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Long-awaited display of restored Memphis Belle set for 2018

The fabled World War II bomber Memphis Belle will finally go on public display next spring at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force alongside John F. Kennedy's presidential plane, an early Wright Brothers flyer and other national treasures.

The journey from the flak-ridden skies over occupied France and Germany to restoration and display in the Ohio museum has been long for one of the most celebrated American planes to survive the war.

The B-17F "Flying Fortress," feted as one of the first to make it through the required 25 bombing missions, arrived at the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in pieces a dozen years ago. It was in rough shape, having been on display outside for decades in its namesake city where it deteriorated from weather and vandalism.

Restoration work by an army of volunteers has continued for years, delayed by a major expansion at the sprawling museum near Dayton and other restoration projects vying for attention. An unveiling of the restored warbird now is scheduled for May 17, 2018 — the 75th anniversary of the crew's 25th and final mission. The Memphis Belle will be displayed as the centerpiece of an exhibit on the strategic bombing campaign that broke the back of Germany's wartime production.

"This is an American icon," said Jeff Duford, curator of the Memphis Belle exhibit. "It's like the flag that flew at Iwo Jima or the USS Arizona. This is one of those things that's truly legendary and represents America and our spirit."

Since B-17 parts are no longer manufactured, volunteers have worked long, painstaking hours fabricating them from scratch and reassembling the plane inside a cavernous restoration hangar at the museum. The wing tips just went on, but the fuselage skin is still being riveted on. And it's still missing the plastic nose cone, tail section and an authentic paint job.

Greg Hassler, who is supervising the restoration, knows the clock is now ticking.

"We will have it done," Hassler vowed. "The airplane will look like it did on its 25th mission on 17 May of next year."

The four-engine bomber bristling with .50-caliber machine guns was piloted by then-Lt. Robert Morgan and had its famous name before it left the U.S. mainland. Morgan, who died in 2004, said it was inspired by his sweetheart, 19-year-old Memphis resident Margaret Polk. The actual moniker came from a riverboat in a John Wayne movie called "Lady for a Night" that Morgan and his co-pilot saw the night before the crew voted on a name.

Before heading for Europe, Morgan flew the bomber to Memphis, where Polk christened it with a bottle of champagne amid much fanfare.

The Memphis Belle, with the leggy Esquire magazine pinup girl painted on the nose, survived six months of punishing air combat in 1942-43 during missions to bomb factories and submarine pens. In doing so, the airplane and its crew beat the odds in a big way. Two out of three young men — their average age was 20 — who flew on those B-17 missions from airfields in England did not survive the war. One out of every 18 planes was lost to combat.

Because the plane's crew members sometimes flew in other planes, they actually completed their requisite 25th mission two days before the Belle, which flew its 25th on May 19, 1943, making it one of the first B-17s to do so.

After being honored by the Army brass and the king and queen of England, most of the original crew and plane were reunited for a highly publicized tour of the U.S. to help sell war bonds in the summer of 1943, including a stop at the same Ohio Air Force base where it will now reside permanently.

A 1944 William Wyler documentary added to the lore of the Belle, while younger generations were introduced to it in a 1990 hit movie that was a fictionalized account of the final mission.

Despite the Memphis Belle's installation at the Air Force museum, the legislature in Tennessee earlier this year designated it as that state's official airplane.

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Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy

John Kasich shows off pop culture savvy on ‘The View’  

John Kasich famously referred to himself as the “only adult on the stage” during a presidential debate last year, but the Republican governor of Ohio also knows how to connect with teens, thanks to his pop culture knowledge.

>> Read more trending news

On Thursday, Kasich appeared on “The View” and gave his opinions about the Katy Perry-Taylor Swift feud, surprising the show’s panel with his knowledge about music, celebrity spats and dropping names like former One Direction member Zayn Malik.

"We need your insight into a battle that has got this country just split right down the middle,” co-host Whoopi Goldberg began. “Can you explain what in the hell is going on … with Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?"

