Baseball plans game at Field of Dreams, but will they come?

DYERSVILLE, Iowa (AP) — Spurred by a voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come,” the Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner dutifully carved a baseball field out of his cornfield and then watched as Shoeless Joe Jackson and his Chicago White Sox teammates strode out of the stalks and onto the Field of Dreams.

Major League Baseball is building another field a few hundred yards down a corn-lined path from the famous movie site in eastern Iowa but unlike the original, it’s unclear whether teams will show up for a game this time as the league and its players struggle to agree on plans for a coronavirus-shortened season.

The owners of the Field of Dreams and residents of the farming community of Dyersville desperately hope so, saying that after months of isolation and loss caused by the virus, not only their area but the entire country could use a boost like seeing the scheduled Aug. 13 game between the New York Yankees and White Sox go ahead as planned.

“For both baseball and the general public, what a match made in heaven that would be for this year,” said Keith Rahe, now a tourism official but who previously farmed a half mile from the Field of Dreams and vividly remembers the scorching summer of 1988 when the movie was filmed. “Just to have something to feel good about — how do you measure that?”

Major League Baseball announced plans for the game nearly a year ago, making it the latest regular season game held at irregular locations, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a July 4th celebration to annual games at the home of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. As Commissioner Robert Manfred said in announcing the game, “We look forward to celebrating the movie’s enduring message of how baseball brings people together at this special cornfield in Iowa.”

But more than two months after the league’s scheduled opener in March, no games have been played and no one knows for sure if there will be a season, much less a contest in a cornfield.

That has people like Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens a little down, not only because of the missed economic boost for his city of 4,000 but because of the chance the game offered to show the world his town. Heavens notes the bustling community, bracketed by a grain elevator and the twin brick towers of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, is overwhelmingly Catholic, proudly frugal and always ready for some baseball — though in describing Dyersville he quips that after 25 years there, “I’m fairly new in town.”

Heavens said a game at the Field of Dreams, officially within city limits but a few miles from downtown through farmland and past silver-domed silos, is just what baseball needs.

“Small town Iowa, baseball is still a big thing here,” he said. “It’s kind of like we’re right in the middle of Americana, in the middle of an Iowa cornfield and what better place to play baseball?”

The region is quintessential Midwest, with narrow roads cutting a circuitous path through fields of corn and soybeans that stretch over undulating hills, interrupted only by weathered barns and tidy farm houses. The farmland is among the most valuable in the nation, and much of the grain grown there is hauled only 25 miles east to the Mississippi River, where it’s carried on barges to points south.

The anticipated matchup, officially a home game for the White Sox 180 miles west of Chicago, was expected to be a $9 million economic windfall for Dyersville and nearby Dubuque with plans for four days of concerts, exhibits and other events. The twilight game was supposed to be played before 8,000 people and under lights erected solely for the event, and while the field will remain the rest is supposed to be removed.

The Field of Dreams site is open to visitors, who at no charge can run the bases and see if they can smack a ball into cornstalks that now stand about a foot tall. They also can sit on wooden planks where actor James Earl Jones playing a baseball-loving author watched Ray Liotta as Jackson, a real-life player who was banned from the game because of his role in the World Series-fixing Black Sox Scandal.

Lately, visitors also have been able to gaze across the corn at towering light stands and see the deep green of a professional-quality outfield.

Jeremiah and Janci Bronson celebrated their 15th anniversary by driving with their three young children more than two hours from Ames, Iowa, to the Field of Dreams. Their plans to attend an Elton John concert in Des Moines were thwarted when the coronavirus forced postponement of the show, so they instead drove to Dyersville to tour the farmhouse that overlooks the field and hit balls from home plate.

“James Earl Jones says in the movie that baseball is constant and this is an unchanging part of our childhood,” said Jeremiah Bronson, who intends to return if the MLB game is held, regardless of if he can get a ticket. “This is going to be here after we’re gone. This is going to be here for our kids to bring their kids to.”

