Hardcore, bandwaggoners turn out for Super Bowl in Hayne's hometown

CAMPBELLTOWN, Australia The numbers were modest and the hour a lot less sociable than in California but Australian NFL fans had themselves a proper Super Bowl party in the hometown of San Francisco 49ers punt returner Jarryd Hayne on Monday.Australia has traditionally had one of the highest viewing figures pro rata for the Super Bowl outside the United States with some 200,000 out of a population of 23 million tuning in for the 2014 showpiece.The NFL received huge exposure Down Under last year when Hayne made the audacious decision to cut short his career as one of the biggest stars in the country's National Rugby League (NRL) and head stateside to play for the 49ers.And if the anecdotal evidence of Monday at the Western Suburbs Leagues Club in Leumeah is anything to go by, it has also had an impact on the NFL's reach even when he is not playing. "I've been a fan for about two years but I have noticed a big increase in interest mostly because of Jarryd Hayne," said Izac Talanoa who, like Hayne, has his roots in the large local Pacific Islander community. "It's been a massive influence because he only started out here and now he's over in the big leagues."Some were already waiting outside for the club to open at 9.30 a.m. so they could grab a seat in front of the big screen and some 200 had assembled by kickoff an hour later, a four-fold increase on last year's turnout according to staff.Pizza, foot-long hot dogs, corndogs, peanuts and buckets of American beers at knockdown prices all helped bridge the 7,000 miles between a sunny Monday morning in southwest Sydney and Super Bowl Sunday in Santa Clara. STATESIDE ADVENTUREThe smattering of NFL shirts showed a variety of allegiances but they were worn largely by the cognoscenti and there were far more showing their support for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton than those in Hayne's number 38 shirt for the 49ers.Swathed in an outsize black Newton shirt, Tom Matahau said he had been a 49ers fans since the 1980s but his enthusiasm for the early starts required of the dedicated NFL fan Down Under had been rekindled by Hayne's stateside adventure."I got up to watch him play, for sure," he said. "There's definitely a lot of pride around here, even if it's still pretty much an NRL town."Matt Parker would also count himself among that hardcore and told of once having shelled out $300 to watch his beloved Eagles in Phildelphia.The 25-year-old "tradie", the local term for a blue collar worker, had been somewhat skeptical about Hayne's bid to play in the NFL and pleasantly surprised by the outcome."Most Aussies that have made it before have been punters or come through the college system," said Parker, who backs the Eagles because a picture of one of their players was on the box of the console game that first got him into the sport."I was a little surprised he made it, I knew he'd give it a red-hot go but he was competing against guys who have been playing gridiron all their lives." Parker, whose enthusiasm for American football extends down to college level, was looking forward to the opportunity to take in some live action in August when the Cal Bears take on the University of Hawaii in Sydney.A good turnout for the NCAA opener at the 80,000 capacity Olympic Stadium will only encourage those in the NFL hierarchy, such as executive vice president of international Mark Waller, who view Australia as a potential host country for the Pro Bowl. Happily for the NFL internationalists, Hayne said on Monday his adventure was not yet over and he would be back in the U.S. in March stronger and more versatile, looking to add to his eight appearances in a 49ers shirt. That can only be good news for the league in what has always been a sports-mad nation, even if some of Hayne's fans have not yet embraced the sport as whole. "There's a lot of people saying 'why are you going to watch the Super Bowl when Jarryd Hayne's not in it?'," said Jamie Hay, who was taking in the game before working the night shift at a poultry processing factory. "Bloody bandwaggoners," he grinned, turning his attention back to his beer and the action on the big screen. (Editing by Ian Ransom)

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In February, Chicago goes crazy for 'paczki' as donuts go gourmet

CHICAGO Chicagoans this month are less obsessed with badmouthing Mayor Rahm Emanuel or worries about their sports teams, and more focused on finding the perfect “paczki,” a rich, Polish, donut-type dessert that's taking the high-end dessert market by storm.Long a staple treat preceding the Catholic fasting period of Lent, the pastries, a no-hole, denser and richer version of the donut, have exploded in popularity in recent years far beyond Chicago's large Polish community to a growing number of high-end, specialty donut shops, bakers and food experts say.These gourmet bakeries, with names like "Glazed and Infused," are experimenting with new paczki varieties - using key lime pie, jelly made with blood oranges, or white chocolate in place of more traditional plum and rose jelly fillings."It's really big this year," said Rebecca Skoch, a food and beverage consultant who organizes the annual "Donut Fest." "Chicago has a great mix of bakers that do classic donuts and newer, avant garde places that aren't afraid to experiment."Skoch said Chicago is a leader in the gourmet donut trend nationwide, ahead of New York and Portland, so it makes sense that new shops want to take on a local favorite.Paczki (pronounced "ponchkey" for several and "ponchek" for one), also popular in other Midwest cities like Detroit and Cleveland, differ from North American bismarcks in having an especially rich dough, with eggs, butter, alcohol and sometimes milk.The dense deep-fried pastries, which do not flatten as they are eaten, date back to the Middle Ages, when people tried to use up ingredients that are avoided during Lent. PRE-LENT INDULGENCEWith Lent starting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, this year, pastry shops are expecting big business leading up to it. "People cut back on Wednesday, so Tuesday's a fun day," said Mark Tormey, co-owner of Do-Rite Donuts, which is offering Nutella-filled and key lime pie paczki with a sugary graham cracker topping.Firecakes Donuts, in the wealthy Lincoln Park and River North neighborhoods, expanded its paczki line this February with chocolate custard and Meyer lemon, along with raspberry and blood orange jelly."We try to keep the integrity but make it memorable, interesting," said Firecakes owner Jonathan Fox.Though the newer specialty donut shops have been expanding their production and varieties, the big Chicago paczki sellers continue to be European-style bakeries, like Delightful Pastries, which has made them year-round for 18 years. Delightful's owner Dobra Bielinski expects to sell 50,000 for the season, and demand has soared with greater awareness of "Paczki Day" celebrated on the Thursday or Tuesday before Lent.Delightful's varieties include "drunken paczki," like vodka with custard and whiskey with chocolate cream.In a back room at Delightful's northwest side shop last Wednesday, six workers were busy mixing, kneading and rolling the creamy dough into balls."It's nothing but paczki back there," said counter worker Maggie Giza. "It's insane." (Editing by Ben Klayman and Bernadette Baum)

