reach Rice’s record. Since he’s averaged 158 yards per game in the Lions’ last five contests, we’re thinking he’s got a pretty good shot. In fact, it’s not too soon to wonder if Megatron could put together the first 2,000-yard receiving season in league annals.

We wouldn’t put it past time. With Calvin Johnson, anything is possible.

Rick Majerus, College Basketball Coach, Dies at 64

Rick Majerus, who never headed the elite programs in college basketball but who became a leading coach, winning more than 500 major-college games, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 64.

His death was announced by St. Louis University, where he had been the coach. He had taken a leave of absence in August for medical treatment.

Jon Huntsman Sr., a Utah businessman and longtime friend, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Majerus had been awaiting a heart transplant.

Majerus, a passionate figure with an irreverent personality, coached the University of Utah to the 1998 N.C.A.A. tournament final and had only one losing team in 25 seasons, at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and St. Louis.

Majerus compiled a career record of 517-216 and coached in 12 N.C.A.A. tournaments.

His players had not usually been recruited by high-profile colleges, but he molded them with long and demanding practices. His life was basketball. He was married briefly in the 1980s but had no children, and he lived in hotels.

He was best known for his time at Utah, where he roamed the sidelines in a white sweater, a balding, bulky presence.

His third-seeded team defeated Arkansas, Arizona and North Carolina in the 1998 N.C.A.A. tournament, then led Kentucky by 10 points at halftime before losing, 78-69, in the national final.

Coaching Utah from 1989 to 2004, he had three players who were first-round N.B.A. draft picks — Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac and Andre Miller — and his teams had a record of 323-95.

Majerus was eminently quotable. When he was introduced in April 2007 as the coach at St. Louis, a Jesuit university, its president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, touched on what he felt was the Latin origin of Majerus’s name — “Magnus, meaning great.”

Majerus responded, “The name is really from Luxembourg, and I think it means sausage eater.”

His 1999 memoir, written with Gene Wojciechowski and telling how he devised plays at a restaurant before the N.C.A.A. final against Kentucky, was titled “My Life on a Napkin.”

Majerus was born on Feb. 17, 1948, in Sheboygan, Wis. He grew up in Milwaukee and played freshman basketball at Marquette, his hometown university, but he could not make the varsity, coached by Al McGuire.

“I was just a bad player; any walk-on with me now was much better than I ever was,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2008. “But I always loved to play. I’d find all those guys who were good shooters and I’d set picks for them and I’d go on the floor for loose balls.”

After graduating from Marquette, he was an assistant coach there for 12 seasons, then the head coach for three seasons.

He was an assistant for the N.B.A.’s Milwaukee Bucks in 1986-87, then coached at Ball State for two seasons before going to Utah.

In December 2004, he was hired as the coach at Southern California, to take over the following April for an interim coach. But he reneged on the deal a few days later, citing health issues, although he also did not want to be far from his ailing mother in Milwaukee.

Majerus worked as a broadcaster for ESPN before being named coach at St. Louis. He took the university to the 2012 N.C.A.A. tournament, its first appearance in the tournament since 2000.

He is survived by his sisters Jodi and Tracy. His mother, Alyce, died in 2011.

Doleac, his star center at Utah, who played in the pros under Chuck Daly and Pat Riley, attested to Majerus’s intensity as well as his court sense.

“Majerus is by far the best coach I ever played for,” Doleac told Sports Illustrated. “He’s got an unbelievable ability to see the game. If you coach kids for a week, after a while you get tired of correcting them. But he never lets go.”

‘The Voice’ Reveals Its Super Six As Two Head Home

A pair of singers got the ax on Tuesday’s (November 27) results episode of “The Voice,” with the lone remaining Team Christina singer heading out the door.

Dez Duron, who tried out unsuccessfully on the last season of “The Voice,” was holding it down for coach Christina Aguilera, but the heartthrob singer didn’t make it to the top six. Team Cee Lo’s Cody Belew was also sent packing, thanking fans for “riding with me on this journey.”

Another of Cee Lo’s singers, Trevin Hunte, got stuck in the bottom three, thanking his “Lord and savior Jesus Christ” before he learned that he would live to sing another day.

Before saying goodbye to any singers, we got to hear everyone display their talents once more. Team Adam’s Amanda Brown and Hunte formed a blessed union to sing “Marry the Night,” Lady Gaga’s ode to NYC.

Cee Lo, meanwhile, reunited with his “Voice” contestants, past and present — and the Muppets! — for a Christmas-themed performance before teaming for a duet with Kermit for “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” wearing a mirrored avocado-colored sleeveless getup with matching hat for the occasion.

