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Ravens are field-goal favorites vs. Steelers in Week 13 road trip

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Ravens are field-goal favorites vs. Steelers in Week 13 road trip

The Ravens are field-goal favorites over the Steelers ahead of their game Sunday in Pittsburgh, according to Las Vegas sportsbooks.

After a tense home win Sunday night over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens (8-3) are favored by 3 ½ points over Pittsburgh, which is coming off its worst loss ever under longtime coach Mike Tomlin. The Bengals routed the Steelers, 41-10, in Cincinnati on Sunday, the second straight game in which Pittsburgh has allowed over 40 points.

The Steelers (5-5-1) could also be without star outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday after reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus. Watt has 12 ½ sacks in nine games this season, the second most in the NFL.

According to Covers.com’s historical odds, which date to the 2006 season, the Ravens have never been favored by more than 3 ½ points in Pittsburgh under coach John Harbaugh. They were 3 ½-point favorites in 2019, when Pittsburgh started quarterback Mason Rudolph in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. They were also three-point favorites in 2015 and 2012, when Michael Vick and Byron Leftwich started for the injured Roethlisberger, respectively. The Ravens won all three games by a field goal.

Roethlisberger is expected to start Sunday, but he’s coming off a poor outing. He finished 24-for-41 for 263 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions Sunday in Cincinnati, and his QBR (28.3) was the second lowest of his season.

The Ravens, who lead the AFC North and have yet to play Pittsburgh this season, have fared well against division opponents recently. They’re 9-2 against the spread against the Steelers, Browns and Bengals over their past 11 meetings. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 1-6 against the spread in its past seven home games overall, according to CBS Sports.

The Steelers, who swept last season’s series after the Ravens took the 2019 series, lead the all-time rivalry, 30-24. Because of illness and scheduling circumstances, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has started just twice against Pittsburgh, winning in 2019 in Heinz Field and losing in Baltimore last year.

The over/under for Sunday’s game is 44 points.

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Ticker: Pot taxes outpace booze in Massachusetts; Weber Grills apologizes for ill-timed meatloaf recipe

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Ticker: Pot taxes outpace booze in Massachusetts; Weber Grills apologizes for ill-timed meatloaf recipe

Excise taxes for marijuana sold for adult recreational use exceeded alcohol excise taxes for the first time in Massachusetts, reflecting growing marijuana sales that reached $2.54 billion, according to the Cannabis Control Commission.

Massachusetts collected $74.2 million in marijuana excise tax through December 2021 — halfway through the fiscal year — compared to $51.3 million in alcohol excise taxes, WCVB-TV reported.

The excise tax of 10.75% on recreational cannabis is part of the total tax revenue. There is also a 6.25% state sales tax, plus a local tax of up to 3%. It all added up to $208 million in total tax revenue last fiscal year.

Weber Grills apologizes for ill-timed meatloaf recipe

Weber picked the wrong day to suggest grilling meatloaf.

The outdoor grill maker apologized for sending a recipe-of-the-week email on Friday featuring instructions on how to prepare “BBQ Meat Loaf.”

The email coincided with news of the death of Marvin Lee Aday, best known as rock superstar Meat Loaf.

Not long after sending out its recipe, Weber Grills followed up, offering its “sincerest apologies” to recipients.

“At the time we shared this recipe with you, we were not aware of the unfortunate passing of American singer and actor Mr. Marvin Lee Aday, also known as Meat Loaf,” Weber said. “We want to express our deepest apologies for this oversight and for any offense this email may have caused.”

Meat Loaf, who shot to fame on the back of anthems such as “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” died Thursday, according to a family statement provided by his longtime agent Michael Greene. He was 74.

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Get ready to wait: IRS overloaded as tax season begins

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Get ready to wait: IRS overloaded as tax season begins

WASHINGTON — Count 30-year-old Ethan Miller among that subset of Americans who are actually eager to file their taxes once income tax filing season opens on Monday.

The financial planner who lives in Silver Spring, Md., is looking forward to claiming the new deductions that will come from buying a home. He also wants to get a jump on a tax season that promises to bring lots of extra headaches and delays for filers this year.

“I’m trying to get a head start on my taxes as much as possible,” Miller said, adding that he is not too nervous about forecasts of extra delays because he will file online and will not be waiting for too big a refund.

Plenty of other filers, though, may be in for more heartburn.

An IRS worker shortage, an enormous workload from administering pandemic-related programs and stalled legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars for more expeditiously processing returns will combine to cause taxpayers pain this filing season.

“The IRS right now has unacceptable backlogs and the customer service that people are receiving is not what the American public deserves,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged Friday. “The agency has not been equipped with the resources to adequately serve taxpayers in normal times, let alone during a pandemic.”

