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CBS taps media industry veteran Parsons as interim chairman

CBS says it has named media industry veteran Richard Parsons as interim chairman of the board as the company moves to reshape itself following the ouster of longtime chief Les Moonves.

Parsons is the former chairman of Time Warner and Citicorp. He was added to the board of CBS earlier this month along with five others as the company pursues an independent investigation into Moonves.

Moonves resigned just after six women joined others who had previously accused the long-time television executive with sexual misconduct.

CBS also said Tuesday that two other board members were stepping down. Bruce Gordon and William Cohen had been on the company's board since it became a standalone public company in 2006.

Friends and fellow writers pay tribute at Roth memorial

Philip Roth had it all planned.

"Many years ago, I received in the mail a letter in which he outlined the instructions for his memorial service," his close friend Joel Conarroe told a gathering of hundreds Tuesday during a tribute at the midtown Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library. The author of "American Pastoral," ''Portnoy's Complaint" and other celebrated novels was as precise about his death, Conarroe explained, as he had been about his life and work.

Attendees included Robert Caro, Salman Rushdie, Mia Farrow and Don DeLillo and speakers ranged from Conarroe, president emeritus of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, to fellow authors such as Edna O'Brien, Norman Manea and Judith Thurman. The setting, the library's Celeste Bartos Forum and its glass domed ceiling, was requested by Roth. So were the speakers, even though the list changed over time as such previous choices as Saul Bellow and William Styron passed away. Roth also picked out the music, Gabriel Faure's "Elegie in C Minor, op. 24, which ended the nearly 2 ½-hour ceremony.

Roth died in May. He was 85.

According to Conarroe, Roth wanted as much laughter as tears, and guests shared memories of his wit and of the surprising tenderness for a man so direct and unsparing in his work. Thurman spoke of driving around Connecticut with Roth as he searched for a proper burial spot, what he called "A tomb with a view." New Yorker staff writer Claudia Roth Pierpont noted that he referred to his Manhattan neighborhood, where other authors lived nearby, as "Writers' Block." Roth never had children, but friends remembered his rapport and sense of play with their kids, whether collaborating through email on stories with them or sitting on the floor of his darkened studio and shining a light on the ceiling to make the room seem like a planetarium.

Roth despised sentimentality nearly as much he hated death, but he apparently had exceptions. Bernard Avishai, a Dartmouth College professor who wrote a book about "Portnoy's Complaint," remembered Roth's improbable joy after adopting two kittens. "I am really hypnotized," he said of them. But his feelings changed and his mood was darker the next time Avishai spoke with him.

"I had to return my dear two kittens," Roth told him. "I fear I have become dependent."

Roth often struggled with depression and physical ailments but his friends described a contented man over the last few years, after he shocked the literary world by revealing that his 2010 novel "Nemesis" would be his last book. Retirement did not leave him helpless, but liberated. He read, swam, walked, socialized and referred to his post-publication years as a welcome return to the rebellious but loving son he had been when growing up in Newark, New Jersey. "I am home," he liked to tell friends. "I won."

His health rapidly failed in 2018 and he spent his final weeks in the hospital, a farewell poignant and comical. Various ex-girlfriends looked in on him. Manea, just three years younger than Roth, recalled that he and his friend competed over who had more stent procedures. Pierpont remembered Roth looking around his hospital room and expressing relief that he didn't have to write about it. Even the nearness of death, what the longtime atheist called "the enemy," did not throw him.

"I have been to see the great enemy and walked around him and talked to him," he told the writer Ben Taylor. "And he is not to be feared. I promise."

Bill overhauling songwriter royalties heads to Trump's desk

Legislation to substantially overhaul the way music is licensed and songwriters compensated for songs online is being sent to the president's desk for his signature.

Congress cleared the bill Tuesday, giving final passage to a rare bipartisan accord between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. It enjoyed wide support in both the House and Senate, and within the music industry.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.

The Orrin B. Hatch Music Modernization Act, named after the retiring Utah senator, who is also a musician, creates a new independent entity that will license songs to companies that play music online.