For Go the Distance Baseball, the company that now owns the Field of Dream site and plans to build a complex of youth baseball and softball fields, the talk of playing a game began five years ago. Now, after an excruciating waiting game through the spring, a decision will have to come soon as the planned gameday approaches.

“These are uncharted waters for everybody,” said Roman Weinberg, the company’s director of operations. “We’re all in this together and we understand that. We understand the best choice for Major League Baseball in 2020 comes first.”


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Pick me up off the floor, Norah Jones asks on her new album

NEW YORK (AP) — The title of Norah Jones’ new album, “Pick Me Up Off the Floor,” has two chief meanings.

After spending two years recording one-off monthly sessions, the piano-playing jazz-pop singer realized she had enough great songs piled up. “I didn’t know what was happening with them. I was sort of picking them up and putting them together. That was sort of the idea,” she said.

The other meaning? It’s the extremely literal one: the songs were sad, and Jones needed a hand getting up.

“That feeling of desperation, when you just need somebody to pick you up, it was all of that,” she said.

Jones’ seventh album will be released Friday and though the 11-track album was written and recorded sporadically, it is a cohesive set that is personal and emotional, with song titles like “How I Weep,” “Hurts to Be Alone,” “Heartbroken, Day After” and “Stumble On My Way” to drive the point home.

“Then it whacks me straight into my stomach at night, it’s a hard blow to take with all of its might/It tries to be sorry, it tries to be sweet, then it runs out the door as if on two feet,” she sings on the opening track.

But Jones, 41, isn’t down and out the entire time — the album’s later songs, including “I’m Alive” and “To Live,” finish off with hopeful notes proving there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“I feel like there’s a lot on this album that is very personal … I think I was sad when I wrote a lot of them, for sure, obviously,” said Jones, who added that the subjects of the songs came from one period of time in her life, though she didn’t say when that was.

Getting the sad songs out of her system was healing, she explained.

“I think it’s a really good way to release it, actually. It’s more like an outlet for me to sort of release that sadness, I guess,” she said. “It feels really good to write songs when you’re feeling things deeply because you have somewhere to put all that energy. I think it’s almost like therapy.”

After she finished touring her 2016 album “Day Breaks,” Jones held monthly recording sessions to collaborate with artists and also to put out singles without thinking about a full-length album. She said she was extremely inspired to write, and the songs poured out of her.

“I’m not incredibly prolific usually. I’ll go through creative spurts, but I think just the act of doing these sessions every few months was like throwing another log on the fire,” she said. “I just thought it might open me up to new things, and it so did. Out of it came the album I wasn’t trying to make.”

She began to live with the songs — listening to them on her phone while walking the dog or in the house — and thought of ways to enhance the piano-based tunes, the majority of them written and produced solely by herself: “What do I want to add to it? Do I want to add horns? Does it need anything?”

Once she realized she had a full album she loved listening to, she worked on song sequencing to prevent it from sounding like a completely gloomy affair: “Let it get sad but not so sad that you don’t want to listen anymore.”

“It could be very different (depending on) the way the sequence goes,” she said. “That’s the art of the album making, the arc of whatever story you’re trying to tell.”

As for her next project, Jones isn’t sure how the songs will come together, but she’s still going to hold one-off sessions because it feels like freedom.

And though she’s stuck at home like the rest of the world, she’s still writing during the pandemic, when time allows it: “I’ve had a few moments of little lightning bolts where I write ideas down, but … my kids are 4 and 6, so it’s been a lot of just that.”

The recent worldwide protests in the response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black people have moved her to write, too.

“Sometimes things come through you (and) you try to capture them,” she said. “Last week has inspired a lot of thinking.”


NHL camps to open July 10 if league, players agree to resume

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association gave the go-ahead Thursday for teams to open training camp on July 10 in the next step forward toward completing the pandemic-delayed season.

The league and union have already approved a 24-team playoff format but still need to decide on testing and health and safety protocols along with potential host cities for the games.

“I think safety’s first and foremost,” Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel said earlier this week. “I still think there’s a lot to go into it.”

