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With friends and foes on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, new Billy’s on Grand fights to keep liquor license

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna



A Shoot-Out On St. Paul'S Grand Avenue Sent A Bullet Through The Window Glass Of A Condominium At Avon And Grand Avenue On June 18, 2022, Spraying A Resident'S Legs With Glass. Neighbor Bob Karls Documented The Damage With This Photograph. He'S Among Residents Who Have Laid Blame On Patrons Taking Bar Conflicts Outside Of Billy'S On Grand At 857 Grand Ave., Though Some Grand Avenue Residents Have Noted That Gun Crime Has Picked Up Nationally And The Incident Could Not Necessarily Be Traced Back To The Establishment. A Police Incident Report Shows St. Paul Police Later Recovered Seven 9 Millimeter And Two .22 Bullet Casings. (Courtesy Of Bob Karls)

Wes Spearman and Chuck Gilbert are experienced restaurant managers who say they’re trying to breathe badly needed night life into St. Paul’s storied Grand Avenue, which has suffered in recent years from retail and restaurant vacancies.

Pointing to dozens of police calls in a matter of months, some nearby residents and business owners have painted Billy’s on Grand as a magnet for trouble.

The two men, in turn, say they have a Black late-night clientele that gets wrongly scapegoated for any and all crime on the avenue, even carjackings that have taken place down the road and an incident involving a suspicious loiterer outside a nearby hair salon. A fatal shooting outside Billy’s occurred eight months before they took over the establishment.

“Some of the neighbors are proactively working with us,” said Gilbert, the restaurant’s general manager and a veteran of Minneapolis entertainment venues such as Seven Steakhouse and Sushi and the Escape Ultra Lounge. “Others think we’re the worst thing. Anything on Grand Avenue involving a person of color gets associated with us.”

“The bottom line,” said Spearman, a managing partner, “is it’s a Black crowd, and that’s new to the neighborhood.”


A shoot-out on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue sent a bullet through the window glass of a condominium at Avon and Grand Avenue on June 18, 2022. (Courtesy of Bob Karls)

Bob Karls, a condo owner on Grand Avenue, begs to differ. From mid-June 2021 through mid-April of this year, the St. Paul Police Department documented more than 100 police calls to Billy’s at 857 Grand Ave., from reported fights and assaults to 911 hang-up calls and tripped alarms. That tally doesn’t include proactive police visits, but it does include traffic violations such as parking in a no parking zone.

Karls photographed the hole in his neighbor’s wall after a shootout in the street sent a bullet flying through the man’s kitchen window on June 18, spraying his neighbor’s legs with glass. On March 5, a man was shot at Victoria Street and Grand.

“The managers have said there are perceptions of Billy’s in the neighborhood, and they’re fighting perceptions,” said Karls, who has lived on the avenue with his family since 2003. “I take exception to that. A bullet through a window is not a perception. Police calls are not perception.”

Michelle Plombon, who has lived across the street from Billy’s for 20 years, disagrees.

“They’ve been good neighbors,” said Plombon, who has met with Billy’s new management several times and calls any uptick in street crime part of a national problem. “They can’t be blamed for what happens outside their business. If Billy’s is successful, our whole neighborhood is successful. There are businesses that have gone away, and there’s empty buildings. We need to support the local businesses.”


Chuck Gilbert, General Manager Of Billy'S On Grand, At The St. Paul Restaurant And Bar On Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)
Chuck Gilbert, general manager of Billy’s On Grand, at the St. Paul restaurant and bar on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

The restaurant and bar dates back more than 35 years, and Gilbert and Spearman feel they’ve inherited hard feelings and excess scrutiny. After less than 1½ years in operation under the new management, Billy’s on Grand could be facing a revocation of its liquor license following multiple run-ins with St. Paul police and the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections.

The two, who manage the restaurant on behalf of Randall Johnson and the RJMP Group, are scheduled to appear before a state administrative law judge on Aug. 15 and 16 to fight a $1,000 fine imposed by DSI.

That penalty is based on the accusation that on March 5, police documented patrons leaving the restaurant patio with beverage cups; and on March 13 and March 18, two ingress and egress security cameras were inoperable and security video was not available upon demand. In addition, police documented 31 “quality of life” calls in a year’s time.

As that legal appeal hearing was being scheduled, police investigated a call for disorderly conduct shortly before 1 a.m. on May 21 but reported being barred from entering the establishment. Based on that incident and the restaurant’s previous history, DSI is now recommending full revocation of Billy’s liquor, patio and entertainment licenses.

Spearman, who said he fired the security guard in question, said he’s worked in restaurants for 20 years, including 10 years at the Hunan Garden Chinese restaurant in downtown St. Paul. He said he’d be hard-pressed to recall an altercation between patrons resulting in penalties from City Hall.

“There were fights,” he recalled of his time at the Chinese restaurant and bar, “but no adverse actions.”

Gilbert said his credentials as a bar, restaurant and night club manager in Minneapolis go back almost 30 years, and include popular, high-profile destinations such as Seven Steakhouse and Sushi, Escape Ultra Lounge, Bella Notte and the Sunset Beach Night Club.


