Can you really get fit by working out with your video game?
NEW YORK (AP) — The special guests at U2’s concert Thursday night included Paul Simon, Lou Reed’s widow and the woman who called 911 when Bono fell off his bike in New York City last year.
Simon joined U2 onstage at Madison Square Garden to sing some of his song, “Mother and Child Reunion.” Before Bono kicked off the tune, he pointed out that Simon was in the crowd, and the audience roared as Simon entered the stage.
Bono also noted that Reed’s widow, musician Laurie Anderson, was in the audience of 20,000. The band performed Reed’s “Satellite of Love” as a video of the late icon singing the song appeared onscreen.
Bono, who crashed his bike in Central Park and suffered multiple injuries last year, called out the woman who dialed 911 and the firefighters who responded to the call. They sat close to the stage.
“I am here today because some people, when I crashed my bike here in the city, a beautiful girl made a phone call to 911. She’s from Denver, but she’s here tonight. And so is Engine 44, the firefighters that picked me up off the ground,” he said.
Bono then handed the microphone to the responders to recount the story.
“So I have to clarify, it’s Alisa and I’m from D.C., not Denver,” the woman said.
It earned her laughs. But her shine ended shortly after.
“Here’s what happened: I was running in Central Park, there was an accident, obviously I had to stop and help because I’m not from New York, I’m from Virginia, where people are nice,” she said as the audience booed as she tried to finish the story.
Bono, 55, had surgery after suffering fractures to his left eye socket, shoulder blade and left elbow from his fall.
But he was energetic and excited Thursday, working the entire stage at the loud arena alongside guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.
The North American leg of U2’s Innocence + Experience Tour ends Friday at Madison Square Garden, which will mark the band’s eighth consecutive show at the famed venue since July 18.
The band will tour Europe in September.
LOWER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — A series of wildfires blackened the golden hills of California on Friday, egged on by bone-dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds.
A handful of homes have been consumed by the flames and hundreds of people chased from their houses as thousands of firefighters work to corral the blazes.
Fourteen large fires are burning, mostly in the scorched northern half of the state, and California’s incessant drought is only making matters worse.
“They only need a little wind to allow them to burn at an explosive rate,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.
People are to blame for most wildfires, but Berlant said California’s drought provides the fuel to get the flames burning rapidly.
A fast-spreading wildfire north of San Francisco nearly doubled overnight, charring 23 square miles and torching a third home.
At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. It is burning near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, a popular summer recreation spot.
It was only 5 percent contained Friday.
The California National Guard on Thursday sent a fleet of eight helicopters to back up Cal Fire crews. They are dousing flames with water and help move around firefighters and their equipment.
A separate fire near the small town of Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta burned six or seven mobile homes Thursday evening before firefighters got it under control, said Steve Cantelme, chief of the Sacramento office of Emergency Services.
Cantelme said the fire was out Thursday night but crews remained on the scene raking through debris to ensure that no hot embers could reignite it.
Video from KCRA-TV in Sacramento showed mobile homes engulfed in wind-whipped flames at a property called Korth’s Pirate’s Lair Marina. Owner Kande Korth said everyone got out safely.
FIRE LINES HOLDING
Crews battling a fire east of Napa Valley held their ground Friday, more than a week after it started.
The blaze has charred more than 12 square miles in Solano County. The fire is about 45 miles east of Napa’s wine county, and vineyards are not threatened.
At least 136 structures are threatened, but evacuation orders have been lifted. It mostly contained, and crews are expecting to have it fully corralled by Monday.
A small fire near Groveland, a stop-off point for travelers headed to Yosemite National Park, has forced evacuations.
The 265-acre fire 20 miles from the park’s entrance was partially contained Friday.
In a separate foothills blaze northeast of Sacramento, evacuation orders have been lifted for residents of 50 homes. The fire, which ignited Saturday, burned through more than 3 1/2 square miles and is almost fully contained.