Camps are expected to last two weeks, if not slightly longer. Under this timeline, exhibition games could begin as soon as July 24 with playoff games starting roughly a week later.

Setting a July 10 start for camps allows players to make arrangements to return to their home cities in light of quarantine regulations in the U.S. and Canada. Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently 17% of the league’s players were overseas.

Players were allowed to resume small-group, voluntary workouts and teams could open their training facilities Monday. Groups of players began skating this week, while others were waiting for a firm timeline to ramp up for games.

“It’s obviously not a typical schedule that we would be accustomed to,” New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey said earlier this week. “This year you’re not going to be going into training camp and the first game of the season. You’re going into playoffs.”

Under the format devised by the Return to Play committee, the top four teams in each conference advance to the round of 16 and play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding. The other 16 teams play best-of-five series.


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Naval Academy board chief calls to remove Confederate names

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The names of two members of the Confederacy should be removed from buildings at the U.S. Naval Academy, the chairman of the academy’s Board of Visitors said Thursday.

Rep. C.A Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, said the Pentagon should consider removing Confederate names from all military bases as people across the country protest against racial inequality and police brutality.

“There has been discussion of renaming these buildings since at least 2017,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “As the new Chairman, the time for discussion is over. It’s time for action. (Midshipmen) who have earned the privilege to study in one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions should not have to walk around campus and see buildings named for men who fought to uphold slavery and promote white supremacy.”

The academy superintendent’s residence is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the start of the Civil War. The academy’s Weapons and Systems Engineering division is house in Maury Hall. It’s named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, who was a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.

“This isn’t about erasing history,” Ruppersberger said. “We simply shouldn’t lift up traitors who fought against American values like equality and tolerance.”

The congressman said he would bring up the issue at the board’s next meeting. The board is similar to a board of trustees at a civilian college and includes members of Congress. He also said he would offer an amendment to appropriations measures in Congress to require the academy to rename the two buildings.

“We are working hard to attract minority applicants to our service academies and all of our service branches,” Ruppersberger said. “We must send a strong and unequivocal message to all potential minority applicants that we stand united in opposing the glorification of leaders who defended slavery.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration will “not even consider” changing the name of any of the 10 Army bases that are named for Confederate Army officers. Two days earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated he was open to a broad discussion of such changes.

Supporters of disassociating military bases from Confederate Army officers argue they represent the racism and divisiveness of the Civil War era and glorify men who fought against the United States.


Pakistan’s Sohail and Amir withdraw from England tour

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan batsman Haris Sohail and fast bowler Mohammad Amir have pulled out of the England cricket tour.

Sohail did so for family reasons, while Amir wants to be at the birth of his second child in August, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Pakistan hopes to tour in August and play three tests and three Twenty20s.

The PCB plans to send 28 players and 14 support personnel in case a player to cover for COVID-19 infections and injuries.


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Judge blasts prosecutors in Iran-Venezuela sanctions case

A New York federal judge has scolded prosecutors for potentially withholding evidence against an Iranian businessman convicted of being a key nexus in growing ties between the Islamic republic and fellow U.S. adversary Venezuela.

In an unusual reversal, prosecutors last week dismissed charges against Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, who had been found guilty in March of using a network of front companies to funnel through U.S. banks more than $115 million in payments related to a construction project in Venezuela to his family’s business in Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Sadr had been free awaiting sentencing in August, when he faced a maximum of 125 years in prison for charges including money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in March praised the work of law enforcement officials who tried Sadr, saying in a news release that his conviction “shows that U.S. economic sanctions against Iran are for real, and violators will be exposed and prosecuted.”

But in a filing last week, he revealed there were “disclosure-related issues” that came up before, during and after the trial that would have altered Sadr’s defense. As a result, he said the government “has determined that it would not be in the interests of justice to further prosecute this case.”

In response to the request, Judge Alison Nathan on Tuesday reprimanded Berman for the sudden reversal. In a 9-point memo, she ordered prosecutors to identify all evidence the was potentially withheld, which attorneys were involved in the investigation and whether there was any misconduct.

