Japan scrambles to shore up economy


The government is struggling to keep the economy afloat amid catastrophic disaster along the Pacific coast [EPA]

Kaoru Yosano, Japan's economics minister has said that the government and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) must strive to ease the public and investors' anxiety, after Japanese stock prices tumbled following the devastating tsunami that hit the country's Pacific coast last week.

"There is no doubt that the government and the BOJ need to make efforts to ease anxiety among the public and investors," he told reporters on Tuesday.

His comments come as the BOJ pumped billions of dollars into the country's financial system to quell fears that the country's banks could be overwhelmed by the impact of the massive earthquake and tsunami, while stocks slumped amid fears of a possible nuclear crisis.

Two cash injections came a day after the BOJ fed a record $184bn into money markets and eased monetary policy to support the economy in the aftermath of the disaster.

The injections have helped stabilise currency markets. But stock markets dived for a second day.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average slid more than 12 per cent after prime minister Naoto Kan warned residents near a damaged nuclear power plant in the country's northeast to stay inside or risk getting radiation sickness.

Impact to spread

The BOJ has also moved to try to keep financial markets calm. By flooding the banking system with cash, it hopes banks will continue lending money and meet the likely surge in demand for post-earthquake funds.

But financial analysts say the central bank's moves to bolster liquidity could put pressure on Japan to raise interest rates, particularly since the country is saddled with massive debt that, at 200 per cent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among developed nations.

Vincent Tsui, an economist at the Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera that the economic impact of the disaster will be felt across Asia.

"Because of the close linkage of trade, the possible nuclear crisis that is unfolding will have a great impact on the economies of the region," he said.

On Monday, the central bank's nine-member policy board also voted unanimously to ease monetary policy. It will expand the size of an existing programme to buy assets - such as government and corporate bonds - by $486.4bn.

It kept its key interest rate at virtually zero.

Billions of dollars are also expected to be needed to rebuild homes, roads and other infrastructure requiring public spending that will benefit construction companies but add to the national debt.

The economy will eventually get a boost from reconstruction but "this does not mean that Japan is better off," Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics in London, told the Associated Press.

It is a quirk of accounting that destruction of assets is not counted as a reduction in the economy but replacement of those assets boosts economic activity, he said.

The BOJ has also moved to try to keep financial markets calm. By flooding the banking system with cash, it hopes banks will continue lending money and meet the likely surge in demand for post-earthquake funds.

But financial analysts say the central bank's moves to bolster liquidity could put pressure on Japan to raise interest rates, particularly since the country is saddled with massive debt that, at 200 per cent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among developed nations.

Vincent Tsui, an economist at the Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera that the economic impact of the disaster will be felt across Asia.

"Because of the close linkage of trade, the possible nuclear crisis that is unfolding will have a great impact on the economies of the region," he said.

On Monday, the central bank's nine-member policy board also voted unanimously to ease monetary policy. It will expand the size of an existing programme to buy assets - such as government and corporate bonds - by $486.4bn.

It kept its key interest rate at virtually zero.

Billions of dollars are also expected to be needed to rebuild homes, roads and other infrastructure requiring public spending that will benefit construction companies but add to the national debt.

The economy will eventually get a boost from reconstruction but "this does not mean that Japan is better off," Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics in London, told the Associated Press.

It is a quirk of accounting that destruction of assets is not counted as a reduction in the economy but replacement of those assets boosts economic activity, he said.

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J.P. Tokoto Has Decided


J.P. Tokoto has decided his college destination….

But he won’t announce it until Thursday night at 10 p.m. CST in an exclusive interview with the local Milwaukee Fox affiliate, WITI-TV, at Dave & Buster’s in Wauwatosa, Wisc.

“This is J.P.’s moment so my lips are sealed as tight as can be,” Trevor Trimble, Tokoto’s father, said Wednesday by phone. “I don’t want to take away from his moment.”

Trimble moved the press conference from Friday to Thursday to accommodate the TV station.

The 6-foot-6 wing from Menomonee Falls High is considering Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Maryland, North Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin. He is ranked No. 10 among small forwards in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com.

On Monday, an assistant from one of those schools told ZAGSBLOG, “I would bet anything it’s either Carolina or Wisconsin.”

Trimble said the family decided earlier this week based on a number of factors.

“Obviously, J.P. has a chance to go to some elite schools,” he said. “They are all elite on that list. Those coaches have jobs to do and roster spots to fill up. We’ve seen everything we can see. We felt it was in the best interest of him to go ahead and make that decision.”

He added: “We tried to all educate ourselves as best we can on what each university can offer and further educate ourselves from a team standpoint on what would be the best fit for J.P. We looked at rosters and the academic support to determine the best fit for him.”

For everyone else curious about the decision, the waiting is the hardest part.

for further details http://www.zagsblog.com/2011/03/02/j-p-tokoto-has-decided/

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Memphis In May – Not Just The Beale Street Music Festival 2011

Many people think that Memphis in May and the Beale Street Music Festival are the same things, and they are….kind of.BealeStreet2 300x202 Memphis In May   Not Just The Beale Street Music Festival 2011

Memphis in May is actually a month long festival held in Memphis, Tennessee. The festival itself is split into four main events:

The Beale Street Music Festival, which is the kick-off event and spotlights both local and national music acts. This a three day music festival that is held during the first weekend of May in the city’s Tom Lee Park at the foot of Beale Street. Usually about 100,000+ people attend the first two nights of the event, and even larger crowds attend for the big-name finales on Sunday night. This year’s lineup sounds awesome!

International Week, this is a group of events dedicated to the country that is sponsored that year (it will be Belgium this year)

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, one of the most popular barbecue contests in the country, and I would go to Memphis in May for this part of the festival alone!

Sunset Symphony, a night of classical music. This event has been taking place for 35 years.

Are you planning on attending any of the events? It sounds like fun! Wish I could go!

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Gallinari Likely To Be Flipped; Nets, Raptors, Clippers, Cavs Could Be Interested Read more: httpGallinari Likely To Be Flipped; Nets, Raptors, Clipp


The Nuggets are not expected to retain Danilo Gallinari, according to sources that spoke with Ric Bucher.

The Nets, Clippers, Cavaliers and Raptors are all expected to express interest in Gallinari.

Gallinari was the sixth overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

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India Godhra train blaze verdict: 31 convicted

A special court in the western Indian state of Gujarat has found 31 people guilty of setting fire to a passenger train in the town of Godhra in 2002.

The court acquitted 63 other people of conspiracy and murder.

The Sabarmati Express was attacked by a Muslim mob killing 59 people, mainly Hindu pilgrims.

The attack led to some of the worst riots seen in India and left more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead.

Gujarat's authorities were criticised for not doing enough to stop the riots.

Those convicted will be sentenced on Friday. Security is tight across Gujarat and extra police have been deployed in case of communal unrest.


The attackers were said to have forced the train, carrying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya, to stop and then set fire to one of the carriages.

"The court has accepted the conspiracy theory. It was not an accident," public prosecutor JM Panchal is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.


Godhra train fire
  • 27 February 2002: Fire in Sabarmati Express at Godhra kills 59 passengers, mainly Hindus
  • 28 February 2002: Religious clashes begin in Gujarat, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, mainly Muslims.
  • 21 May 2002: Gujarat government sets up a commission to probe the train fire and the riots
  • 3 March 2006: Justice UC Banerjee submits report saying the train fire was an accident
  • 25 September 2008: Justice Nanavati's report describes the train burning as a "pre-planned conspiracy"
  • September 2010: A special court completes hearing of the train case

Whether or not there was a conspiracy to set the train ablaze or whether it was a spontaneous fire has long been the subject of dispute.

An inquiry commission set up by the state government said in 2008 that the burning of the train was a "conspiracy".

That commission also exonerated Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the deadly religious riots that followed the blaze.

He was accused of failing to halt the religious violence and some opponents said he indirectly encouraged some of the Hindu rioters. But the commission dismissed these allegations.

"There is absolutely no evidence to show that either the chief minister or any of the ministers in his council or police officers played any role in the Godhra incident," Justice GT Nanavati had concluded in his report.The train that caught fire at Godhra

The commission, which examined more than 1,000 witnesses during a six-year period, found that 140 litres of petrol had been purchased as part of what it said had been a conspiracy to burn the train carriage.

The report's findings contradicted an earlier inquiry by retired Supreme Court judge Umesh Chandra Banerjee, who found that the coach fire was not deliberately started.

He concluded in 2005 that the fire began by accident.

He said there was evidence to suggest the blaze began inside the train and that it was not fire-bombed.

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36 killed in stadium stampede in Mali

(CNN) -- At least 36 people were killed in a stampede at a stadium in Mali after a speech by a prominent imam, the British embassy in the country said Tuesday.

