Puma names Jay-Z creative director of basketball branch

June 19 (UPI) — Music mogul Jay-Z has been named the creative director of Puma basketball.

Jay-Z was originally rumored to have been given the title of president of basketball operations, but Puma global director of brand and marketing Adam Petrick later clarified the position.

“I can confirm that according to his deal with Puma, Jay-Z’s official designation is Creative Director,” Petrick told ESPN. “I referred to him [earlier] today by an informal designation.”

Petrick also clarified Jay-Z’s title during an interview with Complex.

Puma announced Jay-Z’s role with the company on Monday. The company has also signed prized college prospects Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Zhaire Smith ahead of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Puma also inked NBA legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier to a lifetime contract, according to ESPN.

“We’re making a serious statement about the entry of the category, that we want to be a performance brand, but then also very culturally focused,” Petrick told Complex.

Puma recently released 73 limited-edition pairs of Walt Frazier Clydes at the Puma Hoops HQ in Brooklyn, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Jay-Z, who goes by the given name of Shawn Carter, is also founder of the entertainment company and sports agency Roc Nation. The company represents several high-profile athletes, including: Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant, Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette and Saquon Barkley.

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Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinateri: No retirement in sight

Adam Vinatieri will turn 46 years old in December and, if he can stay healthy, he will have spent half his life playing in the NFL.

But as he prepares to enter his 23rd season overall and 13th with the Indianapolis Colts, Vinatieri is not counting the days down to his retirement.

“I love it as much today as I had when I started 23 years ago,” Vinatieri told the Colts’ official website on Tuesday. “I’m not looking to hang them up anytime soon, unless something happens that needs to be that way.”

Vinatieri signed a one-year contract in February to return for another season. He showed he has plenty of life left in his leg, connecting on 29 of 34 field-goal attempts in 2017, including five of six from at least 50 yards out. Two of his misses came during blizzard conditions in Buffalo.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Vinatieri is on the threshold of setting league records for the most career field goals and most points.

Vinatieri has kicked 559 field goals, which puts him just six shy of Hall of Famer Morten Andersen for the most in NFL history. His 2,487 points trail only Andersen (2,544) and his 337 career games played ranks him fifth all-time in league history.

“Obviously this all-time leading scorer thing I knew was out there and I thought, ‘Man, if I stay healthy, I would like to reach that goal,'” said Vinatieri. “But for me, like I said before, more importantly if our team is a team that is a contender to continue to make playoffs and have a chance to play in another Super Bowl and stuff, that is a huge, huge driving factor for me.”

Vinatieri has won four world championships, connecting on the game-winning kicks in each of the New England Patriots‘ first two Super Bowl wins — in 2001 versus the then-St. Louis Rams and 2003 against the Carolina Panthers.

The potential return of a healthy Andrew Luck at quarterback and general manager Chris Ballard‘s hire of Frank Reich as the team’s head coach has Vinatieri thinking a fifth Super Bowl ring is possible.

“We have a lot of things that can make this team successful and I look at this as a team that can make the playoffs moving forward,” Vinatieri said. “I clearly wanted to stay in Indy. … But I also felt like I wanted to play for a team that can win and I feel like Chris Ballard and hiring Frank … I think these two gentlemen can definitely turn this organization around so I’m happy and excited to sign with this team and to see where we can go with it.”

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China says new tariffs are an act of 'blackmail'

China’s Commerce Ministry on Tuesday criticized President Trump’s latest threat of tariffs, calling it an “act of extreme pressure and blackmail.”

Trump on Monday threatened to impose additional tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese goods following an announcement last week that he would seek to slap a 25 percent tariff on $ 50 billion in Chinese imports to the U.S.

“If the United States loses its rationality and unveils another list of Chinese products for additional tariffs, China will have no choice but to take comprehensive measures combining quantitative and qualitative ones to resolutely strike back,” the ministry said in a statement.

Trump said the tariffs were “essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs.”

He added, “After the legal process is complete, these tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced.”

Beijing responded to Trump’s announcement last week by applying tariffs to 659 U.S. products, including agricultural products, cars and marine products.