Judge Nathan said recent developments “raised serious concerns about the conduct of the government.”

When trying a case, prosecutors are required to hand over any evidence that could help defendants prove their innocence and can face disciplinary action if they do not.

“We are pleased the government has decided to drop the case but disheartened by the significant disclosure violations that led to this extraordinary request,” Sadr attorney Brian Heberlig said in an email to The Associated Press.

Another of Sadr’s attorneys, Reid Weingarten, had complained in a court filing that his client has suffered “substantial reputational harm” on the basis of “an unfair trial marred by the government’s multiple constitutional violations.” He submitted a request making clear the conviction was null and void.

Sadr’s conviction had been one of the most prominent to date showing Iran’s growing influence in Venezuela. In 2006, the Stratus Group, his family’s Tehran-based conglomerate, established a subsidiary that was hired by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company to build 7,000 housing units for $475 million.

To hide the proceeds, Sadr and a co-conspirator acquired St. Kitts and Nevis passports and used fronts in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Switzerland, according to the indictment.

Since then, the strategic partnership between the two U.S. adversaries has advanced even further, with Iran last month sending to Venezuela five tankers to help resolve fuel shortages that have led to days-long gas lines across the country.

Sadr, a member of one of Iran’s richest families, was also the owner of the now-defunct Pilatus Bank of Malta. Prominent journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had been investigating bribes to senior Maltese officials paid through the bank when she was was killed by a car bomb. In the aftermath of the dismissal, the Daphne Caruana Foundation has called for Sadr’s extradition.

“It is now more important than ever that he is prosecuted in Malta, since he has destroyed Malta’s reputation in the process of using the country as a base for facilitating criminal activity,” the foundation wrote.


Goodman reported from Miami. AP writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.


Senate panel OKs removing Confederate names from bases

WASHINGTON (AP) — A GOP-led Senate panel has approved a plan by Sen. Elizabeth Warren to have the names of Confederate figures removed from military bases and other Pentagon assets, taking on President Donald Trump, who has vowed not to change names like Fort Bragg and Fort Hood.

The ban would be imposed withing three years and was approved by a voice vote as a piece of the annual Pentagon policy bill. The provision is likely to be matched when the Democratic-controlled House takes up the measure in coming weeks.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that statues of Confederate figures such as Jefferson Davis be removed from the U.S. Capitol.

Confederate monuments have reemerged as a national flashpoint since the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Protesters decrying racism have targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities, and some state officials are considering taking them down.

President Donald Trump vowed Wednesday that he would not rename military bases honoring Confederate generals, even as NASCAR announced it would ban displays of the Confederate flag at its races.

Warren’s amendment would force the Pentagon to remove the names of confederate generals from bases and other military assets such as ships within three years. A commission would be set up to oversee the process.

Confederate symbols remain both in the military and on Capitol Hill are coming coming under attack as public opinion has dramatically shifted since Floyd’s killing.

“The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” Pelosi wrote. “Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals.”

The presence of statues of generals and other figures of the Confederacy in Capitol locations such as Statuary Hall — the original House chamber — has been offensive to African American lawmakers for many years. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., was known to give tours pointing out the numerous statues.

But it’s up to the states to determine which of their historical figures to display. Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who was president of the Confederate States of America, is represented by one of two statues from that state. Pelosi noted that Davis and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, whose statue comes from Georgia, “were charged with treason against the United States.”


Large rock slide closes North Cascades Highway near Rockport


Seattle Times staff reporter

A large rock slide closed Highway 20, the state’s longest thoroughfare, in both directions Wednesday evening at milepost 98, near Shular Road in Rockport, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Drivers between Rockport and Marblemount are being detoured onto Highway 530, Rockport Cascade Road and Cascade River Road, WSDOT tweeted.

As of 7:10 a.m. Thursday, WSDOT had no estimate for when Highway 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, would reopen.