Billy'S On Grand, Jan. 17, 2020.
Billy’s on Grand, photographed in 2020. (Pioneer Press)

Among the incidents at Billy’s that have drawn the ire of City Hall under both new and prior management:

  • A fatal shooting outside the bar in September 2020 was among the final straws for Billy’s short-lived previous management, which included Johnson, the chief executive officer, and managing partner Matt Pendergast. Citing crime and COVID-19, the RJMP Group shuttered Billy’s in October 2020. It took eight months before Gilbert and Spearman, the new managers, relaunched Billy’s in May 2021 under a management agreement that effectively borrows the RJMP Group’s liquor license. Given neighborhood complaints, City Hall has yet to award them a liquor license of their own.
  • On Feb. 1, the Department of Safety and Inspections imposed a $500 fine after the restaurant tallied some 78 police calls within a year. Those incidents included a large party that got out of hand on Oct. 30 and another altercation on Nov. 12. St. Paul police reported being called to a bar fight during a Halloween party at Billy’s, but by the time they arrived, the fight was over. Officers reported seeing patrons leaving the patio and entering the alley with plastic cups in their hands, as well as a man and woman engaged in a lewd act on the patio. Spearman said the woman was just sitting on the man’s lap. On March 2, the city council added eight new conditions to the bar’s liquor license, including regularly-scheduled outdoor security sweeps and a requirement that no new patrons be allowed in a half-hour before close.
  • On March 5, a man was shot at Victoria and Grand and entered the hallway of the mall adjoining Billy’s. Gilbert and Spearman said there was no evidence linking the shooting to the restaurant. After reviewing security footage, the police noted patrons leaving the premises with cups without being stopped by security.
  • In mid-March, police arrived on a Sunday afternoon to request camera footage. The owners said two of their 26 cameras were offline, and those cameras were directed at adjoining properties, including the neighboring mall. “A police officer came here and requested video at 3 p.m. on a Sunday and workers couldn’t provide it right away, which is an unrealistic expectation,” Spearman said. “Mind you, they’ve requested multiple videos before and after that, and we’ve always provided it. Those cameras being down were not intentional,” Spearman added. “We got them fixed, but let’s be clear. They’re not my responsibility. I don’t rent that space.”
  • On May 21, multiple officers arrived on a report of people arguing outside Billy’s. By the time they arrived, patrons were dispersing. An incident report shows officers found restaurant security removing loud groups of people, but “security not only refused to answer questions about the nature of the screaming, they locked the door to the licensed premises on the officers,” reads the DSI notice, dated June 17.

In regard to the May 21 incident, Spearman said: “They ask the security guard for a statement and he says, ‘Man, I ain’t got nothing else to say to you,’ and closes and locks the door.” Spearman said he fired the security guard and the manager on duty the next day. The incident forms the basis of DSI requesting full revocation of liquor, patio and entertainment licenses.

The two managers say other restaurants and bars have been involved in far more serious situations and received more leniency. They’ve pointed to the October 2021 mass shooting at the Seventh Street Truck Park eatery that killed one and injured 15, and a shooting at Plum’s Bar last March that hit a 19-year-old patron in the leg. Both establishments remain open.

Spearman and Gilbert said police used to assist previous owners at 2 a.m. closings, and their presence in the area helped disperse crowds. The two men said police no longer offer such assistance, even though Billy’s now closes an hour earlier. They said they’ve been told police staffing is tight and the department can’t spare the extra hands.

“It has been several years since SPPD off-duty employment has been allowed at 857 Grand Ave.,” said St. Paul police Sgt. David McCabe, a spokesman for the department, in an email. “That off-duty employment pre-dates our recent tracking of off-duty employment, which is no longer allowed for St. Paul police officers. … Currently the St. Paul Police offers contracted overtime for local businesses, however no request for that service has been made by the owners of 857 Grand. Additionally, any request would have to be approved and agreed upon by the department.”

The Summit Hill Association has passed a resolution asking for Billy’s to close even earlier, at midnight.

“They’ve been unresponsive to our requests to close at midnight,” Karls said. “They don’t serve food that late, so their profit is selling alcohol.”

Last fall, when Billy’s management filed for their own liquor license with a 2 a.m. closing, residents in the area wrote 10 letters of objection.

“There has been so much trouble at this place that adding these services and staying open til 2 am is just fodder for the trouble,” wrote Lincoln Avenue residents Richard and Val Cohn. “I can still hear gunshots and screaming that took place there not all that long ago.”

Kevin Johnson, a resident of Avon Street, wrote that his family was happy “when Billy’s finally re-opened under new management and have been largely impressed with the operation of the business.” Nevertheless, he said, “the block is zoned mixed business and residential for a reason. Not only do we shop and dine here. We live here. … (Maintaining) the current hours are reasonable.”


On July 15, with the intent of clearing the air, Gilbert and Spearman met with St. Paul City Council member Rebecca Noecker, a St. Paul police commander and about a dozen concerned residents and business owners.

In attendance was Julia Livingstone, a stay-at-home mother who lives across the alley from Billy’s. She had her windows open the day a man was fatally shot outside the restaurant, and said she tried to convince her then 5-year-old daughter that the screams were in response to firecrackers.

