- - Sunday, November 28, 2010

FLORIDA

Parody actor Leslie Nielsen dies

FORT LAUDERDALE — Leslie Nielsen, who went from drama to inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in “Airplane!” and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun” comedies, has died. He was 84.

“With his friends and his wife by his side, he just fell asleep and passed away,” nephew Doug Nielsen told a Canadian radio station. Mr. Nielsen died from pneumonia complications at a hospital near his Fort Lauderdale home.

The Canadian-born Mr. Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live TV dramas in New York. With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a movie leading man.

He quickly became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until “Airplane!” was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

MICHIGAN

Search continues for missing boys

MORENCI — Three boys who disappeared the same day their father tried to hang himself were feared to be in “extreme danger,” and the father hasn’t been ruled out as a suspect in their disappearance, Michigan police said.

The father, 39-year-old John Skelton, was being treated at a hospital in Ohio for “mental health issues” after he attempted suicide Friday, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said.

The boys, 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner, were last seen Thursday, Chief Weeks said Sunday. Their mother, Tanya Skelton, reported them missing Friday.

Authorities also were searching Sunday for an acquaintance, Joann Taylor. Mr. Skelton said he had given the boys to Ms. Taylor before the suicide attempt. However, officials haven’t been able to confirm Ms. Taylor’s existence, Chief Weeks said.

The search for the missing boys extended to an Ohio state park just south of the Michigan state line, said a dispatcher with the sheriff’s office in Fulton County, Ohio.

NEW YORK

Discounts yield good start to season

NEW YORK — Holiday spending appears to be off to a respectable start, with shoppers crowding stores and malls in bigger numbers than last year on Friday and steady traffic the rest of the weekend.

Add in strong spending earlier in the month and robust sales online, and retailers are feeling encouraged. That’s particularly true because shoppers also scooped up fashion and other items for themselves, though mostly where they saw bargains. The question remains how many dollars shoppers are prepared to spend before Dec. 24 in an economy that’s still bumpy.

Discounts, particularly early-morning specials, were deep enough that many shoppers said they scooped up more than they had planned. Some said that means they’re finished with their holiday shopping, and they spent less than last year.

The heavy discounting and lower prices on certain types of items, particularly LCD TVs, held down overall spending. Retailers at shopping malls eked out a 0.3 percent increase to $10.69 billion, according to preliminary figures from ShopperTrak, a research firm that tracks sales at 70,000 stores.

WASHINGTON

Nonprofits: Giving is up slightly

SEATTLE — U.S. nonprofit organizations are seeing a slight increase in donations — a sign they hope is the beginning of economic recovery — but the turnaround hasn’t been strong enough to keep up with higher demand for charitable services, according to a national report being released Monday.

About one-third of America’s charities reported an increase in donations during the first nine months of 2010, and they said they expect more good news in the fourth quarter. Another one-third said giving to their organization continues to drop and the remaining nonprofit groups are holding steady, according to data collected by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.

Donation figures for 2010 won’t be available until early next year, but one organization tracking charitable giving — Blackbaud, a Charleston, S.C., company that sells nonprofits software and other services — reported charitable donations were up 4.3 percent for the three months ending with September 2010.

“We are beginning to see some positive signs. But despite that, giving still has a long way to go to return to the levels it was at three or four years ago,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which lead the coalition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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