Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips set to wed English rugby standout in private ceremony

LONDON – Britain will celebrate its second royal wedding of the season Saturday, with equestrian star Zara Phillips – eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II – taking centre stage as she marries England rugby stalwart Mike Tindall.

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A regal supporting cast is expected as the queen leads her extended brood to Edinburgh, Scotland for the private festivities. Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are expected, along with Prince Harry (still single) and bright lights from Britain’s sports and show business worlds.

The nuptials of Phillips, 30, and Tindall, 32, are expected to be far more low-key than William’s wedding in late April, which was watched live on television throughout much of the world. Phillips – who does not carry a royal title – and Tindall prefer to stay out of the limelight when they are not competing, and the wedding has been organized to reflect their desires.

“It’s the complete opposite end of the royal wedding spectrum,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “William and Zara are both the queen’s grandchildren: He’s got the title, he’s going to be the monarch, but Zara thinks of herself more as a sportswoman than as a royal.”

He said Phillips and her fiance go about their daily lives “like regular people” without police protection and are generally left alone even by people who recognize them. They have come to enjoy their privacy, and have taken steps to make sure there is no live television coverage of the wedding, with only very limited press coverage, Little said.

The couple seem very different from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Phillips is a casual, understated and sporty woman who doesn’t mind drinking beer from a bottle in public from time to time; Tindall is a powerful standout in rugby, the quintessential (and sometimes brutal) English sport.

Phillips has a lovely, unlined face, while Tindall’s visage reflects the rigours of his sport.

The publicity-shy Phillips seems to have used William’s wedding as a cover for her own, hoping the tremendous attention paid to his choice of bride would shield her from an intense publicity buildup surrounding her own plans to marry Tindall, her longtime boyfriend.

She and Tindall announced their engagement shortly after William and Middleton’s announcement generated worldwide headlines, and she scheduled her wedding after William’s, choosing Edinburgh over London, which is a huge media hub.

While the couple is seeking privacy in the days before the wedding – which will include a cocktail party Friday night aboard the former royal yacht Britannia, which has been hired for the occasion – London’s tabloids have been tailing the couple whenever possible, seeking out crucial details, such as who is doing Phillips’ nails.

On Friday, the couple, both dressed casually in jeans, arrived at Edinburgh church Canongate Kirk for a final rehearsal. They smiled at the crowds of well-wishers gathered across the road, who cheered them as they disappeared inside the church.

Most of the outside world may not be mesmerized, but the wedding is a major event in the royal family’s life, in part because of the close ties between the queen and Phillips, who is her eldest granddaughter.

Phillips – a world class equestrian who hopes to compete in the London Olympics next summer – is the daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, her first husband.

They made the fateful choice not to accept royal titles for their two children, Zara and her older brother Peter. That decision has enabled the two children to enjoy more freedom than their cousins. They have generally received less scrutiny and have fewer royal duties – that means less time spent at routine events like opening hospital wards or christening lifeboats.

Phillips, like her mother, Princess Anne, has become a top equestrian, winning numerous medals and several “Sportswoman of the Year” awards. Riding is her passion, and she excels at it.

Tindall, his burly physique ideal for rugby, has been a topflight England player and occasional team captain though recently hobbled by injuries.

The couple has never been much for pomp and circumstance, generally preferring jeans and a sweater to haute couture. They used a casual outdoorsy photo for their engagement picture, a far cry from the formal portrait shot by Mario Testino that William and Middleton used.

Phillips has not tried to be fashion trendsetter, although she has occasionally worn wacky and revealing outfits (sometimes set off with a Trilby hat) and she did have her tongue pierced, which is not typical protocol for senior royals.

She has sometimes taken a devil-may-care attitude toward fashion, refusing to treat every night out as a chance to showcase a new outfit. And she drew heavy criticism once for wearing a low cut dress even though her tan lines were clearly visible – a fashion faux pas that seemed to interest her not at all.

Fashion experts do not expect Phillips, with her curvier figure, to wear a skintight lace concoction like the McQueen gown that Middleton wore when she married William at Westminster Abbey in late April.

“I think it will be a very classic, very traditional English wedding gown,” said Arabella Dupont, executive retail editor at Brides magazine.

Press attention has focused on Stewart Parvin, who holds a royal warrant from the queen, as the likely designer. Dupont said others who may have received the coveted assignment are Bruce Oldfield and Paul Costelloe.

There is no public viewing area for the wedding, but police in Edinburgh are anticipating that several thousand people will try to throng the narrow streets in hopes of catching a glimpse of the newlyweds – and of the glamorous Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Paparazzi are likely to focus on Middleton and what she is wearing, but Dupont doesn’t believe Middleton will try to upstage the bride.

“She doesn’t seem like the kind of girl to do that,” Dupont said. “The bride should be the centre of attention and all eyes should be on her.