Livingstone, who has a background in community organizing, noted that incident took place two years ago, when Billy’s was operated by previous management. Since then, she’s seen some changes for the better, and a general openness to work with the community.

More recently, “there was a period where there were bikers that seemed to be meeting there quite regularly, and they were gunning their motors, revving their engines,” Livingstone said. “Billy’s was notified through a flier that these bikers were going to end their ride at Billy’s. Chuck immediately reached out to me and said, ‘I just got this flier, what do you think I should do? I’d like to use you as a sounding board.’ ”

She encouraged Gilbert to reach out to St. Paul police Cmdr. Joshua Lego, which he did. “They sent a couple squad cars,” Livingstone said. “There were absolutely no problems. We didn’t even know there were motorcycles in the neighborhood.”

Little more than a month ago, Accala Sullivan, a manager with the Juut hair salon in the adjoining mall, alerted management at Billy’s that there was a suspicious man loitering in the mall and looking through windows, staring into the breakroom and making her employees feel uncomfortable.

“We have been at this location for quite a few decades and we’ve got a great relationship with them next door,” said Sullivan.

Authorities assumed instead the bar was the source of the problem, Gilbert said.

“She called the police and the police came to Billy’s,” Gilbert said. “They didn’t go to Juut. That’s problematic. … We said, ‘Why are you coming to our office?’ Anything that can be, they tag it to Billy’s.”

Mara H. Gottfried contributed to this report.



7 Benefits Of A Vegan Diet You Didn’t Know About

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The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

A vegan diet has been proven to be beneficial in many ways, not just in terms of animal welfare, but also in your own health and the environment, too. Many people who have adopted this lifestyle and way of eating have reported experiencing positive changes in their overall well-being, from physical improvements to mental ones. However, there are still many myths about what it means to be vegan or go on a vegan diet that you may have heard from others or even have yourself believed—until now! Here are seven benefits of being vegan that you didn’t know about.

1) Plant-Based Protein

Many people think that you need to eat meat to get protein, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of plant-based sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa. Not only are these sources of protein just as good for you as meat, but they’re also usually lower in calories and fat.

2) Healthier Heart

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

A vegan diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease. That’s because it’s naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fiber and antioxidants. All of these things work together to keep your heart healthy and functioning properly.

3) Keeps Blood Sugar Levels Low

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

A vegan diet can help keep blood sugar levels low. This is because vegan diets are typically high in fiber and low in sugar. Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This can be beneficial for people with diabetes or prediabetes, as well as those who are trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

4) Gut Health

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

The vegan diet is rich in fiber which is beneficial for gut health. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system clean and free of toxins. In addition, fiber aids in the production of short-chain fatty acids which are important for gut health.

5) Better Digestion

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

When you cut out animal products, you’re also cutting out a lot of unhealthy saturated fats. This can lead to better digestion and less bloat. In addition, plant-based foods are packed with fiber which helps keep things moving along smoothly.

6) No Animal Cruelty

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

The biggest benefit of a vegan diet is that it doesn’t involve any animal cruelty. Animals raised for food are often kept in cramped, dirty conditions and are fed a diet that makes them sick. They’re also subjected to painful procedures, such as debeaking and castration, without any painkillers.

7) Plastic and Environmental Impact Reduction

The Vegan Diet Is Good For You And The Environment. Here Are Seven Benefits Of The Vegan Diet That You Might Not Know About. Vegan Diet, Plant-Based, Vegan, Vegan Food, Vegetarian, Healthy Food, Cruelty-Free, Go Vegan, Organic,

It takes a lot of water and resources to produce meat, dairy, and eggs. In fact, animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of water consumption in the US. It’s also a leading cause of deforestation and habitat destruction. Going vegan is one of the most impactful things you can do for the environment.

A vegan diet can have some pretty incredible benefits – both for your health and for the environment. If you’re thinking about making the switch, be sure to do your research to make sure it’s the right fit for you. And if you need some inspiration, there are plenty of delicious vegan recipes out there waiting to be tried!

The post 7 Benefits Of A Vegan Diet You Didn’t Know About appeared first on MEWS.

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Trudy Rubin: A trip near the front lines finds Ukrainian troops ready for a battle that could decide the war

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Trudy Rubin: A Trip Near The Front Lines Finds Ukrainian Troops Ready For A Battle That Could Decide The War

SHEVCHENKOVE, Ukraine — A mounting Ukrainian counteroffensive in this southern Black Sea region is building up to a crucial battle that could shape the outcome of the entire war by the end of September.

That is why I was recently rattling down the road from Mykolaiv in an armored Ukrainian military van moving toward the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, as Ukrainian Major Andre (his nom de guerre) explained why the coming battle to retake the city will be critical.

If Ukraine can retake the Black Sea port of Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city that the Russians occupy, it would smash Russian ambitions to seize all of southern Ukraine, including the entire seacoast and the famed port city of Odesa. It would boost the Ukrainian military’s morale and its prospects for regaining more of Ukraine’s southern lands — while badly shaking up the Kremlin.

