RWE to sue after German nuclear plant shut-down ruled illegal

Germany's No.2 utility RWE is preparing to sue for millions of euros of damages after a federal court confirmed that a state's decision to shut down the company's Biblis nuclear plant for three months in 2011 was illegal.

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A spokeswoman for RWE said it planned the lawsuit over Biblis, Germany's oldest nuclear plant, which the state of Hesse had ordered closed as a precaution following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on the potential size of the claims but industry analysts have estimated that RWE suffered about 187 million euros ($255 million) in damages as a consequence of the forced shut-down.

Shares in RWE, Germany's second largest utility by market value after E.ON, rose after the news and were up 4.7 percent, topping the German benchmark DAX index.

RWE had filed a complaint in April 2011 against the state of Hesse. Last February, the Hesse Administrative Court said the order had been illegal, a decision that was backed by Germany's Leipzig-based Federal Administrative Court on Tuesday.

The Fukushima disaster later also triggered Germany's decision to exit nuclear power by 2022, forcing Germany's top utilities - E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall - to book billions of euros of writedowns and cut thousands of jobs.

Biblis has remained idled since 2011.

RWE estimates that dismantling its two reactors at Biblis will cost 1.5 billion euros, excluding storage costs for the nuclear waste. ($1 = 0.7324 euros)

(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Anthony Barker)

EIB taps green bond to record 1.5 billion euros

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has raised a further 350 million euros ($477.9 million) on its Climate Awareness Bond (CAB), making it the largest ever "green bond" at 1.5 billion euros, the bank said on Tuesday.

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The EIB's latest issue, which has a maturity date of November 15, 2019, continues a remarkable spate of such bond sales. Corporate green bonds raised nearly $10 billion last year, with about half of that coming in November.

Proceeds from green bonds are used on projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change or expand the use of renewable energy.

Until recently, they were mainly the preserve of development banks, but interest has been growing among new buyers and corporate bond investors.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by David Goodman)

Endangered female leopard killed while mating at Pennsylvania zoo

An endangered female leopard put in a cage to breed was killed by her potential mate, who a day later remained on public display at the Erie Zoo, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

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The two Amur leopards, 5-year-old Edgar and 7-year-old Lina, were placed together in an enclosure at the western Pennsylvania zoo on Monday, said Erie Zoo president and CEO Scott Mitchell.

Edgar attacked Lina, biting her throat. The leopards were separated and veterinarians were brought it, but Lina died of injuries to her trachea.

Violence during mating is not unheard of but, Mitchell said, but in his 30-year career he has never lost another zoo animal in a breeding attack.

"Many of these animals live their lives relatively solo, and they come together only to breed or mate, so it can be a kind of aggressive process," Mitchell said.

Lina, who was on loan from the Minnesota Zoo, had been placed together with Edgar in the past without incident, Mitchell said.

Edgar remains on display at the zoo, his future uncertain.

"He might move to a different facility, he could be part of an artificial insemination, we don't yet know," Mitchell said.

Amur leopards are among the most rare and endangered big cats, with about 40 of them living in the wild in China and Russia, and around 200 living in captivity worldwide, according to the Zoological Society of London.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)

West African lion threatened with extinction: study

West Africa's lions, which once prowled across the region in their tens of thousands, are close to extinction as farmland eats up their ancient habitats and human hunters kill the animals they feed on, a study has shown.

Just around 400 of the animals were thought to have survived across 17 countries, according to the paper published in scientific journal PLOS ONE.

"These lions are standing on a cliff looking at the chasm of extinction," Luke Hunter, one of the paper's authors and president of wild cat conservation group Panthera, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"It would be very easy for small, isolated populations to be wiped out over the next 5-10 years."

Fewer than 250 of the survivors were mature cats, capable of breeding, the study said. But even that ability to produce cubs was limited by the fact they were spread across wide areas in groups that often did not have enough lionesses to sustain a population.

The study said there had been no comprehensive study of the size of past populations, though Hunter said there would at one stage have been "many tens of thousands" of lions.

The study, led by Panthera, said they were now only present in 1.1 percent of their original habitat and recommended they should be classified as "critically endangered".

Conservation efforts in a region known for its poverty and political instability, have been weak compared to other parts of Africa, and the population density is about 15 times lower compared with lions in east Africa, the study said.

Parks in the region typically had four staff or fewer per 100 square kilometers, it added.

One of the main reasons for the decline was the conversion of habitat into farm land. Others included sharp falls in the numbers of antelope, buffalo, and other prey, and villagers killing lions in revenge for the loss of livestock.

"It's become very complicated for this carnivore at the top of the food chain to find enough space and food to survive," said Hunter.

The West African lion, a relatively slender animal with a thin mane, is genetically distinct from the rest of the African species.

For a link to the study, click here: www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0083500#s4

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Toyota executive calls out Musk as battle for green car future heats up

In an escalation of the auto industry's war of words over future green technologies, a senior Toyota Motor Corp executive singled out Elon Musk and other rival executives on Tuesday and made a bold prediction for its hydrogen car.

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Bob Carter, Toyota's senior vice president for automative operations, said in a speech that he believed a hydrogen fuel cell car it plans to launch next year could eventually be as successful as its pioneering Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.

Carter said "naysayers" who have spoken out against the technology would be proven wrong and referred to Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co, and former Volkswagen executive Jonathan Browning by name.

"Personally I don't really care what Elon and Carlos and Jonathan have to say about fuel cells. It's very reminiscent of 1998, 1999 when we first introduced the Prius," Carter said at a conference held in conjunction with the Detroit auto show.

The comments underscore just how big the stakes are in the race to take the lead in the next generation green car.

While Toyota is investing heavily in fuel cells, others such as Nissan, Volkswagen and Tesla are betting on electric vehicles as the next big thing while publically questioning whether hydrogen could ever develop into a practical automotive fuel.

At the Los Angeles auto show in November, Browning, who was then chief of Volkswagen's U.S. operations, ruffled feathers by saying electric was a more viable technology because it was a lot easier for consumers to find electric sockets than hydrogen stations.

Toyota's Carter addressed the infrastructure issue on Tuesday, arguing that the number of hydrogen fuelling stations would grow in time, helped by private-public partnerships such as the one established in the state of California.

By placing stations in better locations, Carter estimated that if all cars in California were running on hydrogen that the state's fuelling needs could be met with 15 percent of the nearly 10,000 gasoline stations currently in operation.

Fuel cell cars convert hydrogen to electricity, emit only water vapor and have a similar range to conventional petrol-driven cars.

Toyota believes that makes them the best next-generation technology to succeed the hybrid vehicle, of which it has cumulatively sold nearly 6 million since the first Prius rolled off the production line.

"Ten years from now, I have a hunch our fuel cell vehicle will be viewed in similar terms. We truly believe it has the same potential as the first Prius," Carter said.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Danish pension funds invest in climate fund

Danish pension funds and the government will invest in a state fund to finance projects to fight climate change in developing countries, one of the investors said in a statement.

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PensionDanmark said it had committed 200 million Danish crowns ($37 million) to the fund, while a further 1 billion crowns will come from pension funds PKA and PBU, private investment fund Dansk Vækstkapital, the Investment Fund for Developing Countries and the Danish government.

The fund is expected to receive another 200 million crowns from private investors in a second investment round, giving it a total of 1.4 billion crowns at its disposal.

The Danish Climate Investment Fund will run for four years and have an annual return of 12 percent, PensionDanmark said.

It will invest in projects which reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and transport schemes in emerging economies from Africa to Asia.

It will also finance projects which help communities and geographies prepare for the effects of climate change, such as disaster preparation and coastal management.

The fund will only finance projects which have a Danish financial interest, meaning that a Danish partner must co-invest or participate as a supplier of equipment or technology.

"We are expecting the Danish Climate Investment Fund to deliver solid returns to our members in the coming years, while serving to boost the standing of Danish companies in the new growth markets," said PensionDanmark's chief executive Torben Möger Pedersen.

PensionDanmark has 642,000 members and had 16 billion euros of assets under management at the end of 2011. It expects those assets to exceed 24 billion euros by 2016.

($1 = 5.4656 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Mark Potter)

China's Shanghai announces new measures to curb pollution

China's commercial capital, Shanghai, introduced emergency measures to tackle air pollution on Wednesday, allowing it to shut schools and order cars off the road in the case of severe smog, Xinhua state news agency said.

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Shanghai was blanketed with record levels of smog last month, while air in the usually more polluted capital, Beijing, was relatively clear. The government warned children and the elderly in Shanghai to stay at home on some days.

Xinhua said that Shanghai reviewed and approved the "special emergency pollution plan" on Wednesday.

China regularly issues directives to tackle pollution in major cities, but efforts so far to clean the air have failed.

Air quality is of increasing concern to China's stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country's air, water and soil.

Authorities have invested in various projects to fight pollution and empowered courts to mete out the death penalty in serious cases.

