Powered by Blogger.
  • Home
  • New Jersey Shopping Plaza Shootout Leaves Three Dead

     The man suspected of killing two people early this morning at a New Jersey Pathmark before shooting himself to death during a confrontation with police is believed to be a 23-year-old former Marine who worked at the grocery store for two weeks, according to WABC-TV.

    The suspect left the Old Bridge, N.J., shopping plaza at about 4 a.m. and returned, having changed into camouflage clothing, armed with an AK-47 and an automatic handgun, authorities told WABC, which reported that both victims, a man and a woman, were young adults.

    Police had responded to shots inside the Pathmark on Route 9 at 4 a.m.

    Authorities believe the man killed two before turning the gun on himself, according to WABC. There's no word on his motive.

    "This is the worst phone call a mayor can receive," Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry told NewJersey.com of the information he obtained about 6:30 a.m. "You can prepare for these things but you can't prevent them."

    Several employees were inside the store, which was preparing to open at 6 a.m. Two windows near the entrance to the Pathmark were shot out.

    Numerous employees were taken across the street to a T.G.I. Friday's and many were being treated for trauma at waiting ambulances.

    The scene is now under control, according to WABC, and there were emergency responders in the plaza parking lot who had been standing in front of the store for some time.

    Taylor Swift: ‘Love is a complete mystery & that’s why I like to write about it’

    Taylor Swift has a new interview with Rolling Stone, although I don’t think she’s taken the cover or anything. Sidenote: The latest cover RS cover story seems to be Matt Taibbi’s epic investigation into Mitt Romney’s financial dealings over the past four decades – you can read the full piece here (Yes, I’m mainly encouraging people to read Taibbi’s story because I have a wonk-crush on him. Matt Taibbi is BOSS. And Chris Hayes too.) Anyway, back to Swifty. Much to her credit (?), she doesn’t completely avoid questions about dating a Kennedy teenager, but she manages to avoid saying Conor Kennedy’s name and she only talks around the whole buying-a-house-right-beside-the-Kennedy-compound thing. Mostly, she talks about music and how she wrote her new album:

        “I went through a few roller coasters,” says Taylor Swift, reflecting on her relationships over the past two years. She channeled the turmoil into her fourth studio LP, Red, out October 22nd. “Trying to chronicle each step of the way was challenging, because you go to some really dark places with the lyrics. Then in the next track, you’re talking about how amazing it is to meet somebody new.”

        After writing 2010′s smash Speak Now by herself, Swift veered in the opposite direction, co-writing with pop hitmakers such as Max Martin and Adele collaborator Dan Wilson. She wound up with nearly 40 potential songs; in between stops on the yearlong world tour that she wrapped in March, Swift joined her writing partners in L.A. and Nashville.

        “I felt like an apprentice,” Swift says. “They taught me so much about melodic sense, and they let me do what I love, which is the lyrics.”

        The result is Swift’s most eclectic set ever, ranging from “State of Grace,” a howling, U2-style epic with reverb-drenched guitars, to a sweet acoustic duet with U.K. singer Ed Sheeran. Another key track even features a dubstep-inspired bass breakdown. So far, the new direction isn’t hurting Swift’s career: Lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a bitter breakup anthem with a hip-hop-flavored Max Martin beat, has shattered chart records, selling a stunning 623,000 digital singles in its first week. To Swift, the musical excursions aren’t surprising, given how much hip-hop and R&B she listens to. “I have so many play­lists full of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown,” she says. “I love Wiz Khalifa.”

        Lyrically, the album is full of Swift’s usual themes of romance and heartbreak. “I know general things about love,” she says. “How to treat people well, what you deserve and when to walk away. Other than that, love is a complete mystery – and that’s why I like to write about it.”

        Swift has spent much of the summer with her new boyfriend, Conor Kennedy (the son of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.), in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. She’s even looked into buying a house near the Kennedy compound. “That would be so amazing,” she says.

        But Swift won
    ’t be resting for long: She’s already thinking about how to top her last tour, which featured aerialists, costume changes and a mock wedding onstage every night. “I really want to go out on the road in the spring,” she says. “After I write a song, I always end up laying awake at night thinking, ‘What are the lighting cues going to be on this? How big is the pit going to be?’ I have been thinking of some big moments that are going to happen.”