Perhaps most important, it would prove to the United States and its allies that Ukrainian forces can drive the Russians back — if only they are provided more of the long-range precision weapons that have already made such a difference to this counteroffensive.

So I was hoping to get some insight into Ukrainian military morale and readiness for the Battle of Kherson on this trip.

What I found was a huge boost in military morale compared with my last visit to Mykolaiv in mid-July, a shift fueled by the arrival of 16 HIMARS — highly mobile, long-range multiple-rocket systems provided by Washington. “HIMARS have really changed the situation,” Major Andre told me, as we sped along dirt roads through fields of harvested wheat. (He, like the other soldiers I spoke to, was limited to using only a military nickname or first name, since they were soldiers in active service during a time of war.)

The smell of wheat fields scorched by exploding shells permeated the air.

HIMARS have enabled Ukraine to take out Russian logistics bases in the east and south, as well as to close the vital Antonivsky Bridge over the Dnipro River, which Russian forces used to supply their troops in Kherson.

But to push the Russians back from the wider Kherson region, the major stressed, his army will need more HIMARS with munitions that can target longer ranges, plus air defense systems and planes.

We drove up to a system of bunkers a couple of kilometers behind the line of confrontation. A soldier identified only by his military nickname, “Satan” (bestowed on him after a tough battle), guided me through the underground tunnels. “Of course we can beat the Russians,” he told me as he showed me the troops’ kitchen and bunk room, disturbing a couple of groggy fellow soldiers. Then he stopped to stir a pot of borscht bubbling on a cook stove. He told me he is eager for the Battle of Kherson to begin and plans to marry his girlfriend “if I am not killed.”

“Satan,” who has been at war with Russians for 7½ years, almost since the start of their first invasion of Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014, oozed disdain for his opponents and their methods. “They were burning their own soldiers,” he told me, referring to reports that the Russian military had set up mobile crematoria to lessen the number of casualties that would return home in body bags.

“The ‘Orcs’ were really active for the past two weeks,” he continued, using the popular Ukrainian slang for Russian soldiers that refers to the race of ugly monsters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” “They were throwing cluster bombs into the fields, and causing casualties in (Shevchenkove) village, where people are very old and can’t leave.”

Russia’s accelerated and deliberate targeting of civilians has fed a seething anger among Ukrainian troops that also stokes morale for the coming fights.

Our van drove through the shattered town of Shevchenkove, once home to 7,000 people where barely 100 remain. Buildings not hit by shells were trashed by Russians. The windows of the school were all broken, and inside every room, furniture and papers were tossed into heaps.

“A lot of civilians died in this town,” Major Andre told me. He stopped to drop off some food for an older couple, Luba, 60, and Lonya, 62, who lost his left leg below the knee. The couple mainly live in their basement because of constant shelling. When I asked Luba why she stays, she smiled broadly, displaying a mouth full of gold fillings, and said: “This is my house, these are my soldiers. If they know I am not here, they have no reason to fight for us.”

Luba’s daughter finally fled the village after her house was destroyed by shells. Luba said her 12-year-old granddaughter’s hair had turned gray from fright.

We left their home in a rush after Major Andre called out: “Let’s go! Let’s go!” He was concerned we may have been spotted by Russian drones.

The major also displayed blistering scorn for the “cowardice” of Russian troops. We drove over grass and dirt roads to a spot where a long line of rusted Russian vehicles — troop carriers and ammunition trucks — lay abandoned, having been hit by Ukrainian fire in March. “They fled, and left their dead behind,” he told me, shaking his head in disgust at the behavior of the Russians.

He showed me a large area of disturbed earth where, he said, Ukrainian paratroopers “dug up 50 bodies of dead Russians, so we could exchange them for ours.”

This scorn for Russian troops convinces Ukrainian soldiers that their skills and motivation can offset Moscow’s dispatch of tens of thousands more troops and weaponry to the Kherson region.

“One Ukrainian soldier is equal to 10 Russian soldiers,” the major said firmly. He believes the Russians may flee Kherson, now that their supply lines have been cut off by HIMARS, rather than stand and fight. “They are in a panic, locals don’t support the occupation, and Russian fake news doesn’t help them.” (Of course, the Russians may choose to use Kherson’s remaining residents as hostages, making it more difficult for Ukraine to fire at the city.)

The major believes the Russians won’t be able to hold an undoubtedly rigged referendum in Kherson in September, intended to endorse the city’s annexation by the Russian Federation. However, Ukrainian officials have expressed hope of taking back the city before the fake vote.

Ukrainian resistance inside Kherson is well-organized, Major Andre said, even though the Russians are trying hard to crush it. “We constantly get information from people in Kherson. We know who is eating what, sleeping where,” he said, “and we are documenting rapes.”

The high military morale doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t depression over casualties, and anger at Western aid that comes too little, and too late.

Yet this military thirst for justice opens the possibility that Ukraine can win the Battle of Kherson. All will depend on whether the West understands it must deliver the necessary HIMARS and other vital weapons, not in months or years, but in the coming crucial weeks.

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Children’s author ‘The Snowman’ Raymond Briggs dies at 88

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Children'S Author 'The Snowman' Raymond Briggs Dies At 88


LONDON — British children’s author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, whose designs include ‘The Snowman’ and ‘Fungus the Bogeyman’, has died. He was 88 years old.