But enforcement of rules has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often rely on taxes paid by polluting industries.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Endangered female leopard killed while mating at Pennsylvania zoo

An endangered female leopard put in a cage to breed was killed by her potential mate, who a day later remained on public display at the Erie Zoo, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

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The two Amur leopards, 5-year-old Edgar and 7-year-old Lina, were placed together in an enclosure at the western Pennsylvania zoo on Monday, said Erie Zoo president and CEO Scott Mitchell.

Edgar attacked Lina, biting her throat. The leopards were separated and veterinarians were brought in, but Lina died of injuries to her trachea.

Violence during mating is not unheard of, Mitchell said, but in his 30-year career he has never lost another zoo animal in a breeding attack.

"Many of these animals live their lives relatively solo, and they come together only to breed or mate, so it can be a kind of aggressive process," Mitchell said.

Lina, who was on loan from the Minnesota Zoo, had been placed together with Edgar in the past without incident, Mitchell said.

Edgar remains on display at the zoo, his future uncertain.

"He might move to a different facility, he could be part of an artificial insemination, we don't yet know," Mitchell said.

Amur leopards are among the most rare and endangered big cats, with about 40 of them living in the wild in China and Russia, and around 200 living in captivity worldwide, according to the Zoological Society of London.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)

West Virginia AG vows probe after chemical spill fouls water

West Virginia's top law enforcement officer on Wednesday vowed a full investigation of a chemical spill that contaminated tap water for hundreds of thousands of people.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said there was a lot of speculation surrounding the spill into the Elk River at Charleston, the state capital, on Thursday that shut off water to more than 300,000 people.

"We had an absolute unmitigated disaster here for six days now where people are without water. This is not only utterly unacceptable. It's outrageous on every level," Morrisey told CNN.

He said that his investigation would be designed to ensure that another such spill never happened again, and local, state and federal officials all shared responsibility.

"We're going to look under the hood, we're going to uncover all the rocks and we're going to let the sunlight in," Morrisey said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia also are investigating the leak of about 7,500 gallons (28,000 liters) of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or crude MCHM, into the river.

About 52,000 water customers have been cleared to drink or wash with tap water as of Wednesday, according to a statement by West Virginia American Water. Officials have said it might be several days before the entire system, with its hundreds of miles (km) of pipe, is safe to use.

Officials ordered water use halted for everything but flushing toilets after the leak from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries, a maker of specialty chemicals.

The Freedom Industries site has not been inspected since 1991 and is about a mile upstream from a West Virginia American Water plant, the biggest in the state. Crude MCHM is used in washing coal and Freedom Industries has apologized for the incident.

Downstream from the spill, the Northern Kentucky Water District and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works have shut their intakes on the Ohio River as a precaution, the companies said in separate statements.

The chemical is at much lower concentrations than it was in West Virginia and is expected to reach the Cincinnati area on Wednesday morning, the Northern Kentucky Water District said.

Water tainted by crude MCHM smells faintly of licorice. Contact with the water can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin.

West Virginia American Water is a unit of American Water Works Co Inc.

(Additional reporting by Karen Brooks and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

Analysis: BP's U.S. Gulf oil spill settlement challenges may backfire

A year after agreeing to a multi-billion dollar settlement with victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill, BP is aggressively challenging terms of the deal in a legal strategy that could backfire with the judge who will rule on the company's potentially hefty federal fines.

The British oil giant has pushed for multiple reviews by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, complaining the claims system approved by the U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is overpaying for damages from the country's worst offshore disaster.

BP's challenges directly question decisions by Barbier, who presided over the settlement and then himself approved claim terms. Barbier is also handling a separate government case against BP and has wide latitude to assess fines for violations of the Clean Water Act.

BP expects the settlement with Gulf residents to cost about $9.6 billion, well above the $7.8 billion it initially estimated.

Altogether the oil producer has provisioned some $42 billion to pay for cleanup and other costs since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers in 2010 and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal penalties could add to that bill. Maximum fines might top $17 billion, while BP has only set aside about $3.5 billion for them.

"They are alienating in a very profound way the very judge that is going to determine their liability," said Blaine LeCesne, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. "I'm not sure that's a wise decision."

Barbier has called BP's efforts to try and contradict many of his rulings with appeals to the 5th Circuit "deeply disappointing" and has said BP is trying to "rewrite or disregard the unambiguous terms of the Settlement Agreement."

While the company has won some important victories at the appeals court, a ruling on Friday upheld the foundation of the settlement deal.

BP is continuing its fight.

"The litigation seeking to rectify the misinterpretations of the settlement that have led to inflated, exaggerated or wholly fictitious claims ... will continue unabated," BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

BP had no comment when asked if clashes with Barbier could prove risky.

BACK AND FORTH

The 1,000-page settlement deal, approved by Barbier in 2012, was negotiated by BP and a committee of plaintiffs lawyers to avoid individual lawsuits by compensating a wide class of businesses and individuals in one swoop.

The administrator of the deal, Louisiana lawyer Patrick Juneau, has so far paid $3.8 billion to more than 40,000 claimants along the Gulf coast, according to the settlement program's website.

BP disputes how Juneau is calculating payments, successfully arguing in one 5th Circuit case that he was applying incorrect accounting standards to determine business losses.

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On Friday, though, BP was on the losing side of a second case in the same appeals court where the company had voiced support for a group of plaintiffs who wanted the settlement thrown out.

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BP now wants the appeals court to permanently halt all payments to people who cannot prove their losses were directly caused by the spill.

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The company says it should only pay for what it agreed to when the settlement was signed. But Judge Barbier says BP is contradicting its own earlier positions when it originally drafted the settlement terms.

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"The question of interpretation only arises in this case because of an ambiguity," said Joseph Lavitt, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

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FRAUD CLAIMS

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A volley of appeals is not necessarily uncommon in a long, complicated case like this one, said Edward Sherman from Tulane University Law School.

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"One would hope that a judge would not take offence to the fact that he has been appealed up on numerous issues, judges are pretty familiar with that kind of thing," Sherman said. "There is a certain risk involved in it but BP obviously thinks that they have an important issue."

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The settlement process has certainly had flaws.

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An investigation - ordered by Barbier and carried out by former FBI Director Louis Freeh - found some of Juneau's employees engaged in "improper" conduct, like taking "referral fees" to pass claims to other lawyers.

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In December, BP filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt some of the $2.3 billion it set aside for a deal to compensate commercial seafood industry alleging that some fishermen clients of lawyer Mikal Watts did not exist.

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And this month, BP ran full-page newspaper ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post saying top officials working for the claims administrator frequented a strip club that received a $550,000 damage award.

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It did not name the officials and stopped short of accusing them of corruption. Juneau said two officials quit their posts to pursue "other business opportunities."

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Some plaintiffs' lawyers say BP has focused too much on picking apart the settlement, instead of on the bigger battle.

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Under the Clean Water Act, negligence can be punished with a maximum fine of $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. A verdict of gross negligence would carry a potential fine of up to $4,300 per barrel.

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U.S. officials and BP dispute how much oil was spilled overall but if the court uses the government estimate minus the oil that was recovered - or 4.09 million barrels - the price of a gross negligence finding could run to $17.6 billion.

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Barbier has broad discretion to assign penalties that could be handed down this year after an ongoing trial.

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"Remember, this is the same judge who is overseeing the Clean Water Act claims," said Thomas Young, a Florida-based plaintiffs' lawyer who represents hundreds of clients claiming damages from the BP spill. "The real question here is: "Why is BP poking the hornet's nest?"

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(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Terry Wade, Peter Henderson and Marguerita Choy)

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UN climate chief urges investors to bolster global warming fight

Institutional investors managing trillions of dollars should shift their portfolios away from fossil fuel investments toward cleaner energy sources to put a stop to the dangerous rise in global temperatures causing climate change, the United Nations' climate chief said on Wednesday.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told an investors conference at the United Nations that their investment decisions should reflect the latest scientific evidence of dangerous climate change to protect the health and financial savings of ordinary citizens well into the future.

"The pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds," she said in prepared remarks.

"Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy," Figueres added.

She said the private sector will need to play a crucial role to ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a threshold that UN scientists have said would avoid catastrophic climate change even as nearly 200 countries continue to negotiate a global deal to rein in global greenhouse gas emissions.

"No matter how many efforts we make... that is not enough to put us on track to the 2 degrees," she told a news conference.

The fraught UN climate negotiations have a 2015 deadline to agree in Paris on a global plan to address climate change set after an eleventh-hour agreement at the last UN summit in November in Poland.

The 2015 deal will consist of a patchwork of national plans to curb emissions that could blur a 20-year-old distinction between the obligations of rich and poor nations.

Figueres said she expects the first of the national contributions to trickle in around September, when U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon hosts a United Nations climate change summit that will involve heads of state, business and civil society groups.

She said she is already aware that some countries will need until the first part of 2015 to ready their national plans.

Figueres said the September summit will "prime the pump" for what she hopes will be a successful outcome in Paris in 2015.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Alaska mine threatens salmon, native cultures -U.S. agency

Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of southwest Alaska, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Wednesday.

The EPA said a mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and thousands of acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes. The report focused on the impact of mining in an area where a Canadian-based company wants to build a large copper and gold mine.