The stampede at the Modibo Keita stadium took place Monday afternoon as the crowd was leaving the facility, said Mohamed Ba, a consular at the embassy. Sixty four others were wounded, he said.

The crowd had come to hear Imam Osman Madani Haidara speak.

"The stadium seats 25,000 and it was absolutely full, as it is every time Imam Osman Madani Haidara gives a sermon," Ba said.

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Michelle Wie 1 Shot Back in Thailand LPGA Tournament


Michelle Wie in ThailandMichelle Wie started out rounds 1 and 2 playing solid golf and just continued that play into round 3 today in Thailand. A great way to start the 2011 LPGA season, playing consistent.

Although Wie had a few bumps early, scoring bogeys in the first few holes, she regained composure and didn’t let it get her off track. Despite the start she finished the round with a 1-under 71. Kim, yesterdays leader, finished the day at even par 72 to hold onto 8-under for the tournament in a tie for second place with Michelle Wie.

The two are chasing the worlds number 1 golfer, Yani Tseng, who had anything but rhythm on the day. Tseng carded five birdies, three bogeys, one double-bogey, before finishing the day with an eagle to move to 9 under and jump out to the lead.

It’s good to see Michelle Wie playing the way she has been. The conditions are back and forth with soaked fairways and greens followed up by beautiful sunshine, making for a difficult day of staying on top of how you should be playing. Instead of folding after a difficult 3rd round start, Wie battled back to show she belongs with the worlds number one.

Michelle Wie is looking to nab her 3rd title on the LPGA tour and begin the year on a high note. To do so, she’ll have to show she can continue those nerves of steel as she’ll be paired with Tseng. Anytime you play with the worlds number one it has to be difficult. When big money is on the line, it has to be even tougher.

Still in contention is Paula Creamer, no stranger to pressure and coming from behind, she’s 2 off the lead, as well as Karrie Webb who finds herself 3 strokes back of the leaders.

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JaVale McGee never had a shot against Blake Griffin, but still put on a show

Blake Griffin certainly had the most entertaining, choir-singing, scene-stealing, crowd-screaming, show-stopping, car-hopping dunk of the night. But overall, he was probably the third-best dunker in Staples Center on Saturday. The best two dunkers were JaVale McGee and Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan, and both have a legitimate argument that they were robbed from an opportunity to be slam dunk champion.

Not hating on Griffin, just calling it how I see it.

The odds were severely stacked against any participant not named Griffin, since he had the hype, the fan support and most famous name in the competition. He's an all-star who has been a force since he was allowed to play for the Los Angeles Clippers after taking a year off to recover from a knee injury. But when word began to circulate a few hours before the contest that Griffin had planned to dunk over a car, the other competitors really had to start preparing for second place.

I mean, Griffin had the NBA's official vehicle, the Kia Optima, with a Sprite Slam Dunk sticker on the side. That meant he had to make to the second round, because a prop that elaborate, and possibly expensive, was not going to waste.

I happened to be seated near the tunnel, where Baron Davis was resting on the hood, so I knew what was about to go down before Kenny Smith grabbed the microphone, begged people to get out of their seats and said, "We're going to bring the pageantry to the dunk contest."

To top it off, Griffin had the Crenshaw Elite choir come out to sing, "I Believe I Can Fly." No way McGee was going to follow up the dunk with anything better. McGee joked afterward, "Nothing's going to beat the car unless I bring a plane out or something."

Can't touch this. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

McGee certainly tried his best to overcome a second-or-nothing situation, as he brought out two dunks that had never been attempted before in the slam dunk contest. His first dunk -- or rather dunks -- was so ridiculous that I thought he was a tad too ambitious. He had originally thought about raising a prop goal to 12 feet, so that he could dunk flatfooted off the vertical. But after McGee practiced it on Thursday, he didn't like how it looked, so an observer suggested he dunk with two basketball off both rims.

He tried the first time and got it to go down. So he decided to add it to his arsenal. He needed almost the entire two minutes to pull it off, but when he did, it was rather incredible. He got a 50.

"He created that two rim dunk and only a seven-footer with his wingspan could pull that off," said McGee's mom, Pam. "I was shocked."

Pam McGee was enlisted for his second dunk, but only after JaVale McGee flinched and was forced to change his plans. A few weeks ago, McGee came up with the dunk in which he snatched a piece of paper out the net with his teeth before jamming. He had added a tweak for the competition but was unable to attempt in when Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka -- who early had a severely slept-on foul line dunk -- pulled a doll off the rim with his teeth directly before him.

"Serge had did a dunk that was similar to the one, so I switched it around so that I could get a high score," JaVale McGee said.

JaVale McGee had pulled off his three-ball dunk earlier this week in Orlando. Hilton Armstrong was the passer and he put the ball in the right spot for McGee to get it on the first try. He brought out John Wall, who needed a few attempts before McGee could throw them down. He got a 49, only because Brent Barry gave him a nine. I predicted a 50 when I saw it on Wednesday, but Barry should know, as a former champion, that dunking three times while in mid-air is not the easiest thing to do.

McGee had his mother involved, as she walked down an aisle, carrying a red, white and blue in a box and wearing her old Los Angeles Sparks warmup from her days in the WNBA. Afterward, McGee let it be known that it would've been better used in the final round.

"Definitely was trying to get the crowd into it, we knew they was going to be text voting, too," he said. "Most of the people in the world are women, so we felt it was good to get those texts."

Thanks, John. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

McGee earned his trip to the final round, but DeRozan really has a reason to be upset. DeRozan had the disadvantage of going first, but he started out the competition really well, as his Raptors teammate Amir Johnson threw the ball off the basket support and DeRozan jumped underneath the basket, brought the ball between the legs and dunked. He got a 44. It was at least a 47. Canadian exchange rate or something.

The judges made up for it some, when they gave him a 50 for a really nice jam in which he caught the ball of the bounce, brought it down below his waist and nearly banged his head on the rim as he did a reverse dunk.

Now, Griffin's first dunk was a two-handed 360-jam, but I was surprised that he got a 49 right after McGee got a 50 for dunking on two rims. I didn't think McGee's dunk, given the degree of difficulty and creativity, could only be one point better than Griffin's. But it was no biggie, since I wanted to see McGee battle Griffin in the final. I just didn't know that Griffin would get ushered in with some questionable scoring.

Griffin wanted to catch a pass from Davis off the side of the backboard and do another 360-dunk, which would've been insane. But he had to settled for catching the ball of the backboard and throwing down a windmill. It was nice dunk, but certainly not better than DeRozan's between-the-legs 44. Griffin got a 46, giving him the extra point he needed to advance.

Granted, Griffin plays for the Clippers, but DeRozan is born and raised in Los Angeles -- and went to USC. He got no love.

Griffin brought back Vince Carter's arm in the rim dunk in the final round, but McGee added a twist to Michael Jordan's famous rock-the-cradle. McGee's third dunk may have been his best of the night, given the dexterity required to pull it off. He drove baseline, dipped under backboard, rocked the ball and dunked it on the other end.

The irony of the competition? Coach Flip Saunders always criticizes McGee for being a style over substance player, yet McGee was upended because he had more substance than style. Once the decision was left up to fans with cellphones, then McGee had no shot at winning a popularity contest. Most people hadn't heard of the guy until he showed up on Saturday. Griffin trumped McGee with 68 percent of the vote.

On his decisive jam, Griffin had the assistance of two great showmen in Davis and Smith, a former slam dunk champ. "It was actually my idea to use the car," Griffin said. "When they first came to me with the dunk contest idea, they said there was no rules. I was like, 'So I can jump over a car?' Kind of playing around.
"I got the dimensions and all that. Figured I could probably clear it and Baron came up with the choir and Kenny and they all put everything together," he said. "I was actually going to jump over the choir separate from the car, and then Baron was like, 'Why don't you do it together?' So we had the choir position around the car, and then people came in and said you can't cover up the car."

When Griffin hurdled the Kia, Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett waved his hands across his neck and yelled, "It's over." And it was. McGee was so shook after that dunk, he could've dunked from halfcourt and not turned a head. It was a tough act to follow. But Pam McGee still has her own opinion about the real champion.

"In my opinion, my son won the dunk contest," she said. "The dunk contest is entertainment. I think JaVale accomplished what he wanted to do. If you don't know, you better ask somebody, you know who JaVale McGee is now. I think hey, he did a wonderful job."

McGee was happy with his performance and said he would likely compete again. Maybe he can jump over a truck. "Hey," he said. "I might."


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Grading the 2011 slam-dunk contest

The 2011 slam-dunk contest wasn't exactly a return to form -- the 1988 and 2000 competitions won't be shaking in their respective slammin' boots after watching tape from Saturday night's affair -- but the Blake Griffin(notes)-led show was a fun time out.

