'Scary' Lucille Ball statue replaced in her New York hometown

NEW YORK Lucille Ball fans can rest easy.A new statue honoring the "I Love Lucy" star was set to be unveiled on Saturday in Celoron, New York, on what would have been Ball's 105th birthday, after residents of her hometown made it clear they did not "love" an unflattering previous version.The life-size bronze artwork was created by the well-known sculptor Carolyn Palmer, whose proposal was selected from more than 60 submitted by artists around the world.The statue at Lucille Ball Memorial Park will replace another that was installed seven years ago. Critics panned the sculpture, saying it looked nothing like the iconic redhead, and it eventually became known as "Scary Lucy." Palmer spent nine months working on the project, including watching countless episodes of "I Love Lucy" and hiring models to pose in 1950s-style dresses."I not only wanted to portray the playful, animated and spontaneous Lucy, but also the glamorous Hollywood icon," Palmer said in a statement. Palmer has sculpted a number of other famous figures. Her marble statue of Pope Francis stands at the papal residence in New York City, where the pope blessed it during his visit last year.A bronze version of that statue is being produced for St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. "I Love Lucy" aired in the 1950s and is considered one of the greatest television comedies ever. Ball played the wife of bandleader Ricky Ricardo, who was portrayed by her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. (Editing by Frank McGurty)

Read more

California firefighters struggle to slow Big Sur blaze

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. Firefighters struggled on Sunday to slow a deadly wildfire that has raged for 10 days near California's Big Sur coast, destroying dozens of homes and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and campers, authorities said.The so-called Soberanes Fire, which erupted on July 22 just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, has grown to 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of parched chaparral and timberland in and around the Los Padres National Forest."Firefighters are meeting challenges due to topography, fuel load, and dry humidity," said Katherine Garver, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). "The fire is making runs into inaccessible areas."Officials ordered evacuations for the famous Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and other areas on Sunday afternoon.They had hoped that favorable weather conditions would allow progress to be made in containing the blaze, with strong winds that had been driving the fire for days starting to abate. By Sunday night, 18 percent of the fire's perimeter was contained, a slight increase from earlier in the day, officials said.Extremely hot, dry weather is still hampering the efforts of some 5,300 firefighters, 16 helicopters, a half dozen air tankers and 500 fire engines. Officials do not expect the fire to be fully contained until the end of August because parts of it are burning in steep and inaccessible terrain. Its cause is under investigation. Flames have already destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings, with at least five other structures damaged, according to the latest tally. Another 2,000 structures were threatened, with an estimated 350 residents displaced by evacuations unrelated to those in the area of the Zen Center, officials said.The fire threat has prompted authorities to close a string of popular California campgrounds and recreation areas along the northern end of the Big Sur coastline, including Point Lobos Natural Reserve. The blaze took a deadly turn on Tuesday when a bulldozer operator hired by property owners to help battle the flames was killed when his tractor rolled over. It was the second California wildfire-related death in a week.Another fire broke out on Saturday in grass and brush about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Fresno, in central California, and has since spread to 1,500 acres (607 hectares), threatening 200 homes, according to Cal Fire. (Writing and additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, California; Editing by Sandra Maler, Paul Simao and Paul Tait)