Ugandan Little League team strikes out on trip to World Series because of visas

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – A youth baseball team from Uganda has lost its bid to become the first team from Africa to play in the Little League World Series because of discrepancies over players’ ages and birth dates.

League and team officials did everything possible to ensure players on the Rev. John Foundation team from Kampala were qualified and had documentation, a league representative, Richard Stanley, of New York City, told The Associated Press on Friday. Children who are 11 or 12 as of April 30 can play in the World Series, which is held each August in South Williamsport, Pa.

Stanley is credited by Little League with introducing and establishing the organization in Uganda after building a baseball academy several years ago. He said Friday issues arose when ages and birth dates listed on documentation didn’t match those offered by parents, guardians or the players themselves during interviews with U.S. consular officials at the U.S. embassy in Kampala.

Several players provided false birth documents to make their ages appear younger, said a State Department official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because visa records are confidential.

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Until now, the Ugandan team’s success was considered a home run for Little League and baseball’s international growth. The team would have been the first squad from Africa to play in the 65-year history of the World Series.

Kampala was scheduled to play the Canadian champion in the first round on August 19th.

Stanley said birth records in Uganda are not strictly tracked, as in the United States.

“Now when the parent comes in, they get asked, ‘What’s the birth date of your child? Are you the birth parent?’ They don’t even know what that means in some cases, so they can’t answer the question,” said Stanley, a retired chemical engineer who owns a 2.5 per cent stake in the Trenton Thunder Double-A minor league baseball team. Listed as an officer on a Uganda Little League Baseball directory, Stanley said he has donated about US$1.5 million to the organization there.

“So now it’s a question of credibility. All you need is one person to not be credible and the visa officer is not obligated to issue a visa,” Stanley added, “and if they don’t issue one visa, they’re not going to issue any visa.”

Stanley and State Department spokesman Mark Toner both said it was unclear how many visas were denied.

“In this case, I can assure you that consular officers examined each of these individuals and accorded them every consideration under the law. This is a very difficult situation, but our consular officials are committed to upholding U.S. law,” Toner said at a briefing in Washington. “At the same time, they accord these individuals coming in for visa interviews every consideration.”

Toner declined to discuss specifics about the discrepancies, but said that officials considered “all appropriate data, place of birth date of birth, family name … and take all that into consideration before making their judgment.”

There is no age requirement for a U.S. visa. However, lying or providing incorrect or misleading information on a visa application is grounds for denial.

In Little League, players discovered to be over or underage can be disqualified, or their teams can be disqualified. That was amplified a decade ago when Danny Almonte of the Rolando Paulino all-stars from New York City was stripped of the first perfect game in Little League World Series history when he was found to be 14. His team was disqualified and their participation stricken from the World Series record books.

At Little League International headquarters in South Williamsport, vice-president Patrick Wilson said the State Department cited privacy concerns in declining to release more details to the organization.

“It is unfortunate, as we were very much looking forward to welcoming the first African team to the Little League Baseball World Series,” league president Stephen Keener said in a statement. “However, we have worked very closely with our State Department in recent years, and we very much appreciate their diligence in this matter.”

The 11-day tournament begins Aug. 18, featuring 16 teams – eight in the U.S. bracket and eight in the international bracket.

Keener has said Little League has been vigilant in trying to ensure that players are qualified for tournament play, especially since Almonte’s disqualification in 2001.

According to Wilson, there were no questions about the age or birth dates of the Ugandan players following Little League checks prior to the Middle East and Africa regional tournament earlier this month in Poland. The Ugandan team defeated a squad from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 6-4, on July 16 to advance.

Copies of documents were also checked by Little League officials at the Pennsylvania headquarters, and the players received visas from Poland for the regional tournament.

Stanley said complaints have arisen in previous years by other teams in its region about players’ ages. The Ugandan team this season was asked to supplement birth or age records with supporting documentation from school records “to be proactive,” Wilson said. The practice has also been requested of teams in other countries in the past, Wilson said.

No one party was at fault, Stanley said. He held out hope that the State Department might reverse course due to the Ugandan team’s historic success.

“We’re not trying to cheat anybody,” Stanley said, “but then the question is, ‘How do you prove a kid’s age?’”

Little League officials plan to meet in the next few days to determine how to proceed with the series, with a preference to maintain a 16-team field.

According to Little League, the last time a team that qualified could not make the trip was 1959. A squad from then-West Germany composed of dependents of U.S. Army personnel couldn’t make it because the team’s manager and coaches could not get away from their military duties.

At the time, just eight teams qualified for the tournament, and the 1959 series was played with just seven squads.

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Lee reported from Washington.

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Armtec Infrastructure to take $140-million goodwill writedown in second quarter

GUELPH, Ont. – Beleaguered supplier of water and drainage pipes Armtec Infrastructure Inc. (TSX:ARF) said Friday it will take a $140-million non-cash asset impairment charge against its second-quarter earnings.

The Guelph, Ont.-based company said the charge relates to goodwill, other intangible assets, and property, plant and equipment assets and results from a steep decline in its share price in the second quarter.