BASS LAKE BLAZE
Residents of 200 homes in the central California community of Cascadel Woods were ordered to evacuate Thursday.
A wildfire burning near Bass Lake for several days spread to more than 6 square miles and is partially percent contained.
Authorities say a boy acknowledged starting the fire by playing with a lighter to burn pine needles in the dry Sierra Nevada. They say the boy faces criminal charges but is not in custody because he and his family are cooperating.
IN THE FAR NORTH
Three smaller fires in the far north that started Wednesday each prompted evacuations. Two in Shasta County, 130 miles south of the Oregon border, were more than half contained.
WASHINGTON (AP) — After billions of dollars spent and more than 10,000 extremist fighters killed, the Islamic State group is fundamentally no weaker than it was when the U.S.-led bombing campaign began a year ago, American intelligence agencies have concluded.
U.S. military commanders on the ground aren’t disputing the assessment, but they point to an upcoming effort to clear the important Sunni city of Ramadi, which fell to the militants in May, as a crucial milestone.
The battle for Ramadi, expected over the next few months, “promises to test the mettle” of Iraq’s security forces, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Killea, who is helping run the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon in a video briefing from the region.
The U.S.-led military campaign has put the Islamic State group on defense, Killea said, adding, “There is progress.” Witnesses on the ground say the airstrikes and Kurdish ground actions are squeezing the militants in northern Syria, particularly in their self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa.
But U.S. intelligence agencies see the overall situation as a strategic stalemate: The Islamic State remains a well-funded extremist army able to replenish its ranks with foreign jihadis as quickly as the U.S. can eliminate them. Meanwhile, the group has expanded to other countries, including Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Afghanistan.
The assessments by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others appear to contradict the optimistic line taken by the Obama administration’s special envoy, retired Gen. John Allen, who told a forum in Aspen, Colorado, last week that “ISIS is losing” in Iraq and Syria. The intelligence was described by officials who would not be named because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
“We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers,” a defense official said, citing intelligence estimates that put the group’s total strength at between 20,000 and 30,000, the same estimate as last August, when the airstrikes began.
The Islamic State’s staying power raises questions about the administration’s approach to the threat that the group poses to the U.S. and its allies. Although officials do not believe it is planning complex attacks on the West from its territory, the group’s call to Western Muslims to kill at home has become a serious problem, FBI Director James Comey and other officials say.
Yet under the Obama administration’s campaign of bombing and training, which prohibits American troops from accompanying fighters into combat or directing airstrikes from the ground, it could take a decade or more to drive the Islamic State from its safe havens, analysts say. The administration is adamant that it will commit no U.S. ground troops to the fight despite calls from some in Congress to do so.
The U.S.-led coalition and its Syrian and Kurdish allies have made some inroads. The Islamic State has lost 9.4 percent of its territory in the first six months of 2015, according to an analysis by the conflict monitoring group IHS.
A Delta Force raid in Syria that killed Islamic State financier Abu Sayyaf in May also has resulted in a well of intelligence about the group’s structure and finances, U.S. officials say. His wife, held in Iraq, has been cooperating with interrogators.
Syrian Kurdish fighters and their allies have wrested most of the northern Syria border from the Islamic State group, and the plan announced this week for a U.S.-Turkish “safe zone” is expected to cement those gains.
In Raqqa, U.S. coalition bombs pound the group’s positions and target its leaders with increasing regularity. The militants’ movements have been hampered by strikes against bridges, and some fighters are sending their families away to safer ground.
But American intelligence officials and other experts say the Islamic State is in no danger of being defeated any time soon.
“The pressure on Raqqa is significant … but looking at the overall picture, ISIS is mostly in the same place,” said Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.
Although U.S. officials have said it is crucial that the government in Baghdad win back disaffected Sunnis, there is little sign of that happening. American-led efforts to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State have produced a grand total of 60 vetted fighters.
