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Showing posts from January, 2010

Bill & Melinda Gates give $10B for health vaccines

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Bill and Melinda Gates announced plans today to invest $10 billion in the fight against a number of illnesses including AIDS and said the record donation could save nearly nine million lives.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they said the 10-year program will focus on vaccines for AIDS, tuberculosis, rota virus and pneumonia.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates.

"Vaccines are a miracle," added Melinda Gates. "With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. We've made vaccines our priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen firsthand their incredible impact on children's lives."

Since stepping down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in mid-2008, Bill Gates has devoted most of his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization he set up with his wife Melinda. He remains part-time chairman of the software giant.

The foundation directs m…

Economy grows at fastest pace in 6 years

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The U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-expected 5.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter, the quickest in more than six years, as businesses made less-aggressive cuts to inventories and stepped up spending.

The robust performance closed out a year in which the economy contracted 2.4 percent, the biggest decline since 1946.

After falling off a cliff at the start of the year, U.S. gross domestic product turned higher in the third quarter, and the quickening fourth-quarter pace reported by the Commerce Department today suggested a sustainable recovery was building.

U.S. stocks opened higher on the surprisingly strong data, while Treasury debt prices deepened losses. U.S. dollar rose against the yen. Economists had expected GDP to rise at a 4.6 percent pace.

Getting the economy on a sustainable growth track remains one of the key challenges facing President Barack Obama, who on Wednesday outlined a raft of measures to create jobs and nurture the recovery.

(Via MSNBC)

Happy Birthday Adam Lambert!

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The Funnies

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Pick Me Ups of the Day
Mourning Author Edition

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Julián Gil, Marco de Paula, and Michel Gurfi as featured on CisotoFotos.

RIP J. D. Salinger

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As one of our favorite author's of all time, it is with heavy hearts that we report the following:

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel The Catcher in the Rye, the collection Nine Stories and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictiona…

Elaine Stritch & Susan Boyle
"I Know Him So Well"

Marlon Teixeira & Clint Mauro for A|X

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(Via Homotography)

Report: Harsh winter a sign of climate change

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This winter's extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.

It comes at a time when, despite a wealth of scientific evidence, the American public is increasingly skeptical that climate change is happening at all. That disconnect is particularly important this year as the Obama administration and its allies in Congress seek to enact legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and revamp the nation's energy supply.

"It's very hard for any of us to grasp how this larger warming trend is happening when we're still having wintry weather," said National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the new report's lead writer.

The study charts how climate change is linked to more heavy precipitation, including intense snowstorms like the one that blanketed the D.C. area last month. …

John and Elizabeth Edwards separate

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Reuters reports: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, have separated following reports that he fathered a child with a woman who was a former campaign aide.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed yesterday that the Edwards, who live in North Carolina, had split up. They have been married 32 years.

A statement from Elizabeth Edwards' publicist at Random House, which published her book last year, Resilience, said Elizabeth Edwards, 60, "is moving on with her life and wants to put this difficult chapter behind her."

The announced split came less than a week after John Edwards admitted fathering a child with his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Edwards' announcement came after he had initially denied fathering the child and came just before the release on Saturday of a book by former aide Andrew Young.

Young, in The Politician, reports on how Edwards …

ABC cancels Ugly Betty

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EW reports: This is about as ugly as it gets, folks. ABC has just informed Ugly Betty producers that the show’s current fourth season will be its last. What’s more, the network has trimmed Betty’s episode order from 22 to 20.

Although not a complete shock given the show’s heinous ratings, the news is nonetheless a total bummer — particularly in light of Betty’s creative resurgence this season.

The good news is that ABC has given Betty’s bosses enough time to craft a satisfying series finale.
Exec producer Silvio Horta and ABC president Steve McPherson confirmed as much in this joint statement: “We’ve mutually come to the difficult decision to make this Ugly Betty’s final season, and are announcing now as we want to allow the show ample time to write a satisfying conclusion. We are extremely proud of this groundbreaking series, and felt it was important to give the fans a proper farewell.”

President Obama's State of the Union address

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Apple announces the iPad

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Apple today unveiled its iPad, after years of rumors that the company was building a tablet-like device. Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the device today during a special media-only event, saying it is "way better than a laptop, way better than a phone. It's the best web experience you've ever had."

Jobs began the introduction by discussing what kind of device might fit between a smartphone and a laptop. "We've wondered for years as well—in order to create that category, they have to be far better at doing some key tasks... better than the laptop, better than the smartphone," Jobs said. "Now, some people thought that was a netbook—the problem is that netbooks aren't better than anything!"