Armtec shares began plummeting in June after the company announced a widening of its first-quarter loss and the planned suspension of a 40 cent per share dividend. The shares were under further pressure Friday, falling 30 cents or nearly eight per cent to $3.50.

Armtec faces a potential class-action lawsuit alleging the company broke securities laws when it instituted the dividend, later to cancel it after it became unsupportable by earnings.

The suit filed in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of investors who bought shares between March 30 and June 8 alleges that Armtec should have known when it raised capital in the public market that it did not have sufficient earnings to pay dividends.

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The company received some good news earlier this month when it entered into a committed financing with Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (TSX:BAM.A) providing for a $125-million credit facility. The new credit facility will have a term of two years _ extendable to 30 months at Armtec’s option _ can be prepaid at any time and will be secured by a first charge on Armtec’s assets.

Armtec has granted Brookfield a warrant to acquire approximately 4.56 million common shares of the company representing about 15 per cent of its shares on a fully diluted basis. The exercise price has 25 per cent premium to the current market price.

Armtec reports second-quarter financial results on Aug. 9. It warned Friday that it expects those results to be negatively impacted as well, “by compression in margins in both the company’s engineered solutions business and the company’s construction and infrastructure applications business.”

The company, which makes construction materials such as precast concrete and tubing, said business was hurt by an unusually late and wet spring across the country during the quarter and ended up with a payout significantly in excess of free cash flow.

Entertainer Andy Dick ordered to stand trial in West Virginia on 2 felony sex abuse charges

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia judge ordered actor-comedian Andy Dick on Friday to stand trial on felony sexual abuse charges stemming from a nightclub incident last year.

Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell set trial for Jan. 17 and ordered the entertainer to submit to a urine test. The judge said the test was standard to determine if defendants are positive for drugs, but he also told Dick, “I suspect you may be.” Farrell told Dick he would be jailed if he returned to court for a pre-trial hearing in September under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“I understand. I’ve been sober,” the blond-haired, bespectacled actor, wearing a dark suit and black tie, told the judge.

Prosecutor Sean Hammers said he had no objection to Dick remaining free on bail.

Dick, 45, was not asked to enter a plea. He quickly left the courtroom after the brief hearing and got into an elevator with attorney Marc Williams without speaking to reporters, who peppered Dick with questions.

The comedian is accused of grabbing a bouncer’s crotch and groping and kissing a male patron earlier at a Huntington bar in January 2010. He was in town for a performance at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.

Dick has been in trouble with the law several times before.

He’s been arrested in California on drug and battery charges, to which he pleaded guilty in 2008, and on charges of being drunk and disorderly in a restaurant in May of this year. A Texas man sued Dick earlier this year, claiming the comedian exposed his genitals at a Dallas performance.

Dick had a long-running stint in the 1990s on NBC’s “NewsRadio.” He briefly had his own program, “The Andy Dick Show,” on MTV. He also has had roles in several movies, including “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “Old School.”

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New American Hockey League team to be known as St. John’s IceCaps

Ever the politician, Danny Williams knew he couldn’t please everyone by choosing “IceCaps” as the nickname for the new American Hockey League team in St. John’s, N.L.

However, the premier-turned-club president believes detractors will come to embrace the team’s identity if it’s successful on the ice.

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“Coming from a political background, the criticism here pales by comparison to public office,” Williams said Friday from St. John’s. “It’s good. It’s good in the sense that people are talking about it and people are interested and people have an opinion.

“The secret for us now is the same with any marketing brand – whether it’s Apple or Nike with the swoosh – having a brand and having a logo, it’s about what you wrap around it, it’s about what you make people believe it is and what it stands for.”

After considering other names like WhiteCaps and Regiment, Williams and an advisory board eventually settled on the St. John’s IceCaps.

The team logo features the word “IceCaps” underneath an image of a snow-capped mountain – the snowy part is in the shape of Newfoundland and Labrador – and is consistent with the colours of the parent Winnipeg Jets.

The name has historical ties because the city’s former senior team was known as the “Caps.” It also references two prominent physical features of the province: icebergs and ice-capped peaks.

“All of that kind of comes together for a sport that’s played on ice and it works,” said Williams.

Some fans unhappy with the name noted it’s too similar to “Iced Capp,” a popular drink served at Tim Hortons.

Williams would have preferred to hold a contest to name the team, but there wasn’t enough time with the franchise only arriving in St. John’s shortly after the NHL announced it would be returning to Winnipeg. That forced the Manitoba Moose to relocate to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Jets unveiled their new logo a week ago to mixed reviews. Williams is hoping the IceCaps name receives a similar approval rating from fans.

“If I remember correctly, I think the Winnipeg stats were about 2-to-1 (in favour) of their logo,” said Williams. “It would be nice to be in that territory, but if we’ve got 51 per cent coming in then I’ll be quite happy with that.”