The nonprofit collective will then pay songwriters, including those who wrote pre-1970s classics before music copyrights protected their work.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander championed the bill.

The Latest: Cosby accusers say he got what he deserved

The Latest on Bill Cosby's sentencing hearing (all times local):

6:35 p.m.

Bill Cosby's accusers say the comedian got what he deserved when a judge sentenced him to prison for sexual assault.

Some of the women who allege Cosby drugged and raped them spoke out Tuesday after he was sentenced to three to 10 years behind bars.

Accuser Victoria Valentino says "this is a great day for women and a great day for rape survivors."

Another accuser, Lili Bernard, says she hopes the sentence will "send a message to other powerful perpetrators that they will be caught and punished."

Cosby was convicted in April of drugging and molesting a Temple University women's basketball administrator. The case helped prompt dozens of other accusers to come forward with similar allegations.

Sunni Welles, who says Cosby drugged and raped her in 1965, called Cosby "an unforgivable, disgusting, sexual deviant."

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6:15 p.m.

Bill Cosby will spend his first night behind bars at a new state prison in suburban Philadelphia.

Cosby spent a few hours at the county jail Tuesday before heading to SCI Phoenix, a 3,830-bed lockup that opened two months ago. Corrections officials at Phoenix will assess Cosby's needs to determine where he'll serve the bulk of his state prison sentence.

Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

District Attorney Kevin Steele says Cosby could wind up at SCI Laurel Highlands, a prison for lower-risk inmates on the other side of the state, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Pittsburgh.

SCI Laurel Highlands serves inmates with special needs and has separate housing units for its geriatric inmates. The 81-year-old is legally blind.

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4:30 p.m.

Bill Cosby's wife is claiming a prosecutor used "falsified evidence" to win a conviction against him.

Camille Cosby released a statement after her husband was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. She claims District Attorney Kevin Steele, at trial, presented doctored audio of a recorded phone conversation between Cosby and the accuser's mother. She says the defense team plans to raise the issue on appeal.

Steele rejected the allegation, saying: "It that's what they've got, it's beyond a hail Mary."

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, meanwhile, says the 81-year-old comedian is "doing great" after learning his sentence.

Wyatt says Cosby "knows that these are lies," adding: "You know what this country has done to black men for centuries."

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4:15 p.m.

A prosecutor says Bill Cosby has been "unmasked" as a predator now that he's been convicted and sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the 81-year-old used his fame and fortune to "hide his true self and hide his crimes," intimidating his victims into keeping them silent for decades.

But the prosecutor said "justice was served" after a judge sentenced Cosby on Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison.

Chief accuser Andrea Constand stood next to Steele at a news conference but did not address the media.

Cosby was convicted in April of knocking Constand out with pills and molesting her at his suburban Philadelphia home. She's among about 60 women who came forward to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct.

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3:35 p.m.

Bill Cosby will spend the first few days of his prison sentence at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility outside Philadelphia.

Cosby left the suburban Philadelphia courthouse in a dark SUV after a judge sentenced the 81-year-old to three to 10 years in state prison for sexual assault.

A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County district attorney's office says Cosby will be held at the county jail for at least the next few days. From there, he'll be taken to SCI Phoenix, a new state prison outside Philadelphia, where staff will assess his physical, medical and security needs.

Cosby could end up in a long-term medical care unit.

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct during his 50-year career in entertainment. The 2004 assault on Andrea Constand was the only one to lead to criminal charges.

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2:55 p.m.

Bill Cosby has left a Pennsylvania courtroom in handcuffs to begin serving a three-to-10 year prison sentence for sexual assault.

Defense lawyers tried to keep the 81-year-old out of prison while he appeals his conviction, saying he's frail and legally blind. Judge Steven O'Neill refused their plea for Cosby to remain on house arrest, ruling Tuesday that Cosby will be locked up immediately.

O'Neill says Cosby could "quite possibly be a danger to the community."

Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand.

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct during his 50-year career in entertainment. The 2004 assault on Constand was the only one to lead to criminal charges. 