Kasich did not hesitate, saying it was “shocking to everybody.”

“Don’t ever steal anybody’s dancers, is the message," the governor said, referring to Perry’s admission on “The Late Late Show” this week about the pair’s alleged feud over shared backup dancers.

“Maybe they’re just trying to get some extra press, although I don’t know that Taylor Swift needs any more press,” Kasich said. “In fact, she kind of went into hiding, and now they say she’s going to reemerge with a new sound.”

Kasich, a 65-year-old father of twin 17-year-old girls, then spoke about Swift’s recent hit with Zayn, “I Don’t Want to Live Forever,” and her collaboration with former boyfriend Calvin Harris on “This is What You Came For.” 

“I will tell you, [Swift] met my wife and kids at a concert. She knew everything about my wife and my children. She was just unbelievably great,” Kasich said. “And Katy, you know, I have a friend that knows Katy Perry, and she’s very talented. So, two great pop artists.”

Kasich said his love of pop culture was a welcome break from the grind of politics. 

“You can do it ’til the day you die,” he said. “And I find it interesting, and I find it a nice break from the world of debates and all those kinds of things.”

Bank forecloses on ‘Extreme Makeover’ homeowner in Michigan

Nearly nine years ago, Arlene Nickless had her home rebuilt on national television. By Monday, she must turn in her keys and leave.

>> Read more trending news 

Designers with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” helped by hundreds of volunteers — built her family's home in 2008 after the death of Tim Nickless, her husband of 18 years. But keeping up payments on the mortgage has been a struggle, and it was foreclosed in September, the Lansing State Journal reported. It has been up for auction online for weeks.

“When I stepped out of the house the day “Extreme Makeover came, you will see me say ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” she said. “And, truthfully, that’s what I feel right now: I can’t believe this is happening.”

Arlene Nickless did not blame the ABC television show, whose pricey rebuild have led to foreclosures in some cases, However, she did criticize her mortgage company, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Her home’s foreclosure resulted from an ongoing struggle to manage the property’s pre-makeover mortgage — a balance of about $30,000 after the 2008 makeover, but had ballooned to at least $113,000 by the end of 2016, she told the newspaper.

Eight months after Tim Nickless died in January 2008, more than 1,600 volunteers from the Holt area joined the show’s crew to rebuild the family home, an 1860s farmhouse that had fallen into disrepair.

The old home was demolished, and after a five-day building period, Arlene Nickless and her three sons received a new 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home with stone columns, dark wood floors, an indoor water wall, and a retractable flat-screen television, the Lansing State Journal reported.

But the home's annual taxes more than tripled from 2008 to 2009, from about $2,000 in 2008 to about $7,500 in 2009, according to county records.

Those increased taxes and insurance costs were paid through an escrow account, bloating the Nickless family's monthly mortgage payments.

In 2010, Arlene Nickless was in a car crash that caused her to fall behind in making those monthly payments. By late 2010, the property went to a sheriff’s sale, the Lansing State Journal reported.

She filed paperwork to stop the foreclosure the morning of the sale, and the sheriff's deed, which would have given ownership rights to the buyer at the sale, was removed, according to Ingham County records.

At that time, Arlene Nickless said the mortgage lender offered to pay off the loan balance if she could come up with $15,000.

Before she had a chance to gather the money, Ocwen Financial acquired her mortgage in 2011, she said. For the next several years, Arlene Nickless struggled with the loan.

She withheld mortgage payments because she didn’t know where she was sending her money, she said.

“I was trying to find answers,” she told the Lansing State Journal.

Last month, the state of Michigan issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC from continued violations of state mortgage law. A press release from the state said Ocwen had a history of improper "servicing and handling of escrow accounts," trouble keeping accurate records and problems with properly crediting payments. 

Ocwen officials said the claims were unfounded.

In September 2016, Nickless' home went to a foreclosure sale again and sold for about $113,000. The six-month redemption period passed with Nickless unable to pull together the needed money.

