Kremlin: Putin won't meet Elton John in Moscow this month

MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin will not meet Elton John when he visits Russia this month because there is no appropriate time in the two men's schedules, the Kremlin said on Thursday, noting that the two men could still meet at a later date.Putin telephoned the British entertainer in September to say he would be ready to meet for a chat after Elton John requested a meeting to discuss his concerns about gay rights in Russia."We were in correspondence with him (Elton John) a couple of weeks ago, because there had been an agreement that, if their schedules allow, this meeting would take place. President Putin expressed readiness for this meeting. But this time, the meeting won't take place, unfortunately," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists. "Their schedules do not match up. But this does not mean that such a meeting won't take place next time." Elton John will be performing at a luxury Moscow shopping and entertainment center on May 30 as part of his world tour. (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Kristen Stewart 'at home' with film industry culture in France

CANNES, France Kristen Stewart, who stars in French director Olivier Assayas's independent film, "Personal Shopper", at the Cannes Film Festival, says she is more at home with France's cinematic culture than Hollywood's as the focus is less on making money.The Twilight star told Reuters on Wednesday that she likes the risk involved in making films with "a culture that's felt"."What is really obvious and apparent is the difference between why people make movies in France and why people make movies in the States," she told Reuters on Wednesday. "I like the fact that people aren't dying to make a bunch of money and win a popularity contest, they're actually just desirous of telling stories - so I feel at home here." Stewart became the first American actress to win a Cesar, France's Oscar equivalent, with a Best Supporting Actress award in 2015 for "Clouds of Sils Maria", also directed by Assayas. "I realized when I saw her, talked to her, listened to her that she had unique actress qualities," Assayas told Reuters. Stewart is no newcomer to independent cinema. She starred in independent movies before, in-between and after the Twilight series, between 2008 and 2012, including Jake Scott's "Welcome to the Rileys" and Walter Salles's "On The Road". "'Twilight' may have sort of distracted people from what I had been doing for a long time - but even within that series there were five Twilight films and in between each one of them I did an independent movie," she said.The 26-year-old said that she is looking forward to working with Assayas again."I feel like there is no way in hell that we're not going to explore another subject together I just don't know when that's going to be," she said. "This was lucky that it was in such a condensed period - he has other things to do and other stories to tell and I'll go do the same for a bit but hopefully we find each other again." Stewart also co-stars with Jesse Eisenberg in Woody Allen's out-of-competition film, "Cafe Society", at Cannes. (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Native Americans in Oklahoma join forces to help monarch butterflies

SHAWNEE, Okla. Seven Native American tribes in Oklahoma will provide habitat and food on their lands for monarch butterflies, whose numbers have plummeted in recent years due to troubles along their lengthy migration route.Tribal leaders said at a news conference on Tuesday in Shawnee, southeast of Oklahoma City, they will plant crucial vegetation for the butterflies, including milkweed and native nectar-producing plants, on their lands. "For the last several years, we have been raising bees and pollinators, so when his opportunity came along, it fit with what we were doing," Thalia Miller, director of the Chickasaw Nation Horticulture Department, told reporters.The tribes will work with the University of Kansas’ Monarch Watch program and the Euchee Butterfly Farm in Bixby, Oklahoma. The project is supported by a grant of about $250,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Monarch butterfly numbers have plummeted over the years from the expansion of farmland, sprawling housing developments and the clear-cutting of natural landscapes along their migration path, experts say.Monarchs lay eggs only on milkweed plants, which grow wild throughout the United States. But milkweed, on which butterfly larvae feed, can cause stomach problems for cattle that eat it, so ranchers and farmers destroy the plant, researchers say. The butterflies spend the winter in Mexico and then go through several generations as they fly north, through Oklahoma, on their long migration to Canada.While an estimated 1 billion monarchs migrated in 1996, only about 35 million made the trip in 2013, according to Marcus Kronforst, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago who has studied monarchs. Their numbers have rebounded in recent years but are still well below what they were two decades ago."The tribes are natural leaders on this issue," said Jane Breckinridge, project co-director and owner of the Euchee Butterfly Farm, which breeds butterflies. (Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Repair crews assess Canada wildfire damage, oil firms plan restart