Polluted water from the mine site could enter streams, causing widespread damage in a region that produces nearly 50 percent of the world's wild sockeye salmon, the EPA said.

The Bristol Bay region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America, which include sockeye, Chinook, chum, coho and pink salmon. It is also home to bears, moose and caribou.

There is also the risk of accidents and pipeline failures that could release toxic copper concentrate or diesel fuel into salmon streams or wetlands, the EPA said.

"Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years," Dennis McLerran, the EPA's regional administrator in the Pacific Northwest, said in a statement.

The report, which concludes a three-year study and follows two drafts that also warned of widespread ecological damage from mining, does not recommend policy or regulatory decisions.

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd's Pebble project would develop an open-pit mine in the region, which has one of the world's largest copper-gold deposits.

The Vancouver-based company was swift to condemn the report, and said the EPA had repeatedly failed to meet its own guidelines and policies for watershed assessments, risk assessment and peer review.

"We believe EPA set out to do a flawed analysis of the Pebble Project ...," Northern Dynasty Chief Executive Ron Thiessen said in a statement.

Alaska's U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the EPA has weighed in too soon.

"If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project there is an appropriate time to raise them, after a permit application has been made, not before," Murkowski said in a statement.

"It is clear that a preemptive veto is still being considered by EPA. Such a veto is quite simply outside the legal authority that Congress intended to provide EPA."

The company vowed to press on with the project, located some 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Northern Dynasty lost its project development partner last September when mining group Anglo American pulled out of the venture.

(Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Wet, wetter; dry, drier: U.S. oceanographer has hit with climate-change haiku

An American oceanographer who helped write an international report on climate change has condensed several of its key findings - such as how choices made today may shape the future world - into a collection of succinct poems in the Haiku style.

The poems came to Gregory Johnson, a 20-year veteran of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as he pored over an executive summary of "Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis," while holed up in his Seattle home on a recent weekend with the flu, he said.

"I thought that if I tried distilling these ideas into haiku, maybe that would help fix them in my mind," said Johnson, a lead author on the chapter of the report dealing with the effects of global warming on oceans. "This was not intended for anything but my own personal consumption."

After penning the poems and painting watercolors accompanying each of them, Johnson, heartened by feedback from friends and family, agreed to publish them on the website of the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based environmental policy think-tank.

Several of the haikus highlight the report's findings that near-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would reduce future warming, but that, as one poem concludes, "rising seas certain."

Others deal with regional weather patterns that climate change is expected to reinforce.

"Wet will get wetter/ and dry drier, since warm air/ carries more water," reads another of the poems.

Haiku, a sparse Japanese poetry form, consists of three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.

Johnson emphasizes that the haikus represent his own personal views and not those of NOAA or the international team of scientists responsible for the report. He was not paid for the poems' publication, he said.

If the haikus get more people engaged in climate change issues, he said, that would be reward enough.

"If I could steer a few people to look at the official summary (of the report) that would be lovely," he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Pacific trade talks fall short on environmental protection: groups

An ambitious trade pact being negotiated among Pacific Rim nations so far fails to properly protect endangered species and could undermine existing safeguards for the environment, environmental groups said on Wednesday.

Documents released by the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks show countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did not plan to sanction trading partners who break environmental promises - an issue that has caused a rift between the United States and others in the bloc and is an obstacle to finalizing the deal.

The TPP would cover almost 40 percent of the global economy and create a free trade zone reaching from North America to Japan and New Zealand, and the United States is keen to wrap up talks in the coming months.

But the World Wildlife Fund said a November draft of the environment chapter text, which was among the documents released by WikiLeaks, lacked teeth and showed countries were backsliding on past promises and their responsibility to stamp out trade in endangered species.

"The most glaring omission is the lack of fully enforceable environmental provisions," World Wildlife Fund senior program officer Vanessa Dick said.

"If parties do not meet obligations within the environment chapter, then there is no enforceability, there would be no applicable sanctions."

The United States said it would not back down on making the promises enforceable, while other TPP partners downplayed the stand-off and said the negotiations were a work in progress.

The leaked documents include a report from the chair of the TPP's environment working group urging compromise and describing dispute resolution as a "particularly challenging" issue.

"While the chair sought to accommodate all the concerns and red lines that were identified by parties regarding the issues in the text, many of the red lines for some parties were in direct opposition to the red lines expressed by other parties," the report said.

"It bears emphasizing that it is these differences that have prevented the Environment Working Group from reaching agreement on all aspects of the chapter."

SANCTIONS CAUSE DISSENT

The draft text shows a clash between the United States and other countries - Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, New Zealand and Singapore - over how to proceed if pledges are not met.

The draft text, dated November 24, 2013, states that at the end of consultations and arbitration, parties should come up with a "mutually satisfactory action plan."

According to the chair's report, all countries were on board with the process except the United States, which wanted environmental breaches to be treated like commercial breaches, including the option of trade sanctions - something environmental groups say is essential to enforce TPP promises.

The United States also wanted to include a list of specific multilateral agreements on environmental issues, such as ozone depletion and whaling, in the text but the move was opposed by most other countries.

In other criticism, the World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council said the draft did not contain a ban on shark-finning or oblige countries to act to stop illegal trade in threatened and endangered plants and animals.

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Bans on fishing subsidies would apply only to species which are already over-fished, whereas environmental groups want a ban on all subsidies that contribute to over-fishing.

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"This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues - oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections - and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a joint release from the three groups.

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In a blog post, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said it had reaffirmed its position that environmental pledges should be binding at the last round of TPP talks in December.

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"Environmental stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement," the post said.

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A representative for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the TPP environment chapter would be extensive, but would not confirm the contents of the draft.

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"Negotiating text is a dynamic document, changing regularly, and has no status until all text is agreed," the representative said.

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A spokeswoman for New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said the environment chapter would promote high standards of environmental protection and ministers would meet again soon.

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"Momentum is accelerating in the negotiation and the conclusion of a comprehensive, high quality, 21st century agreement is in sight," she said.

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(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Wellington; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Shumaker)

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Hotter longer, Australian heat wave pressuring commodities

Australia can expect even longer and hotter heat waves than the one now scorching wide swathes of the country, a climate research group said on Thursday, raising questions about its long-term position as an agricultural powerhouse.

A blistering heat wave has settled over Australia's south and southeast for nearly a week, with soaring temperatures causing worry after players and fans alike collapsed at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament in Melbourne.

Temperatures on Thursday continued to rise, with the mercury in Melbourne set to tick over at 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), two degrees higher than Wednesday when one player, Canadian Frank Dancevic, hallucinated the cartoon dog Snoopy before fainting during a match.

Adelaide's expected 46C, though, will earn the distinction of being the world's hottest city on Thursday, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organisation.

The privately run Climate Council, which includes former members of a government-funded climate change watchdog shut by Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative government last year, warned in a report that Australia had only begun to feel the impact of climate change.

The heat wave, says the report's author, Will Steffen, follows the felling of a host of temperature records in 2013, including the hottest year on record.

"Australia has always had hot weather. However, climate change is loading the dice toward more extreme hot weather," Steffen said.

Hoping to do avert disastrous climate change, Australia aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, a target that requires a cut of 431 million tonnes of CO2 between now and 2020.

The government released details of a A$1.55 billion ($1.37 bln) Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) last month but some experts say design flaws and a lack of clarity mean it is unlikely to meet its climate targets.

Phil Cohn, co-founder of clean technology project developers Ramp Carbon, told Reuters the biggest problem with the ERF is that it sets no overall cap on emissions for Australia, meaning there would be no mechanism to ensure pollution doesn't spiral.

"If we emit more in sectors that don't participate much in the ERF auctions, we are going to miss the target," he said.

MORE CATTLE GO TO MARKET

Prolonged heat waves would threaten Australia's agricultural production and undermine its policy of being the "food bowl of Asia", analysts said.

"It will be much harder to maintain production if you have such extreme weather events," said Paul Deane, senior agricultural economist at ANZ Bank.

"Higher temperatures tends to lead to more evaporation of any rain, all of sudden the water availability for crops is reduced, which will have a big impact on crops like wheat and sugar."

Australia is the world's second largest wheat exporter and the third largest raw sugar exporter.

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While the wheat harvest is now complete for the 2013/14 season, saving broadacre farmers from the brunt of the current heat-wave, livestock farmers across the east coast are struggling.

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Benchmark Australian beef prices, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, have fallen almost 10 percent in the last month as farmers, struggling to find sufficient water and food for animals, send increased numbers to slaughter.

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Australia's cattle herd will fall to 25 million head during the 2013/14 season, the lowest since the 2009/10 season, due to increased slaughtering, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences said in December.

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Australia, the world's third largest beef exporter, is forecast to sell 1.085 million tonnes in the current season, buoyed by increased slaughter rates and strong Chinese demand.

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Australia must invest in greater research to understand how the intensifying heat waves will have an impact across a wide range of infrastructure, Steffen says.

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"It is essential that we understand the influence of climate change on heat waves to ensure that health services, transport providers, farmers and the community are prepared for what is happening now and what will happen increasingly in the future," he said.