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2:25 p.m.

A judge has denied Bill Cosby that he's not entitled to bail while the 81-year-old comedian appeals his sexual assault conviction.

Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced Cosby on Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison. His lawyers are arguing that Cosby should remain on home confinement pending appeals. O'Neill says Cosby had no right to it.

The judge said it's "time for justice" as he sentenced Cosby to state prison and fined him $25,000. The former "Cosby Show" star was convicted in April of drugging and molesting Temple University women's basketball administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.

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2 p.m.

Bill Cosby has been sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home.

Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced Cosby on Tuesday, five months after his conviction in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. The defense asked for house arrest.

The 81-year-old comedian did not make a statement in court. Cosby sat back in his chair, his head on the headrest, as the sentence was read.

The entertainer once known as "America's Dad" was convicted in April of sexually assaulting Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.

Constand is one of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.

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12:20 p.m.

The judge in the Bill Cosby case has gone to his chambers to weigh the comedian's punishment for a 2004 sexual assault.

Judge Steven O'Neill says he'll announce the sentence in court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Prosecutors are asking for five to 10 years in prison. The defense wants house arrest, but District Attorney Kevin Steele says the sentencing rules don't allow it.

A jury convicted Cosby of drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home. Cosby was convicted after the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

The 81-year-old TV star declined to make a statement at his two-day sentencing hearing. The woman he attacked, Andrea Constand, says she's had to cope with years of pain, anxiety and self-doubt.

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11:35 a.m.

A judge has ruled that Bill Cosby is a "sexually violent predator."

The classification means that Cosby must undergo lifetime counseling and report quarterly to authorities. His name will appear on a sex-offender registry sent to neighbors, schools and victims.

Judge Steven O'Neill made the decision Tuesday as he prepares to sentence the 81-year-old comedian for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Prosecutors are asking for five to 10 years in prison. The defense wants Cosby sent home on house arrest.

Cosby's lawyers had fought the "sexually violent predator" designation, arguing that Pennsylvania's sex-offender law remains unconstitutional despite several revisions.

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11:15 a.m.

Andrea Constand says she's had to cope with years of unrelenting pain, anxiety and self-doubt after Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home in 2004.

Constand writes in a victim-impact statement released Tuesday that Cosby's 2004 attack on her was just "the tip of the iceberg" for the suffering that followed.

Constand says her training as a professional basketball player had led her to think she could handle anything, but "life as I knew it" ended on the night that Cosby knocked her out with pills and violated her.

She says the Cosby team's subsequent attacks on her character left her with "insurmountable stress and anxiety."

Constand says she now lives alone with her two dogs, "stuck in a holding pattern" as a middle-aged woman because she has trouble trusting people.

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10:55 a.m.

A defense psychologist says the chances that Bill Cosby will commit another sex offense are "extraordinarily low" because he's old, legally blind and needs help getting around.

Psychologist Timothy Foley testified Tuesday at the 81-year-old comedian's sentencing hearing. A judge must decide whether to classify Cosby as a "sexually violent predator," which would make him subject to mandatory lifetime counseling and community notification. The defense is fighting the designation.

Foley met with Cosby in July to conduct a risk assessment. He says the comedian's lawyers wouldn't let him discuss certain matters, including the sexual assault that led to his conviction or his admission that he gave quaaludes to women before sex. Prosecutors questioned whether Foley got a complete picture of Cosby's alleged deviance.

The judge is expected to sentence Cosby later Tuesday.

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8:30 a.m.

Bill Cosby doesn't plan to make a statement in court before he's sentenced for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman.

Cosby returned to a suburban Philadelphia courthouse Tuesday to learn his fate for the 2004 attack. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt says the 81-year-old comedian plans to remain silent in court. Cosby didn't testify at either of his two trials.

Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. His attorney wants the judge to send Cosby home on house arrest, saying he's too old and frail for prison.

The only defense witness expected to testify Tuesday is a psychologist who believes Cosby is no longer a danger, given his age, and should not be branded a "sexually violent predator."