Griffin did pace the field, as was expected heading in. But he did have a fair amount of competition. Toronto's DeMar DeRozan(notes), Washington's JaVale McGee(notes) and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka(notes) all brought the relative goods. The Los Angeles Clippers forward was still ahead of the group, if barely, becoming the first rookie to win the contest since New York's Nate Robinson(notes) took the crown in 2006.

Click the jump, no dunk intended, for the breakdown:

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

Expectations weren't exactly low for DeRozan as he entered the 2011 dunk competition, because we've watched him bound around the league for a year and a half since leaving USC. But after a weak showing last year during a glorified (and hopefully, one-off) dunk-in during 2010's All-Star weekend, one couldn't help but feel dubious as to whether or not the Toronto wing would bring the goods -- especially in a field featuring three forward/centers.

D.D. made it work, though, coming through with a nice reverse dunk off a poor pass from Amir Johnson(notes) (where was Jose Calderon(notes)?) in the first round.

DeRozan attempted a modified version of the Andre Iguodala(notes) bounce-and-reverse from the 2006 contest, but Johnson was out of his element trying to bounce the ball off the basket support. The last part is important. Iggy and others bounce the ball off the side of the backboard. DeMar? He took it off the support itself, several feet away from the board. And, most importantly, several feet away from the rim.

DeMar followed this with a deserved 50 for another reverse in the second round. An alley-oop followed by a windmill, from a guard? Brilliant. Not good enough to move on, apparently. Blame the pass in the first round.

Grade? Give the man an A, only mitigated by a teammate's bad toss.

Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

Serge Ibaka is around 6-8, so his dunk from the free throw line should have easily registered a 50. It certainly wasn't the most creative turn, even if the Congo-born second-year big man came through with a tribute to his home continent before throwing down, but it was worth a 50. Julius Erving was the same height as Ibaka, Brent Barry(notes) was an inch or two shorter, and they both had a toe or more on the line as they took off from 15 feet away. Ibaka did no such thing, taking off beyond the freebie stripe, and all he could take in were nines from the judges.

His second dunk was pretty contrived. A well-coiffed child actor was brought in from the audience to complain -- into a microphone -- about losing his toy, which was stuck in the net below the dunking rim. The kid was cute, the idea OK, but it grew a little stale rather quickly.

Ibaka proceeded to attempt to oop himself a pass, and dunk while grabbing the stuffed animal with his teeth. As if it couldn't get any weirder, Serge couldn't nail the first dunk, only coming down with the toy in his mouth. No dunk, just a toy in his mouth. The kid had to wait, as if it was ever his teddy to begin with, as NBA workers brought out a ladder (showmanship!) and re-affixed the "lost" toy to the rim. If you're still reading at this point, stop. It was dull and strange, and, yes, Serge nailed the dunk on the second attempt and brought down the lost toy. No amount of over-arching from the judges following their miss on the foul-line dunk could make this one any better.

Grade? Give the man a B, only marred by some bad advice.

JaVale McGee, Washington Wizards

Dwight Howard(notes), the 2009 dunk contest winner, was underneath the TNT microphones as a guest analyst. And while he didn't really offer any sort of insight worthy of repeating, the uncomfortable back and forth between Howard and McGee's "coach" Chris Webber did, for a short time, allow us to believe that McGee was going to attempt a dunk on a 13-foot rim. After all, Webber was coming through with a muddled bit of trash talk sent Howard's way, and after Dwight dunked on a 12-foot rim a few years back, it seemed only natural.

Instead, McGee brought out a second rim not to churn his way to 13-foot heights, but to attempt (and succeed) in dunking on two baskets at once. Or, dunking lefty, while throwing down off a lob on the right-hand rim. It, if your imagination is all that is allowed here, was amazing.

In the second round, McGee dunked three balls at once. Or, as close to "at once" as gravity will allow. It was, again, amazing. After that? He pulled some reach around reverse that would have been fantastic in its own right, but JaVale managed to straighten-out his right hand and dunk on the weak side as if he had started from that end. In all, it was a stunning display of athleticism.

In the third round, after his closest competitor brought out a middling four-cylinder car and jumped over the hood, McGee sort of lost his nerve while attempting his final stuff. After two half-hearted attempts at a lob off the glass and reverse, an embarrassed McGee settled on a bounce off the board and cock-backed throw-down with one hand. Nice, but this was shootaround work. An unfortunate end to a wildly impressive night out.

Grade? Give the man an A, only hurt by the amount of dunk attempts he needed.

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Make no mistake, Griffin was the best dunker of the night. At least, he was the most entertaining, and that's without taking into consideration the -- oh, let's be honest -- lame presentation that was his final dunk.

Worst things first. Griffin had a Kia something wheeled out for his final turn, and with a local choir singing "I Believe I Can Fly" beyond the half-court stripe, Blake jumped over the car's hood for a nice two-handed stuff. Now, none of us want Griffin to push things. We kind of like the idea of this guy dominating the league for the next 15 years. But this dunk, this show, was pretty dull.

The rest? The rookie brought it.

A 450-degree throwdown in the first round started things off. A second-round reverse off of a terrible Baron Davis(notes) pass followed. Davis kept us from seeing a dunk contest classic because Blake shifted after a few attempts and took an easier dunk.

In the third round, Griffin dunked from outside the charge circle, and easily fit his elbow into the rim. And while the dunk might not be something you'll tell your grandchildren about, this was a fantastic display of athleticism. He put a basketball in a 10-foot rim with his hand, that was connected to his arm, that was connected to his elbow, that also went into the rim. Any bit of Official Vehicle of the NBA-sponsored nonsense -- and this is coming from a guy who is going to a car show later today -- can't take away from that stunning burst. Blake Griffin deserved to win this dunk contest.

Grade? Give the man an A, tempered only by a dull stuff in the final round.


In all? The dunk contest was nothing to write home about.

As an entertainment package? It was great! I dare anyone who isn't on the wrong side of a batch of opiates to tell you that they sat through the entire thing and didn't have fun. Was it the best dunking exhibition we've seen? Clearly not. Were parts contrived? Of course.

Was it a great show? No doubt.

See you next year, Blake. And hopefully, JaVale.

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Sandy Bentley’s jewels’ murder case under new investigation

The link between Playboy’s Sandy Bentley’s expensive jewellery and the murder of two men in L.A. had been made 9 years ago. Now investigators hope that a new show and a $75,000 reward will help them finally crack the case.

The CBS show “48 Hours Mystery: “Playing with Fire” was aired on Saturday night and has inspired fresh interest in the killing of part-time model and doorman Michael Tardio and his friend, Chris Monsoon. The pair was found in a Mercedes SUV shot at close range. The culprit had attempted to burn the car.

Detectives could not find any evidence they could use and no one in the neighborhood had heard shots fire, giving rise to the belief that the murder took place somewhere else and the bodies then driven to another location.

CBS cites retired L.A. homicide detective Bill Cox, who says he still can’t put the case out of his mind. “I think about it quite a bit more than I should,” Cox said. “In all my 20 years of working homicide, I have never run across a case like this one!”

Tardio and Monsoon are believed to have been trying to secretly sell $750,000 worth of jewellery on the night they were killed. These jewels belonged to Tardio’s then-girlfriend and former Playboy bunny Sandy Bentley, whom he met on the Hollywood club scene. The pin-up girl had acquired the valuable items from ex-boyfriend and Ponzi schemer Mark Yagalia before his $40 million Asbury Capital fund collapsed, who claims to have been “madly in love” with her. She, in turn was “madly in love with his money”.

Yagalia estimates that he spent between $6 or $7 million on Bentley during the 13 months they dated. The money went on a house, furs, cars, Rolex watches and jewellery, including an exact diamond and ruby replica of the necklace and earring set Richard Gere gives to Julia Roberts in the film Pretty Woman, costing around a quarter of a million dollars.

Before meeting Yagalia, Bentley was a live-in girlfriend of Hugh Hefner at his Playboy mansion, together with her twin Mandy. According to Hef’s other girlfriend Izabela St.James, who went on to write a book about her experiences at the mansion, Sandy did not treat the octogenarian well and cheated on him repeatedly. Eventually Yagalia found his “ultimate trophy” and Sandy left Hef for good.

Sandy Bentley’s jewels’ murder case under new investigation
The ill-gotten jewels that he was to give her would later cause the killing of two innocent men. Tardio and Monsoon were trying to unload the stash, which was illegally paid for by Yagalia clients’ money and not his own, as federal authorities were under orders to seize it.

Police hope the CBS show will encourage those who have more information to come forward. “There are people who knew something but maybe were fearful,” LAPD Detective Dennis English told the N.Y. Daily News. “We hope now they’ve matured.”

Neither Bentley nor her Wall Street scammer ex are suspects in the case.

Click here to read more about former Playmates Jennifer Lyn Jackson, Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek, Penthouse creator Bob Guccione and Hugh Hefner’s recent engagement to his 24-year-old girlfriend.