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(Additional reporting by Stian Reklev; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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China's big polluters exceed emission limits - report

Online emissons figures reported by most coal-fired power plants and factories in China surpassed government limits, a group of NGOs and research institutes said, warning that the situation is likely to worsen in July, when targets get tougher.

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High pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger in China, and officials concerned about social unrest have responded by implementing tougher policies.

Coal plants, iron and steel producers, and petrochemicals were the main culprits behind China's sky-high pollution levels last year, the group, led by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), said in its report.

The group monitored real-time online pollution readings from 179 cities across China and said pollution exceeded government-imposed maximum levels most of the time.

"Most of the heavy-polluting industries monitored can't meet China's current pollution standards," said Song Goujun, director at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University and one of the authors of the report.

"In most of the cases we observed, the achievement ratio was only 30 to 45 percent," he told Reuters.

China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.

Last week local media reported that PetroChina, one of China's biggest state-owned companies, owed 800 million yuan ($132 million) in unpaid environmental fines to the city of Yanan in Shaanxi province.

In July this year the central government will impose stricter emission rules on coal-fired power plants, which will make standards even harder to meet.

For example, the northern cluster of Beijing, Hebei, Shandong and Tianjin must reduce its coal consumption by 83 million tonnes (1.1023 ton) by 2017.

Information disclosure could help identify the biggest sinners and China should "publicly expose them (in order) to strengthen legal enforcement and increase the cost of violations," said IPE's Ma Jun, the report's lead author.

Amid demands for greater transparency the government has ordered several key regions to release emissions data online, but some regions, such as Guangdong, Hunan and Tianjin, have not complied.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection is spending $6.6 billion over the period from 2011 to 2015 to boost its real-time pollution monitoring capacity.

(Reporting by Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Pregnant women warned off West Virginia water in cleared areas

West Virginia officials said Thursday they have lifted a ban on drinking tap water for two-thirds of the customers affected by a chemical spill, but warned pregnant women to avoid it until the chemical is completely flushed from the pipes.

One week after the spill into the Elk River prompted authorities to order some 300,000 people not to drink or wash with their tap water, officials have cleared more than 200,000 of them to start drinking the water again after tests showed levels below the 1 part per million level safety standard set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But pregnant women should continue to steer clear of the water in an "abundance of caution" until the chemical is completely undetectable, West Virginia American Water said.

The company said the CDC had advised there is still a "limited availability of data" on whether pregnant woman are more susceptible and advised that state water officials "consider an alternative drinking water source for pregnant women until the chemical is at non-detectable levels in the water distribution system."

The state attorney general, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia are investigating the January 9 leak of about 7,500 gallons (28,000 liters) of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or crude MCHM, into the river.

Officials ordered water use halted for everything but flushing toilets after the leak from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries, a maker of specialty chemicals.

The Freedom Industries site has not been inspected since 1991 and is about a mile upstream from a West Virginia American Water plant, the biggest in the state. Crude MCHM is used in washing coal and Freedom Industries has apologized for the incident.

Downstream from the spill, the Northern Kentucky Water District and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works have shut their intakes on the Ohio River as a precaution.

Water tainted by crude MCHM smells faintly of licorice. Contact with the water can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin.

West Virginia American Water is a unit of American Water Works Co Inc.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by Scott Malone and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

Beijing's mayor urges "all-out effort" to curb air pollution

Beijing's mayor pledged on Thursday to cut coal use by 2.6 million tonnes and set aside 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) to improve air quality this year as part of the city's "all-out effort" to tackle air pollution, state news agency Xinhua said.

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The announcement by Wang Anshun came as the capital was blanketed in its worst smog in months. An index measuring PM2.5 particles, especially bad for health, reached 500 in much of the capital in the early hours.

A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

Coal-burning boilers inside Beijing's fifth ring road - covering the built-up area of the city - will be eliminated and measures taken against coal burning in the capital's periphery, Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

The city also aims to ban all heavily polluting vehicles this year, cut new car registrations and promote new energy vehicles, Wang said.

Beijing reported 58 days of serious pollution last year, or one every six to seven days on average, Xinhua quoted Zhang Dawei, director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, as saying.

Separately, Xinhua said China had shut down 8,347 heavily polluting companies last year in northern Hebei province, which has the worst air in the country, as the government moves to tackle a problem that has been a source of discontent.

Local authorities will block new projects and punish officials in regions where pollution is severe due to lax enforcement, Xinhua cited Yang Zhiming, deputy director of the Hebei provincial bureau of environmental protection, as saying.

High pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger and officials concerned about social unrest have responded by implementing tougher policies.

Hebei, the country's biggest steel producer, is home to as many as seven of its 10 most polluted cities, Xinhua said, citing statistics published monthly by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Pollution in Hebei often spreads to neighboring Beijing and Tianjin.

Some small high-polluting plants are being relocated to remote areas to avoid oversight, Xinhua quoted Yang as saying. He said the government would "beef up the industrial crackdown".

China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.

On Wednesday, China's commercial capital, Shanghai, introduced emergency measures, allowing it to shut schools and order cars off the road in case of severe smog.

Hebei plans to slash crude steel output by 15 million tonnes in 2014 and cut coal consumption by the same amount as part of anti-pollution measures.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Alison Williams)

Wildfire rages in forest outside Los Angeles, residents evacuated

A fast-moving California wildfire, started accidentally by three campers, roared out of control in foothills above Los Angeles on Thursday, destroying at least two homes and forcing more than 1,000 residents to flee, fire and law enforcement officials said.

The wind-whipped blaze erupted before dawn in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora, about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

By mid-morning, the so-called Colby Fire had blackened more than 1,700 acres of drought-parched brush and vegetation, Los Angeles County fire officials said.

A thick pall of orange and black smoke hung over eastern Los Angeles County, stretching west to the Pacific Ocean. Drivers were advised to stay away as some 700 firefighters worked to save homes and cut containment lines around the flames, aided by eight fixed-wing air tankers and seven helicopters.

Three men who were spotted leaving the area where the blaze began were taken into custody, Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab said. Each was arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire and was being held on $20,000 bail, he said.

"Reportedly they set a campfire and were tossing papers into the campfire and a breeze kicked up and set the fire," Staab said. "They are being cooperative. I'm told one has made an admission to our detectives and has admitted setting this fire."

The suspects were identified as Clifford Eugene Henry Jr. 22, of Glendora; Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, of Irwindale; and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, of Los Angeles. Staab said Aguirre was homeless but that the men were not living at the campsite.

The flames prompted residents in parts of Glendora and neighboring Azusa to leave their homes on the order of authorities who said they could order more evacuations if the blaze were to spread. Temporary shelters were set up at an American Legion hall, a community center and a high school.

SCHOOLS CLOSED, SMOKE ADVISORY ISSUED

The fire destroyed t least two homes, and one person suffered minor burn injuries, said Jim Tomaselli, incident commander for the U.S. Forest Service.

Local media reported that one of those homes was a guest home at the Singer Mansion, a local landmark designed by architect Wallace Neff. Reuters could not immediately confirm this report.

Several elementary and middle schools and at least one high school were shut for the day, along with Citrus College, located about 2 miles from the fire lines, and Glendora city manager Chris Jeffers said the city had declared a state of emergency to free up resources.

The South Coast Air Quality Management district issued a smoke advisory for Los Angeles County and nearby communities, urging people in affected areas to remain indoors with doors and windows closed.

As the day wore on, the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that had whipped the flames had died down, giving firefighters a chance to gain a measure of control over the blaze, officials said. But they remained concerned that winds could pick up again, driving the fire further into the national forest.

"Early this morning, when it broke out, it burned really rapidly, and it does appear like it's laying down right now," Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Keith Mora said. "We're just trying to gain control prior to the heat-up in the afternoon."

The fire was burning in steep terrain, near where houses were built right up to the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, and some isolated homes were nestled in the brush at the location of the blaze, Mora said.

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"The topography is just really dangerous," he said.

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With Southern California suffering through several years of drought, officials had predicted a particularly intense fire season. Red Flag Warnings, indicating critical conditions, had been posted for many areas.

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(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernadette Baum, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

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Ex-DJ first in court in UK trials over showbiz sex abuse

The first in a list of ageing celebrities accused of sexually abusing young fans over many years went on trial on Tuesday in an investigation that has rocked confidence in the BBC, Britain's publicly funded broadcaster.

One of Britain's best-known radio DJs in the 1970s and 1980s, Dave Lee Travis, who counted Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi among his fans, is facing 14 charges involving 11 women aged from 15 upwards that date from between 1976 and 2008.

British-based Australian entertainer Rolf Harris also appeared in court on Tuesday where he pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault, one allegedly involving a girl aged seven or eight. He is due to stand trial in April.

The charges stem from a police investigation launched after the 2011 death of one of the BBC's top TV presenters, Jimmy Savile, who turned out to have been a prolific sex predator over six decades.

There are now several investigations into Savile's case with victims mulling compensation and calling for a single judge-led inquiry into how he was able to evade justice for so long.