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1:35 a.m.

Bill Cosby faces a good chance of being sent to prison Tuesday when a judge is expected to sentence the TV star who was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman.

The once-beloved actor and comedian, dubbed "America's Dad" for his role on the "Cosby Show," faces anything from probation to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors near Philadelphia want a judge to sentence the 81-year-old to five to 10 years in prison. They say he has no remorse and is capable of reoffending.

The defense argues that he's old, frail and legally blind, and should be sent home on house arrest.

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For more coverage, visit: https://apnews.com/tag/BillCosby

Wildfire smoke costs famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival that attracts tourists from around the world said Tuesday that it lost $2 million this summer because wildfire smoke forced it to cancel more than two dozen outdoor performances.

The organization will have an indoor venue next season for smoky days as an alternate to its award-winning outdoor theater and will shift its outdoor season back a week to avoid the worst of the wildfire season, said Julie Cortez, the festival's spokeswoman.

The event in Ashland, Oregon, had to cancel 26 outdoor performances starting in July and running through earlier this month, she said. That's more canceled shows than in all five previous seasons combined, Cortez said.

"It's impacting everyone in our region. Pretty much every business or organization in this area has sagged a bit this summer," she said.

It comes as climate change extends the wildfire season and makes blazes bigger and more destructive, threatening to make air quality worse in urban areas.

The festival has always had to contend with wildfires, but this season was "above and beyond" any other, Cortez said, with smoke coming in from massive fires in Northern California, southern Oregon and sometimes even Washington state. Ashland is just across the state line from California.

The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest professional nonprofit theaters in the nation. It prides itself on offering outdoor showings of Shakespeare's plays performed in a venue similar to what his contemporary audiences would have experienced, but it also offers other types of theater in indoor performance halls.

Next season, the festival plans to open an alternate indoor venue from July 30 to Sept. 8 — peak wildfire season. The organization will only sell in advance the number of tickets it can honor in the indoor location, Cortez said.

If the weather looks promising, the rest of the tickets for the 1,200-seat outdoor theater will go on sale shortly before the show so no one is turned away, she said.

The festival is still searching for an indoor venue that will work and plans to add matinees in the indoor space.

This year, a local high school theater provided 400 seats so outdoor shows that were canceled could accommodate one-third of ticketholders, she said.

The rest could exchange tickets for another date, get a refund or "donate" their ticket cost to the festival, Cortez said.

Not included in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's calculations is how much revenue was lost from would-be tourists who simply stayed away, given the smoky conditions.

The nonprofit is still calculating that amount and has launched a fundraising drive.

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Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus .

'America's Got Talent' finale gives boost to NBC

"America's Got Talent" ended its summer run last week with the most-watched entertainment programs on television since May, although its popularity dipped this summer.

Just under 13 million people watched the final two episodes of the NBC competition last week, where magician Shin Lim was chosen as the winner. While those were bigger audiences than any entertainment show since the last original episode of "The Big Bang Theory," Wednesday's finale was down 18 percent from the 2017 season finale, the Nielsen company said.

Last season was an anomaly for the talent show, which had its highest ratings ever during its 12th season. Young ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer was a popular winner in 2017. Overall, viewership for the main Tuesday edition of the show was down 11 percent from last year, Nielsen said.

Still, "America's Got Talent" remains by far the most popular television series of the summer, and NBC is planning a midseason edition this year for the first time.

That series, along with a Sunday night football matchup, led NBC to a dominant week in the television ratings, nearly doubling its closest rival in audience size.

NBC averaged 8.2 million viewers for the week. CBS was second with 4.2 million, Fox had 4 million, ABC had 2.7 million, Univision has 1.33 million, Telemundo had 1.32 million, ION Television had 1.2 million and the CW had 650,000.

Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.71 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 2.55 million, MSNBC had 1.88 million, HGTV had 1.31 million and USA had 1.3 million.

ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.2 million viewers, and scored its biggest season advantage over NBC in 22 years. Last week the "NBC Nightly News" averaged 7.6 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.6 million.