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Judge dismisses Pennsylvania woman's lawsuit against Bill Cosby

A U.S. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by a Pennsylvania woman against Bill Cosby, which contended the comedian smeared her character when he accused her of lying in claiming he had sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.Renita Hill, 48, had claimed she was defamed her when the comedian and his representatives called her a liar and extortionist as he defended himself after she went public in 2014 with allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.Hill, a Pittsburgh resident, sued in October over three comments made by Cosby and his representatives. The three statements in question "do not support a claim for defamation as defined by Pennsylvania law," U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab said in his dismissal ruling, court documents showed.Hill's attorneys have said Cosby mentored her when she was a young woman, and paid for her education at Temple University and Spelman College. They said he also arranged meetings in Atlantic City, New York and Denver, where he sexually assaulted her. Hill's first public accusation of sexual assault came in a 2014 interview with a Pittsburgh TV station. Her lawsuit concerned statements Cosby and his representatives made in response to that interview. Schwab said the remarks were protected under free speech rights, and that Hill did not prove the comments harmed her. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby, 78, of sexual assault. The allegations date back as far as the 1960s, making most of them too old for criminal prosecution. Hill and several other women have sued Cosby.Cosby's attorneys welcomed the judge's decision in a statement and said they hoped it would influence the outcome of other pending lawsuits. "The Court found opinionated speech by a defendant's attorney is protected and not actionable as defamatory," the attorneys said. "It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner."The drumbeat of accusations has toppled Cosby from his cultural status as one of America's most-admired comedians. He built his career on family-friendly humor and was best known as the loving but often befuddled father in the 1980s television hit, "The Cosby Show."The only criminal charges against Cosby were filed last month, over the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004.Cosby, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, is free on $1 million bail. His lawyer has said he is not guilty and will not consider a plea bargain. (Editing by Scott Malone, Frances Kerry and David Gregorio)

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Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

Apple Inc won the dismissal on Thursday of a lawsuit accusing it of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook laptop computers that contained "logic boards" it knew were defective, and which routinely failed within two years.U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the plaintiffs, Uriel Marcus and Benedict Verceles, failed to show that Apple made "affirmative misrepresentations," despite citing online complaints and Apple marketing statements calling the laptops "state of the art" or the "most advanced" on the market."Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Apple's logic boards were unfit for their ordinary purposes or lacked a minimal level of quality," Alsup wrote. "Both plaintiffs were able to adequately use their computers for approximately 18 months and two years, respectively."Alsup gave the plaintiffs until Jan. 22 to amend their lawsuit, which sought class-action status, against the Cupertino, California-based company. Omar Rosales, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a similar request.The plaintiffs claimed that Apple's sale of MacBooks since May 20, 2010, violated consumer protection laws in California and Texas, where the lawsuit began last May before being moved.They also contended that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was told about the defective logic boards in 2011, but did nothing. Logic boards contain computer circuitry and are sometimes known as motherboards.A separate and still pending lawsuit in California accuses Apple of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook Pro laptops in 2011 that contained defective graphic cards, causing screen distortions and system failures. MacBooks are part of Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop computers. The company reported unit sales in that business of 18.91 million in its latest fiscal year.The case is Marcus et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-03824. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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Durant puts free agency talk on back burner to sink Magic

Kevin Durant turned the conversation back to the court and away from his impending free agency with a final-second jump shot that lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 117-114 victory over Orlando Magic on Wednesday. With daily reports focusing on Durant's possible departure from Oklahoma City following this season, the All-Star forward provided a timely reminder that his loyalty at this moment remains with the Thunder. Oklahoma City and Orlando were locked at 114-114 when Durant pulled off a nifty cross-over dribble and fired a three-pointer that found the bottom of the basket with less than a second remaining. Prior to fending off Magic defenders, Durant had spent much of his time shaking off questions about potential new suitors. "It's out of my control. Guys are going to write stories about what they want to write about (and where I could go)," Durant told reporters prior to scoring 37 points in Wednesday's game. "(The free agency talk) is ramped up a bit. I just try to stay locked in to where I am." Durant, 27, has spent his entire career with the Thunder franchise dating back to their days in Seattle before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. But after failing to win an NBA title alongside running mate Russell Westbrook, speculation has mounted that Durant could ply his trade elsewhere and there are no shortage of rumored suitors for the four-time league scoring champion. He has been linked to the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, and most recently, the defending champion Golden State Warriors, in various stories swirling around him. "It's just a part of this (free agency) process," Durant said. "When the time comes we'll talk about it. Right now I'm 100 percent locked in to helping (the Thunder) be the best we can be." (Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)

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