The BBC has ordered an independent review into revelations that Savile abused hundreds of children in hospitals and on BBC premises. The report is due within weeks.

To date, police have arrested 16 former celebrities and showbusiness figures, laying charges against four, releasing six on bail and taking no further action against six.

Critics have asked why the BBC and police did not act at the time when victims complained. Some celebrities have voiced concern the investigation has become a "witch-hunt" with innocent people linked to pedophile Savile but never charged.

Child welfare campaigners said the publicity had encouraged people to speak up. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said reports of sex abuse of children aged under 11 rose 16 percent last year.

Travis, on bail, arrived at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday to a waiting scrum of media. The 68-year-old presenter has denied 13 counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. His trial is set to last six weeks.

Harris was released on bail after pleading not guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault which date from 1968 to 2012, with one involving a girl aged seven or eight. He is also facing four counts of making indecent images of a child but these have yet to be put to him formally in court.

Harris, 83, a family favourite in Australia and Britain for over 50 years, made his name hosting TV shows and producing chart hits including "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". A keen artist, he painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait in 2005 and performed at the Queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee concert.

The inquiry has also led to charges being laid against celebrity publicist Max Clifford who faces trial in March. He denies all wrongdoing. A former BBC chauffeur who was also charged and due to stand trial committed suicide last October.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr added to Grammy Awards performers

Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will each perform at the Grammy Awards this month where the pair will accept a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the Fab Four, organizers said on Tuesday.

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McCartney, 71, and Starr, 73, will be joined by R&B singer John Legend, hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as well as country singers Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves and Keith Urban as performers during the 56th Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy said.

Singer-songwriter Carole King will also perform alongside pianist-singer Sara Bareilles at the Grammys, which will take place on January 26 in Los Angeles.

Previously announced performers at the music industry's biggest night include pop singer Katy Perry, French DJ duo Daft Punk, rock group Imagine Dragons, New Zealand singer Lorde, R&B singer Stevie Wonder and country singer Blake Shelton.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Patricia Reaney and James Dalgleish)

Murder by candlelight at London's new Jacobean theatre

London has a new theatre lit entirely by candles, transporting audiences back 400 years to the kind of performances seen on winter nights in Shakespeare's time.

Constructed mainly of oak, the building sits alongside the established open-air Globe theatre on the south bank of the Thames - but it offers a very different experience by replicating an indoor playhouse of the early 17th century.

While the Globe's thatched amphitheatre is breezy and holds more than 1,500 people, the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse - named after the American actor and director who came up with the idea for both venues - is intimate, with just 340 seats.

Stepping inside is like entering an antique marquetry box, with the flickering candlelight illuminating woodwork and a painted ceiling that make a fine setting for the inward-looking psychological dramas of the Jacobean period.

In many ways the small indoor space is an "anti-Globe," according to artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, whose production of John Webster's dark tragedy "The Duchess of Malfi" opened there on January 9.

Modeled on drawings that fell out of an old book in the library at Worcester College, Oxford, in the 1960s, the new playhouse offers a wintertime option for Dromgoole and his team.

The second venue builds on the outdoor success of the Globe, which has been putting on shows since 1997 and had its first transfer to Broadway in November. Given the British weather, the Globe can only operate from April to October,

The sketches that form the basis for the 7.5 million pounds ($12.4 million) project are the earliest surviving evidence of what an indoor Jacobean theatre would have looked like, although the final building is not a copy of any particular historical venue.

The idea of heading inside in the winter months would have been very familiar to William Shakespeare and his peers - as would the choice of play.

SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN

"The Duchess of Malfi" was first performed by the King's Men acting company to which Shakespeare belonged at a similar indoor theatre across the river at Blackfriars in 1613 or 1614.

It is a tale of corruption, murder and madness that exposes the dark side of human nature, prompting the poet T.S. Eliot famously to describe Webster as a dramatist who "saw the skull beneath the skin".

With a macabre scene of waxwork corpses and a grave-digging semi-werewolf duke, Webster piles on a surreal horror that gains a claustrophobic immediacy in the small candle-lit theatre.

The show burns through dozens of beeswax candles to illuminate the action, some in candelabras and others held by the actors, although a certain amount of artificial electric light does leak in through internal windows in some scenes.

The effect is unique, with the candlelight reflecting off the actors' white neck ruffs and glittering from the golden dress worn by Gemma Arterton - a former Bond girl in the movie "Quantum of Solace" - who plays the doomed duchess.

The play will have its press night on January 15 but the show, which also includes period music, is already getting rave write-ups on Twitter from those who have seen it, with visitors describing the setting as "gorgeous" and "amazing".

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Dromgoole is preparing next to present other works from more of Shakespeare's contemporaries - including Francis Beaumont and John Marston - as well as an opera by Francesco Cavalli and several concerts.

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Naked flames will be centre-stage in all these shows, a fact that has required careful liaison with health and safety officers - especially as the original Globe theatre burned down 400 years ago when its thatch caught fire during a performance of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII".

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($1 = 0.6066 British pounds)

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(Editing by Michael Roddy and Andrew Roche)

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'12 Years a Slave, 'American Hustle' take top Golden Globes

The film "12 Years a Slave" took the coveted Golden Globe for best drama and "American Hustle" won best musical or comedy on Sunday in a kick-off to the Hollywood awards season that foreshadows a wide scattering of honors for a year crowded with high-quality movies.

Only two films garnered more than one award at the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards, an important but not entirely accurate barometer for the industry's highest honors, the Academy Awards to be held on March 2.

"American Hustle," a romp through corruption in the 1970s directed by David O. Russell, was the top winner with three Globes for its seven nominations, while modest AIDS film "Dallas Buyers Club" starring Matthew McConaughey, took home two acting awards for him and co-star Jared Leto.

British director Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of pre-Civil war American slavery in "12 Years a Slave," based on a true story of free black man Solomon Northup who was sold into slavery, only won one award out of its seven nominations. It was entirely shut out from the acting honors, for which it had been a presumed favorite.

But best drama is the top award of the Golden Globes and McQueen thanked actor and producer Brad Pitt, who played a small part in the film but a big role in getting it made. "Without you this movie would never had gotten made, so thank you, wherever you may be," McQueen said.

Among those that left empty-handed were two darlings of critics, the Coen brothers' paean to the 1960s folk scene "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Alexander Payne's homage to the heartland, "Nebraska."

The first big night of the Hollywood awards season is the purview of the 90 some journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), who wield outsized clout in the awards race as buzz around these honors influences members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in their voting for the Oscars.

Oscar nominations are to be announced on Thursday and "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" are likely to be in the list of 10 nominees for best picture, going head-to-head unlike in the Globes, where they competed in two separate categories.

The Globes have a mixed record when it comes to predicting the Oscar best picture, though last year's best drama winner, "Argo," did go on to win the Academy Award for best movie.

WIDE ARRAY OF RECOGNITION

In a setting more intimate and whimsical than the tightly scripted Oscars, A-listers and powerbrokers pow-wowed over cocktails and returning co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler poked fun at the most powerful in the glamorous audience.

It was a night in which there seemed to be a prize for most every film, a reflection of a banner year for quality cinema in which critically acclaimed films piled up in the last half of the year.

The top drama acting awards went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a riches-to-rags socialite in Woody Allen's tragicomedy "Blue Jasmine" and McConaughey for his portrayal of unlikely AIDS activist Ron Woodroof for which he lost 50 pounds (22.7 kg).

"Ron Woodroof's story was an underdog, for years it was an underdog, we couldn't get it made ... I'm so glad it got passed on so many times or it wouldn't have come to me," said McConaughey, widely lauded for a string of strong performances this year.

Russell, who reunited cast members from his previous films, reaped the rewards of loyal actors.

Amy Adams won best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as the conniving partner to a con-man played by Christian Bale in "American Hustle," while Jennifer Lawrence took best supporting actress for her turn as his loopy wife.

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"David, you write such amazing roles for women," Adams told the star-studded room as she accepted the award. She starred in Russell's 2010 "The Fighter," while Lawrence won the best actress Oscar last year for his previous film, "Silver Linings Playbook."

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DICAPRIO THANKS SCORSESE

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The HFPA is known to also reward big Hollywood names and this year Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor in a musical or comedy for his role as a fast-living, drug-popping, swindling stockbroker in the "The Wolf of Wall Street," his fifth collaboration with director Martin Scorsese.

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"As the history of cinema unfolds, you will be regarded as one of the great artists of all time," DiCaprio told Scorsese as he accepted the award.

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Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron won best director for his existential space thriller, "Gravity," a film starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut tumbling through space that has won praise for its groundbreaking technical advances.

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Director Spike Jonze took home the Globe for best screenplay for his quirky computer-age comedy "Her," starring Joaquin Phoenix.

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The HFPA honored Woody Allen with the Cecil B. DeMille award recognizing outstanding contribution to the entertainment field. Famously averse to awards shows, the 78-year-old Allen sent one of his favorite actresses, Diane Keaton, to stand in for him.