For the week of Sept. 17-23, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: New England at Detroit, NBC, 19.46 million; "NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 13 million; "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 12.99 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 12.88 million; NFL Football: Seattle at Chicago, ESPN, 11.89 million; "The OT," Fox, 11.55 million; "Emmy Awards," NBC, 10.22 million; "911," Fox, 9.83 million; "Football Night in America," NBC, 9.13 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 8.99 million.

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ABC and ESPN are owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

Starry Saint Laurent show in Paris sees models walk on water

With a powerful front row of stars, Saint Laurent headlined the second day of Paris Fashion Week in an eclectic French twist on American styles that featured models walking on water.

Tuesday's spring-summer collections also showcased emerging talents: from 26-year-old designer Marine Serre to the Tokyo-based house Anrealage.

Here are some highlights:

YSL MODELS WALK ON WATER

Stars such as Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Matt Dillon and Salma Hayek huddled together in front of 10 giant white palm trees as the Eiffel Tower sparkled at the stroke of 8 p.m.

Below the trees was a giant expanse of water.

Models in luxury snake boots and sparkling disco heels suddenly appeared and — forgoing the dry catwalk strip — darted sideward to walk straight across the water.

It triggered gasps from spectators, including a tardy Lindsay Lohan.

But behold, the models didn't sink. Instead, they merely sloshed and splashed.

Designer Anthony Vaccarello was applauded for an impressive biblical-style trompe l'oeil feature for the 15-minute show that created the illusion of a sea despite the water measuring only 2 centimeters (less than an inch) in depth.

One American fashion editor duly commented that designers are "ruining a lot of perfectly good shoes with these water effects this season."

SAINT LAURENT'S ECLECTICISM

The palm trees, the water and structured swimsuits seemed to point to Malibu or Saint Tropez.

Python boots, silver open-shirts, leather chap-like shorts and hats with chin toggles seemed to lead the eye to the U.S. Midwest.

Then, menswear tuxedos, boyish silhouettes, glam rock boots and silk multicolored jabot collars evoked the excesses of Studio 54 in its 1970s heyday when Yves Saint Laurent was a guest.

This was what Vaccarello described as a collection with "different personalities."

"It's a silhouette created by a variety of pieces, inspired by different eras and timeless icons. Eclecticism is freedom," Vaccarello said.

But like the water that splashed in every direction on the runway, this display splashed around its references and was ultimately hard to pin down.

The more eye-catching designs— like a plunging V-neck blue and red minidress — though nothing new, are likely to continue the it-brand's buoyant sales.

MARINE SERRE

The new darling wunderkind of Paris Fashion Week, Marine Serre presented her second ready-to-wear show on Tuesday.

It's been a meteoric rise since the French designer from Correze at the age of 25 won the coveted LVMH fashion award last year — presented to her by Rihanna.

The designer has said her style is "combining and absorbing codes from radically different worlds" while ignoring traditional "boundaries between ready-to-wear, couture, tailoring and sportswear."

Mixing up all of this, the crisp outdoor spring show was predictably fashion-forward as prints met sportswear.

Skintight cycling-style silhouettes and sheeny elastic materials gave this collection an active feel that ran throughout.

One model in shades and white sneakers, who clearly had to juggle looking fabulous and being a mother, had a real-life child strapped to her chest — held in place by a buckle.

There were some highly creative moments in the silhouette, as seen in surreally large tubular sleeves.

But there was also a lot of fun zaniness.

Astronaut uniforms followed fanny packs, sheer anoraks, sheath dresses with colorful Latin flounces and a spherical clutch bag that looked like a bomb.

ECOLOGY ESCAPES PARIS FASHION

The art of the chic invite is still very much a staple of Paris fashion.

Houses compete to produce the most eye-catching, inventive and flamboyant show invitations delivered often by gas-guzzling courier to each guest's personal or professional address with little thought to ecology. (Other "greener" global fashion weeks now prefer to send their invitations via e(co)mail.)