Briggs’ family said he died on Tuesday and thanked staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, near his home in southern England, “for the kind and caring care they gave Raymond at the during his last weeks.

“We know that Raymond’s books have been loved and touched by millions of people around the world, who will be saddened to hear this news,” the family said in a statement released Wednesday by publisher Penguin Random House.

Born in London in 1934, Briggs studied art and worked briefly in advertising before beginning a decades-long career as a children’s illustrator. He won a Kate Greenaway Medal – considered the Oscars of children’s publishing – in 1966 for illustrating a nursery rhyme book, “The Mother Goose Treasury”.

He polished a fairy tale story with ‘Jim and the Beanstalk’, published in 1970, and won a second Greenaway Award for ‘Santa Claus’. Published in 1973, it featured a grumpy but genial Santa and, like many of Briggs’ books, was adapted for television.

“Fungus the Bogeyman”, which charted a day in the life of a creepy underground monster, disgusted and delighted children in equal measure after its publication in 1977.

The following year came “The Snowman,” a bittersweet tale in which a boy’s winter creation magically comes to life. The wordless book has sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide and a 1982 animated adaptation has aired on UK television every Christmas since.

Far darker was 1982’s ‘When the Wind Blows’, a melancholy and angry story about the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Britain. It was adapted into an animated film in 1986, with music by David Bowie and others.

Briggs’ anti-nuclear stance made him unpopular with members of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. So did “The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman,” an illustrated satire on the Falklands War.

Later works include “Ethel & Ernest”, a poignant graphic novel based on the lives of Briggs’ parents, published in 1998.

Briggs’ books were poignant but never sugary, shot through with the tangy humor that reverberated beneath her inquisitive public persona. Despite creating several seasonal classics, he always claimed to hate Christmas and once said of children, “I try to avoid them as much as possible.”

“Raymond loved playing the grumpy professional, but he will be remembered for his stories of love and loss,” Briggs literary agent Hilary Delamere said. “From the many letters he received, I know how much his books and animations have touched people’s hearts.”

Francesca Dow, general manager of Penguin Random House Children’s, said Briggs was “unique” and “has inspired generations of picture book, graphic novel and animation creators”.

“Raymond’s books are illustrated masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, addressing adults and children alike with remarkable economy of words and illustrations” , she said.

The Briggs family said he “lived a rich and full life” and felt lucky to have had both his late wife and late partner for over 40 years.

Briggs’ wife, Jean, died in 1973 and his partner, Liz, died in 2015. He is survived by a son-in-law and daughter-in-law and their families.


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Chicago Bears Q&A: How will the Roquan Smith situation be resolved? Would Will Fuller be a good fit at WR?

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Chicago Bears Q&Amp;A: How Will The Roquan Smith Situation Be Resolved? Would Will Fuller Be A Good Fit At Wr?

The Chicago Bears open the preseason in three days against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Linebacker Roquan Smith won’t be in uniform as he continues his hold-in — now with a trade request.

Smith’s situation, naturally, is the top question in Brad Biggs’ weekly Bears mailbag.

How will the Roquan Smith situation be resolved? — Stan K., Cedarburg, Wis.

My crystal ball is in the shop getting a tune-up for the regular season, so I can’t use it to answer this question. I will say that as often as a trade request results in an actual trade, there are just as many instances — probably more — when a trade request is simply a tactic in a protracted negotiation. If I had to venture a guess, I think the Bears will wind up reaching an extension agreement with Smith.

Trading Smith right now would be especially difficult. In a more typical situation in which a player requests a trade, the team might grant the player and his agent permission to seek one. That would involve the agent calling other teams and saying: “Hey, the Bears are willing to trade my client. I think they are seeking roughly (fill in the blank) in terms of compensation. What would you be willing to pay my client in a new contract?” Interested teams then could negotiate a contract with the agent, and that could lead to a trade being completed.

If you’re looking for an example of such a trade around this time of year, go back to July 2011 when the Bears traded tight end Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, received permission to shop for a trade and sent a mass email to the other 31 teams, writing: “The Bears have granted me permission to seek a trade for Greg Olsen. Please let me know if interested. Sounds like the Bears will be very reasonable on the compensation in return for Greg.”

That kind of scenario becomes more complex for Smith, who is operating without an agent. It also doesn’t sound like the Bears are interested in granting Smith permission to seek a trade, which his camp would require to have any contact with other teams.

“Right now, my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team,” general manager Ryan Poles said after practice Tuesday. “And we’re going to take it day by day. At the end of the day we’ve got to do what’s best for this organization. But my intentions are to make sure Roquan Smith’s on this team.”

Smith clearly is miffed with the status of negotiations, and it’s apparent the sides are not near a deal. If the Bears were willing to make Smith one of the top-paid linebackers in the NFL, my hunch is he already would be signed and on the practice field, not on the physically unable to perform list.

As I have written previously, I can see both sides of this situation. From Smith’s perspective, he has played excellent football for four seasons and feels it is time to get the security that comes with a second contract. If Poles wants to see Smith play a new position in a new scheme for a new coaching staff before he commits top-of-the-market money to a player he inherited, I can understand that as well.