Then Jobs brought out the iPad, which looks much like an oversized iPhone. It features an interface that essentially a hybrid between Mac OS X and iPhone OS. In addition to browsing the web, included applications also give users access to iTunes media, incl…

Adam Lambert performs "Strut" on
Ellen's birthday show

Pick Me Up of the Day

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Luke Boyden as featured on We Love Guys.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (An Abba museum)

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ArtsBeat reports: To our minds, an Abba theme park should be an experience that’s so ridiculously fun you’re ashamed to tell your friends you actually enjoy it.
The organizers behind Abbaworld, a new museum/theme park dedicated to the lives and work of that best-selling Swedish pop quartet, have something a little more reverential in mind: The Associated Press reported that Abbaworld, scheduled to open in London on Wednesday, will offer 25 rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of Abba-related fare, chronicling the ascent of Bjorn Ulvaeus, Anna-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Faltskog from their teenage years to the present day.

Amid the displays of silk, satin and spandex costumes, visitors are also promised re-creations of the band’s recording studio and the seaside cabin where Mr. Ulvaeus and Mr. Andersson composed many of the band’s hits; an exhibition that allows aspiring performers to sing and dance alongside an animated version of the band; and an audio guide recorded…

Gramophonedzie
"Why Don't You"

Lance Bass goes glam rock

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Photographer Mike Ruiz posted some new shots of Lance Bass to his Facebook fan page today.
(Via Towleroad)

Ruling a third strike against Florida's gay adoption ban

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The Miami Herald reports: With the blessing of her large extended family, Vanessa Alenier took custody of an infant relative who had been seized by child welfare workers. She moved him into a yellow nursery with a blond wood crib, a blue-striped carpet and a mobile.

When she asked the state to for permission to adopt him, the application included a simple question. Are you gay?

Alenier, 34, said she did not want to begin her journey as a parent with a lie. So she told the truth -- despite Florida's 33-year-old law banning gay men and lesbians from adopting.

Earlier this month -- as a Miami appeals court determines the constitutionality of the embattled adoption ban -- a judge quietly approved the 1-year-old's adoption. The decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia is the third finalized adoption by a gay couple within the last year.

While the 1977 law remains in limbo, Sampedro-Iglesia's ruling suggests some state court judges already have made up their minds…

Apple reveals what "It" is

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Shortly after 1 p.m. ET today, Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs is expected to step onto a stage in San Francisco and lift the veil on what may be the most anticipated tech product of the year.

Famous for its culture of secrecy about new gadgets, Apple has given few hints about what it will announce. Invitations to the event merely read, "Come see our latest creation."

But an escalating stream of rumors and leaks, mostly from Apple's looser-lipped partners, suggest the Cupertino, California-based company will introduce a touch-screen "tablet" or "slate" computer -- sort of a missing link between a laptop and a smartphone.

Bloggers and other industry observers are expecting a slender wireless device that will have a 10-inch screen, cost less than $1,000 and be designed for reading, gaming, Web surfing and other pursuits.

The most likely candidates for the device's name are the iPad and iSlate -- although Apple has secured domain names and property rights for …

Teacher, 100, gets degree a day before dying

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The AP reports on this remarkable story of determination:

It was Harriet Richardson Ames' dream to earn her bachelor's degree in education. She finally reached that milestone, nearly three weeks after achieving another: her 100th birthday.

On Saturday, the day after receiving her diploma at her bedside, the retired schoolteacher died, pleased that she had accomplished her goal, her daughter said. Ames had been in hospice care.

"She had what I call a 'bucket list,' and that was the last thing on it," Marjorie Carpenter said Tuesday.

Ames, who turned 100 on Jan. 2, had earned a two-year teaching certificate in 1931 at Keene Normal School, now Keene State College. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse in South Newbury, and later spent 20 years as a teaching principal at Memorial School in Pittsfield, where she taught first-graders.

Through the years, she had taken classes at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth Teachers College and Keene State to earn credits for…

Toyota suspending sales of eight recalled cars

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The AP reports: Toyota is suspending U.S. sales of eight car and truck models to fix sticking gas pedals and halting production lines at plants from Texas to Canada to deal with the problem, the latest to confront the world's No. 1 automaker.

The suspended sales, announced yesterday, involve a significant portion of Toyota Motor Co.'s fleet and some of its most popular vehicles, including the Camry and Corolla. As part of the plan, Toyota is halting some production at five assembly plants beginning the week of Feb. 1 "to assess and coordinate activities."

