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North Dakota tabs Duhamel as tourism pitchman through 2019

Even North Dakota's tourism director admits it isn't easy promoting a state where the first day of the new year brought temperatures down to a brutal 45 below zero.

But having Hollywood actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel make the pitch helps, said Sara Otte Coleman, who heads the state's tourism agency.

"He has increased awareness," she said.

Among the least-visited states in the nation, the agency announced Wednesday that it will once again enlist the services of the star of several "Transformers" movies to lure visitors to the state better known for its brutal cold weather than as a tourist destination.

The agency also unveiled its $2.9 million marketing plan for 2018. It announced that Duhamel will be paid $365,000 to be the face of the state's tourism campaign for the next two years. The actor wasn't present at the announcement.

Duhamel already has earned $525,000 since 2013 to be North Dakota's pitchman, records show.

The tourism marketing campaign features new TV and print ads, as well as new travel and hunting guides that feature Duhamel. Many also include his 4-year-old son Axl, whose mother is Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie.

This year's campaign will feature Duhamel's hometown of Minot and Grand Forks. It is a continuation of the North Dakota Legendary brand that was established in 2002 to help create more awareness of the state and what it has to offer, Otte Coleman said.

It will continue to showcase North Dakota's outdoor activities as well as its top tourist destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park located in the badlands in the western part of the state.

Tourism officials will continue to gear marketing campaigns toward audiences in the neighboring states of Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, as well as Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Coleman said. The agency also will target the Chicago-area this year, she said.

Duhamel has been a good ambassador, and his television and other advertising have boosted visits to the state, Coleman said.

The actor only lent his voice to the state's tourism campaign from 2013-15, but his role was expanded in 2016, said Kim Schmidt, a tourism spokeswoman.

A survey was done that year that showed the advertising campaign reached 3.8 million households resulting in 354,000 non-resident trips to the state. All told, the advertising brought in $104 in non-resident spending for every $1 spent on advertising, Coleman said.

A survey has not been done since.

North Dakota's tourism division is part of the state Department of Commerce. The agency has a two-year budget of about $11 million and has 11 employees.

Coleman said the agency has had discussions with Bismarck native and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz about becoming a paid spokesman for the state but nothing has materialized yet.

Ann Curry speaks out about Matt Lauer sexual harassment allegations in new interview

Ann Curry has remained tight-lipped since the news broke of Matt Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct, but she spoke about the scandal on “CBS This Morning.”

The 61-year-old journalist and producer appeared on the program Wednesday to discuss her new PBS docuseries “We’ll Meet Again” and she was asked to speak on the scandal surrounding her disgraced former co-anchor. Curry admitted that she was “not surprised” by the scandal.

>> Read more trending news 

“Do you believe that Matt Lauer abused his power?” asked Norah O’Donnell.

“You know, I’m trying to do no harm in these conversations. I can tell you that I am not surprised by the allegations,” Curry responded. When asked to explain further, Curry struggled to articulate her response.

“That means that … see, now, I’m walking down that road. I’m trying not to hurt people, and I know what it’s like to be publicly humiliated. I never did anything wrong to be publicly humiliated, and I don’t want to cause that kind of pain to somebody else,” Curry said. “But I can say that, because you’re asking me a very direct question, I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed. I think it would be surprising if someone said that they didn’t see that.”

She continued, “It was verbal sexual harassment,” before being cut off.

When Curry left NBC’s “Today” in June 2012, it was widely speculated that Lauer was the catalyst for her exit. A fan favorite, it came as a surprise to audiences when Curry broke the news of her exit amid tears, as she was considered one of the top stars at NBC and could have been poised to take over a bigger role on the show. The unexpected departure is likely the public humiliation she was referring to.

Related: Matt Lauer fired over allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior

The Emmy award winner also spoke with People as part of her press tour for her upcoming show. She discussed the aftermath of being pushed off “Today.”

“It hurt like hell,” she told the publication. “It hurt so much, but I learned a lot about myself. I can say I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been honest and true. I’ve tried to stay pure. I’ve tried to not respond in a knee-jerk manner, and I’ve stayed very close to who I am. So it hurt, but I’m also proud of myself.”

