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Fired US Attorney Bharara starting podcast on justice

New York's Preet Bharara, who says he knows nothing more about why President Donald Trump fired him as U.S. attorney than on the day it happened, is about to step back into the spotlight with a podcast on justice issues.

The podcast, "Stay Tuned with Preet," debuts Wednesday with Leon Panetta as the first guest.

Bharara served in the high-profile role of U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District, where he prosecuted Wall Street insiders and New York politicians. He was fired March 11, after refusing to resign, as part of a wholesale housecleaning of U.S. attorneys by the new administration. It would not have seemed unusual had Bharara not been told by Trump shortly after the election that he would be kept on.

"If at some point the tale unfolds as to why it happened, I'd be as curious as anyone to understand it," Bharara said in an interview. "But I don't have any insight at the moment."

Bharara was placed in a similar awkward position as fired FBI Director James Comey when it came to contact with Trump. Besides their Trump Tower meeting on Nov. 30, Bharara said he talked twice on the telephone with the president-elect. But after Trump was inaugurated and called on March 9, Bharara didn't return the call because he felt it improper for the president and a U.S. attorney to talk.

"I thought it was notable that he kept calling me," he said. "I didn't like it."

He said he cleared his initial meeting with Trump in November with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and aide Steve Bannon were in the meeting. Bharara said he told Trump he would continue to act as independently as he had been and "he said, basically, I understand and I'd love to have you stay on."

"Nobody owes me anything," he said. "There are a lot of things that are happening that are more important than my departure, including the FBI director's departure, where I think it's important that the truth comes out. And I think there's a particular gentleman who is working on that."

Bharara said he had no insight into Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the administration's Russian ties.

"He's running a tight ship," he said. "It's a group of really, really great all-stars, legal all-stars, trial all-stars, investigative all-stars. They know what they're doing. They will not hesitate to walk away from bringing a charge, notwithstanding public clamor, if it doesn't serve the interest of justice, and they won't hesitate to bring one, either."

Bharara has kept a public profile since leaving primarily through his Twitter feed, where he hasn't hesitated to criticize Trump.

He has gone to work for Some Spider Studios, his brother Vinit's media company. The company owns CAFE, which is launching the podcast. To start, he has a deal with WNYC for 20 episodes, and an option for 10 more.

The show will focus on justice issues, which could be as broad as a discussion about punishment in America, or as specific as some of the cases Bharara was involved in as U.S. attorney, as long as they've been resolved.

"If there comes a week when Jeff Sessions gets fired by the president of the United States, I can't imagine that we won't be talking about it," he said. But he said the podcast is not a Trump-focused exercise.

He insists he has no political plans. He's endorsed two candidates because he knows them personally: Seattle mayoral hopeful Jenny Durkan, a former fellow U.S. attorney, and Timothy Sini, who worked in his office and is running for Suffolk County district attorney. Both are Democrats.

"I'm not planning to go out and campaign, for one party or another or candidates generally, but if they are good people that I know well and that I trust and believe in, I will ask people to vote for them," he said.

Court reinstates lawsuit over debunked Rolling Stone story

A defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone over the magazine's debunked article about a University of Virginia gang rape was reinstated Tuesday by an appeals court in a manner that one judge says would allow any member of a school fraternity to join the lawsuit.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said three former students can sue, in part because the November 2014 article could enable a reader to conclude that many or all members of a fraternity participated in gang rapes as an initiation ritual and that all members knowingly ignored the brutal crimes.

An investigation by Charlottesville, Virginia, police found no evidence to back up the claims of the woman identified in the article as "Jackie," who told the magazine she had been raped by seven men at a fraternity house in September 2012.

Rolling Stone later retracted the article and apologized.

A lower-court judge had thrown out the lawsuit by three Phi Kappa Psi members who graduated in 2013.

In a statement Tuesday, Rolling Stone said it was disappointed by the 2nd Circuit ruling but was "confident that this case has no merit."

In restoring the lawsuit, the appeals court noted that the article stated that two other female students reported to Jackie that they had been gang-raped at the fraternity and that a decades-long "trail" of sexual violence included a gang rape committed at the fraternity in 1984.

"Connecting the dots, a reader could plausibly conclude that Phi Kappa Psi had a long tradition of requiring pledges to participate in gang rapes as a condition of membership," according to the 2nd Circuit opinion written by Manhattan District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, sitting in on the appeals panel. "A reader of the article could also plausibly conclude that, even if all members of Phi Kappa Psi did not commit gang rape, they all knew that their fraternity brothers had."