There are 2.3 million vehicles involved in the recall, which was announced last week. Toyota has said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries due to the pedal problems associated with the recall, but could not rule them out for sure.

This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized," said Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president and general manager.

The Japanese automaker said the sales suspension incl…

Super Bowl ad stokes abortion controversy

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Reuters reports: Women's groups are urging television broadcaster CBS not to air an ad during next month's Super Bowl because they say it has a strident anti-abortion rights message.

The plans to air the ad, sponsored by a conservative Christian group called Focus on the Family, could see the polarizing issue of abortion rights dropped squarely in the midst of National Football League's premier event.

It would be the first time that Focus on the Family, a politically influential evangelical group founded by James Dobson, has bought air time during the Super Bowl -- the ultimate prize of the advertising world with 30-second spots going for up to $3.2 million.

The Women's Media Center and over 30 other liberal and women's advocacy groups sent a letter to CBS, the TV network to air the Super Bowl on February 7, saying: "... we urge you to immediately cancel this ad and refuse any other advertisement promoting Focus on the Family's agenda."

But CBS said it no…

Avatar is king of the world

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Variety reports: James Cameron has conquered the worldwide box office, again.

As of yesterday, 20th Century Fox and Cameron's Avatar surpassed previous record holder Titanic to become the highest worldwide grosser of all time.

Fox said final figures won't be available until later today, but with weekend numbers for Avatar totaling $1.838 billion worldwide, pic's expected $15 million domestic earnings should give the pic enough steam to sail past Titanic with a global cume of $1.842 billion.

This latest record comes just after Avatar made history over the weekend, grossing $1.29 billion at the international B.O. to tackle Titanic's $1.24 billion.

Titanic still reigns Stateside with $600.8 million, but as Avatar maintains a heady lead over its competition -- pic fell only 16% in its sixth frame -- holdover should continue to close the gap, having already earned $551.7 million as of Sunday.

Pick Me Up of the Day

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Andrew Stetson as featured on Queerty.

Rosie O'Donnell was on Oprah

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A thousand and one apologies for not being timely on this happening. Unfortunately, we just found out yesterday night (too late, of course) about Rosie's appearance on Oprah. Talk about missing out on two mega-watt women sharing a stage!

We can only hope that some wise and brave soul puts the interview online for all the world to see.

Until then, you can read a little about the interview at Oprah.com.

Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson,
Rod Stewart, & Elton John
"Chain of Fools"

White House plans Civil Rights concert in February

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Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson are among the artists who will participate in the White House’s first music event of 2010, the White House said today in a news release.

The concert, called “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement,” will take place on Feb. 11 in the State Dining Room, and is timed to celebrate Black History Month.

Other performers on the bill include Natalie Cole, John Legend, John Mellencamp, Seal, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Howard University Choir; it will be hosted by Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah, and will feature songs associated with the civil rights movement as well as readings from famous civil Rights speeches.

The concert is the latest event in the White House music series started last year by Michelle Obama, and will be broadcast on public television and streamed live online at whitehouse.gov.

(Via ArtsBeat)

U.S. gets 'F' on bioterror response

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CNN reports: A commission set up to assess national security measures gave the U.S. government a failing grade in improving response time to a biological attack.

"Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism," said former Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the commission.

"Each of the last three administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons," Graham said.

"The assessment is not a good one, particularly in the area of biological threats," the report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism said.

"While the government has made progress on preventing such attacks, it is simply not paying consistent and u…

The difference between glitter and gold for Johnny Weir

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The New York Times explores the contradictions in Johnny Weir:

Many relish his ornate, unapologetic style, while others believe the glitz has overwhelmed the skating, making his chances for an Olympic medal as slippery as the ice itself. Underlying every move of Weir, a three-time national champion, is this question: What are the obligations of a skater who must play to the crowd and the judges?

That tension is evident in the way Weir, 25, skates and talks. He is enamored of the classic Russian style, yet sometimes he can appear more burlesque than Bolshoi. He wants to be “an athlete my country can be proud of.” At the same time, he said: “You’re putting on a show; you’re putting on a performance. I feel like that every day when I walk out of my house.”

When he walks into the rink each day, Weir wants his coach, Galina Zmievskaya, to say, “Look at you.” She has taught him to walk “like you’re the king,” head up, shoulders back, not seeing anyone, only the objective ahead — “the end of th…

Oil spill at Texas port dumps 450,000 gallons

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A tanker ship loaded with oil in the Port of Port Arthur, Texas, collided with two barges being towed by a tug boat, resulting in a spill of about 450,000 gallons of crude, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

No injuries were reported, but a 50-block area around the port was evacuated out of caution, as the tanker was carrying a type of oil containing sulfide.