The house now is listed on the auction website hubzu.com for $176,000.

The spokesman for “Extreme Makeover’s” producers, Endemol USA, declined comment Wednesday. However, the company acknowledged in a 2010 Wall Street Journal article that beneficiaries had issues with the larger-than-life homes and accompanying expenses, so the company scaled back.

Nickless doesn’t know where she’s going or where she’ll store a lifetime of memories, she said. She wanted to share her story in the hopes that it would effect change for others struggling with house payments.

“It breaks my heart to know there are families going through this every day,” she said.

Father writes open letter to Ariana Grande after Manchester explosion

For parents, the suicide bombing earlier this week in Manchester, England, had to hit home.

So many in attendance at the Ariana Grande concert were children or young adults.

And even if your children weren’t in attendance, you felt something real after learning that 22 people were killed in the attack.

>> Read more trending news

Then there’s Grande, a world-famous singer and performer who will live with this for the rest of her life.

Just hours after the bombing, she sent a tweet to her nearly 50 million followers.

Patrick Millsaps, a father of three young girls from Georgia, saw Grande’s tweet and decided to respond.

He penned an open letter to the singer, and the response has been incredible.

The tweet has been retweeted nearly 25,000 times.

In it, he begins by saying, "I am the father of three daughters — ages 13, 12 and 12. So, you have been a part of our family for years.”

He wrote, “I’m afraid I need to set you straight girl. So listen up and receive some redneck love from a daddy of daughters.”

He said such things as, “You don’t have a dadgum thing to apologize for.”

He told her to, “Spend time with your God, your family and your friends who will give you space and support when you need it.”

His last piece of advice was, “When and only when you are ready, on behalf of all dads who love your… um… whose daughters’ love your music SING AGAIN.”

He closed by saying, “So there you go my dear, unsolicited advice from a fat dude in Georgia who loves his daughters and appreciates that there are people like you in the world. Take care of you first. Your fans aren’t going anywhere.”

Grande, who suspended her "Dangerous Woman" world tour and canceled several European shows after the bombing, announced Friday that she will return to Manchester, England, to give a concert to raise money for the victims of Monday’s deadly bombing at her show there.

In a statement, the pop star said, “We won't let hate win” and offered to “extend my hand and heart and everything I possibility can give to you and yours.

Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.”

She did not announce a date for the concert.

Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor separating after 18 years together

One of Hollywood’s longest-lasting couples is calling it quits.

Entertainment Tonight reported Friday that actors Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor announced in a joint statement they are splitting.

>> Read more trending news

“With tremendous love and respect for each other, and the 18 years we spent together as a couple, we have made the decision to separate,” the statement said. “Our priority will continue to be raising our children as devoted parents and the closest of friends. We kindly ask that the media respect our privacy at this time.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Taylor and Stiller, parents to Ella, 15, and Quinlin, 11, were married in May 2000 after meeting on the set of a TV pilot Stiller was developing. They began dating in April 1999 and got engaged that November.

Taylor co-stared with Stiller in several of his films, including “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “Tropic Thunder,” “Zoolander” and “Zoolander 2.”

Ben Stiller and wife Christine Taylor announce separation

Ben Stiller and his wife announced Friday that they are separating after 17 years of marriage.

Stiller and actress Christine Taylor released a joint statement Friday announcing their breakup. They were married in May 2000 and have two children, who they said will remain their priority.

"With tremendous love and respect for each other, and the 18 years we spent together as a couple, we have made the decision to separate. Our priority will continue to be raising our children as devoted parents and the closest of friends," the actors wrote. "We kindly ask that the media respect our privacy at this time."

Taylor has appeared in several of Stiller's films, including "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," ''Tropic Thunder" and "Zoolander" and its sequel.

The statement was first reported Friday by "Entertainment Tonight."

Brad Pitt, Dave Grohl and other celebrities pay respects at Chris Cornell's funeral

Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell was laid to rest at a funeral service Friday in Los Angeles.