I called an executive with another team. He has nothing to do with the Smith situation, but I wanted to pick his brain about the Bears’ dilemma.

“He’s a good stack linebacker,” he told me. “He’s not a top-five linebacker for me. Not right now anyway. If I was the GM or coach, I would say: ‘We want you on this football team. We think you have a bright future on this team. But we have to see you play in this defense first before we start talking about a contract. If you go out there and make plays and you become Shaquille Leonard, we’re going to pay you. This is a new team. New system. New way of doing things. We can’t give you money based on where someone else drafted you and for what you did on tape in another system.’

“My top five stack linebackers? Shaq Leonard, Fred Warner, Demario Davis, Micah Parsons and I still love Lavonte David. I thought De’Vondre Campbell was better than Roquan last year. He made more plays. Better player? I don’t know. Roquan has better traits (than Campbell), and that’s what you get into. In terms of the traits perspective, Roquan is the guy everyone in the NFL is looking for off the ball. He is a three-down player. He has coverage traits. You can scheme him as a blitzer and he’s got ridiculous pursuit speed. He’s got every trait you want. The thing you wonder about … is he a game changer? He might be in this scheme. He hasn’t played in it yet.”

After Smith’s statement to NFL Media on Tuesday morning, maybe the sides will take a little break and re-engage in the near future. I’m positive Poles would like to keep negotiations private. Smith has made his point. He’s unhappy with the team’s offers. Will the Bears reshape a contract proposal to close the gap? We’ll have to wait and see.

Keep in mind that not only is Smith under contract for this season, the Bears could use the franchise tag on him in 2023. That provides the team with leverage in negotiations. At some point Smith will have to end his “hold-in” because he can’t afford not to play in regular-season games.

Even without the crystal ball, I think a deal gets done, but the only certainties right now are Smith is irked and Poles is holding brief, impromptu Q&As he would like to avoid.

I have a question about training camp. How does any coach get a handle on how well the team is playing when all the practices are the Bears practicing against each other? If Justin Fields throws several picks during the practice, does that mean the defense is playing great or Fields and his receivers are having an off day? Conversely, if the offense, and Fields in particular, have great days and multiple deep hits, does that mean the offense is rocking and the defense is weak? How do coaches, outside of preseason game competition, evaluate a team when the success of one side means failure for the other? — David K.

Good question. I think the coaches are looking for tempo, the energy level of practice and execution within the structure of the scheme. That tells the staff if the offense or defense is playing well in practice. A guy making a play in practice — for the defense or the offense — is what it is. You want to see it happen on both sides of the ball, and you want to see them make plays within the structure of the offense or defense using the techniques that the new staff has drilled and coached.

When you go through training camp, there will be offensive days and defensive days that stand out. What the coaches want to see is progression and whether players are improving within the structure and using what they are taught. That’s how the coaching staff judges development and progress.

In a column last week, you quoted Matt Eberflus as saying it “creates more gaps in the running game when you have that lead back in there.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant. Why does having the extra player “create more gaps”? Don’t the players have to cover the same number of gaps regardless? Can you explain? — Tom S., Chicago

Let’s say, for example, the Bears run power or lead through the C gap. With a fullback on the field, the offense is getting an extra player to the second level and it creates another gap because now the defense needs two linebackers (or one and a safety) attacking the back. One has to hammer the back and the other has to spill the play. In essence, the fullback creates leverage advantages for the offense and a plus-one number through the gap leading to the second level. I hope that makes sense.

What do you expect from Equanimeous St. Brown, seeing that he is doing great in training camp? — @dabearsprod

I am interested to see what St. Brown can do and wrote back in the spring that he was an intriguing addition because of his size (6-foot-5, 214 pounds), speed, catch radius and previous experience with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. St. Brown needed to get acclimated to a new team and new teammates, but he was able to get up to speed probably faster than others because of his time with Getsy in Green Bay.

I think St. Brown is intriguing, but I have no idea what to expect. He needs to remain healthy — injuries hampered him at times with the Packers — and be consistent. We should keep in mind the Packers were in serious need of wide receivers entering this offseason and didn’t keep St. Brown, who began last season on the practice squad. I’m also not sure anyone involved in the passing game has been “doing great in training camp.”

If St. Brown is healthy, he has the potential to be a big-play threat. That’s something he has yet to do in his career. A fresh start elsewhere was probably the best thing for him. Like a lot of other players on the roster, this is a prove-it season for St. Brown, who signed a one-year, $965,000 contract.

Wouldn’t Will Fuller be a perfect fit for the Bears, especially considering how the wide receiver group has been thinned out by injuries? — Harold, Beverly

There have been many questions about the possibility of the Bears adding the free agent and former first-round pick of the Houston Texans. If the Bears needed a vertical stretch player in the offense, that would make more sense to me. I think Darnell Mooney is that player in this offense and is still an ascending player. If there were an accomplished, big-body possession receiver on the market, that might be a better fit.