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The Golden Globes are also the opening salvo for red carpet fashion, and this year Hollywood's leading ladies appeared to favor shimmery champagne, silver and gold, along with bright reds and vibrant floral shades for their gowns.

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In the television awards, "Breaking Bad" won best drama for its offbeat story about a school teacher turned drug kingpin, a show that concluded last year with its much acclaimed fifth and final season.

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"This is such a wonderful honor and such a lovely way to say goodbye to the show that meant so much to me," said Bryan Cranston, who accepted the award for best actor in a drama series.

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(Additional reporting by Nichola Groom and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Police raid Justin Bieber's home, arrest man for drugs

A police search of teen pop star Justin Bieber's California home on Tuesday in a vandalism case linked to the singer, resulted in the arrest of a man after drugs were found in the house, the Los Angeles County Sheriff said.

Detectives raided Bieber's home at about 8 a.m. after the "Boyfriend" singer was accused of pelting his neighbor's home with eggs in an incident on January 9.

Bieber, 19, was detained at his Calabasas home, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles while a dozen deputies searched for evidence.

"He has not been arrested nor has been exonerated," Sheriff's Lt. David Thompson said at a news conference in nearby Malibu following the search.

"We were looking at things that would put him or anything else at the scene," Thompson said, adding that Bieber's attorneys were not present during the search and the singer was not questioned.

It was the latest in a string of incidents that have overshadowed Bieber's music career in the last year as the Canadian star who shot to fame at age 15 transitions to adulthood.

Bieber's representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff's department said the investigation sought to collect any evidence in the alleged egg attack on the singer's home video surveillance and other possible leads.

A unnamed person in Bieber's home at the time of the search was arrested for narcotics possession when deputies found cocaine in plain view, Thompson said.

NOT 'A MESSAGE'

Celebrity news website TMZ.com identified the man as aspiring 20-year-old rapper Lil Za, who is often photographed with Bieber. The website published photos and video of Lil Za, whose real name Xavier Smith, handcuffed and being led to a deputy's car.

The rapper is being held on $20,000 bond, according to county records.

The vandalism case is being treated as a felony because it caused $20,000 in damages according to the homeowner, the sheriff's department said.

"We didn't do this search warrant to send a message, that's not what we do," Thompson said. "This has nothing to do with him being a celebrity. This is a felony crime."

Thompson said the cost of damages was high because the exterior of Bieber's neighbor's home was made of imported wood and brick.

It is not known what triggered the alleged incident between Bieber and his neighbor, but the Canadian-born pop star has had several publicized run-ins with neighbors.

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Last year, Bieber was accused of speeding through the neighborhood in a Ferrari sports car and also spitting on his neighbor during a confrontation over parties at the singer's home. Prosecutors did not bring charges against Bieber in either case.

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(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing Mary Milliken and Gunna Dickson)

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Police raid Justin Bieber's home, arrest man for drugs

A police search of teen pop star Justin Bieber's California home on Tuesday in a vandalism case linked to the singer, resulted in the arrest of a man after drugs were found in the house, the Los Angeles County Sheriff said.

Detectives raided Bieber's home at about 8 a.m. after the "Boyfriend" singer was accused of pelting his neighbor's home with eggs in an incident on January 9.

Bieber, 19, was detained at his Calabasas home, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles while a dozen deputies searched for evidence.

"He has not been arrested nor has been exonerated," Sheriff's Lt. David Thompson said at a news conference in nearby Malibu following the search.

"We were looking at things that would put him or anything else at the scene," Thompson said, adding that Bieber's attorneys were not present during the search and the singer was not questioned.

It was the latest in a string of incidents that have overshadowed Bieber's music career in the last year as the Canadian star who shot to fame at age 15 transitions to adulthood.

Bieber's representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff's department said the investigation sought to collect any evidence in the alleged egg attack on the singer's home video surveillance and other possible leads.

A unnamed person in Bieber's home at the time of the search was arrested for narcotics possession when deputies found cocaine in plain view, Thompson said.

NOT 'A MESSAGE'

Celebrity news website TMZ.com identified the man as aspiring 20-year-old rapper Lil Za, who is often photographed with Bieber. The website published photos and video of Lil Za, whose real name Xavier Smith, handcuffed and being led to a deputy's car.

The rapper is being held on $20,000 bond, according to county records.

The vandalism case is being treated as a felony because it caused $20,000 in damages according to the homeowner, the sheriff's department said.

"We didn't do this search warrant to send a message, that's not what we do," Thompson said. "This has nothing to do with him being a celebrity. This is a felony crime."

Thompson said the cost of damages was high because the exterior of Bieber's neighbor's home was made of imported wood and brick.

It is not known what triggered the alleged incident between Bieber and his neighbor, but the Canadian-born pop star has had several publicized run-ins with neighbors.

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Last year, Bieber was accused of speeding through the neighborhood in a Ferrari sports car and also spitting on his neighbor during a confrontation over parties at the singer's home. Prosecutors did not bring charges against Bieber in either case.

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(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing Mary Milliken and Gunna Dickson)

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U.S. senators slam 'glamorization' of e-cigarettes at Golden Globes

A group of U.S. senators is taking the Golden Globes to task for showing celebrities puffing on electronic cigarettes at this year's awards show, complaining such depictions glamorize smoking.

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"The Golden Globes celebrates entertainers who are an influence on young fans," the four Democratic senators wrote on Tuesday. "We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes."

"Such action would help to avoid the glamorization of smoking and protect the health of young fans," said the letter signed by Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Edward Markey of Massachusetts."

The Golden Globes ceremony that aired on Comcast Corp-owned NBC on Sunday night showed actor Leonardo DiCaprio smoking an e-cigarette during the broadcast, as well as nominee Julia Louis-Dreyfus puffing on one as part of an opening skit.

The Golden Globes, which honor achievement in film and television, are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The show drew its best television audience in a decade.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered metal tubes that turn nicotine-laced liquid into vapor. Some analysts predict that the fast-growing market for the product could outpace that of conventional cigarettes within a decade.

Regulators are agonizing over whether to restrict the product as a "gateway" to nicotine addiction and tobacco smoking, or to embrace them as treatments for would-be quitters.

NBC Universal and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Writing by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

A Minute With: Sharon Jones on soul music, cancer and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Cancer became the inescapable loss lurking in the background of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' latest album, "Give the People What They Want," the sixth release from the indie soul group credited with reviving the genre a dozen years ago.

Jones, the 57-year-old singer who rose to prominence after a career as a backup singer and a stint working as a guard at New York City's Rikers Island jail, lost her mother to cancer while writing material for the album, and the brother of saxophonist Neal Sugarman succumbed to the disease too.

Jones herself was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, which pushed the album's release from last August back to this week, and underwent her final chemotherapy treatment on December 31.

The singer, who has been praised along with her band by Rolling Stone magazine as "extending and preserving tradition," spoke with Reuters about soul music, cancer, getting her due.

Q: What is it like for you to see this album come out?

A: I actually thought that I wasn't even going to be around for this album. I thought I was going to die.

Q: Does it have a special meaning to you?

A: It's dedicated to two people that we knew who died from cancer and I survived cancer - so this album is like a testimony of mine, it's a survival. I was thinking I wasn't going to be here to give them the album (and to) perform it. They wasn't going to see me perform this album live, and so it means a lot to me now that I'm looking at it. Every time I go back and look at it, I'm going to remember my cancer.

Q: Many consider you a survivor in the music industry, only coming to prominence after age 40.

A: I just think that they're not giving us, me and Dap-Kings and (our label) Daptone Records and other true soul - any other independent soul record labels - the major labels aren't giving us an opportunity to be recognized, saying that soul music died in the '60s and the '70s. And it did not. I'm a soul singer. I'm not a retro singer.

Q: Would you claim credit for helping re-popularize soul music preceding the rise of Amy Winehouse? She even used the Dap-Kings as her band for her mega-hit album "Back to Black."

A: I would be a nut to say no. Of course, I just told you we've been out here 19 going on 20 years, pushing the music we've been doing and we've never changed. So now people are finally hearing. So why do you think (producer) Mark Ronson came to us for Amy? Michael Buble wanted me. He wanted a soul singer. He wanted somebody to do it, and we did that. Al Green had us on. They needed a certain soul sound. And so I think being there, hanging in and doing what we're doing, we've opened doors. Now you look, there are so many different independent labels doing soul music, all over Europe. More in Europe than here in the States.

"The major labels don't recognize soul music or they don't know how to put someone in a category because they don't have soul singers. They don't understand that. You get somebody that's young, a (Justin) Timberlake or somebody, and play some soul riff behind them and they can get up and sing something, but that's not soul singing. If you want to call that retro, you can do that. But I'm a soul singer.

Q: Do you feel like you're still fighting for respect?

A: Of course, definitely. That's the fight it's going to be on until the time come they (the Grammy Awards) recognize soul music. That's my fight. I just want them to recognize that there are soul music out here and soul singers today.

Q: Do you often consider your own legacy?

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A: No, I don't. I don't even look at it because to me it's just me doing what God has blessed me to do. ... I'm getting what I've put all these years of hard work into. It's finally coming around.