Cornell died of a suicide by hanging at his MGM Grand Detroit hotel room at May 17, only hours after he performed with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. He was 52.

>> Read more trending news

Cornell's wife, Vicky Karayiannis, and their daughter, Toni Cornell, were at the service at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where the musician was buried.

USA Today reported that Cornell’s bandmates, Soungarden drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist Kim Thayil, as well as Audioslave co-founder Tom Morello, delivered eulogies.

Related: PHOTOS: Celebrities pay respects at Chris Cornell's funeral

Actors Brad Pitt, Fred Armisen, Josh Brolin and James Franco attended the service.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Soundgarden’s music played outside the gates of the cemetery before the service.

Other notable rockers at the funeral included Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins, of the Foo Fighters; Dave Navarro, Metallica members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich; and Joe Walsh of the Eagles.

Gavin Rosdale, lead singer of the band Bush, was at the funeral. On Wednesday, he wrote a tribute to Cornell in a post on Billboard.com

“With Chris, there was this innate, beautiful melody and beautiful words that anyone with any degree of sensitivity could relate to and did,” he said of Cornell’s singing voice.

Karayiannis wrote an open letter that was posted by Billboard Wednesday in which she spoke to her husband.

Related: Chris Cornell's widow shares heartbreaking open letter to late husband

“We had the time of our lives in the last decade and I’m sorry, my sweet love, that I did not see what happened to you that night,” the letter read in part. “I’m sorry you were alone, and I know that was not you, my sweet Christopher. Your children know that too, so you can rest in peace.

“I’m broken, but I will stand up for you, and I will take care of our beautiful babies. I will think of you every minute of every day and I will fight for you.” she wrote.

Cornell is survived by his wife and three children.

'Property Wars' star facing trial for wire fraud in Phoenix

A former star on the "Property Wars" reality TV show has been accused of wire fraud and other charges involving furniture stores he owns and operates in the Phoenix metro area.

Federal authorities say Scott Menaged was arrested Wednesday in a case being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

They say Menaged has been indicted on 24 charges including aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to defraud.

Prosecutors say Menaged and three other defendants allegedly fabricated receipts of purchases at Furniture King stores and allegedly used the information of recently deceased people for bank credit applications.

Menaged has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

He has a detention hearing on June 2. His trial is scheduled July 5 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Company faces backlash for pulling Hannity ads

Financial services firm USAA, facing a backlash to its decision to pull advertising from Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Channel, says it is withdrawing from other opinion-based television programs.

The company, which sells insurance and other products to members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families, had cited its aversion to opinionated programming in backing away from Hannity. The veteran talk show host has become a liberal target because of his focus on a discredited story about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer.

Yet the conservative watchdog Media Research Center noted that USAA ads had run in recent weeks on left-leaning shows hosted by Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

The ads were placed in error and that mistake is being corrected, said Roger Wildermuth, USAA spokesman. It wasn't clear how the ads could be placed in at least four opinion-based shows in violation of the company's policy; he didn't immediately respond to a question about whether there were more.

Since the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America posted a list of more than 150 of Hannity's advertisers earlier this week, nine companies have said they no longer wanted to be sponsors. That's only a fraction of the companies that backed out of the since-fired Bill O'Reilly's Fox show last month after news of settlements paid to women to quiet harassment claims.

USAA's decision was particularly disappointing since Hannity has supported veterans organizations, said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.

The decision provoked an angry response. A Memorial Day posting on the company's Facebook page had nearly 500 comments Friday afternoon, many from people protesting the Hannity decision and vowing to move accounts from USAA.

One woman wrote: "with one boneheaded move, you've made me start looking for a new house and auto insurance, a new bank, a new investment manager."

"It was even more intense than I expected it would be," Bozell said, "and I expected it would be intense."

USAA noted that other companies had seen a backlash from their decisions, too. Wildermuth said USAA's decision on Hannity was not the result of outside pressure.

"We will continually review our ad placements to ensure we are consistent with our policy," he said.

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