    Queen Elizabeth II Wears A Hoodie While Driving A Range Rover

    Queen Elizabeth II is cooler than any of us. She raises corgis, parachutes from planes with James Bond (sort of) and hangs out with some awesome girlfriends. Should we even keep trying?

    Her Majesty took to the wheel in Balmoral over the weekend -- home of the infamous corgis vs. Princess Beatrice's terrier smackdown -- rollin' in a Range Rover on her way back from a grouse shoot. But instead of her trademark floral hats -- much more customary for a royal -- she slipped into some unusual headgear, wearing what appeared to be a grey-colored hoodie.

    The 86-year-old queen usually scoots around in her chaffeured Bentley, so we're surprised to see her gunning behind the wheel of a green Range Rover. But regardless... THAT HOODIE.

    Now, we have to ask. Was the queen actually decked out in a hoodie, or was her headwear just a scarf pinned down with bobby pins (which we can sort of make out in the photos)? Judge for yourself.

    Taylor Swift Talks Conor Kennedy, Love Of Hip-Hop In 'Rolling Stone'

    By now, everyone and their mother knows that Taylor Swift is dating a Kennedy (Conor, 18, son of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.), and that the leggy country crooner all but party-bombed a Kennedy wedding last week ("I personally went up to Ms. Swift…and asked her nicely as I could to leave," the bride's mother said).

    But the top-earning entertainer under 30 is not stopping there. She's already bought that $4.9 million vacation home near the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Mass., which she alludes to in a new interview in Rolling Stone. "That would be so amazing," Swift gushed to the publication.

    Other things the 22-year-old gushed about? Her love for R&B hip-hop ("I love Wiz Khalifa" -- how quirky!) and collaborating with industry pros Max Martin and Dan Wilson for her fourth album, "Red" (out October 22). She also expounded on love, just generally. "Trying to chronicle each step of the way was challenging, because you go to some really dark places with the lyrics. Then in the next track, you're talking about how amazing it is to meet someone new," Swift said.

    Not that we're sensing a trend here [insert Taylor Swift surprise face here], but … Conor, you listening?

    'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' Video: Taylor Swift & Furries

    Taylor Swift is never ever getting back together with you ... unless you're in a furry costume? That's at least one of the takeaways from the first video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," the hit new single from the pop-country singer.

    As you might guess, the song -- off Swift's upcoming album Red -- details a poisonous, break-up/make-up relationship that Swift finds "exhausting." (No word yet on which of Swift's famous exes the break-up anthem is about.) In the video -- which uses some fancy camera tricks to look like one continuous take -- Swift goes back and forth with her hipster boyfriend, and only finds solace (and "we-HEEEEs") with her friends, a group of furry-costume wearing musicians.

    Since its release, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has been on top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It sold a record-setting 623,000 digital copies during its debut week.

    The video isn't embeddable yet, but feel free to sing along and head over to MTV.com for the whole video.

    '2016: Obama's America' Director Dinesh D'Souza Says Film 'Will Do Better If Obama Wins'

    Obama's America" has been one of the most-discussed movies of the summer, with media coverage focusing on two things above all: the amount of money it has generated at the box office and the movie's anti-Obama message, especially controversial in an election year.

    But conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who co-directed the movie and wrote "The Roots of Obama's Rage," the non-fiction book it's based on, told The Huffington Post that he didn't initially intend for it to be a big ticket-seller or a tool of political persuasion. He came up with the idea of making the movie trying to think of ways address critics of his book, who said it had failed to prove its central claim that Obama had been influenced by his father.

    "I was thinking, 'Haven't you guys read Obama's book? He wrote practically 500 pages on this subject,'" D'Souza said. "And then I noticed that Obama had read his own book in audiobook. I began to listen to it, and I thought, 'It's all here in his own voice! If only I could take some of this stuff, critical points, and make a documentary, it would be very helpful for people.'"

    D'Souza said he thought back to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which inspired heated debate when it was released on the eve of the 2004 presidential election.

    "I realized that the conditions now are very similar. A controversial president, half the country on each side of the fence, anxiety about the American dream," he said. "So I thought, why not take a page out of Michael Moore's book and make a film -- although a very different kind of film, I hope."