She stressed that the problems predate the Biden administration and she urged understanding for beleaguered workers already saddled with huge backlogs. “It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take some time and I think people need to understand that they need funding,” Psaki said.

Agency officials are already warning filers that “in many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs,” as IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig put it earlier in the month.

Delays in processing are to be expected — especially because the IRS says it still is working through 2020 tax returns.

During the 2020 budget year, the IRS processed more than 240 million tax returns and issued roughly $736 billion in refunds, including $268 billion in stimulus payments, according to the latest IRS data.

Donald Williamson, an accounting and taxation professor at American University in Washington, said he expects “weeks and weeks” of IRS delays in 2022.

“You can blame Congress or the IRS. I imagine they’re trying to do the right thing but it just adds to further complexity,” he said. “My advice in 2022 is file early, get started tomorrow and try to put your taxes together with a qualified professional.”

Williamson said he advises his clients to file electronically. Most backlogged returns were filed on paper and are amended returns.

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Theater review: Theater Latte Da downsizes ‘La Boheme,’ upsizes the heart and intimacy

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Theater review: Theater Latte Da downsizes ‘La Boheme,’ upsizes the heart and intimacy

Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” may be among the world’s most popular operas, but it’s always seemed an odd fit for the grandeur and elegance of a typical major opera house. For it’s about people living in poverty, struggling to pay the rent and figuring out which chair they’ll toss into the stove for warmth.

Director Peter Rothstein recognized early this century that Puccini’s opera could benefit from some downsizing, that a more intimate staging could give a greater sense of what’s at stake for its characters. So his company, Theater Latte Da, mounted a production in 2005, reviving it in 2007. A third version was set for spring of 2020, but COVID-19 shut everything down the night before opening.

Latte Da’s “La Boheme” has at last risen again, and it’s clearly a labor of love for Rothstein and everyone involved. Transporting the tale of romance among starving Parisian artists to the 1940s — when Nazis occupied the city — and reducing the orchestra to a five-piece ensemble, it strips Puccini’s opera down to its essence and lends it a somewhat stronger sense of urgency and danger.

On opening night, it proved a production full of energy and enthusiasm. Each character was made vivid and engaging, each voice strong. While Puccini’s lush orchestrations will be missed by some, it’s an affectionate adaptation that feels like a love letter to Paris, artists and love itself.

Played out on a Michael Hoover set that evokes varied aspects of Paris’ personality, the action clips along briskly. The libretto is based upon a collection of short stories, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that the tone undergoes radical transformations. A vibrant comedy about a group of friends becomes a love story, then a rom-com of jealousy and seduction before it chronicles a breakup, a sad reconciliation and, finally, a tragedy.

Love at first sight for Mimi (Siena Forest) and Rodolfo (Benjamin Dutcher) in Puccini’s “La Boheme.” (Photo by Dan Norman)

Performances are so plentiful for Latte Da’s production (six per week) that three of the central characters are double-cast, alternating nights. “La Boheme” is a tale of two couples — the love-at-first-sight Rodolfo and Mimi and the lusty but argumentative Musetta and Marcello — and Tony Potts is the only one who gets a role entirely to himself. And that’s fortunate for audiences, as his Marcello has not only swagger, charm and charisma, but a baritone voice that blends beautifully with the others on Puccini’s layered quartets.

On opening night, he was matched marvelously by Katherine Henly’s Musetta, delivered with an almost over-the-top sense of abandon that made her magnetic. Her saucy second-act aria was a joy, her third-act tete-a-tete with Marcello full of snarling passion.

Far more subtle and subdued are Rodolfo and Mimi, but Siena Forest deserves kudos for bringing some welcome spunk and agency to Mimi, a character too often underplayed. Forest has a fine voice, but there were times when she employed volume suitable for a much larger hall and missed out on opportunities to employ nuance. Benjamin Dutcher’s Rodolfo could have used more of her panache, although his earnest arias of love and remorse were quite well sung.

Among their friends, Justin Anthony Spenner was a standout as the musician, Schaunard, a flamboyant raconteur of powerful voice. His dapper red suit brought attention to the excellent costuming of Rich Hamson, Musetta’s burgundy velvet pantsuit another eye-catching ensemble. All benefit from Grant E. Merges’ well-crafted lighting design.

As for the instrumentation, pianist and music director Sonja Thompson does much of the heavy lifting, with a single guitar, violin, flute and accordion often sounding too thin to carry the score. Otherwise, the downscaling of this grand opera is a tremendous success.

If you go

  • What: Theater Latte Da’s “La Boheme”
  • When: Through Feb. 27
  • Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. N.E., Mpls.
  • Tickets: $49-$35, available at 612-339-3003 or latteda.org
  • Capsule: Pared-down Puccini makes for involving intimacy.
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