Circuit Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., who partially agreed with and partially disagreed with the majority opinion, said the other two judges on the panel had reached a conclusion that would let every Phi Kappa Psi fraternity member hold Rolling Stone liable under New York defamation law, which permits claims to be brought by members of small groups who are defamed. There were 53 members of the fraternity at the time.

"Until this error is corrected by the New York Court of Appeals, publishers should beware," he wrote.

Rolling Stone itself is now on the market, with founder Jann Wenner planning to sell his company's controlling stake in the magazine that chronicled the music and politics of the counterculture movement.

Alabama judge refuses to move man's trial from 'S-Town'

A character from the hit podcast "S-Town" will stand trial on theft and other charges in the rural Alabama county that serves as the setting for the serialized narrative, a judge decided Tuesday.

Bibb County Circuit Judge Donald McMillan, ruling after a brief hearing, refused to move Tyler Goodson's upcoming trial to an even more rural county.

Defense attorneys J.D. Terry and Cedrick Coleman asked McMillan to relocate the case arguing that the popularity of "S-Town" makes it impossible for Goodson, 26, of Woodstock to get a fair trial on charges linked to events in the podcast. Podtrac, which analyzes podcast statistics, said the seven episodes of "S-Town" have had more than 64 million streams and downloads since being released in late March.

But prosecutor Bryan Jones called the request premature, and the judge agreed. McMillan indicated he could reconsider the request once jurors are questioned at the beginning of Goodson's trial, set for Oct. 16.

Goodson has pleaded not guilty to a multi-count indictment alleging he took lumber, old vehicles and a laptop computer from the property of his friend John B. McLemore, the main character in "S-Town." Both men lived in Bibb County, located about 35 miles southwest (56 kilometers) of Birmingham.

The judge also refused a defense request to dismiss multiple, identical charges alleging Goodson illegally trespassed on McLemore's property.

Goodson stood quietly before the judge with his lawyers during the hearing. His cowboy hat sat on the front of the judge's bench.

Separately, a judge in neighboring Jefferson County on Monday dismissed charges of domestic violence, burglary and child endangerment filed against Goodson in February alleging he broke into an estranged girlfriend's home in 2015 waving a gun and making threats. The alleged victim did not want the case to go forward.

"S-Town" tells the story of an alleged murder and another death, and winds up focusing on McLemore's relationship with Goodson, the tiny town of Woodstock and his own inner demons.

The show was produced by Serial Productions of the podcast "Serial" and "This American Life."

Neko Case's Vermont home is damaged by fire

Fire investigators are looking for the cause of a fire that heavily damaged Neko Case's 225-year-old Vermont home.

Barnet firefighters were called to the indie musician's home at about 9:30 p.m. Monday. The Caledonian Record (http://bit.ly/2ymcclb ) reports the fire could be seen from miles away.

Case wasn't at the home at the time of the fire. The caretaker helped get three dogs out of the house. There were no injuries, though a barn was destroyed. It took firefighters two hours to extinguish the blaze.

The musician has been nominated for three Grammy awards as a solo artist, and she's also a member of the indie rock band The New Pornographers. The home was featured in a 2012 article in Country Living.

The Associated Press left messages with her representatives.

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Information from: The Caledonian-Record, http://www.caledonianrecord.com

O'Reilly says his ouster was hit job and business decision

Bill O'Reilly said Tuesday that his firing from Fox News Channel in April was a "political hit job" and that his network's parent company made a business decision to get rid of him.

The deposed king of cable television news had a contentious interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show, where he said his conscience was clear about how he dealt with women in the working world.

O'Reilly was dismissed by 21st Century Fox following a review prompted by a report in The New York Times that five women had been paid a total of $13 million to keep quiet about disturbing encounters with the Fox host.

At the time, the network was nine months past removing its founding CEO, Roger Ailes, following harassment charges. The combative O'Reilly had spent years as the most-watched figure in cable TV news.

"This was a hit job, a political and financial hit job engineered by ...," O'Reilly said.

Lauer interrupted him. "This was a vast left wing conspiracy?" said Lauer, who was the interviewer two decades ago when then-first lady Hillary Clinton talked about a "vast right wing conspiracy" targeting her husband.