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Michael Waltrip Takes Emotional Truck Race Win on Earnhardt Anniversary


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- An emotional, out-of-breath Michael Waltrip could barely choke out words of thanks after he made a dramatic last-lap pass to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck series 250-mile race Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Waltrip, who usually announces the truck races, swept past Elliott Sadler in a classic Daytona slingshot pass as the trucks sped into the tri-oval toward the checkered flag in a green-white-checkered, two-lap finish after a couple of big wrecks late in the race.

It came on the 10th anniversary of Waltrip's greatest and worst day -- his win in the 2001 Daytona 500 seconds after his car owner Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash in turn four on the last lap.

"I'm just so thankful, Waltrip said Friday night, nearly breathless, with tears and sweat gleaming on his face in the glare of the television lights in victory lane. "I want to thank the fans, man. They keep us going. And they've just been so good to us. It's just very emotional and I didn't know I could push Elliott all the way around there. And I was able to do it.
"I came here to celebrate a life, with my black truck and my 15 car. I didn't come to celebrate a win. But this feels really good. I'm thankful."
-- Michael Waltrip

"God bless Dale and his family and the fans. I came here to celebrate a life, with my black truck and my 15 car. I didn't come to celebrate a win. But this feels really good. I'm thankful."

After making the call of how he intended to win in a radio conversation with SPEED television announcers before the final green flag, Waltrip pulled it off, winning by about six feet, with the right half of his spoiler broken and laying down flat.

As he had done in 2001, Darrell Waltrip made the call as his little brother swept past Sadler and was first under the checkered flag.

"He got him! Mikey! He got him! All right! Yeah! Wooooooo! Hell, yeah," Darrell shouted.

It was Waltrip's first victory ever in the truck series, and his first NASCAR win of any kind since a Nationwide series victory in 2004. "This day was hard," Waltrip said. "I've been emotional all day long."

Sadler and Waltrip pulled away from the field after the green flag dropped for the final two-lap, five-mile sprint to the checkered flag. Waltrip pushed Sadler most of the way, then veered outside coming out of the final turn and edged Sadler at the line. Waltrip celebrated in victory lane with his daughter, Macy.

"If anybody deserves a win in today's race, it's probably Michael Waltrip," Sadler said. "He made a great move at the end. It does ease the pain in the end."

Rogers finished third, followed by Paludo, Kyle Busch and Jennifer Jo Cobb.

The broken rear spoiler could have helped him slice through the air at the superspeedway. But Sadler said Waltrip still would have beat him.

"I think he still would have won anyway," Sadler said. "He made a really good move off of turn four. ... Might have been a little bit closer to the line, but he had a lot of momentum. That's not the reason why. It definitely helped some."

The 103-lap race had few cautions, but two big crashes. Fourteen trucks were caught up in an accident with 26 laps remaining.

The final pileup, involving 10 trucks, happened with four laps remaining. Officials stopped the race for 10 minutes to clean up debris from the 10-truck crash near the start-finish line.

The race was also notable in that Jennifer Jo Cobb's sixth-place finish was the highest for any female in a major NASCAR touring series race at Daytona. Finishing just behind her in seventh was young Jeffrey Earnhardt, Dale's grandson, with his best career finish.

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John Wall Wins MVP of T-Mobile Rookie Challenge - Dougie Dunks?


John Wall dished out a Rookie Challenge 22 assists in leading the Rookies to a 148-140 win over the Sophomores. DeMarcus Cousins had a legit claim to MVP, but Jimmy's 22 assists were just too much, which included a bounce-pass alley-oop to Blake Griffin. Yeah, you read that correctly (the highlight of the game). I thought Wall and Cousins would share MVP, but no gripes with our man taking it all for himself. Cousins was good, but didn't generate the excitement in the game that his stats indicate, and Wall obliterated Chris Paul's record of 17 assists. Whatever, at least the Wizards won something this year.

Cali Swag District performed at halftime, and I was hoping for a Dougie-off between the Rookies and Sophomores, but no dice. You know what, forget it, they didn't even need Cali Swag District, there still should have been a Dougie-off worth maybe 10 pts in that game.

My favorite part of the game, other than the bounce-pass alley-oop, was the final play of Wall getting an off the backboard alley-oop from Cousins. That sounds amazing enough, but it is very possible that Jimmy did the Dougie while hanging on the rim:


My DVR couldn't stop a split second before this shot for some reason, so this is not the best shot. That said, Jimmy's hand definitely went behind the head, a little Prime Time Deion Sanders, but more likely a Dougie move.

For anyone who watched the dunk, I'd like to hear thoughts on whether Wall was trying to do the Dougie here. He was definitely trying to do something as he swung side to side......

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PayPal Founder: Facebook Could Become One of the More Valuable Companies in the World

Max Levchin — Google VP of engineering and founder of PayPal and Slide — argues that Facebook will become a serious contender to become one of the more valuable companies in the world if it can “successfully replace core messaging.”

At the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, Levchin and Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley answered questions about “game-changing technology.” During their fireside chat, the moderator raised the question of Facebook’s unprecedented growth and its impact.

“Facebook has all but successfully monopolized White Pages,” Levchin said, explaining that when you want to find and connect with someone, you go to Facebook. Unlike the White Pages though, Facebook also has information on a person’s interests, likes and social graph.

That alone has turned Facebook into a $50 billion company. However, Levchin says that that becoming the repository for personal information could result “in Facebook successfully replacing core messaging.” If it becomes the web’s primary communication platform, it could become one of the more valuable companies in the world.

Levchin quickly stressed that Facebook’s business shouldn’t be confused with demand generation or demand discovery — a.k.a. search, Google’s specialty. The PayPal co-founder says that he’s read that social graph signals have not been particularly effective in optimizing search-related advertising. Benchmark Capital’s Gurley agreed, arguing that social signals might deliver untargeted ads at inappropriate times.

In fact, Levchin argues that Twitter may be a better advertising platform because following a brand or expert on Twitter is more likely to deliver credible information and advice than your friends, who are likely not experts in biking, finance or other subjects. Gurley, on the other hand, believes there may be a middle ground between search and social by bringing together people with similar interests. For instance, a combination of search and social could help fans of biking in the same city find each other and swap advice and stories.

Levchin and Gurley also discussed the issues facing Microsoft, a lumbering tech giant whose core software businesses are being attacked by the likes of Apple, Google and countless startups. “I think it’s a classic problem of having a massive revenue stream,” Levchin said, explaining that companies with giant revenue streams tend to protect their investments rather than innovate and adopt new and risky business models.

At the end of the firside chat, Gurley made the argument that Google’s Android OS is one the most “disruptive moves in the history of business.” Unlike Microsoft and other software makers, Google gives away its software and sometimes even pays companies to use it. Gurley argues that this is a defensive move by Google to protect its search business. Google makes money off advertising in Android searches and wants to make sure its mobile search business interests are protected. The venture capitalist compared Google’s strategy to protecting a castle by charring all surrounding earth in a 250 mile radius, making it impossible for anybody to come near it.

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Jonathan Brandis- Tragic Child Star

My sister used to be in love with Jonathan Brandis. I drew this picture of him, explaining how my sister liked watching him on the show "SeaQuest DSV" and asked if he could autograph it so I could give it to her for her Birthday (it was 1995, and she was turning 10). A few weeks later I got it backed signed. From what I read, despite getting volumes of fan mail, he would actually reply to fans who wrote to him. He had appeared in films and television since the age of 9.
Fast forward 8 years later, November 11, 2003- Depressed, subject to bouts of heavy drinking, his acting career in a slump; 27 year old Jonathan Brandis decided he couldn't handle his life anymore and hung himself .

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I Am Number Four’: Review Revue

“I Am Number Four” is based on a science fiction novel co-written by James Frey, and movie critics appear to be as enamored of the “A Million Little Pieces” fabulist as Oprah. The plot, centering on a teen alien hiding out on Earth and being hunted down, is being criticized as a “Twilight” knockoff and the film’s direction and script aren’t receiving high praise, either. Will bad reviews affect what is designed to be a lucrative film franchise?

