LOS ANGELES (AP) - James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate crime boss in HBO's "The Sopranos" was the brilliant center of one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51. Gandolfini died while vacationing in Rome, the cable channel and Gandolfini's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said in a joint statement. No cause of death was given.
James Gandolfini, who won three Emmy Awards for his indelible role as mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos," died while on vacation in Italy at age 51. While Tony Soprano was a larger-than-life figure, Gandolfini was exceptionally modest and obsessive - he described himself as "a 260-pound Woody Allen." HBO called the actor a "special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone, no matter their title or position, with equal respect." Gandolfini's performance in "The Sopranos" was career-making, but he worked steadily in film and on stage after the series ended. He earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his role in the celebrated production of "God of Carnage." He played Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden hunt docudrama "Zero Dark Thirty." Here are some images that celebrate Gandolfini's career.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Hopes dimmed for talks aimed at ending the Afghan war when an angry President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday suspended security negotiations with the U.S. and scuttled a peace delegation to the Taliban, sending American officials scrambling to preserve the possibility of dialogue with the militants. What provoked the mercurial Karzai and infuriated many other Afghans was a move by the Taliban to cast their new office in the Gulf nation of Qatar as a rival embassy. The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
WASHINGTON (AP) - After secretive talks, key senators expressed optimism Wednesday night that they were closing in on a bipartisan agreement to dramatically toughen the border security requirements in immigration legislation that also offers a path to citizenship to millions living in the country illegally. Lawmakers and aides alike said the goal was to assure passage of the sweeping legislation by a large bipartisan vote within a matter of days.
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a move that could send interest rates higher, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke ended weeks of speculation Wednesday by saying the Federal Reserve will likely slow its bond-buying program this year and end it next year because the economy is strengthening. The Fed's purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds have helped keep long-term interest rates at record lows. A pullback in its extraordinary $85 billion-a-month program would likely mean higher rates on mortgages and other consumer and business loans.
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Former investigators are pushing to reopen the probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, saying new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet. The New York-to-Paris flight crashed July 17, 1996, minutes after it took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 230 people aboard.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is planning a major push using executive powers to tackle the pollution blamed for global warming in an effort to make good on promises he made at the start of his second term. "We know we have to do more - and we will do more," Obama said Wednesday in Berlin. Obama's senior energy and climate adviser, Heather Zichal, said the plan would boost energy efficiency of appliances and buildings, plus expand renewable energy. She also said the Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants.
BOSTON (AP) - A man found dead in an industrial park about a mile from New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's home had been killed, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The state medical examiner identified the man as 27-year-old Odin Lloyd and ruled he was a homicide victim, Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter's office said. Lloyd's family said he was a semi-pro football player with a connection to Hernandez, whose home was searched by police.
BOSTON (AP) - The Chicago Blackhawks kept taking the lead until there were no more chances for Boston to come back and tie it. Brent Seabrook's slap shot beat Tuukka Rask with 9:51 gone in overtime and the Blackhawks beat the Bruins 6-5 on Wednesday night to send the Stanley Cup finals back to Chicago tied at two games apiece.