The Coast Guard has deployed 4,000 feet of boom, which helps corral the oil, with 10,000 more feet available for cleanup. Also on the scene are oil skimmers, three boom vessels, four 25-foot Coast Guard boats, the Coast Guard cutter Manowar and authorities from the local police and fire departments.

The spill is in a "very still" area of the waterway, which is helping contain it. The port is primarily for industrial use, but Coast Guard Capt. John J. Plunkett said there are environmental concerns to marsh areas both up- and downstream of the spill. He said the spill hadn't reached those areas.

The Coast Guard did not in…

Fired 'Bondage Porno' cop wants cuffs back

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A former Hollywood cop who appeared in a gay bondage porno long before he was patting down perps wants his job back.

Michael Verdugo, 35, is filing a civil lawsuit against the Hollywood Police Department, claiming he was fired in January of last year for being openly gay, according to the Miami Herald.

In 1996, Verdugo, then 22, was in a 15-minute scene in "Rope Rituals." Though he didn't do any hardcore sex scenes, he appeared naked and shackled.

"It was all role-playing bondage. I was tied," Verdugo told the Herald. "I used handcuffs later on in my career."

A Lauderhill cop in 1999, Verdugo joined the Hollywood force in 2001. In 2008, he appeared on HGTV's Design Star as Mikey V. When the Rope Rituals tape surfaced that year, Verdugo lost his cop job and spot on Design Star.

"I don't regret it," said Verdugo of his brief porn career. "It was a time in my life that I wanted to explore."

Now Verdugo is suing for wrongful terminat…

Nielsen to combine TV, online ratings

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Variety reports: The major broadcast and cable nets should take a big step forward in monetizing Internet viewing of full-length programs this fall. That's when Nielsen intends to introduce a service that will combine TV and online viewing of shows into a single rating. Network execs have been pushing Nielsen to come up with a cumed rating they could present to advertisers that adds online viewing into ratings that track viewing done live and via DVR (within three to seven days of the premiere telecast).

As more viewers watch TV shows via Web streaming online, net execs have gnashed their teeth at the lost income potential as online viewing eats away at ratings for the traditional telecasts. Even though most legal online offerings of TV shows have embedded advertising, those online spots aren't nearly as valuable to the nets as they would be if online viewing stats were factored into a cumed rating.

There's one wrinkle to the Nielsen rating plan, however, that could spur a m…

Pick Me Up of the Day

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Josh Truesdell as featured on Queerty.

Sex tape features well-endowed John Edwards

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This was to be expected. I mean, the mistress he was having an affair with was a videographer! Anyway, John Edwards affair gets sleazier with Gawker reporting that a sex tape exists and features a part of Edwards that is apparently larger than his brain:
"Sources have told us that, in the throes of their affair, John Edwards and Rielle Hunter made a sex tape that contains 'several sex acts.' And that his aide, Andrew Young found it on an unmarked DVD. The tape, say both our sources, is explicit and reveals that Edwards 'is physically very striking, in a certain area. Everyone who sees it says 'whoa'. She's behind the camera at first.'"(Via Towleroad)

Four ways Obama can win back liberals

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From Newsweek:
The candidate who only a year ago inspired the world had become a president without a defined mandate or image, in search of an elusive consensus with a political party that wants him to fail. Liberals have been called upon to make all the compromises while Obama spent his first year worshiping at the altar of bipartisanship. Now, with the voters rebelling, the time for reaching out to Republicans should be officially declared over.

More populist policies:
Obama has finally begun taking on the banks like a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt. Liberals would cheer if Obama dumped his economic team of Wall Street insiders and installed Elizabeth Warren, the truth-telling Harvard professor who chairs the congressional oversight panel investing the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Obama can steal the thunder back from the tea party movement with an economic populism that reflects liberal principles.

The vision thing:
We thought this was Obama's strong suit, reaching the rhetorical high…

The Funnies

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Vibrant Haitian art vanishes in the dust

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The vibrant murals that once adorned the walls of the Cathedrale of Sainte Trinite -- created in the 1950s by some of the giants of Haitian art -- are now largely dust, part of the gray rubble that covers most everything in Port-au-Prince.