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(Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)

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Filipina caregiver wins Israel's X-Factor song contest

A Filipina caregiver, once part of a faceless crowd of foreign workers who tend to Israel's infirm and elderly, has surprised the country by winning one of its most popular TV singing contests.

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Competing in Israel's X-Factor, Rose Fostanes, 47, swept the judges off their feet with a tear-jerking rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" on Tuesday night's live final.

Her victory came as a surprise in Israel, where about 20,000 Filipinos work mostly as caregivers and cleaners. In the run-up to the final, Fostanes said she hoped her popularity on the show would shine a spotlight on Israel's low-paid foreign workers.

"I didn't expect that I will win," Fostanes told reporters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, speaking in English. "Because I'm not Israeli and I don't have residence here and I'm only a worker," she said.

For many Israelis, the word "Filipino" has become synonymous with caregiver, and Fostanes' appearance and success on X-Factor could help break the stereotype.

Fostanes, who came to Israel several years ago, has been working for about 20 years across the Middle East, and currently cares for an ailing woman in Tel Aviv.

She has been compared to the Scottish singer Susan Boyle, 52, who shot to fame in 2009 after appearing on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent" and performing "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables".

Boyle's rise from unknown to multi-million-selling recording artist has been made into a musical.

According to Israeli law, work visas are given to foreign caregivers on condition they stick to their job, so Fostanes is not permitted to be paid for recording an album or performing.

The interior ministry does, however, have the power to make exceptions to that rule.

"If she applies to change this, her request will be looked at just as all applications are," an official at the Israeli Immigration Authority said.

Asked on Channel Two television whether she planned to return to the Philippines to pursue a music career, Fostanes said: "If they give me a chance to do it here, I will do it here." Until then, she said, she would go back to caregiving.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell and ori Lewis, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mike Collett-White)

Dogged on disarmament, actor Michael Douglas earns UNICEF award

Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas says his main philanthropic cause - nuclear disarmament - is not exactly the kind of "touchy-feely" issue that celebrities and their fans covet, and it can be awfully frustrating when it comes to progress.

It's one, however, he has stuck with for years as a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 1998, and for that persistence he will be recognized on Tuesday night with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Peace Award from the U.S. fund for UNICEF, the U.N. branch for children.

"I was born in 1944, one year before the first bomb went off, and I hope in my lifetime to see the elimination of the weapons," Douglas told Reuters ahead of UNICEF's Beverly Hills ball, with childhood friend Dena Kaye, the only daughter of the late comic actor and UNICEF's first ambassador, by his side.

That he is being honored with the Danny Kaye award is especially meaningful, he said, because he knew Kaye as a child, admired his impact on children and can still recite rhymes from his films. He said Kaye "did more for the United Nations and for UNICEF than anyone I can think of."

It will be the 69-year-old actor's second honor this week after winning a Golden Globe on Sunday for his acclaimed portrayal of the exuberant pianist Liberace in the HBO drama "Behind the Candelabra," a role that made many in Hollywood see the famously virile Douglas in a new light.

The recognition for his work both on and off screen comes in the wake of his successful treatment for stage IV cancer that made him so weak, as he said in his acceptance speech Sunday, that the Liberace biopic had to be put on hold.

And although he recognizes that he "is the cancer poster boy right now," supporting cancer charities is not his main focus.

He decided long ago, he said, that to deal with the overwhelming demand for him to show up for charity, that he would principally work with the elimination of nuclear weapons and small arms at the United Nations, a cause that can move at a glacial pace.

"Sure, it's painful," said Douglas. "We were gearing up just a few years ago for the START talks with President Obama and the Russians and there was a reduction in warheads."

"But things have gotten cool now again between Russia and the U.S. and it has slowed down. I think it will happen again. We will have an increased reduction."

COLD WAR INFLUENCES

The guiding principles of Douglas' philanthropic work are rooted in the Cold War and how actors like Kaye - who died in 1987 and would have been 101 this week - and his own father Kirk Douglas navigated the channels of exchange where Western leaders could not.

Kaye, the star of films like 1947's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," had "a childlike joie de vivre and was a wonderful host," Douglas remembers from when he was invited to the Kaye house for the famous Asian meals that Kaye himself cooked.

"He was the greatest spokesman you could possibly have, because especially during the Cold War, the one thing that the East knew were the movie stars," Douglas said.

Dena Kaye called Douglas "like my father, a 100-percenter, gives 100 percent, doesn't give his name without giving himself."

Douglas believes Hollywood's celebrities are doing a good job these days with philanthropic and humanitarian causes and cites the work of Angelina Jolie with refugees as a noteworthy example. Most talent agencies these days have specialized departments to match their clients up with philanthropic projects, a necessity for the modern-day movie star, he said.

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While Kaye did film roles for children and humanitarian work for children, Douglas says there is no such connection in his onscreen/offscreen work, even though he started looking at the nuclear issue in the 1979 film he produced and starred in, "The China Syndrome." Many of his roles have been men of dubious morals, like the ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street" for which Douglas won an Oscar in 1988.

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"I always go with what the best movie is," he said, adding that it is about "how good the material is, and my role comes secondarily."

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To that end, on Monday Douglas came out with another unconventional career choice, this time playing scientist Hank Pym in Marvel superhero film "Ant-Man," due for release in 2015.

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"Sometimes - like (when) they didn't see you for Liberace - you've got to shake them up a little bit and have some fun," Douglas said of surprising both studios and audiences with his decision to do a superhero film.

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And he'll keep plugging away at disarmament, but he did acknowledge that he plans to do some more work advocating for more lenient sentencing for non-violent drug criminals "just because of my situation with my son."

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His son, Cameron, is in federal prison serving a 10-year sentence for drug dealing, a situation Douglas criticized when he won an Emmy for his Liberace role last year.

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(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Eric Walsh)

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Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr added to Grammy Awards performers

Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will each perform at the Grammy Awards this month where the pair will accept a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the Fab Four, organizers said on Tuesday.

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McCartney, 71, and Starr, 73, will be joined by R&B singer John Legend, hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as well as country singers Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves and Keith Urban as performers during the 56th Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy said.

Singer-songwriter Carole King will also perform alongside pianist-singer Sara Bareilles at the Grammys, which will take place on January 26 in Los Angeles.

Previously announced performers at the music industry's biggest night include pop singer Katy Perry, French DJ duo Daft Punk, rock group Imagine Dragons, New Zealand singer Lorde, R&B singer Stevie Wonder and country singer Blake Shelton.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Patricia Reaney and James Dalgleish)

Spielberg tops Oprah Winfrey as most influential celeb: Forbes

Director Steven Spielberg on Wednesday dethroned media mogul Oprah Winfrey as the most influential celebrity in the United States, according to an annual study by Forbes magazine that was dominated by film directors.

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Spielberg's influence was boosted by his most recent film, "Lincoln," which earned 12 Oscar nominations last year including best picture and best direction, and grossed $275 million at the global box office.

The magazine said the 67-year-old director's ability to attract foreigners to a U.S. drama about the back-room dealings and minutiae of 19th-century Washington politics spoke to his prowess. "Lincoln" grossed $93 million in foreign markets.

Forbes said that 47 percent of people surveyed rated Spielberg as influential.

"A celebrity's 'Influential' score represents how that person is perceived as influencing the public, their peers, or both," Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research, which conducted the study for Forbes, told the magazine.

Winfrey, 59, who topped the list with 49 percent last year, slipped to 45 percent this year, which Forbes said could be due to her retreat from the spotlight while running her cable television network OWN.

Film director and "Star Wars" creator George Lucas placed third despite working little in the public eye in recent years. He sold his Lucasfilm company to Walt Disney Co for $4.05 billion in October 2012.

Directors Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese placed fourth and fifth on the list respectively.

Other high-ranking celebrities in the top 10 of the list included television physician Mehmet Oz, ABC TV journalist Barbara Walters and U2 singer and activist Bono.

E-Poll Market Research ranked more than 6,600 celebrities on 46 personality attributes.

Forbes did not say how many people participated in the survey.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Jonathan Oatis)

'Grown Ups 2' leads Razzie nominations for worst movies

The Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups 2" dominated the Razzie Awards on Wednesday with eight nominations, including worst picture and actor in the annual mock awards handed out for cinematic ignobility.

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Will Smith's "After Earth," a futuristic post-apocalyptic tale of a father and his son, was not far behind with six nods for the anti-Oscars that were created as an antidote to Hollywood's annual awards season.

The Razzie winners will be announced on March 1, the eve of the Academy Awards, Hollywood's biggest awards fest.

Tyler Perry's comedy "A Madea Christmas" also earned six nominations for the Golden Raspberry statuette, along with "Movie 43," a series of interconnected short films about a washed-up producer.

The four films will be vying for the worst picture award along with big-budget underperformer "The Lone Ranger," which garnered five nods, including worst actor for Johnny Depp.

"The list includes several 'repeat offenders,' returning for more pie-in-the face/light-hearted joshing from the only folks whose statuette no one wants to win," organizers said in a statement.