The militants have adjusted their tactics to thwart a U.S. bombing campaign that tries assiduously to avoid civilian casualties, officials say. Fighters no longer move around in easily targeted armored columns; they embed themselves among women and children, and they communicate through couriers to thwart eavesdropping and geolocation, the defense official said.
Oil continues to be a major revenue source. By one estimate, the Islamic State is clearing $500 million per year from oil sales, said Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department. That’s on top of as much as $1 billion in cash the group seized from banks in its territory.
Although the U.S. has been bombing oil infrastructure, the militants have been adept at rebuilding oil refining, drilling and trading capacity, the defense official said.
The stalemate makes the battle for Ramadi all the more important.
Iraqi security forces, including 500 Sunni fighters, have begun preparing to retake the Sunni city, Killea said, and there have been 100 coalition airstrikes designed to support the effort. But he cautioned it will take time.
“Momentum,” he said, “is a better indicator of success than speed.”
Karam and Mroue reported from Beirut.
Follow Ken Dilanian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kendilanianap . Follow Zeina Karam at https://twitter.com/zkaram?lang=en. Follow Bassem Mroue at https://twitter.com/bmroue
LONG BEACH, N.Y. (AP) — At age 95, Lucille Horn often reflects on her long, full life, with a husband and five children, and how it might not have happened if not for the renegade doctor who put her in a Coney Island sideshow when she was just days old.
Horn is among thousands of former premature babies whose lives were saved in the early 20th century by Dr. Martin Couney, a pioneer in the use of incubators who sought acceptance for the technology by showing it off on carnival midways alongside freak shows and fan dancers.
“Life Begins at the Baby Incubator,” read one of the signs at his displays — essentially a ward with babies in the glass cribs — that drew huge crowds at world’s fairs, on the Atlantic City boardwalk and Coney Island’s Luna Park. Couney invited desperate parents to bring him their preemies, and he paid for their care with the 25 cents he charged for admission.
Couney died in 1950, shortly after incubators finally came into wider use. Horn and others who owe their lives to him want their stories told so the doctor’s curious tale — one that would cause outrage by today’s standards — doesn’t die with them.
Horn was a twin born prematurely in 1920 in Brooklyn. Her sister had died, and doctors told her father to hold off on a funeral because Lucille would not survive the day.
“He said: ‘Well that’s impossible; she’s alive now. We have to do something for her,'” Horn said. “My father wrapped me in a towel and took me in a cab to the incubator; I went to Dr. Couney. I stayed with him quite a few days. Almost five months.”
Couney was well known in the early 1900s for his work in keeping premature babies alive. The German-trained doctor studied in Paris with Dr. Pierre Budin, who had pioneered the theory of enclosed incubators, designed to keep babies warm and protect them from germs.
The incubator was first seen in 1896 at the Berlin Exposition, and for the first time in the U.S. at expositions in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1898, and Buffalo, New York, in 1901.
U.S. hospitals were slow to adopt incubators for a variety of reasons. A 2000 article on the subject in the Journal of Perinatology cited, among other factors, the belief among early 1900s infant care experts that premature babies were weaklings who, if they survived, were likely to pass on that trait to their own children.
Couney opened his first exhibit with “live babies” at Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1903. By the 1920s, the incubators were kept in a Hansel-and-Gretel-like cottage decorated with the image of a stork overlooking a nest of cherubs. And in the 1930s, he took his incubator babies to the world’s fairs in New York and Chicago, where the display was on the midway next to the show of burlesque fan dancer Sally Rand. Couney ended the sideshows in 1943.
“We think this is a spectacle. We could never do this today,” said Dr. Richard Schanler, director of neonatal services at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. “But at the time, he was a leader. And I think we owe a lot of the very basic principles of neonatology to this gentleman.”
In the early 1900s, when most births occurred at home, doctors weren’t always in the picture, and premature babies were often written off. While exact numbers are difficult to determine, medical historians say Couney estimated he saved 7,500 of the 8,500 children that passed through his incubators.
