California wildfire forces closure of scenic Highway 1

2016-08-09 04:33:01

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)

Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

2016-08-02 06:48:22

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)

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

2016-07-26 10:13:46

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)

Philistines were more sophisticated than given credit for, say archeologists

2016-07-18 21:48:42

ASHKELON, Israel Philistines were no "philistines", say archaeologists who unearthed a 3,000-year-old cemetery in which members of the biblical nation were buried along with jewelry and perfumed oil.Little was known about the Philistines prior to the recent excavation in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon. The famed arch enemies of the ancient Israelites -- Goliath was a Philistine -- flourished in this area of the Mediterranean, starting in the 12th century BC, but their way of life and origin have remained a mystery.That stands to change after what researchers have called the first discovery of a Philistine cemetery. It contains the remains of about 150 people in numerous burial chambers, some containing surprisingly sophisticated items.The team also found DNA on parts of the skeletons and hope that further testing will determine the origins of the Philistine people.We may need to rethink today's derogatory use of the word philistine, which refers to someone averse to culture and the arts, said archaeologist Lawrence Stager, who has led the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon since 1985. "The Philistines have had some bad press, and this will dispel a lot of myths," Stager said.Stager's team dug down about 3 meters (10 feet) to uncover the cemetery, which they found to have been used centuries later as a Roman vineyard.On hands and knees, workers brushed away layers of dusty earth to reveal the brittle white bones of entire Philistine skeletons reposed as they were three millennia ago. Decorated juglets believed to have contained perfumed oil were found in graves. Some bodies were still wearing bracelets and earrings. Others had weapons. The archeologists also discovered some cremations, which the team say were rare and expensive for the period, and some larger jugs contained the bones of infants. "The cosmopolitan life here is so much more elegant and worldly and connected with other parts of the eastern Mediterranean," Stager said, adding that this was in contrast to the more modest village lifestyle of the Israelites who lived in the hills to the east.Bones, ceramics and other remains were moved to a tented compound for further study and some artifacts were reconstructed piece by piece. The team mapped the position of every bone removed to produce a digital 3D recreation of the burial site.Final reports on the finds are being published by the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. (Editing by David Goodman)

Madonna visits Malawi hospital her charity is funding

2016-07-11 18:13:53

BLANTYRE, Malawi Pop star Madonna paid a visit to a hospital project funded by her charity in Blantyre, Malawi at the weekend, inspecting progress on the construction of a pediatric surgery and intensive care unit.Madonna, whose Raising Malawi charity says the children's unit in Queen Elizabeth Central hospital will open in early 2017, arrived with her two children adopted from Malawi, David and Mercy."We certainly have the support of the government, morally, but in terms of funding and fundraising I am not going to do it by myself," Madonna said of the project on Sunday. "I am gonna have lots of fundraising events and we have other donors and we're gonna continue to do fundraising." (Reporting By Reuters Television)

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