Companies like Apple are worried China could cause delays in supply chains and increase scrutiny of products under the guise of national security concerns, The New York Times reported.

Ford Motor is already facing delays at Chinese ports, according to Reuters.

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Twin brothers reunited 74 years after WWII death at Normandy

For decades, he was known only as Unknown X-9352 at a World War II American cemetery in Belgium where he was interred.

On Tuesday, Julius Heinrich Otto “Henry” Pieper, his identity recovered, was laid to rest beside his twin brother in Normandy, 74 years after the two Navy men died together when their ship shattered while trying to reach the blood-soaked D-Day beaches.

Six Navy officers in crisp white uniforms carried the flag-draped metal coffin bearing the remains of Julius to its final resting place, at the side of Ludwig Julius Wilhelm “Louie” Pieper at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The two 19-year-olds from Esmond, South Dakota, died together on June 19, 1944, when their huge flat-bottom ship hit an underwater mine as it tried to approach Utah Beach, 13 days after the D-Day landings.

While Louie’s body was soon found, identified and laid to rest, his brother’s remains were only recovered in 1961 by French salvage divers and not identified until 2017.

A lone bugler played taps as the casket was lowered in an end-of-day military ceremony attended by a half-dozen family members, closing a circle of loss. Each laid a red rose on the casket and two scattered American soil over it.

The Pieper twins, both radiomen second class, are the 45th pair of brothers at the cemetery, three of them memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the cemetery. But the Piepers are the only set of twins among the more than 9,380 graves, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

The cemetery, an immaculate field of crosses and Stars of David, overlooks the English Channel and Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the Normandy landing beaches of Operation Overlord, the first step in breaching Hitler’s stranglehold on France and Europe.

“They are finally together again, side by side, where they should be,” said their niece, Susan Lawrence, 56, of Sacramento, California.

“They were always together. They were the best of friends,” Lawrence said. “Mom told me a story one time when one of the twins had gotten hurt on the job and the other twin had gotten hurt on the job, same day and almost the same time.”

The story of how the twins died and were being reunited reflects the daily courage of troops on a mission to save the world from the Nazis and the tenacity of today’s military to ensure that no soldier goes unaccounted for.

The Pieper twins, born of German immigrant parents, worked together for Burlington Railroad and enlisted together in the Navy. Both were radio operators and both were on the same unwieldy flat-bottom boat, Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523), making the Channel crossing from Falmouth, England, to Utah Beach 13 days after the June 6 D-Day landings.

The LST-523 mission was to deliver supplies at the Normandy beachhead and remove the wounded. It never got there.

The vessel struck an underwater mine and sank off the coast. Of the 145 Navy crew members, 117 were found perished. Survivors’ accounts speak of a major storm on the Channel with pitched waves that tossed the boat mercilessly before the explosion that shattered the vessel.

Louie’s body was laid to rest in what now is the Normandy American Cemetery. But the remains of Julius were only recovered in 1961 by French divers who found them in the vessel’s radio room. He was interred as an “Unknown” at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville, Belgium, also devoted to the fallen of World War II, in the region that saw the bloody Battle of the Bulge.

Julius’ remains might have stayed among those of 13 other troops from the doomed LST-523 still resting unidentified at the Ardennes cemetery. But in 2017, a U.S. agency that tracks missing combatants using witness accounts and DNA testing identified him.

Lawrence, the niece, said the brothers had successfully made the trip across the English Channel on D-Day itself, and “they had written my grandparents a letter saying, do not worry about us we are together.”

“My grandparents received that letter after they got word that they (their sons) had passed away,” she said.

The Pieper family asked that Louie’s grave in Normandy be relocated to make room for his twin brother at his side.

The last time the United States buried a soldier who fought in World War II was in 2005, at the Ardennes American Cemetery, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

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Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

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France's Macron admonishes teenager; video goes viral

A video of French President Emmanuel Macron admonishing a teenager who called him by a nickname went viral on social media Tuesday.

The video shows Macron shaking hands in a crowd, when the teenager — using a diminutive for Macron’s first name — asks him: “How’s it going, Manu?”

Macron stops and responds: “Call me ‘Mr. President of the Republic,’ or ‘monsieur.'”