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta Repair crews were expected to assess wildfire damage to the Canadian energy boomtown of Fort McMurray on Tuesday as the oil sands companies surrounding the ravaged city looked at bringing production back on line.Political leaders got their first glimpse of the city on Monday since wildfire forced 88,000 residents to flee for safety. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said they were encouraged by how much of it escaped destruction, estimating almost 90 percent of its buildings were saved. But the tour also revealed scenes of utter devastation, with blocks of homes reduced to blackened foundations, front steps and metal barbecues. Notley said 2,400 structures had burned within the city while almost 25,000 were saved.The fire, expected to grow further on Tuesday, ravaged some 204,000 hectares (504,000 acres) of Alberta. But it also moved far enough away from the evacuated town to allow an official delegation to visit on Monday. Officials warned it was not safe for residents to return, with parts still smoldering and large areas without power, water and gas. Notley said repair crews will have weeks of work ahead of them to make the city safe.The assessment by officials came a few hours after insurance experts revised sharply downward their estimates of the cost of damage from the blaze, which began on May 1. Cooler weather, which has helped firefighters battling the blaze, was expected to linger through Thursday, according to Environment Canada. Still, much of Alberta is tinder-box dry after a mild winter and warm spring.Fort McMurray is the center of Canada's oil sands region. About half of its crude output, or 1 million barrels per day, has been taken offline, according to a Reuters estimate.Oil sands companies, which have high fixed costs, are expected to work as quickly as possible to get production back online, but face the challenge of many staff and suppliers being displaced by the evacuation. In one encouraging sign for industry, Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Monday it restarted production at a reduced rate at its Albian oil sands mining operation in Alberta, adding it plans to fly staff in and out.But Imperial Oil said late on Monday it completed a controlled shutdown of its Kearl oil sands mining project, blaming the uncertainties associated with logistics. (Writing Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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Canada vows years-long effort to rebuild fire-struck town

LAC LA BICHE, Alberta Canadian officials will take their first look on Monday at the oil sands boomtown devastated by a wildfire that has been raging for more than a week, and the prime minister vowed a years-long commitment to rebuild the town.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the national government was working with local officials and businesses to get a better handle on the damage in Fort McMurray, whose 88,000 residents evacuated following the start of the fire on May 1. "We will support and invest in rebuilding Fort McMurray in a broad range of ways in the coming days, weeks, months and yes, years," he told reporters in Ottawa, but gave no details.Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will lead regional officials and media on an inspection of the town and warned the nation to brace for grim images, with entire neighborhoods destroyed.But fire officials said that cooler weather had slowed the growth of the fire, which has moved far enough away from inhabited areas to make an inspection safe, officials said.Damage, while extensive, could be less costly than initially feared, according to data released on Monday.Canada's largest property and casualty insurer Intact Financial Corp expects to suffer losses ranging from C$130 million to C$160 million ($100 million-$123 million) from the wildfire. Intact used satellite imagery and geocoding technology to see if buildings were a total loss or partially destroyed. Analysts said Intact's forecast implied overall industry losses of between C$1 billion C$1.1 billion ($769 million-$846 million), much less than the earlier forecast of C$9 billion ($7 billion). Previous analysts' estimates, based on less precise data, had expected losses to dwarf previous records in Canadian history, including C$1.9 billion ($1.46 billion) from the North American ice storm of 1998 and the Alberta floods of 2013.COOLER WEATHER COULD HELPFirefighters hoped that cooler weather would aid in the battle against the blaze. Temperatures cooled on Monday, with a forecast high of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), down from Sunday's high of 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius).The cool weather was expected to linger through Thursday, according to Environment Canada. Still, much of the province of Alberta in western Canada is tinder-box dry after a mild winter and warm spring.Alberta's government said Monday the fire had consumed 161,000 hectares (395,000 acres), an estimate unchanged from Sunday. It had expanded to within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the border of Saskatchewan, the province east of Alberta, but was not expected to cross into the neighboring province, said Travis Fairweather, an Alberta wildlife information officer.Officials said it was too early to know when the thousands of evacuees camped in nearby towns could go back to Fort McMurray, even if their homes were intact. The city's gas has been turned off, its power grid is damaged and the water is undrinkable.Fort McMurray is the center of Canada's oil sands region. About half of its crude output, or 1 million barrels per day, has been taken offline, according to a Reuters estimate.Statoil ASA said it will suspend all production at its Leismer oil sands project in northern Alberta until midstream terminals needed to transport crude oil via pipeline reopen.Its move followed shutdowns of Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility, Suncor Energy's base plant operations, the Syncrude project and Conoco Phillips' Surmont project. U.S. oil prices fell 2.6 percent. Nearly all of Fort McMurray's residents escaped the fire safely, although two teenagers died in a car crash during the evacuation. (With additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Nia Williams in Calgary and Matt Schuffman, Ethan Lou and Allison Martell in Toronto; Writing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Cynthia Osterman)

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