Read more

Australia hails quick fix of problems in athletes' village

RIO DE JANEIRO Australia's Olympic delegation in Rio de Janeiro said on Monday that organizers had made "fantastic" progress in fixing problems with unfinished housing, although officials admitted that only two-thirds of the buildings had passed full safety checks.Organizers for South America's first Olympic Games built 31 17-story buildings, but only 12 had been given the green light by Monday morning while another eight were in the process of receiving a full safety certification, Rio2016 spokesman Mario Andrada told Reuters."Twenty will be ready by today and 31 should be ready by Thursday," Andrada said, a full eight days before the opening ceremony.The admission came a day after Australia's delegation said it would not move into the Olympic Village because it was "not safe or ready," citing deficiencies like "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring."The litany of grievances from Australia, which moved members of its delegation into nearby hotels, revived concern over Brazil's readiness to host a major sporting event in the midst of its worst recession in decades and a deep political crisis.New Zealand and Italy's delegations both said they had been forced to fix problems with electricity and plumbing, while Argentina said on Monday it had reserved accommodation outside the village for part of its delegation.The Dutch team said their own staff had resolved many of the issues that beset their building, but they threatened to seek financial compensation for their work."We will evaluate this situation with IOC and Rio 2016 after the Games," Chief of Mission Maurits Hendriks, said in a statement issued on Sunday night. "This applies, for example, to financial consequences as a result of the measures we are taking and have been taken."However, the head of the Australian Olympic team, Kitty Chiller, thanked organizers on Monday for responding promptly to her concerns by deploying hundreds of maintenance people and cleaners. "There was fantastic progress made today," Chiller told a news conference in the Olympic media center. "It's looking like, according to our plan, we will be able to move everybody in on Wednesday."The newly built village will host more than 18,000 athletes, officials, staff and volunteers over the Aug. 5-21 Olympics and the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics.Chiller said her team had identified some 200 problems with the accommodation at the weekend - including water running down the walls, dirty floors and a strong smell of gas - but the list was now down to single figures.Australia, which finished eighth in the medals table in London four years ago, is to bring 410 athletes for the games. It received three of its floors in the athletes accommodation on Monday, and it expects to receive the rest of the 15 floors by Wednesday, Chiller said. Australian Shelley Watts, competing in the 60-kg female boxing category, said she had been impressed by the official accommodation when she arrived on Monday.“It looks absolutely amazing. I haven’t had to concern myself with any of the leakages of the water or anything, but walking in there I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” she said. “What Rio has done to be able to create this facility is amazing.”MEMORIES OF WORLD CUP As many as 500,000 visitors are expected to travel to Brazil for the Games, many of them from the United States. Worries about security, the Zika virus and Brazil's economic crisis could discourage some travelers and VIP guests. Around 28 percent of Olympic tickets have yet to be sold. The problems at the village are not unlike those that have occurred before other big spectacles in Brazil, such as the 2014 World Cup, when stadium crews were still wielding paint brushes and screwdrivers even minutes before kickoff.The new subway line, which will connect the popular seaside neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema to the Olympic facilities in Barra de Tijuca, has suffered repeated delays and is still undergoing tests despite a scheduled inauguration next Saturday.Chiller said that a group of around 10 national Olympic committees - including Britain, New Zealand, Japan and Germany - had worked together to alert the local organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to problems at the village.Rio's outspoken Mayor Eduardo Paes pledged to fix the problems, but had appeared to make light of the Australians' complaints by saying he would place a kangaroo in front of their accommodation to make them feel at home."The mayor and I have a date on Wednesday and I believe there will be a ceremonial handing over of the keys. I have arranged a little present for the mayor as well," Chiller said. "I still say that it will be the best village that I have ever been in once these issues are complete."Chiller said the Australian team had paid the cost of putting its members in hotels and some initial cleaning costs to make its accommodation habitable. "We'll work out who pays the bill later on," she added. (Additional reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

Read more

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)

Read more

German prosecutors say won't be lenient with VW

HAMBURG German prosecutors will grant Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) no mitigation for a record vehicle emissions settlement it faces in the United States and want VW to pay them a separate fine, a spokesman said.Prosecutors in Braunschweig, near Volkswagen's (VW) Wolfsburg headquarters, are demanding VW be fined based on the level of the profits it made from selling about 11 million cars equipped with illicit engine software.VW last month agreed with the U.S. government and regulators to pay $15.3 billion to get about half a million emissions-cheating diesel cars off U.S. roads. But the scale of U.S. penalties is no reason to exercise leniency on VW's regulatory offence, a spokesman for the Braunschweig prosecutor's office said on Monday."We cannot pay heed to what VW may have to pay in other countries when we go about setting the fine," he said. "We cannot say: 'VW is already requested to pay a lot in the U.S., so let's not be so strict.' That's not possible." Under Germany's law on regulatory offences, prosecutors are assessing the "economic advantage" VW enjoyed from using cheating software, rather than expensive exhaust filter systems, to manipulate pollution tests, the spokesman said, adding it will be difficult to determine the level of profits VW has reaped from its wrongdoing.Industry observers in Germany estimate this could result in a fine of several hundreds of millions of euros. Braunschweig prosecutors, which last month started probing former VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and VW brand chief Herbert Diess over suspicion of market manipulation, declined comment. Europe's largest automaker confirmed on Monday it has been notified by prosecutors about the latest probe but declined further comment.The proposed U.S. settlement would move VW close to the 16.2 billion euros ($18 billion) it has set aside to cover the costs of the scandal. VW still faces criminal probes in the United States, Germany and South Korea as well as lawsuits from investors around the world suing the carmaker for what they describe as losses incurred after the manipulations were disclosed in September.($1 = 0.9053 euros) (Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

Read more
Older Post