Belew, Terry McDermott, Melanie Martinez and Nicholas David put their various team alliances aside for a folk-circle performance of the Plain White T’s track “Rhythm of Love,” and Cassadee Pope and Duron channeled Rihanna and Ne-Yo for the love/hate track “Hate How Much I Love You.”

All eight artists landed on the iTunes charts after Monday night’s episode, host Carson Daly informed the audience, with McDermott’s cover of coach Blake Shelton’s “Over” topping the rock chart and Martinez’s take on Alex Clare’s “Too Close” at #1 on the alternative chart.

Curiosity’s ‘Historic’ Mars Discovery Just a Big Misunderstanding

Do you recall the “historic” discovery made by NASA’s Mars rover which the space agency appeared to be teasing last week? Curiosity had reportedly found something that “is gonna be one for the history books,” a proclamation which had space enthusiasts the world over guessing that evidence of life had been discovered on the Red Planet.

Yeah, not so much. Or at least not yet, anyway.

It turns out the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, according to Mashable’s Amanda Wills. And not a transmission garbled over the hundreds of millions of miles separating Curiosity from her NASA minders back here on Earth, but rather some crossed signals of a much more pedestrian variety and much closer to home.

When Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger told NPR last week that the Mars rover had found something that “is gonna be one for the history books,” speculation about the possibly discovery of evidence of organic life quickly went into overdrive.

Less remarked upon was a rather cryptic tweet from the Curiosity team after the interview:

What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission “one for the history books” …

Wills figured the statement was a rather, well, curious one to make for a science team that was supposedly preparing to announce a groundbreaking Mars discovery in early December. She took the matter up with NASA social media manager Veronica McGregor, who described the tweet as an effort to “quell” a runaway rumor.

“It’s always difficult to quell rumors like this one. But at the same time it’s great to see so many people are excited and interested in what the rover might find,” McGregor told Mashable.

It seems that the misunderstanding between Grotzinger and NPR came about because the NASA scientist was discussing Curiosity’s mission and findings in general terms as “historic,” while the public radio programmer interpreted his words as a reference to a specific and recent discovery made by the surface probe.

So Grotzinger’s reference to a recent Curiosity soil sample-collecting foray that the mission’s “science team is busily chewing away on” was simply a description of the scientific process the team uses rather than a hint at a specific finding by the rover in the Martian soil, according to Wills.

McGregor further explained that the scientist’s discussion of new Curiosity data set to be released in December was just a reference to “a press conference slated for Dec. 3 at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting” which has “been on the books since Curiosity actually landed on Mars and does not coincide with a major announcement,” Wills reported.

Sweeny: Breaking Down Kuroda, The Yankees’ Rotation And Potential Outfield Help

There was a point in the last week where it may have seemed that Hiroki Kuroda was going to pitch elsewhere in 2013.

Los Angeles, Japan, somewhere other than New York. If that had happened, it would have sent some panic waves through Yankees fans, who perhaps would struggle to swallow an extra helping of turkey or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day.

Eat without worry, my friends. Kuroda is indeed coming back to the Yankees in 2013. Here is what general manager Brian Cashman had to say about the Japanese right-hander, who, surprisingly, was the Yankees’ best and most consistent starter in 2012:

“Hiroki did a phenomenal job for us last year and we had a strong preference of retaining him. I suspect it was a very aggressive market for him, it should have been. We feel fortunate that we were able to acquire him last year, and I feel the same way this year. He can play a really important role here as he did last year. He’s a pro. He did everything on the field, and had a seamless transition to New York and our clubhouse off the field.”

Cashman said that the Yankees feel as if they have a competitive rotation right now, but they’re always looking to add to it.

“The pitching is our priority and has been our priority, so we will continue on those efforts,” Cashman said. “But right now on paper we do have five starters. You’ve got CC (Sabathia), Kuroda, (Phil) Hughes, (Ivan) Nova, (David) Phelps. But we certainly would like to add to that, lengthen it, deepen it and strengthen it.”

OK, first of all he’s obviously not counting Andy Pettitte yet, even if the rest of us are. There was every indication given by Pettitte at season’s end that he wanted to pitch again — he just hasn’t made that decision public yet. When he does, he will be a Yankee and will be part of the rotation.

“Andy is deciding whether he wants to play,” Cashman said. “As of right now he hasn’t put himself in play, so there is really nothing to discuss at this point until he goes through that process.”

As I mentioned, there is no reason at this point to think that Pettitte will not be back, so let’s jump off that bridge again when we get there.

As for Nova, his season was a disappointment, but there is still too much potential there to ignore. The plan to rebuild his confidence appears to be under way.