"It wasn't vast," O'Reilly said. "Don't be sarcastic. Don't be sarcastic."

Following the Times report, advertisers began fleeing from O'Reilly's show, encouraged by liberal media watchdogs that had long had O'Reilly in their sights. O'Reilly said that unsettled his bosses at Fox.

Given his status at the network, Lauer asked whether it seemed safe to assume that company officials had been given some information or evidence that made it impossible for O'Reilly to stay.

"That's a false assumption," O'Reilly said. "There were a lot of other business things in play at that time, and still today, that 21st Century was involved in, and that was a business decision that they made."

That was an apparent reference to the Rupert Murdoch-owned company's $15 billion bid to take over Britain's Sky Broadcasting, which is still being reviewed by British authorities, who are looking at Fox's harassment issues, among other issues.

"They made a business decision that they could possibly prosper more without me," O'Reilly said.

A spokesman for 21st Century Fox declined comment Tuesday on O'Reilly's interview.

O'Reilly didn't discuss individual accusations, but urged viewers to read a story on the conservative website Newsmax that said one of his accusers had been arrested by Detroit police in 2015 and charged with making a false report about a boyfriend threatening her with a gun.

He was asked by Lauer whether he had suffered any self-inflicted wounds.

"Nobody's a perfect person," O'Reilly said. "But I can go to sleep at night very well, knowing that I never mistreated anyone on my watch in 42 years."

Laura Keiter, spokeswoman for Media Matters for America, one of the groups that had advocated an O'Reilly advertiser boycott, said "NBC should not have hosted O'Reilly in the first place," particularly since he had earlier said he would bring up the article about one of his accusers.

While Lauer did spend a substantial amount of time questioning O'Reilly about the harassment reports, Keiter said "the questions lacked sharpness and follow-through."

O'Reilly appeared on the morning show to promote a book, "Killing England," one of a series he has written with Martin Dugard. The series, which includes the million-sellers "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Kennedy," has made O'Reilly one of the country's best-selling nonfiction authors. But this is the first one where he hasn't had the platform of his Fox show to promote it. As of early Tuesday afternoon, "Killing England" ranked No. 4 on Amazon.com.

About three-quarters of Lauer's interview addressed the circumstances around O'Reilly's firing before he was asked about the book.

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Associated Press National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

Jesmyn Ward is a finalist for the $50,000 Kirkus Prize

Jesmyn Ward's ghostly "Sing, Unburied, Sing" and Mohsin Hamid's acclaimed novel about refugees "Exit West" were among the finalists Tuesday for the fourth annual Kirkus Prize.

Presented by the trade publication Kirkus Reviews, the prize includes six nominees each in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and young people's literature. Winners for each category, to be announced Tuesday, receive $50,000.

Fiction nominees besides Ward and Hamid included the novels "The Ninth Hour" by Alice McDermott and "White Tears" by Hari Kunzru and a pair of story collections: "What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky," by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Carmen Maria Machado's "Her Body and Other Parties."

Nonfiction nominees were Jack E. Davis' "The Gulf," Patricia Lockwood's "Priestdaddy," Edward Dolnick's "The Seeds of Life," Valeria Luiselli's "Tell Me How It Ends," Michael Twitty's "The Cooking Gene" and Laura Dassow Walls' "Henry David Thoreau: A Life."

In young people's literature, Angie Thomas' best-selling "The Hate U Give" was among the finalists. Others included were Jairo Buitrago's "Walk With Me," illustrated by Rafael Yockteng and translated by Elisa Amado; Lilli L'Arronge's "Me Tall, You Small," translated by Madeleine Stratford; Cao Wenxuan's "Bronze and Sunflower," translated by Helen Wang and illustrated by Meilo So; Karen English's "It All Comes Down to This"; and Cherie Dimaline's "The Marrow Thieves."

Jedidiah Bila departs ABC's 'The View;' no replacement named

Conservative commentator Jedediah Bila has announced her departure from ABC's "The View."

Bila made the announcement on Monday's program, saying she was leaving to work on a new book and had "a lot of opportunities" to consider.

Bila served as the chat panel's resident conservative. Co-hosts Sunny Hostin and Joy Behar both sent Bila off with kind remarks even though they noted that their opinions are often on the other side of the political spectrum.

ABC has not announced a replacement for Bila, who joined the show last year.

