Blog Posts by Daniel Gross

  • The magic is back: Harry Potter play hits London stage

    Harry Potter fans were buzzing with excitement Saturday as "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", a stage play that imagines the fictional boy wizard as a grown-up father of three, opened in London.

    After nearly eight weeks of well-received preview performances, London's Palace Theatre hosted the opening gala as the general public strapped themselves in for a new adventure in the saga that has captivated millions around the globe.

    Arriving for the opening gala, creator J.K. Rowling told the Press Association she was "so happy" that fans had heeded her pleas to keep the plot a secret, and said she hoped the play would one day appear on Broadway.

    Set 19 years after the events of Rowling's seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", the play sees a grown-up Potter working at the Ministry of Magic.

    The official plot outline for the play reads: "While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a

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  • Harry Potter magic hit Asia on Sunday morning, as aspiring witches and wizards crowded into bookstores to get their hands on the first copies of a new play that imagines the hero as an adult.

    Launch parties for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" were held hours after the play's premiere in London, setting the stage for a return of the series that has captivated readers and movie audiences worldwide.

    Nearly 300 fans rushed through the doors of Kinokuniya bookstore on Singapore's Orchard Road at 7:01 am (2301 GMT Saturday) to become one of the first people in the world to see the new script.

    Student Samantha Chua, 24, who along with her boyfriend was first in line, said she had been waiting outside the fourth-floor bookstore since 5 am.

    "We were here so early that the mall wasn't even open yet so we had to come up through the cargo lifts," she told AFP, adding that it was "all worth it".

    "I grew up reading the books and I have a special place for them on my shelves but this will be my

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  • Gunmen locked in a lengthy stand-off with police in Armenia have released their last two hostages, an official said Sunday, after a fresh night of protests shook the capital Yerevan.

    "Two medics who were the remaining hostages left the seized building yesterday evening," said health ministry spokeswoman Anahit Haytayan.

    Armenia has been plunged into turmoil since a group of armed men seized a police compound in Yerevan on July 17, demanding the release of opposition figure Zhirair Sefilyan.

    The lengthy siege appeared far from over, with an AFP correspondent reporting explosions from the compound.

    The gunmen, who seized a cache of weapons and killed a police officer, initially held four doctors hostage but have gradually freed them.

    Authorities on Saturday warned they have the right to use force against the group, which calls itself Sasna Tsrer, but have not yet begun to storm the building.

    The hostage crisis has sparked massive protests, with police brutally dispersing thousands

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  • Tokyo votes to elect new governor after scandals

    Tokyo residents voted Sunday for a new governor tasked with preparing for the problem-plagued 2020 Olympics, after financial scandals forced the last two leaders of the sprawling metropolis to quit.

    The Japanese capital's troubled preparations for the summer Olympics, especially the soaring costs, will be the major challenge facing the winner.

    Euphoria in 2013 at securing the right to host sport's marquee event has given way to frustration over gaffes and scandals.

    A record 21 candidates are vying to lead the metropolis with a total population of 13.6 million and an economy the size of Indonesia's.

    Local media surveys, however, suggest it is a three-way race between former defence minister Yuriko Koike, former governor of the northeastern prefecture of Iwate Hiroya Masuda and veteran TV journalist Shuntaro Torigoe.

    As of 3 pm (0600 GMT) more than 27 percent had voted compared to some 20 percent at the same time in the previous election.

    Vote-counting begins immediately after polls

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  • Atletico Madrid crash to defeat in Australia

    Spanish giants Atletico Madrid crashed to a 1-0 loss to A-League side Melbourne Victory on their Australian pre-season tour in Geelong on Sunday.

    The European Champions League runners-up fell behind to a goal against the run of play shortly before half-time and were kept scoreless in the second half.

    Defender Nick Ansell powerfully headed home off a free-kick from Tunisian Fahid Ben Khalfallah to rock Atletico in the 44th minute.

    While manager Diego Simeone rung the changes in the second half his side could not find a way through the determined Victory defence.

    Despite the defeat, he was pleased with the benefits of the trip to Australia.

    "I'm very happy. These matches are very helpful for the guys who have played," said Simeone, who selected seven players from his club's academy in the Atletico starting lineup.

    "I take from this many positive things. The youths are learning and this is the way to improve.

    "Melbourne Victory is a well-worked team, strong and compact."

    It has been a

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  • Austin police report active shooter situation, warn of 'multiple victims'

    The Austin Police Department warned on Twitter of an active shooter in the Texas capital, with what the tweet said was "multiple victims."

    Meanwhile, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services tweeted a warning that people to avoid the "downtown area of 6th street" due to multiple incidents involving multiple people with gunshot wounds.

    This is a breaking news story. Please check back for more details.

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  • At least 4 dead in attack on Somali police building

    At least four people were killed on Sunday when two cars packed with explosives were rammed into a police building in the centre of the Somali capital Mogadishu, officials said.

    "The information we are getting indicates at least four people died and 12 others were wounded but we still don't have more details," security official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.

    He said "terrorist elements" had rammed two cars packed full of explosives into the headquarters of the police's criminal investigations department in the city centre.

    An AFP correspondent heard an exchange of gunfire after the explosions, which took place near a busy junction in the city.

    "One of the cars hit the corner of the building and the other hit near the gate. There was smoke and dust and everything was in a mess," said witness Abukar Osman.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    The blasts came just days after at least 13 people were killed in twin bombings near Mogadishu airport that happened close to UN and

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  • Tunisia is looking to form a new government after lawmakers fired the prime minister in the latest skirmish reflecting the struggle for political stability and economic growth in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

    A total of 118 of 217 lawmakers voted late Saturday in favor of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Habib Essid. The vote sets the stage for a new national unity government sought by President Beji Caid Essebsi for weeks. Essid becomes a caretaker leader with a new prime minister named within 10 days and a government seated a month after that, according to the country’s constitution.

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    Essid’s government didn’t follow through on pledges to revive the economy, Ibrahim Nasfi, a lawmaker from the Nidaa Tounes party, said in an interview after the vote.

    While Tunisia has largely avoided the political instability and violence that ravaged Arab Spring nations such as Libya and Egypt, the

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  • Aramex PJSC advanced for an eleventh day as stock markets across the Gulf languished amid low trading volumes.

    The Dubai-based logistics company extended its longest rising streak since it began trading more than a decade ago, rising 2.8 percent as of 11:43 a.m. local time to the highest level since 2006. Every major equity index across the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council declined as the number of shares exchanged for most gauges lingered below their 20-day averages.

    Aramex’s founder, Fadi Ghandour, sold his holdings in Levant Logistics, which owns 9.9 percent of the logistics company, to Boson Ventures, according to a statement to the Dubai bourse on Sunday. The deal comes days after Jaona Investment LLC said it bought a stake in Aramex at a premium. The company is one of only two stocks on Dubai’s DFM General Index to rise on Sunday, as the summer lull continues to hamper trading volumes across the region.

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  • Austin Police Warn of Active Shooting Incident Downtown

    Austin, Texas (AP) -- Officials with the Austin Police Department say there is an active shooting incident downtown and there are multiple victims.

    Postings on Austin police's verified Facebook and Twitter page just before 3 a.m. announced the incident and warned people to stay away from downtown.

    No additional information was immediately available.

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