May 23, 2013
By BARBARA ORTUTAY
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft is the last of the three big video game console makers to unveil its latest gaming system. The unveiling comes nearly eight years after the Xbox 360 went on sale. It follows last fall's debut of Nintendo’s Wii U and a preview in February of the upcoming PlayStation 4 from Sony.
Each machine has a set of features designed to draw gamers away from rival consoles. There's one thing all three have in common, though: They are about more than gaming and include entertainment services such as television, movies and music.
Here’s a closer look at the three systems. More details are expected at the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles next month.
• Wii U (Nintendo)
The Japanese gaming company launched the Wii U, the follow-up to its popular Wii, in November, making it the only new console out for last year’s holiday season. The console features a tablet-like controller with a touch screen, called the GamePad, which can be used to control games on the TV set or to play games separately, as you would on a regular tablet computer. It also allows someone with a GamePad to have a different experience with a game than someone playing it at the same time with a regular Wii controller.
The GamePad also serves as a fancy remote controller to navigate a TV-watching feature called TVii. The service groups your favorite shows and sports teams together, whether it's on live TV or an Internet video service such as Hulu Plus. And it offers water-cooler moments you can chat about on social media.
Unlike the Wii, the Wii U features high-definition graphics. In doing so, Nintendo’s system catches up to the years-old Xbox 360 from Microsoft and the PlayStation 3 from Sony.
Sales of the Wii U have been disappointing, with 3.5 million sold as of March 31, the end of Nintendo's fiscal year. Nintendo Co. had originally expected to sell 5.5 million units and later lowered the forecast to 4 million, but it still fell short.
Price: Starts at $300 but some retailers have offered it at lower prices.
• PlayStation 4 (Sony)
Sony shared some details about the PlayStation 4 in February, but it didn't show what the console would look like. The company said the PS4 would essentially be a “supercharged PC,” much like the Xbox. That’s a big departure from the old and idiosyncratic PlayStation design and should make it easier for developers to create games.
But the adoption of PC chips also means that the new console won’t be able to play games created for any of the three previous PlayStations. Players will have to stream older games over the Internet.
Other new features revolve around social networking and remote access. With one button, you can broadcast video of your game play so friends elsewhere can watch. You can also run a game on the PS4 to stream over the Internet to Sony’s mobile gaming device, the PlayStation Vita, which debuted last year.
The PlayStation online network will have access to Sony’s video and music services, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — as long as you have subscriptions to those services. You’ll also be able to access Facebook.
The PS4 will have a Blu-ray disc drive for movies, just like the PS3. The console will go on sale this holiday season, though Sony Corp. has not disclosed an exact date.
Price: Not yet announced.
• Xbox One (Microsoft)
Microsoft's new console seeks to deliver the Holy Grail of home entertainment — an all-in-one device that lets you watch television, play movies, listen to music and browse the Internet as well as play video games.
The Xbox One lets you use voice commands to switch between watching TV and playing “Call of Duty,” or ask “What’s on HBO?” to view a TV channel guide. Simply connect your cable or satellite set-top box to the game machine with an HDMI cable.
A new version of Microsoft’s camera-based Kinect controller offers better motion and voice detection than the one currently available. Unlike the Xbox 360, the Xbox One will require Kinect, which will come with the package.
Microsoft also reached a multiyear deal with the National Football League to develop new interactive viewing experiences, such as the ability to watch games, chat with other fans, view statistics, access highlights in real time and gather fantasy information about players and teams — all on a single screen.
Although Nintendo’s Wii was the most popular of the three at first, the Xbox 360 has outsold its rivals in recent years largely because of its robust online service, Xbox Live, which allows people to play games with others online for as much as $60 a year with annual plans. Activision’s “Call of Duty,” has been a driving force behind Xbox Live, and Microsoft said players will be able to download new content for upcoming titles in the series on the Xbox One before any other system.
The new console will also add the ability to play Blu-ray discs, matching what Sony has in its older PlayStation 3. What it won't play are games for the Xbox 360.
Microsoft said the system will launch this year, but it did not give a date during Tuesday’s unveiling.
Price: Not yet announced.
May 23, 2013
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — There were no bidders and no locksmiths willing to force entry for a scheduled auction Tuesday to sell artworks and other belongings of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife.
The bid to force Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to pay an old debt for school fees for her grand-niece failed.
Court sheriff John Maluleke and two other officials joined reporters gathered outside her gated home but were denied entry despite repeated ringing of the bell and banging on the metal gate.
Lawyer Stephen Karnavos of Alan Levy Attorneys, who listed the auction, said the former first lady owes nearly R46,000 ($5,000), which includes the unpaid fees as well as interest, legal costs and sheriff’s fees. A check for the equivalent of $1,700 was paid to the law firm Monday but is yet to clear, Karnavos said in a statement. Madikizela-Mandela earns R900,000 (more than $95,000) a year as a member of South Africa’s Parliament.
An assistant who answered the telephone at her office said Madikizela-Mandela would not be commenting on the auction or any money problems.