The little works of art sometimes provide a hint as to what the collection has in store. Often, they are just plain wacky.

Gucci's "invite" was an ode to the spring and was stapled on a plastic bag full of garden bulbs and seeds — such as tulip and hyacinth that were ready for planting in a field. It came with a disclaimer: "Gucci is not professionally engaged in the market of bulbs."

Jacquemus' invite was a giant hessian tote bag with thick rope-like straps.

And Courreges' was a trendy white nylon bag scrunched into a camping-style toggle pouch with the show information inside.

ANREALAGE'S JEWELS

Women seen as crystalline forms.

That was the vision used by designer Kunihiko Morinaga to produce a highly original collection Tuesday.

Organic shapes — sometimes resembling glistening fish scales, underground crystals or regal jewels — were the leitmotif on models that looked as if they had been mined from the earth.

Women wore bejeweled head cages — that evoked both Asia's imperial past and some sort of futuristic fembot. One sported a crisscross over the face, and evoked Princess Amidala from Star Wars.

Though the silhouettes seemed secondary to the embellishments, they were notable.

Beautiful skirt suit hybrids, geometric shoulders and peplums followed a silvery fishlike shawl top that was gathered at the midriff.

The fashion-forward house of Tokyo-based Morinaga has built up a huge fan base in Japan for its intellectual designs and original use of techno-fabrics.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at www.twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

The incriminating statement by Cosby referred to by judge

The judge who sentenced Bill Cosby to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 cited the entertainer's own words as evidence he had committed a crime.

Judge Steven O'Neill was referring to a deposition of Cosby in a lawsuit brought in 2005 Andrea Constand, the woman he was later convicted of sexually assaulting.

Cosby made clear in that testimony that he had no verbal consent to engage in sexual contact with the woman, and without it, he was breaking the law, the judge said.

An excerpt of what he said under questioning from Constand's lawyer in that case:

Q: So, you're not telling us that you verbally asked her for permission?

A: I didn't say it verbally, I said. The action is my hand on her midriff, which is skin. I'm not lifting any clothing up. This is, I don't remember fully what it is, but it's there and I can feel. I got her skin and it's just above the hand and it's just above where you can go under the pants.

Q: Then what happens?

A: I don't hear her say anything. And I don't feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.

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For more coverage visit https://apnews.com/tag/BillCosby

Greek court convicts 2 over 'religious' museum oil attacks

A Greek court has given four-year suspended prison sentences to two Bulgarian women who smeared centuries-old artifacts in three Athens museums with frying oil for apparently religious reasons.

Defense lawyer Maria Constantopoulou said her clients said they believed they were ridding the world of evil spirits and purifying the artifacts — all Christian-era — by anointing them with oil.

She told The Associated Press that the one defendant clutched a Bible as she addressed the Athens court Tuesday and quoted extensively from the Scriptures to explain her acts.

Police arrested the two cleaning ladies, aged 51 and 48, this month in a museum after guards, on the alert after two recent, similar attacks in other museums, saw them smearing a display case.

Many of the damaged artifacts required extensive conservation.

In 'Free Solo,' a steeper challenge for Honnold than El Cap

The important thing to rock climber Alex Honnold is that the movie screen be big. IMAX, whatever. But big.

It's shortly before the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of "Free Solo," the documentary that chronicles Honnold's legendary, ropeless ascent up Yosemite's El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of sheer granite and possibly the world's most fabled rock face. Honnold has just come from free soloing — climbing without safety gear — a 69-story luxury apartment building in Jersey City, New Jersey.

From a hotel window he scans the Toronto skyline but doesn't see anything much appealing. "It has to be inspiring aesthetically," he says.

Honnold, 33, is widely acknowledged as the greatest free-solo climber in the world. And in a sport that demands absolute perfection from its strivers —death is the only alternative — Honnold's feat on El Cap is his masterpiece. An almost unfathomable climbing achievement, the four-hour climb is still spoken of in hushed reverence. The New York Times called it "one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, ever."