The earthquake two weeks ago buried hundreds of thousands and struck deep into Haiti's vibrant arts community, erasing in seconds cultural touchstones like the murals that depicted Christ's birth, crucifixion and ascension. Even as talk turns to rebuilding, artists struggle to account for the loss of thousands of expressions of artwork that shows themselves -- and the world -- a creativity that persists through years of political strife, turmoil and poverty.

"We'll be knocking on every door possible to save whatever is left,'' said Gerald Alexis, a Haitian-born curator and expert on Caribbean art who from his home in Quebec is trying to mobilize arts groups to find a way to preserve the portions of the mural that survive. &quo…

Jennifer Hudson's "Let It Be"
for Hope For Haiti

'Hope for Haiti' raises $58 million and counting

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Friday night's star-studded "Hope for Haiti" telethon has raised a record-breaking $58 million, with more donations continuing to pour in from around the world, the benefit's organizers announced Saturday.

The preliminary figure is a record for donations made by the public through a disaster relief telethon, according to a news release from telethon organizers.

Additionally, the "Hope for Haiti Now" album, a compilation of the night's musical performances made available on Apple's iTunes, was the No. 1 album in 18 countries Saturday. Sales figures for iTunes are still being calculated, and the preliminary figure of $58 million does not include donations from corporations or large private donors.

People will be able to make donations to "Hope for Haiti" via phone, Web, text messaging and regular mail for the next six months, according to the news release.

The show was one of the most widely distributed prime-time televised benefits in history, …

Trapped father survives with help of phone app

Weekend box office

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Weekend Top Five:

#1 Avatar ($36M)
#2 Legion ($18.2M)
#3 The Book of Eli ($17M)
#4 Tooth Fairy ($14.5M)
#5 The Lovely Bones ($8.8M)

The Continuing Adventures of
La MooMoo

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It was made crystal clear to me the other morning that the MooMoo does not enjoy 7am wake up calls. Unfortunately I have to get up that early for work and school, so she has little choice. But judging from this picture and the subsequent growls and sighs, she was not pleased to participate.

Spice Girls plan a musical based on their songs

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ArtsBeat reports: The Spice Girls are cooking up a musical with an original story based on their hit songs, Reuters reports.

The working title is “Viva Forever,” after the 1998 British No. 1 single by the five-member British band. The “Viva Forever” creators are the band’s former manager Simon Fuller and Judy Craymer, who produced the worldwide hit musical Mamma Mia! which featured the songs of the Swedish band Abba, and later became a movie starring Meryl Streep.
The Spice Girls show could debut on the London stage in two or three years, Mr. Fuller and Ms. Craymer said. The Spice Girls — Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice or Mel C), Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice); Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) and Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) became a cultural phenomenon after releasing their first single “Wannabe” in 1996. The group split up in 2000 but reunited for a tour in 2007.

Erik Hassle
"Hurtful"

Pick Me Up of the Day

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Paul Francis as featured on MBM.

‘Prostidude’ starts work at Nevada brothel

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A brothel in a Nevada desert town has hired the state's first male prostitute, a muscular college dropout who abandoned a brief stint as a porn actor in Los Angeles to become the only legal gigolo in the United States.

The Shady Lady Ranch successfully won state and county approval to clear the way for the "prostidude," as Nevada's newest sex worker is already being called. After a slow first week on the job, his first appointments are scheduled for this weekend.

The male prostitute (known as "Markus") has quickly become the center of attention in Nevada's brothel industry.

He has been criticized by female counterparts for not being willing to have sex with men. And he created a dustup after telling Details Magazine that his pioneering role in the sex business was "just the same" as civil rights icon Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. Not surprisingly, he has been forbidden from doing interviews after the rem…

Hundreds of thousands flee Haiti’s capital

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The AP reports: Haitians are fleeing their quake-ravaged capital by the hundreds of thousands, aid officials said today, as their government promised to help nearly a half-million more move from squalid camps on curbsides and vacant lots into safer, cleaner tent cities.

Aid officials said some 200,000 people have crammed into buses, nearly swamped ferries and set out even on foot to escape the ruined capital. For those who stay, foreign engineers have started leveling land on the fringes of the city for tent cities, supposedly temporary, that are meant to house 400,000 people.

The goal is to halt the spread of disease at hundreds of impromptu settlements that have no water and no place for sewage. Homeless families have erected tarps and tents, cardboard and scrap as shelter from the sun, but they will be useless once the summer rainy season hits.

The new camps "are going to be ... places where they will have at least some adequate facilities," Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff t…

Collection of rare celebrity photographs

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Marilyn Monroe
David Bowie & Elizabeth Taylor

Liza Minnelli & Judy Garland

Star Wars cast Many more can be found here.