While reporters camped outside the main gate of her home, a black car sped out of the compound, exiting through a second gate. That car later returned with two unidentified women who did not comment to the press. Madikizela-Mandela was not in the car and it was not known if she was at her house in Soweto, near the Johannesburg home that she shared with Mandela when he first was released from prison in 1994.
No bidders showed up for the auction, which listed some paintings and sculptures, furniture and a 24-piece silver tea set.
Madikizela-Mandela is adored by many for her leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle and abhorred by others for various run-ins with the law, including allegedly ordering the kidnapping deaths of several young men in the 1980s when she was aggressively militant. In 1991, a court found her guilty in the kidnapping and assault of one youth who died of his injuries, and sentenced her to six years’ jail. She appealed both the conviction and sentence, was found guilty of being an accessory in the assault and got the sentence reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term.
Karnavos confirmed the auction was called off. The auction was cancelled because officials could not find a locksmith willing to force entry into Madikizela-Mandela’s home, a sheriff's official told The Associated Press.
Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela married in 1958 but were separated by his 27-year imprisonment by the racist white minority government. They were reunited when he was freed in 1994 but the marriage did not survive and they divorced in 1997, while he was South Africa’s first black president.
Madikizela-Mandela remains prominent, sometimes feared, in her community. She is known to travel with bodyguards, who have been accused of several assaults and murders in the past.
Repeated calls to the sheriff’s office to determine if a new auction date will be scheduled went unanswered.
May 23, 2013
(AP) — A man was charged Monday with a $565,000 bank robbery in which his girlfriend — an assistant bank manager — was forced to strap on a fake bomb so she would seem to be a hostage and could take the money.
The woman said she was abducted in September from her home and forced to put on what she believed was a real bomb. Her abductors told her if she didn't help steal the money the bomb would explode, according to the indictment.
She went to her Bank of America Corp. branch in Huntington Park, got an employee to help her take the money from a vault and left it outside, where the robbers picked it up and fled, authorities said. The money has not been recovered.
According to the indictment, Reyes “Ray” Vega, 34, used two cars registered to his father for the robbery. He and two other men were charged with bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and aiding and abetting each other by force, violence and intimidation.
The woman, identified only as “A.B.,” was not charged. It’s unclear whether she had any knowledge of the plot, and federal officials declined to provide details beyond the indictment, citing an ongoing investigation.
Vega appeared in federal court in Atlanta on Monday and will be returned to Los Angeles.
The two other defendants, Richard Menchaca, 36, and Bryan Perez, 27, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Los Angeles, according to their attorneys. Perez was released on a $40,000 bond with electronic monitoring and travel restrictions, said his attorney, Jerome Haig.
The indictment alleges that Menchaca picked up the cash placed outside the bank’s side door and gave it to Perez, who authorities say met Vega at a motel later that day to split the cash.
If convicted, the men face a maximum of 25 years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades.
More people are believed to have knowledge of the robbery and the whereabouts of the stolen cash, Rhoades said.
Bank of America offered a $10,000 reward Monday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.
May 23, 2013
By Martin Griffith
Two men have been arrested in the killing of a teenage boy over an iPad in Las Vegas, police said on May 19.
Jacob Dismont, 18, and Michael Solid, 21, were booked last Saturday into the Clark County jail on charges of open murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
According to investigators, Marcos Arenas, 15, was walking down a street with the iPad on Thursday when a passenger got out of a vehicle and tried to steal the device from him.
Dismont is accused of trying to wrest the tablet away and dragging Arenas toward the SUV when the youth wouldn't let go of the device. After Dismont re-entered the vehicle and Solid sped away, the teen was dragged until he fell. The vehicle ran over Arenas and he died at a hospital.
“I think both the public and police department share the same sentiment that this was a senseless act of violence,” police spokesman Bill Cassell told The Associated Press.
The suspects succeeded in making off with the device, officers said, but it was not immediately recovered.
Ivan Arenas said he bought the iPad for his son less than two months ago. The family has never had a lot, the father said, and his son valued everything he had.
“For him to lose his life over an iPad, it’s just not fair,” Ivan Arenas told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Never in my life would I imagine that me buying my kid an iPad for his birthday would end up with him getting run over.”
Similar thefts of iPads, IPhones and other Apple devices have become so widespread nationwide that the crime has earned the nickname, “Apple picking,” Cassell said.
“This is a nationwide phenomenon where thieves are targeting individuals who are carrying them,” he said.
Police urge victims of such crimes to always let go of the devices.
According to investigators, Solid has an arrest record of possession of a stolen vehicle, petty larceny, robbery and assault. Dismont does not have any prior adult arrests.
Arenas family spokeswoman Tabitha Guertler said family members are relieved by the arrests and grateful for the quick response by police and the public.
“We are very, very relieved and grateful that these men have been apprehended and can’t hurt anyone else,” she said. “We’re traumatized. Marcos’ loss is something that will be with us forever. He was such an incredible person.”
The oldest of 10 children in the family, the teen was a student at Bonanza High School. The attack occurred in the late afternoon about a half-mile from the school.