But whether scaling El Cap was Honnold's greatest challenge, though, is an open question. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's "Free Solo," in theaters Friday, not only chronicles Honnold's famed ascent, and the months of preparation and anguish leading up to it, but also an arguably steeper challenge for the 33-year-old Honnold: moving out of his van and maintaining a long-term relationship.

"Anybody, if you took two years of their life, you would see some growth, hopefully," Honnold says. "But it's easy to see growth when you're starting at zero."

After settling whether "Free Solo" would screen on IMAX (it wouldn't), Honnold was joined by Sanni McCandless, his girlfriend of several years. Just as Chin and Vasarhelyi, the filmmaking couple of the celebrated "Meru," were beginning their film three years ago, McCandless slipped Honnold her number at a book signing. The exceptionally dedicated but goofy and boyish Honnold (in the film, he sums up the fearsome specter of El Cap with the phase "I mean, dude") is at first almost comically inept at making room for someone else in his life.

"When we started he was online dating, or on-phone dating, on his book tour. And then he met her. We were not expecting that," says Vasarhelyi.

The two make an appealing and revealing match. McCandless, articulate and assertive, pushes back against the less mature, bluntly honest Honnold, long a bachelor adventurer. Vasarhelyi shakes her head. "It's painful at times," she says, smiling. "Extremely painful."

Case in point: When Honnold, shortly after meeting Sanni, is shown saying that she will come and go like previous girlfriends. Later, they buy a place in Las Vegas and are seen refrigerator shopping.

"How do you feel about that line, Sanni?" Honnold asks.

"How do YOU feel about that line?" she retorts.

"That's just one of many lines in the film I'm slightly horrified to hear back," says Honnold. "That's kind of the nature of two years of filming. They just have so much material of me saying terrible things."

What makes "Free Solo" so fascinating is how these developments influence Honnold just as he preparing to take his biggest risk as a climber. Just the slightest distractions can be potentially lethal for a free soloist, making both the onset of love and the presence of film cameras unpredictable factors in a zero-sum game.

"Soloing always come from some kind of particular mental space. And it has taken some effort to cultivate the right space for a relationship, the right space to still climb at a high level and just try to balance it," says Honnold.

The high stakes also transferred to the film crew. Chin, himself an expert climber, estimates that he and the team of veteran climbers spent more than 30 days rigging and shooting on El Cap. The danger is very real. Many renowned solo climbers have died; just in June, two experienced climbers, Jason Wells and Tim Klein, fell to their death while "simul-climbing" El Cap with ropes.

"You're a pro, but when you have that much exposure and you're moving that much equipment and you're filming on top of it and thinking about your friend, it's a tremendous amount of physical and mental exertion," says Chin. "The crew was tortured by the idea that maybe you'll be filming your friend's death."

Vasarhelyi says the tension was highest when Honnold made his first, aborted soloing attempt of El Cap despite a recent injury. She felt he wasn't prepared.

"But I don't think our role as filmmakers was to tell him not do it," she says. "And that's weird, right? Especially when there's a life on the line."

McCandless has also had to come to terms with Honnold's obsessive pursuits.

"I don't think I ever wished that he wouldn't do it. I wanted him to not want it, but I never wanted him to not to do it," she says. "Knowing that he does want it, you realize he's going to be so bummed if he never brings it to fruition."

"Free Solo" in some ways demystifies soloing which, to some can sound like lunacy. Honnold's preparation is extreme. He doesn't go until he's thoroughly mapped out every foot hold of a climb. Also worth noting: a brain scan revealed that Honnold barely registers fear.

"It's a crazy-seeming thing. I get that," he says. "I just think: Why does anybody seek out anything challenging? Humans do so many interesting and difficult things."

Honnold calls his El Cap solo the best climbing experience of his life. "Glorious," he says. For all their months of anxiety, witnessing the climb left the filmmakers mesmerized.

"I remember standing in the meadow being totally terrified, trying to get myself under control," says Vasarhelyi. "Then there was a certain moment where I was like: This is absolutely beautiful. It's exquisite."

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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