“CBS This Morning” dealt with its own scandal when co-anchor Charlie Rose was fired in November for allegedly making “unwanted sexual advances” towards several women, including, “lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.”

Related: Charlie Rose fired from CBS amid sexual harassment allegations; PBS cuts ties with newsman

Anchors Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell denounced their former co-anchor over the accusations.

“It takes a lot of courage for these women to come forward, and I think that they should continue to do so,” O’Donnell said on the broadcast following the news. “This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive, and I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Ellen Pompeo returning to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for two more seasons, earning $20 million

Meredith Grey is here to stay at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital — for at least two more seasons.

Deadline reported that the star of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Ellen Pompeo, has signed on to continue her role for another two years. She’ll also be permanently adding the title of “producer” to her credits on the series, while also being bumped to executive producer on the forthcoming firefighter spinoff series.

>> Read more trending news 

In addition to growing her resume, Pompeo stands to rake in $575,000 per episode, which comes to $20 million a year, making her the highest-paid actress on a primetime TV drama. The show already holds the title of ABC’s highest-rated series.

Pompeo’s pay wasn’t a given, however. Like many women, she had to fight to be paid adequately, particularly compared to her male counterparts.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, the actress said she’s now comfortable asking to be paid what she’s worth.

“I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age,” Pompeo said.

“For me, Patrick (Dempsey) leaving the show (in 2015) was a defining moment, deal-wise. They could always use him as leverage against me: ‘We don’t need you; we have Patrick,’ which they did for years. I don’t know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and I'm Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the No. 1. I’m sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: ‘Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy?’You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.’”

Pompeo said that once series creator Shonda Rhimes became more successful and had more control, it brushed off on her and allowed her to have more say in her own career.

“ (Shonda) got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented.”

While Pompeo is excited to keep the show going, she makes no promises about when it will eventually end.

“I’ve been saying since season one, ‘We have two more years.’ This show, it’s taking on a life of its own, and who knows? We take it season by season,really,” she told Deadline.

Pompeo added, “You never think TV shows are going to go this long. Of course not, never, and especially me, I don’t ever assume things like that. I assume tomorrow everyone’s going to hate us. You got to try. You got to stay humble.”

“I’m extremely proud of the show and everyone that has worked on it in the past, everybody who’s here now,” she said, sharing that she’ll definitely let her children — Stella, 8; Sienna, 3; and Eli, 1, with husband Chris Ivery — watch when they’re old enough.

“It’s the beginning of a movement, and it’s so special to me for so many reasons. So I certainly hope they watch every episode twice,”  Pompeo said.

Hugh Wilson, director of 'Police Academy,' dead at 74

Hugh Wilson, an award-winning director and writer with a knack for broad and witty comedy whose credits ranged from the raucous film "Police Academy" to the popular sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati," has died at age 74.

Wilson died Jan. 14 at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. His wife, Charters Smith Wilson, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had been battling lung cancer and emphysema.

Wilson was a Miami, Florida native and University of Florida graduate who worked for years and advertising and copywriting before he joined Mary Tyler Moore Productions in the mid-1970s. He was soon writing scripts for "The Bob Newhart Show" and "The Tony Randall Show" and in 1978 created "WKRP," which drew upon Wilson's time at a radio station in Atlanta. He later created such short-lived series as "Easy Street" and "Frank's Place," which starred "WKRP" actor Tim Reid and brought Wilson an Emmy for writing.

He was also successful in movies. In 1984, he helped launch a franchise by directing and co-writing "Police Academy," the satire starring Steve Gutenberg that became a box office smash despite being dismissed by Roger Ebert as "the absolute pits." Wilson didn't direct any of the inevitable "Police Academy" sequels, but instead worked on "Guarding Tess" and the hit comedy "The First Wives Club." His most recent film was the baseball story "Mickey," a 2004 release directed by Wilson and written by John Grisham.

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Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

Group pushes lawsuit saying book infringes on artist's work

A group that preserves and promotes the work of a deaf, self-taught Idaho artist whose creations appear in museums around the world is fighting an attempt to dismiss its copyright infringement lawsuit against an Oregon children's book author.