Bila was a contributor to Fox News prior to joining "The View."

Words With Friends adds 50,000 pop culture words

Tell your bae or your bestie: The mobile game Words With Friends is adding thousands of pop culture words as part of its largest dictionary update in the game's eight-year history.

Game developer Zynga told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it is adding 50,000 internet slang words, including BFF, fitspo, delish, FOMO, hangry, kween, smize, TFW, turnt, werk, yas — as well as bae and bestie.

Gurpreet Singh, director of product for the Scrabble-esque game, said Words With Friends players are constantly reaching out — on social media and in the game itself, which has a submission feature — with words they'd like added to the dictionary. He said Zynga gets 5,000 suggestions a day, which formed the basis of the update.

"For us, it's a way to listen to our players and also have a bit of fun," Singh said. "The words that they're requesting are really a reflection of what they're doing in their day-to-day life and how they communicate with their loved ones."

The multiplayer phone-friendly crossword game has been installed more than 200 million times since 2009, according to Zynga. This year, an estimated 57 million active Words With Friends games are being played around the world at any given time.

The 50,000 new words will be added to the existing dictionary of 173,000 words, which is always evolving. The game earlier this year added "covfefe" after President Donald Trump introduced the mysterious term and it spread like wildfire on social media, while twerk and selfie were added in 2014.

Singh said there's no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes a word and what doesn't. The team leans toward ones that are inclusive and popular.

"We try to be very holistic in our thinking," he said. "It's a game based on connecting and if we feel our values are being adhered to by the word that we're adding, then even if it's not a proper word — as a standard dictionary would consider it to be — we would still go ahead and add those."

Does Singh have some favorites? Yes, the high-point offering queso — "anytime I can use a 'q,' I'm happy," he said — as well as turnt, which is a variation on "turn up" that means getting excited.

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Online: https://www.zynga.com/games/words-friends

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Prince Charles may not live in Buckingham Palace when he is king, report says

A report in The Sunday Times suggests that Prince Charles may not be as fond of Buckingham Palace as his mother is. According to reports, Charles would use the palace as “monarchy HQ” for official business, and allow for it to be open to visitors and tourists for longer than the current three months during the summer.

>> Meghan Markle likely to attend Prince Harry's Invictus Games amid engagement rumors, report says

The Times stated that Charles “doesn’t see [Buckingham Palace] as a ­viable future home or a house that’s fit for purpose in the modern world. He feels its upkeep, both from a cost and environmental perspective, is not sustainable.” The newspaper also claimed that Prince William agrees with his father that the palace is too big and costly for family life.

>> On Rare.us: Prince Charles sympathizes with grandson Prince George’s back-to-school nerves

“What’s to say Buckingham Palace can’t be opened to the public for at least six months, while keeping the state rooms pristine for use during big occasions?” noted one source. “That would be a modern approach and he’ll be thinking along those lines.”

>> PHOTOS: Prince Harry through the years

Another insider added, “It makes perfect sense commercially to offset the costs of running such a big place by extending availability to the ticket-buying public.”

>> Read more trending news

Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, currently reside at Clarence House, which is across Green Park from Buckingham Palace.

Small quake rattles nerves, causes no damage in Los Angeles

Los Angeles was jolted by a small earthquake that rattled nerves and got people talking on social media, but didn't cause any major damage.

The magnitude 3.6 quake hit around 11:20 p.m. Monday and was felt by thousands of residents in west Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, across the San Fernando Valley and as far north as the Antelope Valley.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was about 3.6 miles (6 kilometers) northwest of the Westwood neighborhood, home to the University of California, Los Angeles. Residents near UCLA reported feeling a sharp jolt followed by a short rumble. Some said they were shaken awake in bed.

Former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox, whose Westwood home was rattled, tweeted that the quake "wasn't funny."

Authorities said there were no reports of damage or injuries.

"We get these size earthquakes fairly frequently," said USGS seismologist Zachary Reeves to the Los Angeles Times. "Any severe damage would be pretty unlikely."

Earthquake-hardened veterans commented on social media, including some in Hollywood.

Actor Josh Gad tweeted that he probably should have checked on his kids, but he scrolled through Twitter instead. Former CBS "Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson quipped that the rumble had him "sitting up in bed with an automatic weapon waiting for zombies."

The quake was a trending topic on Twitter early Tuesday.

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