Here’s a sampling of some of the reviews:

  • “I Am Number Four” is shameless and unnecessary. That’s sad, when a movie casts aside all shame, demonstrates itself willing to rip off anything that might attract audiences, and nevertheless fails. What we have here is a witless attempt to merge the “Twilight” formula with the Michael Bay formula.” [Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times]
  • “Conceived by Oprah-vilified author James Frey as the beginning of a potential blockbuster franchise, I Am Number Four is nothing but a million little pieces from prior superhero series and the Twilight saga.” [Nick Schager, Village Voice]
  • “As action films aimed at this audience go, “Number Four″ falls midway between “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and “Twilight” — edgier than “Jackson,” mockingly self-aware, but without the white-hot sexual tension of the vampire movies. And the subtext, that you shouldn’t waste your teen years on stupid risks because you’re needed “for a higher purpose,” makes this a franchise I won’t mind seeing progress to a second movie.” [Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel]
  • “Screenwriters Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon adapt the novel by Pittacus Lore, the pseudonym for James Frey, best known as the author of the controversial memoir A Million Little Pieces. To their credit, all the subplots involving teenage love, school bullies and fitting in ring true. But I Am Number Four aims to be a sci-fi action movie first and a teen melodrama second and long before its action climax unfolds, one sits wondering if these veteran screenwriters and producers mixed up their priorities.” [Steve Ramos, Boxoffice Magazine]

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Jason McCann (Justin Bieber) Shot on His Return to 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' (VIDEO)

Fans of Justin Bieber have been enjoying him all over their televisions the past few weeks. With his movie in theaters, he's been hitting the talk show circuit hard core and he was a big presence (albeit award-snubbed) at the Grammys. Now, he's back on 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' (Thu., 9PM on CBS) as troubled teen Jason McCann.


This is almost definitely the last time you'll see Bieber on the show. After setting a bomb that endangered the team, he was defiant until the end. He tried to get the driver of the van he was pulled over in killed, and then pulled a piece on the hordes of police.

Now, for his fans who struggle with the difference between reality and fiction, there is no reason to send death threats to the actors who played the police officers who shot him. It's not real. Your teen idol is just fine. You'll just have to look for his next appearances elsewhere.

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Career Profile: Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera is in the news for his recent drunk-driving arrest, but he is an interesting study as a prospect, as you will see below. . .


Miguel Cabrera was signed by the Florida Marlins as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1999, earning a $1.8 million bonus. He made his North American debut in 2000, playing 57 games for the Gulf Coast League Marlins (.260/.344/.352) and eight games for Utica in the New York-Penn League (.250/.294/.312). His defense at shortstop wasn't great and the offensive numbers were nothing special at all, but scouts were full of praise for his offensive potential, projecting him as a big-time power hitter. I believed the scouting reports and gave him a Grade B in the 2001 book, noting his upside but that it was too early to know how he would develop for sure.

Cabrera moved up to Kane County in the Midwest League in 2001, hitting .268/.328/.382 in 110 games. Again, these numbers were nothing special, but he was just 18 years old and scouts loved him. He wasn't a walk machine, but he kept his strikeout rate reasonably low. His OPS was exactly league average, but I moved him up to a Grade B+ in the 2002 book, writing "projection is critical for players like this, and while it may take Cabrera a year or two to fully break through, I am optimistic." I had him ranked at Number 19 among hitting prospects.

Bumped up to High-A Jupiter in 2002, Cabrera hit .274/.333/.421 with 43 doubles and nine homers, 38 walks and 85 strikeouts in 489 at-bats. This was very good for the Florida State League, especially for a 19 year old. He had transitioned to third base, and scouting reports about his bat remained effusive. I gave him a Grade A- in the 2003 tome, writing that "this is a projection for me" as his skills were still in the developmental stages, but that the large number of doubles was indicating more power to come and scouts were predicting a breakout soon. I ranked him as the Number Nine hitting prospect in baseball.

Cabrera began 2003 in Double-A and the breakout happened, with a .365/.429/.609 mark in 69 games. Promoted directly to the majors, he hit .268/.325/.468 for the Marlins in 87 games, losing rookie eligibility. He hit .294/.366/.512 at age 21 the following year, and he's been one of the very best hitters in the game the last seven years.

Cabrera is a career .313/.388/.552 hitter, 145 OPS+ in 1190 games. He's remarkably consistent, averaging 34 homers a year, hitting .300+ almost every year (his worst batting average after his rookie year was .292), driving in 100+ runs every year, drawing a good number of walks, exceeding a .400 OBP three times so far, earning five All-Star nods. His career WAR so far is 37.3. Despite mediocre defense and the shift to first base, his yearly WARs are great; since his sophomore year his worst WAR mark is 3.00 and he's usually well above 5.0, exceeding 6.0 three times.

The Most Similar batters through age 27: Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Griffey Jr., Hal Trosky, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Orlando Cepeda, Al Kaline, Andruw Jones, Joe Medwick. Six of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, and Griffey and Pujols will get there. Trosky was a great hitter early in his career but had his career shortened by injuries.

I often say that "rookie ball stats aren't that predictive." In Cabrera's case, he did not dominate the low minors, putting up average numbers. However, he was young for the levels, and while he didn't draw a ton of walks, he didn't strike out that much either. His BB/K/AB ratio was acceptable...it is one thing to have 35 walks against 70 strikeouts in 400 plate appearances. It is quite another to have 30 walks and 140 strikeouts. The scouting reports and projections were always strong, and this was one case that the scouts absolutely nailed.

The question now: will his apparently serious personal problems cause his skills to slip prematurely? There is no way to answer that.

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Libya: Security Forces Fire on 'Day of Anger' Demonstrations

(New York) - The Libyan security forces killed at least 24 protesters and wounded many others in a crackdown on peaceful demonstrations across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should cease the use of lethal force unless absolutely necessary to protect lives and open an independent investigation into the lethal shootings, Human Rights Watch said.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters took to the streets on February 17, 2011, in Baida, Benghazy, Zenten, Derna, and Ajdabiya. According to multiple witnesses, Libyan security forces shot and killed the demonstrators in efforts to disperse the protests.

"The security forces' vicious attacks on peaceful demonstrators lay bare the reality of Muammar Gaddafi's brutality when faced with any internal dissent," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Libyans should not have to risk their lives to make a stand for their rights as human beings."

Some of the worst violence was in the eastern city of Baida. At around 1 p.m. on February 17, according to sources in Libya, hospital staff put out a call for additional medical supplies, as they became overwhelmed with the medical needs of 70 injured protesters, half of them in critical condition due to gunshot wounds. On the night of February 16, security forces had attacked peaceful protesters with teargas and live ammunition, shooting dead two protesters, according to protesters who spoke to Human Rights Watch. Geneva-based Libya Human Rights Solidarity has confirmed three of the names of those shot dead so far: Safwan Attiya, Nasser Al Juweigi, and Ahmad El Qabili. One protester told Human Rights Watch that a new protest started on February 17, after noon prayers and the funerals of those killed on February 16. Joined by hundreds of other protesters, families marched toward the Internal Security office, chanting, "Down with the regime" and "Get out Muammar Gaddafi." Some protesters filmed the protests with mobile phones and posted them online.

One injured protester in a hospital in Baida told Human Rights Watch that he was sitting near the intensive care unit there and had confirmed that security forces had shot dead 16 people and wounded dozens of others. He said that Special Forces and armed men in street clothes fired live ammunition to deter protesters.

A protester in Benghazi told Human Rights Watch that hundreds of lawyers, activists, and other protesters gathered on the steps of the Benghazi Court calling for a constitution and respect for the rule of law. Early in the day, sources in Libya told Human Rights Watch that security forces had arrested a Benghazi journalist, Hind El Houny, and Salem Souidan, a family member of a group that has been seeking justice for the massacre of inmates in Abu Salim prison in 1996. Security forces also arrested a former political prisoner, Abdel Nasser al-Rabbasi, in Bani Walid.

The protester said he saw groups of men in street clothes armed with knives, later joined by Internal Security forces, charging the protesters to disperse them. The protester told Human Rights Watch that he believed security forces had shot dead at least 17 protesters during the day, mostly near Abdel Nasser Street. Human Rights Watch was able to confirm eight of those deaths.

It appears that the government also has coordinated pro-government supporters to confront the demonstrations. On February 16, subscribers to Libyana, one of two Libyan mobile phone networks, received a text message calling upon "nationalist youth" to go out and "defend national symbols." At around 11:30 p.m. on February 17, a protester in Tripoli told Human Rights Watch that anti-government protests had started in Tripoli also.

"It is remarkable that Gaddafi is still copying the very same tactics that failed Hosni Mubarak so completely just across the border," Whitson said. "Using security forces and armed thugs to deny people the right to express their opposition to the government increasingly looks destined to fail."


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ABC Correspondent Attacked in Bahrain


In the latest instance of an American journalist coming under attack while covering the spreading unrest in the Middle East, Miguel Marquez, an ABC News correspondent, was set upon and beaten while covering protests in Bahrain on Wednesday, the network said.

Mr. Marquez was not seriously injured. He had been filing a report from Pearl Square in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, where thousands had gathered for protests on Wednesday, when he was suddenly hit with billy clubs and had his camera yanked from his hands by what he called “a gang of thugs.”

In an audio clip of the attack, which was posted on the ABC News Web site, Mr. Marquez can be heard pleading with his attackers — “No! No! No! Hey, I’m a journalist here!” — and then retreating from the square, where he said the police were aggressively trying to clear the crowds.

“I’m hit,” he says anxiously. “I just got beat rather badly by a gang of thugs. I’m now in a marketplace near our hotel where people are cowering in buildings.’