The Boise, Idaho-based James Castle Collection and Archive said in documents filed Tuesday in federal court that Allen Say's book "Silent Days, Silent Dreams" steals images created by Castle, who died in 1977, and that its lawsuit should be allowed to move forward.

About 28 of the 150 illustrations in the children's book, described in the opening pages as a work of fiction about Castle, are Say's copies of the artist's work. The lawsuit filed in October seeks up to $150,000 for each allegation of copyright infringement.

A federal judge that month denied the group's request to temporarily halt book sales until the lawsuit plays out. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who described the book as a "fictional biography," said it is not likely to infringe on Castle's work because it falls within fair legal use for purposes such as teaching or scholarship.

Say and publisher Scholastic Inc. asked last month that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The James Castle Collection and Archive responded Tuesday that the book does not fall within fair legal use because it doesn't add something new or transformative to Castle's work.

"Say's use of Castle's work gives the original no new expression, no new meaning and no new message," the group says, noting that the book is for commercial gain.

Scholastic Inc. spokeswoman Anne Sparkman said Wednesday that the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Castle was born deaf in 1899 in southwestern Idaho and was never able to speak or write. But he created thousands of works of art using various materials, including soot and his own spit.

The 80-year-old Say, who lives in Portland, Oregon, won the Caldecott Medal in 1994 for what judges said was the best American picture book for children.

His book is written from the perspective of Castle's fictional nephew. In the author's note, Say said he used soot and spit and other at-hand materials available to Castle to "emulate his unschooled style."

Bruce DeLaney, co-owner of Rediscovered Books in Boise, said Say's title has been a steady seller but not a best-seller despite being about a local artist. He said that might be because the James Castle Collection doesn't back the book.

"If there was a James Castle book that they were excited about, it would sell a lot better here in the valley because they have a lot of influence," he said.

Bedtime Beats - The Little Red Hen

Danielle is turning your favorite children's books into raps with Bedtime Beats! This week it's The Little Red Hen by Erica Kingsley set to the song ‘Jumpman’ by Drake ft. Future. Check out Bedtime Beats...

'The Situation' to plead guilty to tax-related charges

Former "Jersey Shore" reality TV star Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino wrote to a judge that he will plead guilty this week to federal tax charges, apparently ending a more than three-year legal odyssey.

In the letter filed to the court on Wednesday, Sorrentino's attorneys said he and his brother, Marc, plan to plead guilty on Friday in Newark.

Michael Sorrentino's lawyer didn't comment Wednesday on what charges to which his client would plead guilty.

The brothers were charged in September 2014 with filing bogus tax returns on nearly $9 million in income. The seven-count indictment alleged the Sorrentinos earned that amount between 2010 and 2012, mostly through two companies they controlled, MPS Entertainment and Situation Nation.

They allegedly filed false documents that understated the income from the businesses as well as their personal income. Michael Sorrentino also was charged with failing to file taxes for 2011, a year in which he earned nearly $2 million.

The brothers also spent millions of dollars on personal expenses they claimed were for business in 2012, according to the indictment.

Both brothers were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, which is punishable by a maximum potential prison sentence of five years upon conviction. Both also faced counts of filing false returns, each of which carries a maximum three-year sentence.

The U.S. attorney's office filed additional charges last April. Michael Sorrentino was indicted on charges including tax evasion, structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements and falsifying records. Marc Sorrentino was charged with falsifying records to obstruct a grand jury investigation

The Sorrentinos have been free on bail since they were charged.

"The Situation" appeared on all six seasons of the MTV reality show, which followed the lives of rowdy housemates in a New Jersey beach town. It ran from 2009 to 2012.

He isn't the only New Jersey reality TV star to run afoul of financial laws in recent years.

"Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast member Teresa Giudice and her husband Joe pleaded guilty in 2014 to bankruptcy fraud and submitting false loan applications to get $5 million in mortgages and construction loans. Joe Giudice also pleaded guilty to not paying about $200,000 in income taxes.

Teresa Giudice served nearly a year in prison and was freed in December 2015. Her husband is serving a 41-month sentence.

