California wildfire forces closure of scenic Highway 1

LOS ANGELES An epic wildfire that has killed one person and blackened about 60,000 acres along the California coast, forced authorities on Monday to shut down a portion of scenic Highway 1 near Carmel-by-the-Sea.The closure of the highway, which runs along much of the Pacific coastline and is famed for its dramatic ocean views, was prompted by an increase in fire and wind activity in the Big Sur area, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.The road was expected to be closed to traffic in both directions from 10 p.m. Pacific time on Monday (0500 GMT Tuesday) until at least 6 p.m. on Tuesday (0100 GMT Wednesday), depending on conditions, the department said.The so-called Soberanes Fire, which has destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings, has been burning since July 22. A bulldozer operator died on July 26 when his tractor rolled over as he helped property owners battle the blaze, becoming the sixth wildfire fatality in California this year. Authorities have traced origins of the blaze to an illegal campfire left unattended in a state park about a mile from Highway 1. No arrests have so far been made.As of Monday, the more than 5,000 firefighters battling the flames had cut containment lines around 45 percent of its perimeter. Firefighters are making gradual but steady progress against the blaze as wildfire season in the western United States reaches its traditional peak, intensified by prolonged drought and extreme summer heat across the region. The conflagration near Big Sur is one of 35 major wildfires that have charred half a million acres in 12 states, mostly in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. A blaze that erupted on Sunday in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, had scorched some 4,500 acres of dry timber and brush within 24 hours and was only about 5 percent contained, officials said. That fire, called the Pilot Fire, had not destroyed any homes as of Monday afternoon but residents of about 25 homes along two major highways were ordered to evacuate. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Grant McCool)

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J.K. Rowling bids farewell to Harry Potter at 'Cursed Child' gala

LONDON A new "Harry Potter" play that opened to swooning reviews and delighted gasps from the audience marks the end of the journey for the beloved boy wizard, his creator J.K. Rowling said at the play's premiere in London on Saturday.Billed as the eighth installment in the series, the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" and a book based on its script have helped awaken a new wave of Pottermania five years since the previous episode was made into a movie. Throngs of fans crowded bookstores for the midnight release of the book, hours after the play in London's West End theater district dazzled theatre-goers with swishing capes, billowy wraiths floating overhead and illusionist tricks of actors appearing to vanish into thin air.Asked if the book and play heralded a new phase of stories, Rowling told Reuters: "No, no.""He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we're done. This is the next generation, you know," said Rowling, who later appeared on stage during a standing ovation at the end of the show. "So, I'm thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now." Based on a story by Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, "Cursed Child" picks up the story 19 years later, featuring Potter as a 37-year-old overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic and father of three.The play, a marathon affair running over five hours and split into two parts, is sold out through May 2017. Enthusiasts from around the world queued outside the ornate Palace Theatre for a glimpse of Rowling and the cast of the production. Many in attendance at the show said it lived up to its billing in reviews as a thrilling theatrical spectacle, with deft stagecraft that drew audible gasps at times. "It was magical. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time," said Kylie Cruikshamsks, 32, a big Potter fan. "There was a lot to live up to and they did it." Another spectator, 32-year-old Ashley Nottingham, said he was left speechless: "It's blown away every theatrical boundary I've ever known." The play opens ahead of the November movie version of Rowling's Potter spinoff book "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," and follows the opening in April of a second Harry Potter attraction within a theme park, this time at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.The British writer said she found it easy to put her Potter creation onstage thanks to the vision for the show."(It) chimed perfectly with the material I had about the next generation and I could see it would work perfectly," she said. "So, I never wanted to write another novel, but this will give the fans something special." (Additional reporting by Alex Fraser; Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Ai Weiwei puts himself back in a jail cell in new Spanish show

CUENCA, Spain Artist Ai Weiwei has reproduced scenes of his incarceration for a new art installation, a series of almost life-size dioramas - encased in steel boxes - showing his life in jail.Visitors to the exhibition, in a cathedral in central Spain, have to peer through peep-holes in the stark, gray boxes to see the 3D scenes, which show Ai watched by two uniformed guards as he eats, sleeps, showers and uses the toilet in his tiny cell.Ai, one of China's most high-profile artists and political activists, was jailed for 81 days on charges of tax evasion in 2011. China confiscated his passport, only returning it in July last year.His installation, "S.A.C.R.E.D.", is a highlight of a series of events under the title "The Poetry of Freedom" taking place across Spain to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes. The Spanish writer was held as a slave in Algiers for five years in the late 16th century and spent months in jail in Spain later in life for bookkeeping discrepancies, where he is thought to have conceived the idea for his masterpiece "Don Quixote". A quote from that novel, about a middle-aged gentleman obsessed by ideals of chivalry who travels central Spain with his loyal squire Sancho Panza, adorns the wall of the Cuenca exhibition: "Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven has ever given man." The exhibition, at the 12th century cathedral in the fortified medieval city of Cuenca, opens on July 26 and runs until Nov. 6. (Reporting by Catherine Bennett; Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Robin Pomeroy)

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Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

Apple Inc won the dismissal on Thursday of a lawsuit accusing it of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook laptop computers that contained "logic boards" it knew were defective, and which routinely failed within two years.U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the plaintiffs, Uriel Marcus and Benedict Verceles, failed to show that Apple made "affirmative misrepresentations," despite citing online complaints and Apple marketing statements calling the laptops "state of the art" or the "most advanced" on the market."Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Apple's logic boards were unfit for their ordinary purposes or lacked a minimal level of quality," Alsup wrote. "Both plaintiffs were able to adequately use their computers for approximately 18 months and two years, respectively."Alsup gave the plaintiffs until Jan. 22 to amend their lawsuit, which sought class-action status, against the Cupertino, California-based company. Omar Rosales, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a similar request.The plaintiffs claimed that Apple's sale of MacBooks since May 20, 2010, violated consumer protection laws in California and Texas, where the lawsuit began last May before being moved.They also contended that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was told about the defective logic boards in 2011, but did nothing. Logic boards contain computer circuitry and are sometimes known as motherboards.A separate and still pending lawsuit in California accuses Apple of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook Pro laptops in 2011 that contained defective graphic cards, causing screen distortions and system failures. MacBooks are part of Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop computers. The company reported unit sales in that business of 18.91 million in its latest fiscal year.The case is Marcus et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-03824. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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Grammy-winning singer Chaka Khan enters rehab for drug abuse

LOS ANGELES Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Chaka Khan has postponed all performances for this month after checking herself into a drug addiction rehabilitation program, her representatives said in a message posted on her website.The 63-year-old vocalist has struggled with a dependence on prescription pain medications and has "voluntarily entered the program to get healthy and stay that way," the statement said, though it did not say when or where treatment began.The treatment was described only as "an addiction rehabilitation and aftercare program" that would require her to "postpone all dates scheduled for the month of July.""As part of the ongoing outpatient treatment the doctors have urged her to resume recording mid-July and commence all performances beginning August 1st and onward," according to the statement posted on Sunday. Khan, who first gained fame in the 1970s as the lead female vocalist for the funk band Rufus, launched her solo career with the 1978 smash hit "I'm Every Woman." Her 1984 chart-topping version of the song "I Feel For You," from the hit album of the same name, was written and first recorded by Prince and is widely credited as the first R&B track to feature a rap, which was performed by Grandmaster Melle Mel. Prince, a longtime friend and collaborator with Khan, died in late April from an accidental overdose of the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl. He was 57. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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