Adding Fuller would give the Bears more explosive-play ability, but he has major availability concerns. He missed 15 games last season after suffering a broken thumb. He served a six-game suspension in 2020 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Before that, a torn ACL and broken collarbone sidelined him.

The Bears have been hit with injuries in camp, but N’Keal Harry (left ankle) and David Moore, who was carted off the field Tuesday at Soldier Field, were not locks to make this roster. Rookie Velus Jones Jr. remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury, but coach Matt Eberflus has maintained it’s not a long-term concern.

Are any of the Bears rookies in danger of not making the roster? Haven’t heard much about Elijah Hicks in training camp. — @drew0131

I’m assuming you mean rookie draft picks and not just rookies in general. I don’t know if “danger” is a good word to use here either. General manager Ryan Poles wheeled and dealed his way into having 11 draft picks. Eight of those picks came in the final 94 selections. It’s a little unrealistic to believe all 11 draftees will be on the 53-man roster in Week 1, especially when you consider the Bears used four of those late picks on offensive linemen. I would guess they will keep nine offensive linemen, and having nearly half of them be rookies is unlikely.

That doesn’t mean the Bears don’t believe their draft picks have a chance to compete and develop, and most or all who get released could be offered a spot on the practice squad. In terms of Hicks, the former Cal safety has looked solid. He moves well and has taken advantage of his opportunities after an undisclosed injury sidelined him for the entirety of the offseason program. Let’s see how he looks in the preseason and what roles he could play on special teams.

Who do you think will be starting opening day for the secondary? — @kobebeardown

Good question. Jaylon Johnson is a clear starter at cornerback, and Eddie Jackson and rookie Jaquan Brisker appear locked in at safety. Questions remain as to how the team will deploy second-round pick Kyler Gordon, who has worked on the outside and at nickel corner when he has been on the field during training camp. Gordon has been sidelined of late, but considering coach Matt Eberflus hasn’t provided an explanation for his absence, we’re led to believe it’s not something that will linger. It should be noted Gordon was sidelined for a good portion of the offseason program, but there’s no question he has flashed when he has participated this summer.

The coaching staff has used Kindle Vildor with the starters on the outside when Gordon has been at nickel. Complicating things is that a good handful of cornerbacks have been out recently. Gordon, Vildor, Thomas Graham, Duke Shelley and Tavon Young were all missing recently. Young is an experienced slot cornerback, but he has a lot of injury history. Graham likely will get to show what he can do in the slot when he’s healthy. Gordon definitely will be in the starting mix — it’s just a question of where and who else the coaches choose. Right now, Vildor might be the best guess.

Any word on who the next defensive tackle is behind Justin Jones? I’m hearing a lot about edge defenders looking solid in camp and Jones looking good, but has anyone else stood out? — Andre C.

Good observation regarding Jones. He has done a nice job of getting into the backfield on a regular basis. He needs to do that in the season because the three technique is the motor that makes a Tampa-2 scheme run.

Mario Edwards Jr. looks like the top reserve at that position, and as you might recall from when Tommie Harris played for the Bears, they will need to rotate regularly. Edwards, 28, has some scheme versatility and I think he will be OK getting reps here. He had a solid season for the Bears in 2020, when he had four sacks, seven quarterback hits and six tackles for a loss. That earned him a three-year, $11.66 million contract.

Edwards didn’t play to that level last season, but this is a tough position to fill and I think he will be good enough in a rotation. The Bears likely will want to find some front-line help for the defensive line in the next offseason.

Who has been the best linebacker in Roquan Smith’s absence? — @bsolesky

Nicholas Morrow looks like he will be a really good fit for this defense. He moves well and plays with range, and watching him on the practice field, it’s clear why the Las Vegas Raiders felt their nickel defense took a hit when Morrow was lost to an injury last season. He should be a solid three-down player.

Joe Thomas has stood out as well, showing a real nose for the ball. While Matt Adams, who played for Matt Eberflus with the Indianapolis Colts, probably is the leader in the clubhouse to start on the strong side, Thomas clearly has the ability and versatility to back up multiple positions. He’s a core special teams player and has been effective with expanded reps as Smith sits out.

“I heard Nick (Morrow) mention the other day in his conference the reason why Matt’s here is because he understands the defense, because he plays with high tempo, because he’s physical,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “And then Thomas, he stands out because he’s leading the group in turnovers. We keep track of how many guys have intercepted the ball, how many balls you’ve knocked out, how many scoop and scores, and he’s leading the group. So those two guys are standouts right now.”

Are the injuries in camp part of football or happening because of a tougher camp run by a rookie coach? — @gucasliogito

I don’t think so. When 90 guys are playing football — especially in pads — injuries will happen. Some years there are more, some years not as many. I’d also point out that Matt Eberflus’ camp is not quite like the team experienced under Lovie Smith or Dick Jauron in a different era with different practice rules in the collective bargaining agreement. Eberflus is pushing the players, no question, and says he doesn’t believe they can “live soft and play hard.” Reality is they don’t have a high number of serious injuries to front-line players at this point.

How has Trenton Gill looked? — @cartortus

The rookie punter from North Carolina State looks to have a strong leg, and the Bears clearly believe in him because there is no competition for the job on the roster. Gill probably understands he’s competing for a role every day, though, because that might be the most easily changed position for any team. I want to see how he performs in live preseason action.