He then adds: “The day you want to start a revolution, get a degree and learn to feed yourself, OK? You can start lecturing others then.”

The exchange occurred Monday at a ceremony commemorating Charles De Gaulle’s historic appeal for armed resistance against Nazi tyranny.

Macron tweeted a video of the discussion, prompting a flood of comments Tuesday. Some applauded the French leader’s demand for respect, while others criticized what they saw as his arrogance.

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Review: 'Book Club' is a corny but sweet look at sex, aging

Jane Fonda said recently that “Book Club” was the most fun she’s ever had making a movie. She was ostensibly talking about getting to know her castmates — namely Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen — but may also have been referring to the wine. There is lots and lots of fine wine in “Book Club” — in fact, it seems like nobody’s allowed to have a conversation after 4 p.m. without an oversized glass of Chardonnay.

And come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea for the viewer as well. If you have access to wine while you’re seeing this film, go for it — it’ll smooth out the rough edges. “Book Club” has a script that’s often so heavy on the corn — make that corn syrup — that it strains credulity and leaves you groaning. But then, darn it, suddenly it makes you tearful, with an unexpectedly genuine moment, or laugh out loud. It’s a credit to the cast, and the cast only — how many decades of top-level acting experience do we have here? All four women are fun, but allow us a special shoutout to the wonderfully witty presence of Bergen, who makes something worthwhile of every line she’s given.

Vivian, Diane, Sharon and Carol are old friends, with a book club that’s been meeting for 40 years. They’re all in a different sort of rut (what they share is being white, older and well-off.) Vivian (Fonda) is a steely, auburn-haired vision of corporate success, a hotel owner with plenty of spice in her life — but only in the afternoons, no strings attached. Diane (Keaton) is a widow, with adult daughters who worry about her to an absurd degree, and no love life. Carol (Steenburgen) is comfortably married, but her husband is more interested in lubing up and riding his old motorbikes (cue the eye-rolling sex-bike puns) than in his marriage. As for Sharon (Bergen), she’s a federal judge, and defiantly single. “I haven’t had sex since my divorce and it’s been the happiest 18 years of my life,” she quips drily, as only Bergen can.

For their next book choice, Vivian decides something different is needed — “Fifty Shades of Grey.” (Yes, they’re still trying to make a good movie from it.) Of course the other women protest, but soon they’re reading and giggling.

Somehow, the book causes an immediate earthquake in each woman’s life (talk about product placement). For Carol, it’s the realization that her marriage to Bruce (an amusing Craig T. Nelson) desperately needs spark. For Vivian, it’s the uncomfortable realization that a meetup with a handsome old flame, Arthur, might actually open up her well-protected heart. (In perhaps the movie’s wittiest joke, Arthur is played by Don Johnson, father of Dakota, who of course played Anastasia Steele in You-Know-What.)

For Sharon, it’s about summoning the courage to launch herself into the jungle of online dating. And for Diane, who’s afraid to fly, the romantic challenge comes from — who’d have thunk it? — a sexy pilot named Mitchell (Andy Garcia), who seeks to shake her from a boring life in her daughter’s basement bedroom.

The intersecting storylines follow entertaining and sometimes very silly paths. Among the more ridiculous elements in the script, by director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms: the extent to which Diane’s adult daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton, in thankless parts) treat her like a child, unable to care for herself. This is a fit, active, witty woman who looks like Diane Keaton! And why does Diane stand for it? Among the sadder elements is Carol’s story; she deserves a lot better than slipping Viagra into her husband’s beer and squeezing into her old waitress uniform to seduce him.

Besides, what’s so wonderful about the distracted Bruce anyway? Or the sweet but too-calm Mitchell, or charming yet boring Arthur? If there’s a downside to having four such appealing female stars, it’s that it makes the male characters seem utterly pointless.

Well, except for one thing. One major thing.

So, if you’re in the mood, pour yourself a nice cold white, sit back, and watch these four women get what they want. You could do worse.

“Book Club,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for sex-related material throughout, and for language.” Running time: 104 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Follow Jocelyn Noveck on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP

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