“I mean, these people are not screwing around,” he adds. “They’re going to clear that square tonight, ahead of any protest on Friday. The government clearly does not want this to get any bigger.”

The demonstrations in Bahrain are part of a wave of antigovernment protests spreading in the Middle East. For the last three days, tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Pearl Square demanding political changes and greater opportunities for work from King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, whose family has ruled Bahrain for centuries.

Several other American television correspondents have been attacked in the region in recent weeks. CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Christiane Amanpour were targeted by angry crowds while reporting from Cairo earlier this month, and more recently Lara Logan, the CBS News correspondent, was beaten and sexually assaulted in Cairo while reporting on Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he was stepping down. Logan received medical treatment and returned to the United States, CBS said.

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The Rock returns to WWE Raw and will host Wrestlemania 27


While it had become pretty clear over the last week or so that The Rock would be the host of Wrestlemania 27, it wasn't definite.

This afternoon, he pretty much confirmed it when he posted this on Facebook:

‎"...FINALLY..." Get ready... DJ

As the last segment of tonight's edition of Monday Night Raw started, it became obvious what was about how to happen. After a display of odd sounds over the PA and images on the Titantron, the lights and screens went off one by one. It was clear that they were priming the crowd to completely explode when they heard those three familiar words:


Cue the biggest pop I have heard in my life, as The Rock returned to Raw to announce he was hosting Wrestlemania 27 in a long segment (the show ran 15 minutes long, ending at 11:20 PM Eastern)) where he did all of his shtick, cutting a classic Rock promo where he made fun of Michael Cole when a General Manager email arrived, made fun of John Cena, and interestingly promised as "Dwayne" that he will never leave WWE again.

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Dalai Lama’s Nephew Killed by a Car While Walking for Tibet on A1A in the Hammock

Jigme Norbu, nephew to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, had logged 7,800 miles on 19 walks and on his bike before beginning his latest today, and what proved to be his last–a 300-mile trek starting in St. Augustine and going south. Norbu and two companions were to have ended their “Walk for Tibet Florida” later this month in West Palm Beach.

Norbu, 45, was struck and killed by a passing driver just before 7:30 this evening (Feb. 14) on State Road A1A in the Hammock, across the street from the Adult and Community Education building, some 10 miles north of Flagler Beach and 25 miles south of St. Augustine.Norbu was about three minutes away from his rendezvous point with his companions, who’d gone ahead in late afternoon to wait for him at T.J.’s Seafood Shack, the restaurant. (Just last September, an employee from the restaurant was killed by a motorist while biking home late at night on A1A.) A mile or so south, Damian Collins, owner of the Hammock Wine and Cheese Shoppe, who may have been the last person to speak to Norbu, had set out drinks, food and other provisions for him and his companions, along with a tent–for Norbu–and other accommodations for the others so they could spend the night.found out he was nearby, taking him coconut milk to reinforce him. The sun had just set. He was barely two or three miles north. “He was really smiley and calm and all about what he was doing,” Collins said. He told her: “This is why I’m doing this. Here are some fliers. You’re why I’m doing this.” He wanted to get to Flagler Beach that night. She dissuaded him, citing the distance, and offered him and his companions a place to stay. Back at her shop, Collins, who was on her way elsewhere for the evening, set out a few goods on a picnic table in the backyard–including soap and a towel–and a note: “Tibet Group! Hi! Please make yourselves at home. It is an honor to have you here. Damian.”

It is about the time when Collins was writing the note, or moments later, that Norbu died.

“He was walking southbound and was struck by a car. It’s still under investigation whether he was partly in the road or off the side of the road,” a Florida Highway Patrol trooper at the scene said this evening. At 9:15 p.m., Norbu’s body was still on the west side of the road, covered by a tarp, awaiting the arrival of the medical examiner from St. Augustine (he arrived shortly after, and the body was moved to a morgue in St. Augustine). “He was walking on the edge of the road, on the white line, or very close to the white line, and he was walking with traffic,” the trooper said later.

It’s not clear why Norbu had chosen to walk on the west side of the road: there is a wide sidewalk on the east side of A1A, though the road isn’t lit, and the trees’ canopy obscure what glimmers might help guide a silhouette: Norbu may well have been hugging the white line as his only visible means of navigation. .Norbu was struck by a dark gray 2001 Kia Sportage driven by Keith O’Dell, a 31-year-old resident of Blackwell Place in Palm Coast. O’Dell had a 5-year-old child with him, according to a highway patrol report. (The trooper at the scene said he had two children with him.)

O’Dell appeared willing to speak to a reporter, but his father intervened, said O’Dell was “too traumatized,” and drove him away in a pick-up truck at 10:10 p.m., leaving the Kia on the side of the road. By then O’Dell had spent several hours patiently cooperating with troopers, who had no more questions for him.

The right-front of the Kia was dented. The hood had buckled from the impact. The side mirror’s top plastic frame had chipped in a jagged pattern, likely from the violence of the impact, which also bent back the car’s antenna. The passenger side of the windshield was smashed in, but hadn’t shattered. The highway patrol late Monday evening had not determined whether charges would be filed. Alcohol was not a factor.

Norbu, a father of three, was the owner of a Tibetan restaurant in Bloomington, the Snow Lion. He was the son of the late Takster Rinpoche, elder brother to the Dali Lama. Rinpoche taught Tibetan studies at Indiana University Bloomington, was the founder of the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center there, and had himself started long treks for Tibet. (Norbu was also overextended: In late 2009, he was “facing nearly $7 million in mortgage foreclosures on high-profile retail properties his company owns around Bloomington,” according to the Bloomington Herald-Times.)

Norbu was joined on his last walk by Donna Kim-Brand, who was providing support and a van, and two other companions.

“I want to personally request your support for the upcoming walk from St. Augustine along the coast to West Palm Beach,” Norbu wrote on a web page devoted to the Florida walk. He’d flown from Indianapolis to Jacksonville on Feb. 13. “On February 14th, our walk will cover over 300 miles and have many oppourtunities (sic.) to share our message of world peace, human rights, and the Tibetan struggle for independence. I am asking for your support on spreading the news of this walk for our global cause.”

Just last December he undertook a 250-mile walk in Taiwan, an especially significant location given Taiwan’s tortuous relationship with China, Tibet’s occupier. In fall, he’d taken a 557-mile walk from Indianapolis to Toronto.

Thinking back on her brief moment with Norbu–no more than a couple of minutes: “I didn’t want to bother him, I didn’t want to stop him,” she said–Collins remembered that she’d had her own Save Tibet bumper sticker on her pick-up truck. It’d been there 10 years. It had long since faded to something barely visible against the metal.

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Surprise! Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs' wins Album of the Year Grammy: 'What the hell?'


As predicted by absolutely nobody, excellent Montreal indie band Arcade Fire beat favorites Eminem and Lady Antebellum for the night’s top award, the Album of the Year Grammy. First thing out of frontman Win Butler’s mouth at the podium: “What the hell?” We couldn’t agree more, but it’s the best kind of surprise, as was their bonus performance of “Ready To Start” right after their acceptance speech (which was weird; is there any way they didn’t know they were going to win given that setup?). Combine this with Esperanza Spalding’s bizarro win in the Best New Artist category and this was an amazing year for underdogs.

What do you think of Arcade Fire’s big win? Did anyone see this coming, or is it totally out of nowhere?

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Surprise! Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs' wins Album of the Year Grammy: 'What the hell?'

As predicted by absolutely nobody, excellent Montreal indie band Arcade Fire beat favorites Eminem and Lady Antebellum for the night’s top award, the Album of the Year Grammy. First thing out of frontman Win Butler’s mouth at the podium: “What the hell?” We couldn’t agree more, but it’s the best kind of surprise, as was their bonus performance of “Ready To Start” right after their acceptance speech (which was weird; is there any way they didn’t know they were going to win given that setup?). Combine this with Esperanza Spalding’s bizarro win in the Best New Artist category and this was an amazing year for underdogs.

What do you think of Arcade Fire’s big win? Did anyone see this coming, or is it totally out of nowhere?

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Usher: 'I Wish Justin Bieber Won' Best New Artist Grammy

Usher is bummed Justin Bieber lost the best new artist Grammy to Esperanza Spalding.

"I wish Justin had won," Usher, who discovered the 16-year-old (and poses with him and L.A. Reid on the current cover of The Hollywood Reporter), told reporters backstage Sunday.

PHOTOS: Grammy red carpet's wildest looks

Bieber made a brief appearance with reporters to shoot down rumors that his mom was buying him a home in L.A. as a birthday present.

"I think I might move back to Canada," he joked.

When asked about who he's like to collaborate with, he said, "I would like to work with… [five second pause]… I'm gonna think about that and get back to you!"