Tomei, Arquette, Nash and Munn to present at SAG Awards

Mandy Moore, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Munn and Rosanna Arquette will be among the presenters at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Niecy Nash, Gina Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph and SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris are among the presenters announced Wednesday. The SAG Awards honor outstanding performances in television and film, with "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "Big Little Lies" the leading nominees.

The show is one of the most reliable predictors of who will take home acting honors at the Academy Awards.

Halle Berry, Dakota Fanning, Lupita Nyong'o, Emma Stone and Kelly Marie Tran are also scheduled to present during Sunday's ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Kristen Bell will host the show, which for the first time in its 24-year history will feature a host.

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For full coverage of awards season, visit: https://apnews.com/tag/AwardsSeason

Award may drop name of author tied to sterilization movement

The Vermont Board of Libraries has recommended changing the name of a children's book award that now honors a prominent Vermont author and activist accused of once supporting sterilizing people with severe mental and physical disabilities.

The board said it wants to remove the late Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from the award to better match contemporary times and connect with young readers. The award, which was named after Fisher in 1957, honors excellence in children's literature.

The board's unanimous recommendation to the state librarian last week came after discussions about Fisher's association with the state's eugenics movement, which had been described as an attempt to deal with social and economic problems through sterilization and breeding in the 1920s and '30s.

Fisher, who wrote novels, nonfiction and short stories, was on a committee of the Vermont Commission on Country Life, which was linked to the eugenics movement.

In the 1930s, some Vermonters of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, as well as poor, rural whites, were placed on a state-sanctioned list of "mental defectives" and degenerates and sent to state institutions, such as the Home for the Feeble Minded in Brandon. Some had surgery after Vermont in 1931 became one of more than two dozen to pass a law that allowed for voluntary sterilizations for "human betterment."

Judy Dow is a descendant of one of the families targeted and a teacher of Native American culture. When she raised concerns about Fisher's association with the movement and her treatment of Native American and French Canadian characters in her writing, Fisher's 81-year-old granddaughter, Vivian Scott Hixson, balked.

"Many of the leaders of that movement were racists. Dorothy Canfield Fisher was not," Hixson, who has a Ph.D. in sociology and taught at Michigan State University, wrote to the board. "In fact, DCF combatted racism all her life."

Hixson, of East Lansing, Michigan, said Fishers' temporary support for "the sterilization of people with severe mental and physical handicaps" stopped in the early 1930s when Fisher's soon-to-be son-in-law — Hixson's father — and others convinced her otherwise. Hixson's father, John Paul Scott, was a genetics and psychology researcher.

"It's just unfortunate that people are looking for someone to attack," Hixson said.

Helene Lang, a former literature professor at the University of Vermont who has portrayed Fisher in living histories, also stood up to protect Fisher's name. She said Fisher's service on the committee did not mean she ever supported eugenics.

"My goal was to protect her because she was a woman who did a lot of good and was particularly the antithesis of the eugenics movement," Lang said Wednesday.

The name change recommendation should not be interpreted as an indictment of Fisher, said Bruce Post, chairman of the Board of Libraries.

"The Board was aware, to varying degrees, of the Vermont eugenics movement, but it felt that it was not the purview of the Board to involve itself in that larger issue," he said by email.

The board also recommended to the state librarian that the name of the award be reviewed every 15 years or sooner if appropriate. The state librarian did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Hixson said she understands the need to connect to the children of today and what they're reading.

"I have grandchildren," she said. "And their world is so different than the world that we grew up in."

Domestic battery charge against 'Glee' actress dismissed

A domestic battery charge against an actress on the former hit show "Glee" has been dismissed in West Virginia.

WCHS-TV reports that the case against 30-year-old Naya Rivera ended after her husband decided not to seek prosecution.

An order was filed Friday in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office said Rivera was arrested Nov. 25 for domestic battery in Chesapeake after Ryan Keith Dorsey told a deputy that Rivera struck him in the head and face.

Agency spokesman Sgt. Brian Humphreys said the two were arguing over their child and Dorsey didn't require medical attention.

Rivera was released after being arraigned.

She is known for playing Santana Lopez on "Glee." Dorsey is also an actor and has appeared on shows including "Pitch" and "Nashville."

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