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    A New York City firefighter has been killed after a massive fire broke out at a building in Harlem where a movie directed by Edward Norton was being shot. New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the blaze erupted in the basement of an unoccupied residential building about 11 p.m. Thursday. Nigro said two other firefighters suffered burns and were in serious condition, and three other people were injured. FDNY officials identified the firefighter killed as 37-year-old Michael R. Davidson, a 15-year department veteran. They say Davidson is survived by a wife and four children. Eric Phillips, Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary, tweeted: 'This is an awful night.' The blaze broke out on the set of 'Motherless Brooklyn,' starring Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin.
  • It's a beautiful day to honor Mister Rogers with a postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service is releasing a stamp featuring Fred Rogers, the gentle TV host who entertained and educated generations of preschoolers on 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.' The 'forever' stamp goes on sale Friday. It pictures Rogers in his trademark cardigan along with King Friday, a puppet character from the show's Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Postal officials are holding a dedication ceremony at the Pittsburgh studio where Rogers filmed his beloved PBS show, which aired between 1968 and 2001. Rogers died in 2003 at age 74. Among those planning to attend the ceremony are Rogers' widow and David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, the deliveryman on 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
  • A representative for Lorna Luft says the singer has had successful brain surgery after being diagnosed with a tumor. Victoria Varela told The Associated Press on Thursday that Luft had the surgery to remove the tumor on Tuesday at a hospital in Los Angeles and is expected to be released soon. The daughter of Judy Garland and sister of Liza Minnelli collapsed earlier this month backstage after a concert and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Varela says Luft thanks her fans for their support and also her doctors for taking good care of her. Luft says she plans to reschedule her concerts in England. Luft also is in remission after fighting breast cancer.
  • A former Playboy model apologized to first lady Melania Trump for a 10-month affair she claims she had with President Donald Trump that started with him offering her money after the first time they had sex. During an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that aired Thursday night, Karen McDougal said Trump tried to pay her after their first sexual tryst at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2006. 'Well, after we had been intimate, he, he tried to pay me. And I actually didn't know how to take that,' she said. 'But I looked at him and I said, 'That's not me. I'm not that kind of girl.'' She cried on the way home and didn't think she would see him again, but agreed to go on other dates with him after he called her back, she said. McDougal repeatedly described Trump as 'very charming' and 'sweet.' McDougal said she continued the relationship with Trump for about 10 months and broke it off in April 2007 because she felt guilty. She recalled traveling to meet Trump at his properties in New York, New Jersey and California and said she had sex with him 'many dozens of times.' McDougal had feelings for Trump, but the affair was 'just tearing me apart,' she said. 'There was a real relationship there. There were real feelings,' she said. 'He would call me baby or he would call me beautiful Karen.' Trump married his current wife, Melania Trump, in 2005, and their son, Barron, was born in 2006. Speaking to CNN — which her attorney has said would be her only interview about the relationship — McDougal apologized when she was asked what she would say to Melania Trump. 'What can you say except, I'm sorry?' McDougal said. 'I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me.' McDougal said she never wanted to discuss her relationship and repeatedly rebuffed inquiries from reporters about the alleged affair. But after the story became public, she wanted to get out and tell her side of what happened, she said. The White House has said Trump denies having an affair with McDougal and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the interview Thursday night. On Tuesday, she filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against the company that owns the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which she said paid her $150,000 during the presidential campaign for the rights to her story of an affair, but never ran the story. McDougal's lawsuit, which asks a judge to invalidate the contract, alleges that Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, was secretly involved in her discussions with the tabloid's parent company, American Media, Inc. The company has said that McDougal has been allowed to speak about her relationship since 2016 and the contract gave them discretion over whether to publish the story. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect style on first lady. ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.