Will N’Keal Harry still make the team injured? — @kapgunzz89

Good question. That probably depends on how the Bears feel about the wide receivers they have at the end of the preseason and what they thought of Harry before he went down with the high left ankle sprain. I did not view him as a lock to make the roster when the Bears traded a 2024 seventh-round pick to the New England Patriots for him. Keep in mind the Bears would have to carry him on the initial 53-man roster if they want to then shift him to injured reserve and bring him back when he’s healthy. If they placed him on IR before roster cuts, he would not be eligible to be designated to return.

How do you think the starting offensive line will look on Saturday? — Double D, Chicago

Based on what we have seen most recently in camp, it sure looks like the coaching staff is eager to see what rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones can do at left tackle. He has been getting the bulk of the work with the ones with Cody Whitehair alongside him at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Michael Schofield at right guard and Riley Reiff at right tackle.

We’ll have to see how many front-line defensive players the Kansas City Chiefs have on the field, but Saturday’s game should offer a glimpse of what this group can do. I’m also interested to see how Teven Jenkins performs, assuming he gets some action, most likely at right tackle. Keep an eye on Larry Borom, too, because he could push for a starting spot with a strong showing.

How long do you believe Matt Eberflus will leave starters in against the Chiefs? — Soroush K., Naperville

Coaches generally keep that kind of information close to the vest, mostly because I think they have a range in mind. For the sake of discussion, let’s say Eberflus is thinking about 12 to 15 snaps for his starters. Well, if the offense takes seven plays to go roughly 70 yards and score on its first possession, that’s a great point to end their day. Pull out the first unit after a productive drive.

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said he wants to play his starters about one quarter Monday. New York Jets coach Robert Saleh talked about a series or two for his front-line guys. Back in 2018, the Bears had five preseason games with the Hall of Fame Game, and coach Matt Nagy, in his first season, pretty much kept starters out of that game. In the regular first week of the preseason, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the starting offensive line got 10 snaps.

More coaches have gone away from playing starters, especially veterans, in the preseason. We’ll see what Eberflus does Saturday and then how his strategy evolves in future years.


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Russia targets journalist with war critics raid and investigation

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Russia Targets Journalist With War Critics Raid And Investigation

Russian authorities on Wednesday raided the home of a former state television journalist who resigned after protesting on air against Moscow’s war in Ukraine, and initiated criminal proceedings against her for broadcasting false information about the Russian armed forces, his lawyer said. said on social media.

The case against Marina Ovsyannikova was launched under a law, enacted after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, that criminalizes statements against the military, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said. A conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Zakhvatov told independent news site Meduza the case was likely linked to a protest organized by Ovsyannikova last month, holding a banner saying “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists.”

He said on Telegram that after the raid Ovsyannikova should be brought to the Investigative Committee for questioning.

Ovsyannikova worked as a producer with Russian state-funded Channel One. She made international headlines on March 14, when she appeared behind an evening newscaster holding a poster saying “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here”. She was accused of denigrating the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($270 at the time).

After quitting her job, Ovsyannikova became something of an activist, organizing anti-war pickets and speaking out publicly against the conflict.

She has been fined two more in recent weeks for disparaging the military in a critical Facebook post and comments she made outside a court where opposition figure Ilya Yashin has been remanded in custody in awaiting trial for spreading false information about the army.

According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group specializing in free speech cases, on Wednesday there were 79 criminal cases for spreading false information about the military and up to 4,000 administrative cases for disparaging the armed forces. .


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Prime Property: NBA star Scottie Pippen’s former mansion features full-size basketball court

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Ravens Q&Amp;A: Olb Daelin Hayes On Learning From A Frustrating Rookie Season, Reuniting With Kyle Hamilton, The Importance Of Community Service And More

A 12,868-square-foot waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale, previously owned by former NBA basketball player Scottie Pippen, has features sure to delight any family — and it can be yours for under $20 million.

The home, at 2571 Del Lago Drive, sits on .72 acres in the exclusive Harbor Beach neighborhood, a gated community popular with boaters because of its deep water and quick access to the inlet leading to the ocean.

Listed for $19.995 million, the two-story Mediterranean mansion was built in 2004 and has seven bedrooms, eight full baths and two half baths.

Interior features include a theater room, club room, wine room, gym, a chef’s kitchen, an elevator, a playroom and a six-car garage that can store 10 cars with lifts.

Outside, there is a resort-style pool with a water slide, a putting green, a dock, an outdoor kitchen and a full NBA basketball court. The house sits on a double lot, with 215 linear feet of water frontage on a deep-water canal.

“It is a gorgeous property,” said Gilles Rais, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Fort Lauderdale, who holds the listing. “The layout is beautiful, and it has all the amenities you can dream of.”

Public records show that the current owners purchased the home in September 2021 from a trust controlled by Pippen for $10.545 million. Rais said they are relocating to a home in Miami Beach.

Pippen was selected in the first round of the 1987 draft by the Chicago Bulls and also played for the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers before retiring in 2004. The six-time NBA champion is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


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