Of "Bieber Fever," he joked: "It's an epidemic. I'm not the one who made it up, so talk to my fans."

Where does he see himself in 10 years?

"I'm gonna celebrate the 10-year anniversary of you asking me that question. I'm just kidding. ... In 10 years, I see myself still doing music and still being musical and making good songs and pleasing my fans."

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Who Is Skylar Grey? Possibly the 2011 Grammy Awards' Biggest New Star

In recent months the name of Skylar Grey has been popping up with increasing regularity in the credits for major pop and hip hop fusion hit singles. Then at last night's Grammy Awards, the woman named Skylar Grey hit the stage to sing the dramatic chorus for "I Need a Doctor," the current hit single from Eminem and Dr. Dre. Just who is Skylar Grey?

Skylar Grey is a stage name for Holly Brook Hafermann. She formerly performed as simply Holly Brook and under that name is featured on the Fort Minor hit single "Where'd You Go?" Following that success, Holly Brook released an album Like Blood Like Honey in 2006 that climbed to #26 on Billboard's Heat Seekers chart. She maintained a low profile in the industry until helping co-write Eminem's massive smash hit "Love the Way You Lie." Skylar Grey has stated in a blog for the Grammy Awards,

"When I wrote the chorus to Eminem's 'Love The Way You Lie' featuring Rihanna, I was living alone in a cabin in the woods, with my home studio. I was taking a step away from the industry in an effort to nurture my muses, which had been seriously damaged. I certainly wasn't attempting to write a hit song, but rather channeling what naturally came to me, with no expectations."

Since "Love the Way You Lie" went to #1 on the pop charts, Skylar Grey appeared as a co-writer and featured peformer on Diddy-Dirty Money's hit single "Coming Home," as well as featured performer on the Eminem and Dr. Dre smash "I Need a Doctor." All three of these hit singles were Alex Da Kid productions. He has signed Skylar Grey to a production deal. It looks like stardom is lurking just around the corner.

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Grammy Awards 2011: Backstage with Justin Bieber, Usher, Esperanza Spalding, Matthew Morrison, and many more

As you might imagine, backstage at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards is a press feeding frenzy, with golden gramophone winners—and even some presenters—parading behind-the-scenes to various media outlets to take their questions and revel in the celebratory mood of the evening. The bold-faced names trek from the radio press to TV shows like Extra and—you guessed it—even us here in the print and online world. I resided backstage for the show and waited for folks like Esperanza Spalding, Usher, Justin Bieber, Train, and Matthew Morrison to come and bask with the reporters for a bit. Here’s what minute-by-minute account of what transpired:

6:15 P.M. PT: The band Train, winners for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals for their smash single “Hey, Soul Sister,” are both the first winners of the evening and the first winners to come backstage for the evening. The first question for the group is about their surprising comeback last year with “Soul Sister.” “We’ve been through a lot, and to be here after so many years, it’s such an honor to be nominated,” says vocalist Patrick Monahan. “This was a beautiful comeback nomination. We feel we have many more albums to come that are going to be better. To have won this makes up for things that didn’t even exist.”

Added vocalist/guitarist Jimmy Stafford: “When you’re in a category up against Glee these days, we weren’t expecting it.” Clever. Before they stepped off the press stage, the group addressed the fact that “Soul Sister” became huge, in part, because it was featured in commercials for Reebok, Apple, and Samsung. “Our current single, ‘Marry Me,’ we’re looking for a diamond commercial. So if any of you have inside scoop…” Very funny. They came off as really great, relaxed guys and more than happy about their win.

6:43 P.M. PT: The Black Keys—who won a Grammy during in the pre-telecast awards—come backstage, and amid a few boring questions and answers, they reveal they’ll start work on a new album in March.

7:34 P.M. PT: John Legend appears long after he won his three Grammy Awards during the pre-telecast awards. “I love it every time,” he says, about winning. “I never take it for granted. I appreciate it every time. It’s nice when we can do them on TV, but there were no R&B awards on TV this year unfortunately.” What next for Legend? “I’m in the studio again working on another new album. This time I’m doing it with Kanye. We already did a week of work, and it was already really good. We’re off to a great start. We’ll hopefully have the bulk of it done this spring.”

7:43 P.M. PT: The always-jovial Matthew Morrison from Glee shows up backstage, after he made his introduction of Academy president Neil Portnow. “You have been hounding me all weekend!” he says upon arrival, spotting a journalist who he’s seen at parties all weekend. “How you doin’?” Then he gets to the goods, revealing some details about his forthcoming album, which will be out in May. Morrison collaborated with producers J.C. Chasez (of ’NSYNC), Rob Mathis, and the funnily named Egg White, who’s out of London. He wrote half the album himself, and his first album will be out in three weeks.

What about a few little personal details, like, who his date was tonight and what the heartthrob is doing for Valentine’s Day tomorrow? “My manager was my date—very boring,” he says. “I don’t have a date tomorrow—I’ll be working all day. I’m so boring. I don’t have time to date anyone. My life sucks.” And what did he think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance with Cee Lo? “I was so excited for her!” he says. “She’s become such a good buddy of mine. She killed it! And she looked fantastic. My heart was so happy.” And lastly, what’s the latest with Glee? “There are some trannies coming on soon,” he says, clearly joking. “No, I’m kidding. Gwyneth came back on, and we did ‘Kiss’ by Prince as a tango. Next week: Justin Bieber songs!”

7:55 P.M. PT: A very sparkly Miranda Lambert materializes backstage after he win for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her song “The House That Built Me.” Naturally, she addresses the song first—and the odd way it ended up on her record. “’The House That Built Me’ was actually pitched to [fiancé and fellow country star] Blake [Shelton],” she says. “When I heard it, I just had this huge connection to it. Blake said, ‘If you have a connection like this with a song, you should probably put this on your record.’ Right before it went to No. 1, he asked if he could have it back, but it was a little late at that point.” Very good-natured. What’s her favorite thing about the Grammys? “I love that the Grammys does collaborations,” she says. “That is a lost art.” And, finally, why didn’t she thank fiancé Blake in her acceptance speech? “I forgot!” she yells before running off the press stage.

8:10 P.M. PT: A sunglasses-wearing Usher, after performing with his mentee Justin Bieber, comes backstage. Immediately, the members of the press immediately ask what he thinks about Esperanza Spalding winning the Best New Artist Grammy over Bieber. “I would have preferred that Justin Bieber would have won Best New Artist,” he admits, and then adds: “I’ve been here before and didn’t win.”

8:12 P.M. PT: Then, surprise! A white-tuxedo-clad Justin Bieber—who’d been waiting in line to come on stage after Usher—crashes the stage and jumps on Usher’s back. Of course, the first question is: What do you think about Esperanza winning over you for Best New Artist? “I think that I’m really happy for her, and uh, I had a great night,” Bieber says diplomatically. “I got to perform with my mentor, which is amazing. Yeah, that’s all I got to say.” Bieber answers a few other silly questions and disappears.

8:16 P.M. PT: But Bieber only disappears for a few moments before returning to the stage with Usher again. Thoughts about his songs being on Glee? “I’m really excited about it,” he says. “My songs are going to be on Glee. I really can’t believe it. This month and this year has been just amazing.” And, two years after stardom, what does he think of Bieber Fever? “I think that it’s just a term, like, that my fans have made and have continued to…,” he says, trailing off. “It’s an epidemic. I’m kidding. I don’t know. I’m not the one who made it up, so talk to my fans.” Lastly, where will he be in 10 years? “I see myself still doing music and still being musical and making songs and pleasing my fans.”

8:48 P.M. PT: The big-haired Esperanza Spalding, who won the Grammy for Best New Artist, waltzes backstage. “It’s just a blessing to be acknowledged in this stage,” she says. “I feel really lucky that I got to be acknowledged on this stage. I got there by doing what’s really dear to my heart.” Spalding tells the story of how she fell in love with the bass but says that she started on the violin, playing that from age 5 to 15. Is it “weird” to win Best New Artist for your third album? “Oh no,” Spalding says. “I mean, weird. I know you don’t mean ‘weird.’ It’s already just weird that I’m here in front of you. For the world that I come from, this is the beginning of the beginning.”

Finally, how does Esperanza feel about trumping Bieber for Best New Artist? “When this is all over, we’re all colleagues again, just like we were before,” she says. “He sold more records than me. We’re doing our thing in our respective fields. He’s unquestionably a talented man. What can I say? I didn’t beat him. I’m taking that thing home. He has great hair, and I have great hair.”

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Grammy Awards: Dylan, Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers bring an acoustic fury

Some classic instrumentation can go a long way, and Mumford & Sons have been a steady-building success story, but the act's run-through of "The Cave" should add some acceleration. The lyrics are mysterious, and the imagery is more foreboding than anything Eminem will cook up tonight, as the band brings plenty of tension to its acoustic works.