    An acquaintance put him in touch with producer Gerald Molan, who'd worked on "Schindler's List." Molan agreed that "The Roots of Obama's Rage" had the makings of a compelling movie. D'Souza raised $2.5 million from 25 friends and acquaintances -- "mostly from my neighborhood in California," he said -- and started work on the movie with co-director John Sullivan. They filmed around the world in January and February, then had a final cut ready by the end of May.

    To minimize financial risk, they rolled out the movie slowly, opening on just one screen on July 13. Ticket sales were strong, so they expanded distribution -- first to four screens, then to six, 10, 61 and 169 in the following weeks. Last weekend, it was playing on 1,091 screens and had made $6.5 million -- more than any new movie that week.

    Keith Simanton, managing editor of the online movie database IMDB, said that the movie's success was largely an effect of canny marketing and good timing. "It's had a groundswell around it. The platform release worked well -- and being in the middle of the Republican convention helps. They timed it well; if they'd pumped this out in July, we wouldn't be having this conversation, " he told The Huffington Post.

    New Video: Mariah Carey Shows Off Her Body and Ring Girl Skills!

    Mariah Carey proves that she can still “Get’em” at 42-years-old!The music video for Mariah’s "Triumphant (Get’Em)" ft. Rick Ross and Meek Mill just dropped – and the mother-of-two looks better than ever. In true Mimi fashion, the "American Idol" judge sports some super short dresses as she plays a gold-clad ring girl.And the wind machine is a nice (also hilarious) touch – because there’s generally a strong breeze inside a boxing ring. Right?Check out the video and vote below! Read more »

    Report a problem

    Barclays retail boss Jenkins gets CEO task

    Britain's Barclays has picked softly spoken retail boss Antony Jenkins as its new chief executive to fill the shoes left by Bob Diamond, the colorful American investment banker who resigned after a rate-rigging scandal.

    Jenkins, brought in six years ago to turn around the British bank's credit card business, lacks experience in investment banking, which, though a big profit driver for Barclays, has been at the heart of the firm's recent troubles.

    Jenkins's manner will mark a sharp contrast with the flashier style of Diamond, who built up Barclays's thriving investment bank but resigned as chief executive in July after the bank admitted manipulating the Libor benchmark interest rate.

    Diamond was, however, grooming Jenkins for the top job before his own fall from grace.

    "He's a very capable guy," Oriel Securities analyst Mike Trippitt said. "I think the fact that he's come up the ranks in the retail and commercial world means he'll take a very fresh view of the investment bank."

    Trippitt added that Jenkins was unlikely to kill off the latter, but would look at how capital was allocated in the divisions.

    Technology and gadget enthusiast Jenkins beat off competition from external candidates for the role, confounding those who had thought the bank would look outside to signal a clean break with former management.

    Barclays on Thursday vaunted Jenkins' "intimate knowledge" of the bank's portfolio, and his retail experience could be an advantage in the face of new rules forcing UK banks to safeguard small customers.

    British banks are being asked to effectively isolate their riskier investment bank arms from their retail businesses, so taxpayers will not have to bail them out in any repeat of the financial crisis that struck in 2008.

    Jenkins inherits a daunting in-tray. His appointment came hours after British fraud prosecutors confirmed they were launching a criminal probe into payments between Barclays and Qatar Holding in 2008.

    Four current and former senior employees are also under investigation by the financial watchdog, including finance director Chris Lucas.

    In June Barclays paid $453 million to U.S. and UK authorities to settle with regulators over the Libor probes.

    "We have made serious mistakes in recent years and clearly failed to keep pace with our stakeholders' expectations," Jenkins said in a statement.

    Is a Penny Rounded a Penny Lost? Ask Chipotle

    My children are fans of the food at Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG). Soft, fresh tacos; black beans; melted cheese - what's not to like? So I was intrigued when I read about a payment policy that the restaurant chain uses in some locations. It's called "rounding" (which, by coincidence, my daughter is learning about at elementary school).

    Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesThe Consumerist recently riffed on a column in The Star-Ledger, which reported on Chipotle's practice of rounding the change in receipt totals for cash transactions at some restaurants. These locations do this so that cashiers don't have to handle lots of coins, which tends to slow the lines down. If you've ever been to Chipotle, you know that the food is dished out in assembly-line style, where you place your order and then walk along the counter, telling the staff that, yes, you'd like some guacamole, please, but hold the rice. You pay at the end of the line.