“I feel really good about Nova,” Cashman said. “Has a good young arm … This year, (it was) sophomore growing pains or whatever you want to call it. But at the same time his strikeout total soared and his walk total even reduced. It was an interesting year for him. His stuff is there. He’s a good, young, under control, not even arbitration-eligible starter with a boatload of experience both positive and negative.

Top-ranked Indiana passes first real test with overtime win over Georgetown

The most relieved player in the Barclay’s Center after top-ranked Indiana’s 82-72 victory over Georgetown was the freshman point guard whose ill-timed missed free throws put the Hoosiers in jeopardy of their first loss.

Yogi Ferrell clanked two huge foul shots against Georgetown in the final 46 seconds, helping the Hoyas scrape back from a seven-point deficit to force overtime on a driving basket from Otto Porter late in regulation. The Hoosiers regrouped and responded in overtime, surviving thanks in part to seven points from Ferrell in overtime including a game-clinching off-balance 3-pointer.

Indiana’s impressive showing in overtime enabled the Hoosiers to win the Legend’s Classic and survive their first true test. Georgetown entered the season unranked after losing three of its four top scorers from last season, but the soon-to-be-top 25 Hoyas appear formidable again thanks to a patient offense led by breakout star Otto Porter and a perimeter-heavy supporting cast.

On Monday night, Georgetown ruined a potential UCLA-Indiana title game by thoroughly outplaying a Bruins team that looked out of sync against a zone and is still adjusting to having Shabazz Muhammad in the lineup. The Hoyas threatened to topple the Hoosiers as well on Tuesday, answering each Indiana punch and throwing a few blows of their own thanks to 20 points from guard Markel Starks, 15 from Porter and 12 and 11 apiece from Greg Whittington and Mikael Hopkins.

Where Indiana won the game was with its offensive balance, something we may say often this season.

Cody Zeller bounced back from a foul-plagued subpar performance against Georgia with a solid 17-point, eight-rebound effort, but the national player of the year candidate was more mortal than superhuman during this tournament. He got help from the shooting and steady play of Jordan Hulls (17 points), the outside shooting of Remy Abell (two big threes) and the ability of Ferrell to get to the foul line (14 points, 9 of 11 on free throws).

Indiana shot 46.9 percent from the floor, sank 10 of 17 3-pointers and returned to Bloomington 5-0 on the season and 1-0 against worthy challengers. It wasn’t a dominant 48 hours from the nation’s top-ranked team, but the Hoosiers showed enough growth to walk away satisfied.

Khloe Kardashian Worries that Kanye West Dominates Kim Kardashian

Should Khloe be concerned that her big sis Kim is in a controlling relationship with Kanye? HollywoodLife.com has the EXCLUSIVE details on what Khloe thinks about Kim’s rapper boyfriend.

The Kardashian women call the shots, at least most of the time. But Khloe Kardashian thinks Kim Kardashian is losing her edge now that she’s dating the “domineering” Kanye West. A friend of the Kardashian family tells HollywoodLife.com exclusively, “Khloe doesn’t dislike Kanye, she just doesn’t like the way Kim acts around him. She thinks Kim kowtows around Kanye and lets him run the show. Kanye has a very domineering personality and Khloe is concerned that Kim is losing herself in the relationship. Kim is usually the captain of the ship, but when she is around Kanye she lets him make all the decisions. Look at the way Kim dresses — she dresses for Kanye. “Khloe and Lamar have a very balanced relationship and she wants to see the same for Kim and Kanye.

All of the women in the Kardashian family pretty much rule their men, this is not the case when it comes to Kim and Kanye, ” said the friend.

Stars perform to help victims of Sandy

New Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi joined Sting, Christina Aguilera and other music stars on Friday in a televised benefit concert to raise funds for victims of Sandy, the superstorm that had killed nearly 100 people in the United States and devastated large sections of the Northeast.

The commercial-free one-hour telecast organized by NBCUniversal, “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together,” included appearances by Billy Joel, Jimmy Fallon, Steven Tyler, Mary J. Blige, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny DeVito and NBC News’ Brian Williams. TODAY show co-anchor Matt Lauer was host.

“Voice” coach Aguilera kicked off the program.

“We’ve come together tonight to tell every single person who’s suffering that we are here for you. We will do whatever we can to help. We will not leave anyone behind because every single one of you matters,” the star said before beginning her performance of her hit “Beautiful.”

“We haven’t seen a storm like this in 100 years,” said Lauer.

The show also featured Bon Jovi surveying the devastation in New Jersey. After the touching clip, which also showed the rocker talking to impacted residents, he performed an unplugged version of “Living on a Prayer.” Images of the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy were also interspersed throughout the show, along with victims pleading for aid, reminding viewers just how immense the damage was.