  • Chinese state media will be getting more propaganda now that the Communist Party has announced it will be in direct control of broadcasters and the regulators of everything from movies and TV to books and radio programs. The move is part of a push by President Xi Jinping — emboldened by the removal of term limits on his time in office — to tighten party supervision over broad swaths of Chinese public life as he pushes for what he calls 'unity in thought' among officials and citizens. Analysts say having direct oversight of the media will help the party hammer home its message domestically and also work to improve its image internationally. 'It's one vast effort to get everybody thinking together,' said David Zweig, director of the Center on China's Transnational Relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Under the plan announced Wednesday, China Radio International, China National Radio and China Central Television, along with its international broadcast arm, China Global Television Network, will be merged into a new body with a name that translates to 'Voice of China.' The government's regulator of the press and print publications, radio, film and television will cease to exist and its responsibilities and resources will be transferred to the party's Central Propaganda Department, along with control over the film industry, including the import and export of movies. The new body's chief responsibilities include 'implementing the party's propaganda guidelines and policies,' the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Communist Party newspaper Global Times quoted government expert Feng Yue of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying the move will 'concentrate the resources and authority to improve China's influence overseas and promote China's international image.' While Chinese media consumers have grown increasingly apolitical with an ever-expanding range of options, from foreign television shows to video games and online shopping, Xi has been steadily increasing the role of the party in the lives of many through new or newly invigorated branch committees in schools, offices and factories. That could leave ordinary Chinese with 'little choice' but to become active consumers of propaganda, Zweig said. Writing on the website of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, editor David Bandurski said the change gave the Propaganda Department — which formerly provided broad overall guidance of the media message — direct control over output. 'And that is largely the point that comes through here — the tighter, more centralized control of media and ideology,' Bandurski said. As its name suggests, the new media monolith appears modeled on outlets such as the U.S.'s Voice of America or Russia's Russia Today, now known simply as RT. Xi has repeatedly stressed the role of state media as the party's 'throat and tongue' — the equivalent of 'mouthpiece' — especially since a 2016 visit to Xinhua and other major outlets during which he further reinforced the message by saying such outlets must 'take the 'party' as their surname.' At the same time, China has faced opposition to its moves to consolidate territorial claims in the South China Sea and rapid economic expansion overseas, as embodied by Xi's signature trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative to tie China to Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa through roads, railways, ports and power plants. China has spent vast sums to boost its overseas media presence in recent years, with CCTV opening broadcast centers in Washington and Nairobi, Kenya, and the English-language China Daily newspaper paying to have itself included as an insert in esteemed American papers such as the Washington Post. Yet those efforts face an uphill battle in competing with well-established global media outlets such as CNN and the BBC, while much of the reporting on China smacks of party propaganda in contrast to reports about the country by foreign media outlets. Cao Peixin, a professor at the Television School under Beijing's Communication University of China that has long trained much of the country's on-air talent, said the reorganization fits the trend toward greater efficiency and media convergence, but would also help present a more unified political message. Integrating the various departments may not be easy, however, Cao said. 'If the system cannot be established in a modern, efficient and very flexible way, it will be very difficult for many organizations to work in step,' he said.
  • The Weather Channel is under new ownership. Entertainment Studios Inc., an independent movie and TV producer and distributor, said Thursday it's acquired the channel's parent company, Weather Group. Byron Allen, founder and owner of Entertainment Studios, bought the Weather Group from the Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast-NBCUniversal, Entertainment Studios said. 'The Weather Channel is a phenomenal asset,' Allen said in an interview. 'It is the No. 1 weather news network in America. It's a network that's very important, that provides us information to protect our families and our lives.' The purchase price for the channel and Local Now, a news streaming service, reportedly was $300 million. Entertainment Studios declined to confirm the figure. Bain, Blackstone and Comcast-NBCUniversal bought the Weather Channel Cos. from Landmark Communications in 2008 for a reported $3.5 billion. The new owners sold digital assets including the Weather.com website for a reported $2 billion-plus to IBM in 2015. Allen called the Weather Channel 'an American treasure' that he intends to expand. 'We're just honored to be able to own and take it to the next level,' he said. 'They're already doing great, we're just going to invest more to position it for greater success' domestically and internationally. Meteorologist Jim Cantore is among the familiar faces at the basic cable channel that's available in more than 80 million North American homes. In a statement, Weather Channel CEO Dave Shull said Allen's ownership will benefit its viewers, distributors and advertisers. Entertainment Studios owns seven TV channels, including Comedy.tv and Justice Central.tv, which are distributed online and by pay-TV providers. It also owns TheGrio.com, a website devoted to African-American stories and issues. Allen said the purchase of the Weather Group was completed Thursday morning through his company Allen Media LLC.
  • A prosecutor in Minnesota says he's reviewing law enforcement reports about Prince's death and will make a decision on possible charges 'in the near future.' Carver County Attorney Mark Metz says in a statement that investigative data in the case remains active and isn't public information until a charging decision is made. Authorities did release autopsy data to Prince's siblings after an agreement and a judge's order that calls for strict rules requiring confidentiality. Attorneys for Prince's siblings asked for the information so they can pursue possible litigation. Metz says he plans to address the release of other investigative data the family wants at a hearing next week. Prince was 57 when he died at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016, of an accidental fentanyl overdose.