Sandler, a previous Razzie winner, is back again in the worst actor category, which also includes Ashton Kutcher for the Steve Jobs biopic "Jobs" and Sylvester Stallone, nominated for three films "Bullet to the Head," "Escape Plan" and "Grudge Match."

Academy Award winner Halle Berry landed a worst actress nomination for two films, the thriller "The Call" and "Movie 43." She will be competing against double Oscar nominee Naomi Watts, who was nominated for the biopic "Diana" and "Movie 43."

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2," the final film in the popular vampire series won seven Razzies last year, including worst movie and worst performances.

The winners of the awards are chosen by 750 members of the Golden Raspberry Foundation and votes from 62,000 users of the film review website RottenTomatoes.com.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Rosalind Russell)

'Frozen' soundtrack ices Beyonce again on Billboard album chart

The soundtrack to the Walt Disney Co. animated film "Frozen" topped the weekly Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday for the second consecutive week, again holding off Beyonce.

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"Frozen" sold 86,000 copies last week, down from 165,000 the previous week, edging R&B singer Beyonce's self-titled album, which sold 79,000 copies last week, according to figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan.

Billboard said "Frozen" is the first soundtrack to claim the top spot for consecutive weeks since "Dreamgirls" in 2007.

The soundtrack has been helped by the film's box office popularity, Billboard said, citing sources. The film has grossed $319 million at the domestic box office since its November release.

Rapper Kid Ink's "My Own Lane" was the lone debut album to enter the top 10 this week, placing at No. 3 with 50,000 in sales.

Rapper Eminem dropped a spot to fourth as 36,000 copies of his "Marshall Mathers LP2" were sold last week, while New Zealand teen singer-songwriter Lorde's "Pure Heroine" held at No. 5 with 33,000 in sales.

Pop singer Katy Perry's song featuring rapper Juicy J, "Dark Horse," topped the digital songs chart with 243,000 downloads. Last week's top download, "Timber," by rapper Pitbull with pop singer Ke$ha, fell to No. 2, with 227,000 downloads.

Album sales last week totaled 4.3 million, a decline of 21 percent compared to last week and down 17 percent compared to the same week last year, Billboard said.

Digital song sales totaled 25.6 million, down 16 percent from last week and down 11 percent from the same week last year.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Leslie Adler)

Bollywood's top film awards to be presented in Florida

The 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards, the Oscars of Bollywood's yearly $7.8 billion industry, will be presented in the United States for the first time this year, organizers of the event said on Wednesday.

Bollywood's biggest stars are expected to attend the weekend event in Tampa Bay, Florida, from April 24-26 when the top prizes will be handed out. Indian actor Shahrukh Khan will headline the show.

Andre Timmins, director of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) and Wizcraft International Entertainment, said producing the show in the United States was a natural fit.

"For Indian cinema and Bollywood today, while we produce 1,300 films a year and sell 3.6 billion tickets, the important thing for us is that after India, America is the biggest second market for our Indian films," he said in an interview.

"We have always wanted to come here."

Previous IIFA awards have been held in Canada, Singapore, Dubai and Britain. "Barfi," a romantic comedy, won the top honors at last year's awards, when Bollywood celebrated its centenary in the Chinese gambling haven of Macau.

Indian heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor took home the best actor award for "Barfi," which also won best film, and Vidya Balan nabbed the best actress prize for her role in the thriller "Kahaani."

Nominees for the 15th edition of IIFA will be announced closer to the event.

India, the second-most populous nation, is the world's biggest film producer. About 23 million people watch a Bollywood film each day, according to Timmins.

"A lot of Indian films are being shot in America. In the last 10 years there are more than 52 movies that have been shot here and close to about $150 million has been spent," said Timmins.

The Tampa event could generate $30 million, he added, and it is good for tourism from India.

In addition to the United States, Bollywood films are popular in Britain and the Middle East and have growing audiences in China, Russia and Germany.

Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who will be performing at the awards show, said the boisterous, catchy songs, vigorous dance numbers and feel-good themes of Indian films reflect the country's culture.

"Music and dancing and colors and emotions, it just makes you feel passionate and alive and that's what the magic of the movies is," she told a press conference.

Chopra, who starred in "Barfi," said the awards are special because they go to every country that has a huge number of fans following Indian films, and America is one of them.

"America has a huge, huge, huge fan base for Indian movies," she said. "I hope we do a lot more IIFAs in America because it is our way of going to the fans. They don't have to come to us."

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney in New York; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Lisa Shumaker)

Michael Jackson's estate, Lloyd's of London settle insurance dispute

The insurers of Michael Jackson's ill-fated "This Is It" London comeback concerts on Wednesday have settled out of court with the late King of Pop's estate over a $17.5 million policy, the attorney for Jackson's estate said.

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The settlement caps three years of litigation between underwriter Lloyd's of London Ltd and Jackson's estate over the insurance policy. The case was scheduled to go to trial next month.

"The estate and Lloyd's of London are glad this matter got resolved," Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman said in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The insurer had previously asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey to nullify the policy, saying they were never told that Jackson was taking powerful drugs.

Jackson died in 2009 in Los Angeles from an overdose of surgical anesthetic propofol while prepping for his series comeback concerts.

The insurance policy was taken out to cover the cancellation or postponement of the London concerts in the case of the death, accident or illness of Jackson.

The possibility of the case heading to trial could have brought testimony again about the private life and final days of the "Thriller" singer months after it was put on display in a wrongful death suit filed by Jackson's family against the concerts' promoter, AEG Live.

AEG Live, which a Los Angeles jury found not liable in Jackson's death, was also initially named in the Lloyd's of London lawsuit, but the promoter dropped its claim in 2012 after leaked emails showed company executives were concerned about the singer's stability ahead of the performances.

The promoter, a division of privately held Anschutz Entertainment Group, said at the time that it was reimbursed by Jackson's estate for its concert-related losses.

Lloyd's of London claimed in the suit that AEG Live or Jackson or his company knew but did not disclose that the singer was taking propofol, which is usually restricted to use in hospitals.

Witnesses had testified in the trial between AEG Live and Jackson's family that Jackson had the drug administered to him so he could sleep.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Music takes on different guises at Sundance Film Festival

Since the early days of film, music has gone hand in hand with movies, but a new crop of filmmakers is using music to explore existential themes of humanity that will be showcased at the annual Sundance Film Festival.

"Whiplash," a contender in the U.S. dramatic competition, will kick off Sundance on Thursday and is the first of numerous films that use music as a tool to explore human identity at the festival, held in the Utah ski resort of Park City.

The film, directed by Damien Chazelle, stars rising star Miles Teller as a drummer who enters music school and comes face to face with a teacher who challenges him to pursue perfection, pushing him to the limit.

"It is such a singular film," Trevor Groth, Sundance's director of programming, told Reuters. "It really is one of the potential breakouts of the festival because it's so unique."

"Whiplash" will compete against "Low Down," a coming-of-age tale following a young girl growing up with a troubled musician father, and "Song One," in which a young woman seeks out a musician to help her younger brother come out of a coma.

"I was really fascinated by the idea of music's connective power, and how it can connect people in unpredictable ways without them even knowing it," Kate Barker-Frayland, the director of "Song One," said.

The romantic drama, starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn, brings together two people both at low points in their lives. Barker-Frayland said she wanted to cast their story against the backdrop of Brooklyn's vibrant music scene.

"I wanted to shoot all of the performances live and record the music live to really capture what it's like to go watch a show at all these different places. Music is such an emotional thing and any song has some emotional content," she said.

MUSIC IN DIFFERENT GUISES

Now in its 30th year, Sundance is the top independent film gathering in the United States and has helped launch the careers of many up-and-coming filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell.

The festival, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, is held in the snow-covered streets of Park City from January 16-26.

Sundance has also ushered some strong music films into the awards race in recent years, with 2012's "Searching for Sugar Man" winning the best documentary feature Oscar the following year, and 2013's "20 Feet from Stardom," which is on this year's Oscar shortlist.

This year, music spans all categories at Sundance, including competition, premieres and spotlight films, and takes many different guises, such as a musical, a coping mechanism and a tool for healing.

In "God Help the Girl," a contender in the world cinema dramatic category, Scottish musician Stuart Murdoch, from indie-pop band Belle & Sebastian, explores a coming-of-age tale with a musical. In the spotlight category, "Only Lovers Left Alive," starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, follows a dejected musician who finds solace in his lover as his world collapses.

"I'm curious as to how music is of such interest to our filmmakers," said John Cooper, director of the film festival. "It could be tied to their passions being very similar, but each film is so unique in the approach that they've taken, it's almost as if there's no similarities except for the music."

"Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," a contender in the U.S. documentary competition, explores the healing power of music as one man crusades to have music in nursing homes to help those with Alzheimer's disease.

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The festival's closing night film, "Rudderless," directed by actor William H. Macy, sees a father cope with the grief of losing his son by forming a rock and roll band to perform his late son's original music.

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"It's definitely going to be a celebration of music at the festival," said Cooper.

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(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Leslie Adler)

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