The Avett Brothers' "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise" started slower, but gradually built, and by the time the band starts singing that "darkness" is taking over, the mood and tone of the music reflects it. The moment that everyone was waiting for, however, was the arrival of Bob Dylan, making one of his rare Grammy appearances. He saing "Maggie's Farm," with all of the Avetts and Mumfords backing him. The mike was wobbly at first, but Dylan's voice is wobbly, so it doesn't really matter. It's a song of personal revolution, and standing up to an unjust employer, so it worked well for these recessionary times.

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Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' Premieres Gaga channels '90s dance music on new track celebrating individuality.


Fun, empowering and over-the-top. Those are the first adjectives that come to mind upon hearing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." \ Between Gaga's empowering lyrics and the music's heavy club influences, the song is set to appease her fans and pop lovers everywhere who had no idea what Gaga had up her meat sleeves for this highly anticipated single, which debuted early Friday morning (February 11). Lady Gaga

At first listen, it sounds a lot like a '90s club anthem that could have been pulled right out Madonna's "Vogue" period, complete with rhythmic spoken-word parts. But upon a closer listen, Gaga's distinct voice makes the song all hers.

"It doesn't matter if you love him or capital H-I-M," she says on loop at the song's beginning, "because you were born this way, baby."

As synths crash into a beat, Gaga belts out the song's first verse, "My mama told me when I was young/ We are all born superstars." She then quickly moves into the chorus, and it's clear this song is meant to be heard in a big space. It's fast and hard-hitting.

Gaga sings/speaks in the middle of the song: "Don't be a drag, be a queen/ Whether you're broke or evergreen/ You're black, white, beige, chola descent/ You're Lebanese, You're Orient/ Whether life's disabilities/ Left you outcast, bullied or teased/ Rejoice and love yourself today/ 'Cause baby you we're born this way/ No matter gay, straight, or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life/ I'm on the right track baby/ I was born to survive/ No matter black, white or beige/ Chola or Orient made/ I'm on the right track baby/ I was born to be brave."

The music fades out momentarily as Gaga sings a cappella before a synthy organ comes back in and she closes out the song, her voice clear and strong. The song is part gospel for her little monsters (particularly the ones who feel persecuted for their sexuality or other differences) and part funky dance tune that anyone could relate to.

The song was written and co-produced by Gaga. Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow also got co-production credits on the track, which will appear on her May album of the same name.

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Army Backs Mubarak as Crowds Surge

CAIRO — As tens of thousands of chanting protesters thronged central Cairo and elsewhere on the 18th day of Egypt’s uprising, the powerful armed forces scrambled on Friday to offer assurances and concessions, endorsing President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to step down while seeking to defuse the outrage and anger

But it was not clear whether the military’s position would satisfy demonstrators who have previously cast the military as an ally and who want Mr. Mubarak to leave immediately — a demand the military did not come near to supporting in a statement on Friday after a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

In the statement, read out on state television, the military appeared to support Mr. Mubarak’s insistence, laid out in a speech on Thursday night, that he would remain in power until elections are held, delegate some unspecified authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman and oversee constitutional change.

At the same time, in an effort to meet some of the protesters’ demands, the military said it would guarantee the lifting of Egypt’s emergency law once the current protests were over and would defend “the lawful demands of the people.” The law was imposed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 — which enabled Mr. Mubarak, then the vice president, to take power. Protesters say it has been used to suppress opposition.

The military’s statement, labeled Communiqué No. 2, followed an announcement on Thursday offering “affirmation and support for the legitimate demands of the people.”

On Friday, the military also promised that the “honorable people who have rejected corruption” and who have demanded reform would not be “pursued.” Many demonstrators fear that if they call off their protests they will face arrest and punishment.

In a direct appeal to the demonstrators to end protests that have forced the autocratic Mr. Mubarak to make once unthinkable concessions, the military said that people should return to work and resume normal life. The turmoil has cost Egypt dearly in terms of its economy, the prestige of its leaders and its vaunted reputation for stability.

The president’s declaration Thursday night immediately enraged hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Tahrir Square in anticipation of his departure and set in motion a volatile new stage in the three-week uprising.

Western diplomats said that Egyptian government officials had assured them privately on Friday that they had expected Mr. Mubarak’s speech to signal that he was making a more complete exit, permanently and irrevocably delegating all his powers to his vice president.

But Mr. Mubarak’s speech confounded their expectations, leaving military officials and Egyptian diplomats scrambling to reassure their Western allies that Mr. Mubarak had indeed signaled a more definitive break with power, the diplomats said, speaking in return for anonymity because of the delicacy and fluidity of the deepening crisis.

Western diplomats and American officials say that Egypt’s top military commanders, including both the defense minister and the chairman of the armed forces, have told them for weeks that the Egyptian army would never use force against civilians to preserve the regime. Some depicted Mr. Mubarak’s speech as a sign that his power had effectively waned.

“The government of Egypt says absolutely, it is done, it is over,” a Western diplomat said, but “that is not what anybody heard,” in part because Mr. Mubarak’s delegation of power to his vice president did not seem to be irrevocable. But the developments nonetheless reopened the question of who wielded ultimate power in Egypt after the military’s growing intervention.

The military statement, broadcast first by a civilian announcer on state television and then by a uniformed military spokesman, came as the city — and many other places in Egypt — began noon prayers on Friday, the Muslim holy day and the beginning of the weekend, a moment that has been the prelude for large-scale demonstrations since the revolt started.

Several hundred protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in the suburb of Heliopolis, news reports said, but troops backed by armored vehicles and razor wire barricades did nothing to prevent them from assembling.

In the upscale neighborhood of Mohandiseen, about a thousand protesters spilled out of the Mustafa Mahmoud mosque to march on the Radio and Television Building, even though shouting matches broke out as some Egyptians watching them urged them to call off their protest since Mr. Mubarak repeated that he would leave in September when elections are scheduled. But one demonstrator, Mohamed Salwy, 44, said: “Mubarak doesn’t understand. I think these protests are going to have to go on for a long time.”

Once they arrived at the broadcasting center, they were joined by thousands of others, facing a ring of steel made up of a dozen armored personnel carriers and tanks forming a cordon.

Outside the capital, television images showed large numbers of protesters gathering under a sea of Egyptian flags in Alexandria.

it has provoked among protesters.

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Feast of our Lady of Lourdes

MANILA, Philippines – The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world. It was built on the spot where Bernadette, a 14-year-old peasant girl, the oldest daughter among the six children of Francois Soubrious and Louise Casterot, had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first encounter happened on February 11, 1858. Bernadette and her friends had gone to gather firewood when suddenly, in the hollow of the rock Massabielle, she saw a young and beautiful lady. “Lovelier than I have ever seen,” Bernadette said. She described the lady as clothed in white, with a blue ribbon sash and a Rosary on her right arm. That was the first of a series of apparitions that ended on July 16, 1858.

One day, the beautiful lady told the Bernadette to drink of a mysterious fountain within the grotto. No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette scratched at the ground, a spring began to flow. The water from this still-flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power. Many people who visited the grotto have been healed of various kinds of illnesses.

The lady bade Bernadette to go and tell the local priest that she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto. The priest said he would not believe it unless the apparition gave Bernadette her name. On March 25, 1858, Bernadette reported that the lady told her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” At that time Bernadette did not have any idea about the term because of her young age but the Church has just declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in 1854.

The Church professes that Mary is the Immaculate Conception because she was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin because God prepared her to be the mother of His Son, Jesus our Lord. Pope Pius X then decreed the universal observance of this feast on February 11, 1907.

As we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we remember Mary’s Immaculate Conception. We pray on this day that we may have the grace and courage to always do the will of God and reject any occasions of sin. We pray to our Blessed Mother to bring us closer to God. We also pray to God through Mary for the conversion of sinners and the forgiveness of their sins.

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Say What? Family Guy’s Seth Macfarlane Doing a Big Band Record? Gets REAL Talent to Play Along

TYG 004847 Say What? Family Guys Seth Macfarlane Doing a Big Band Record? Gets REAL Talent to Play Along

Seth MacFarlane didn’t just create The Family Guy but he also lends his voice to the characters of Peter Griffin, Brian the dog, Stewie and Quagmire. But he’s not just content just doing voices of Rhode Island residents. Nope, Seth MacFarlane won’t be speaking in his next role, he’ll be singing. And as part of a big band no less.

And he got some very talented ladies to lend their talents to his artistic pursuit…

Entertainment Weekly learned that Norah Jones and Sara Barelles will be joining him on the record. The album is entitled Music in Better Than Words and features “hidden gems from the ’40s and ’50s.”

Would you listen to Peter Griffin sing a Sinatra like ditty? Fortunately for us all, Seth MacFarlane has a whole slew of voices in that throat of his, it’ll be interesting to see which one he pulls out for his role as big band singer.

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