Writer A.J. Liebling noted in a 1939 New Yorker magazine piece that Couney became irate at the suggestion he was merely a showman.
“All my life I have been making propaganda for the proper care of preemies, who in other times were allowed to die,” he quoted the doctor as saying. “Everything I do is strict ethical.”
Beth Allen was born in 1941, and like Mrs. Horn, her twin sister was too small to survive. Her mother, she said, initially rejected putting her child in one of Couney’s incubators, but her father persuaded Couney to talk to his wife, who acquiesced.
“The whole thing is just amazing to me,” Allen, who now lives in Hackensack, New Jersey, told The Associated Press in an interview. “And the older I get, the more appreciative I am of the opportunity that I was given to be here to talk to you, and to live a wonderful life that I had.”
Carol Boyce Heinisch was an incubator baby at Couney’s exhibition in Atlantic City in 1942. Today, the 73-year-old Absecon, New Jersey, woman is a secretary in a law firm. She has a family photograph of Couney’s daughter, Hildegarde, who worked as his nurse in Atlantic City and held Carol days after she was born.
“If it wasn’t for him, maybe I wouldn’t have survived,” Heinisch said. “I’m just very grateful for what he did.”
Barbara Horn recently had her mother record an oral history of her memories, including meeting Couney as a teenager, when she thanked him.
“It’s a story mom has told many times,” the younger Horn said. “Hearing her tell it now, it’s given me a new sense of appreciation for actually how precarious things were for her in the beginning and actually how gutsy Dr. Couney was.”
Associated Press video journalist Joseph Frederick and AP researcher Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.
NEW YORK (AP) — The myriad of festivals seems to have gotten more dizzying over the last decade: Whether it’s a weekend of music performances, a foodie meet-up or a health-and-wellness gathering, there seems to be a “fest” happening somewhere around the globe at any moment.
It’s almost enough to cause festival overload. But Fest300 — a site officially launched this year after an earlier soft launch by entrepreneur Chip Conley — is seeking to not only enhance, but also curate the festival experience by sifting through them all and pointing out the best from the rest. He likens it to the festival version of the website Trip Advisor, where travelers go when they want to plan the best trip.
“We’re trying to outline what we think are the best festivals because people have more choice, and the more choice you have, the more you want someone to curate your choices for you,” Conley, an executive at AirBnB, said in a recent interview.
The site’s ultimate list of the top 300 festivals in the world contains the familiar — including Coachella, Lollapalooza (which kicks off Friday) and the Cannes Film Festival — and also those that may not be as well known, like the National Cowboy Poetry Festival in Texas (mark your calendars for January) or the Rainforest Music Festival coming up in August in Malaysia.
There’s also a steady stream of articles. A recent check of the site had one that included which festivals had the most germ-ridden wristbands, and another on going to festivals from a woman’s vantage point.
Conley says the site’s advantage, and its biggest challenge, is the broad swath it aims to appeal to.
“Usually when you create something new you actually go after a certain niche of people and you just serve that niche really well and grow from there,” he said. “What we’ve decided to do is the opposite. We said, let’s actually create the most comprehensive festival website ever created and focus on just the cream of the crop across all types of locations and festivals.”
Fest300 enlists festival-goers for their input to give ratings of their experiences, but is also working with festivals like Bonnaroo for behind-the-scenes videos and other exclusive content. The site’s business model includes sponsored content and advertising from tourism bureaus.
Taylor hopes to grow the site to more than 500,000 unique views per month, and given the popularity of festivals, believes it’s an achievable goal.
“Part of the reason why I think festivals have grown so much — they’re just popping up all over — is because people want that in real life experience,” he said. “We spend so much of our time connecting with each other through iPhones and Facebook, but doing it in person makes a big difference. I do think the reason why Fest300 the site is necessary is because there are so many new choices.”