Crews on the scene Wednesday night estimated the rock slide was 15 to 20 feet deep.

The rock slide is still blocking SR 20, no ETA for reopening. A signed detour takes drivers from SR 20 to WB SR 530 at Rockport > east on Rockport Cascade Rd > west in Cascade River Rd and back to SR 20 in Marblemount. #thursdaymorning

— WSDOT North Traffic (@wsdot_north) June 11, 2020


Tyson cooperating with feds in price-fixing investigation

Tyson Foods shares fell Thursday after the company said it is cooperating with a federal investigation into price-fixing in the chicken industry.

Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. said it was served with a grand jury subpoena in April 2019 from the U.S. Department of Justice. Tyson said it conducted an internal investigation and turned over information to the Department of Justice.

Tyson also said it is seeking a formal grant of leniency, which would mean that neither the company or its executives would face criminal fines or jail time.

Last week, four current and former executives at Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms — including Pilgrim’s Pride President and CEO Jayson Penn — were indicted on charges of price fixing as a result of the long-running investigation.

Claxton said last week that the charges are without merit and it will vigorously defend itself. Pilgrim’s Pride said it is cooperating with the investigation.

Tyson Foods shares fell 3% to $62.76 in morning trading.

“Tyson Foods is committed to competing vigorously, honestly and in compliance with the letter and the spirit of the antitrust laws and respects the important role that the Department of Justice plays in enforcing these laws,” the company said in a statement.


Ohio State University soil professor gets World Food Prize

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A soil scientist whose research led to improved food production and a better understanding of how atmospheric carbon can be held in the soil to help combat climate change was named this year’s recipient of the World Food Prize on Thursday.

Rattan Lal is a professor of soil science at Ohio State University and founding director of the university’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center.

World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson announced Lal as the winner. The ceremony was held online rather than live in Washington due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Lal is a trailblazer in soil science with a prodigious passion for research that improves soil health, enhances agricultural production, improves the nutritional quality of food, restores the environment and mitigates climate change,” Stinson said.

Lal has developed and promoted the idea that healthy soil must not only have the usual nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but must have depleted carbon restored by leaving crop residue. This focus on soil’s physical properties diverged from the conventional soil fertility strategy in the 1970s, which relied heavily on replacing nutrients by applying fertilizer.

Lal’s research in the 1990s revealed that restoring degraded soils through increasing soil carbon and organic matter not only improved soil health, but helped combat rising carbon dioxide levels in the air by sequestering atmospheric carbon. His analysis showed that soils can sequester carbon at rates as high as 2.6 gigatons per year.

His career has taken him to posts in Australia and Nigeria. He has led soil restoration projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America, integrating no-till farming and use of cover crops, mulching and agroforestry to protect soil, conserve water and return nutrients, carbon and organic matter in the soil.

Though the concepts have been around for 50 years, farmers in developing countries are beginning to understand and implement his suggested practices. Lal also seeks wider use of soil conservation measures focused on soil health in developed countries.

“In the U.S. soil conservation is practiced only an a very small percent of the total areas,” he said. “It’s catching up, but I wish it could be at a faster speed and more area going to that kind of concept.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a videotaped message that a growing world population creates a need to improve agriculture productivity to feed more people.

“He’s helping the Earth’s estimated 500 million small farmers be faithful stewards of their land though improved management, less soil degradation, and the recycling of nutrients. The billions of people who depend on these farms stand to benefit greatly from his work,” Pompeo said.

Lal, 76, was born in India and studied soils from his earliest days at Punjab Agricultural University. His pursuit of higher education led him to Ohio State University for a doctorate. He established the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center in 2000.

Lal said he now is focused on nutrition-centered agriculture to help the world’s 850 million undernourished and 2 billion malnourished.

“We must eliminate hunger. We must also make sure that the food consumed is healthy and this is where the concept of healthy soil, plants, animals, people and the environment is a one and indivisible concept,” he said.

The World Food Prize was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. The foundation that awards the $250,000 prize is based in Des Moines.