  • The parents of Anton Yelchin have reached a settlement with the makers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the SUV that crushed and killed the 'Star Trek' actor in his driveway in 2016. The confidential settlement agreement between Victor and Irina Yelchin and Fiat Chrysler was filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court. Fiat Chrysler said in a statement Thursday that it is 'pleased that we've reached an amicable resolution in this matter' and that the car company continues to 'extend our deepest sympathies to the Yelchin family for their tragic loss.' Messages left for Yelchin family attorney Gary Dordick were not immediately returned. The actor was killed at age 27 when his 2015 Cherokee rolled backward down a driveway of his Los Angeles home, pinning him between a mailbox and a security fence. 'Anton Yelchin was crushed and lingered alive for some time, trapped and suffocating until his death,' the lawsuit stated. The Cherokee model was among 1.1 million vehicles recalled about two months earlier when regulators said its gear shifters were confusing drivers, causing the SUVs to roll away unexpectedly and leading to dozens of injuries. The wrongful death and product liability lawsuit alleged that those gear selectors were the cause of the actor's death. 'In spite of our unbelievable grief, we decided to come here to prevent other families from the same tragedy,' Victor Yelchin said when the lawsuit was filed. Anton Yelchin had dozens of film and television credits that included voices for the 'Smurfs' movies and the Netflix TV show 'Trollhunters,' but is probably best known as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted 'Star Trek' movie franchise. ___ Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.
  • A former Fox News anchor filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday over comments by Bill O'Reilly it says were meant to damage the reputations of women who have accused him of harassment. The suit by Laurie Dhue in federal court in Manhattan accuses O'Reilly of engaging in a 'smear campaign' against his accusers after the former prime-time star or Fox settled their claims for millions of dollars. At least three other women have filed similar suits. 'As part of his desperate campaign to clear his name, O'Reilly published false statements about Dhue . calling her a liar, swearing that her allegations were fabricated in an effort to obtain a settlement,' according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. It also accuses him of 'falsely asserting that her purported claims against O'Reilly were politically motivated.' Fox ousted O'Reilly last year after The New York Times reported that at least five women with professional ties to him had received payouts totaling $13 million to settle claims of sexual harassment and other misbehavior. The newspaper said Dhue received $1 million. There was no immediate response on Thursday to a request for comment from one of O'Reilly's lawyers. In court papers filed earlier this week in the suits brought by the three other women, his lawyers called the defamation claims 'frivolous and wholly unsupported in law or fact.
  • CNN chief Jeff Zucker sharply attacked the network's rivals at Fox News Channel on Thursday, saying that it has become a propaganda machine that is 'doing an incredible disservice to the country.' Zucker spoke at the Financial Times Future of News conference two days after a former Fox military analyst quit, claiming he was ashamed at the way the network's opinion hosts were backing President Donald Trump. Zucker said that analyst, Ralph Peters, voiced what a lot of people have been thinking about Fox in the post-Roger Ailes era. 'What has happened to that network in the last 18 months, especially the last year, is that it has just turned itself into state-run TV,' Zucker said. 'TASS has nothing on them,' he said in reference to the Russian news agency. There was no immediate comment from a Fox representative. However, Trump's former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, said later at the same conference that Zucker's comments were absurd. He said 'you can't name a more propaganda outfit than CNN.' 'Every night it's 'hate Trump,'' Bannon said. He questioned why anyone wasn't fired at CNN after the 2016 election results took many people by surprise. Fox has maintained its ratings lead with a prime-time opinion lineup led by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. Together with MSNBC's left-leaning lineup, the two political talk networks are frequently the most popular destinations for viewers on cable television. Fox and MSNBC have been widening their lead in prime time over CNN, which recently announced that Chris Cuomo would join its prime-time lineup. Zucker said that Fox has 'a handful of good journalists but they get lost in the propaganda machine.' 'The idea that they are a news channel is really not accurate at all,' he said. Zucker's network has been on the receiving end of withering criticism from Trump during his presidency. He's repeatedly referred to CNN as 'fake news' when he doesn't like its coverage. Zucker said Trump's criticisms are not going to stop CNN from doing its job of holding leaders accountable. But he said the Trump has created an atmosphere of hostility toward reporters that has spread from the U.S. across the world. 'He doesn't even understand the danger he is creating for journalists and the danger he is creating for news organizations,' Zucker said. However, he said the Trump administration has helped news organizations raise their games to cover what is going on. 'He has made American journalism great again,' Zucker said.