    As The Consumerist pointed out, rounding to the nearest nickel isn't really a big deal, as long as the restaurant is rounding down. But if it rounds up, you pay extra - even if it's just a penny or two.

    In one sense, this seems like a smart idea. Who wants excess change clogging up their pockets, anyway, especially if it means you'll get your food faster? But at least one customer objected to this "Chipotle-style math," the New Jersey newspaper reported, and sent in his receipts for review:

        "On the first, dated July 13, the nine items added up to $32.93. There was $2.31 in tax. The total should have been $35.24, but next to the 'total' line on the receipt, it said $35.25. The next receipt, with the same sale date, showed a subtotal of $8.64. The tax was $0.60, so the grand total should have been $9.24. But no. With Chipotle-style math, the total was $9.25."

    I called a Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold, who said the chain uses rounding in a few "high volume" markets,  including New York, New Jersey and some locations in Boston. The idea is to reduce the time cashiers spend doling out pennies, to keep the lines moving quickly. (In some locations, he said, "there are lines out the door as soon as we open.") The total, he said, was previously rounded either up or down, to the "nearest nickel." The result generally was a wash for the restaurant, he said. And for most customers, he said, "I think generally it's been a nonissue."

    But a few penny-pinchers (my description, not Mr. Arnold's) did object. So as of August, he said, the chain is only rounding down. (Also, receipts should now have a line showing the impact of the rounding math.) He said he didn't know of other outlets that round receipts.

    Do you think rounding of meal receipts - up or down - to eliminate pennies is a reasonable policy for a busy restaurant?

    'Hitler' clothing store stirs anger in India

    The owner of an Indian clothing store said Wednesday that he would only change its name from "Hitler" if he was compensated for re-branding costs, amid a growing row over the new shop.

    The outlet, which sells Western men's wear, opened 10 days ago in Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat with "Hitler" written in big letters over the front and with a Nazi swastika as the dot on the "i".

    "I will change it (the name) if people want to compensate me for the money we have spent -- the logo, the hoarding, the business cards, the brand," Rajesh Shah told AFP.

    He put the total costs at about 150,000 rupees ($2,700).

    Shah insisted that until the store opened he did not know who Adolf Hitler was and that Hitler was a nickname given to the grandfather of his store partner because "he was very strict".

    "I didn't know how much the name would disturb people," he told AFP by telephone from Ahmedabad. "It was only when the store opened I learnt Hitler had killed six million people."

    Members of the tiny Jewish community in Ahmedabad condemned the store's name, while a senior Israeli diplomat said the embassy would raise the matter "in the strongest possible way."

    "People use such names mostly out of ignorance," Israel's Mumbai Consul General Orna Sagiv told AFP.

    Esther David, a prominent Indian writer in Ahmedabad who is Jewish, said she was "disturbed and distressed" by the shop, but added that some Indians used the word "Hitler" casually to describe autocratic people.

    David said Jewish residents had sought to change Shah's mind about the store's name and told him about the Holocaust.

    The row evoked memories of a controversy six years ago when a Mumbai restaurant owner called his cafe "Hitler's Cross" and put a swastika on the hoarding, claiming Hitler was a "catchy" name.

    The restaurant owner eventually agreed to change the name after protests by the Israeli embassy, Germany and the US Anti-Defamation League.

    Raghuram Rajan, Reforms-Minded Economist, Moves In

    The arrival of a high-profile, reforms-oriented economist has created a stir in India’s finance ministry, which presides over an economy that has dramatically deteriorated over the past 12 months.

    But Raghuram Rajan’s enthusiasm for reforms may not be enough to precipitate change in the government’s policies.

    Dr. Rajan, the former International Monetary Fund chief economist who took charge as chief economic adviser to India’s finance ministry on Wednesday, didn’t have much to say on the first day of his job.

    “I have no immediate comments to make on the Indian economy. As soon as we know more of the ground realities, I will speak,” he told reporters who had besieged his new office in New Delhi.

    This reticence is not typical of Dr. Rajan, who is famous for warning of impending financial collapse at a 2005 gathering to honor former U.S. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

    Dr. Rajan has firm views on what ails India’s economy, which can be gleaned from a speech he made in April.

    He is a strong believer in liberalization and privatization and says that the economic reforms of 1991 that set India on a high-growth path need to be carried forward.

    “We need to become paranoid again [about growth], as we were in the early 1990s,” he said in the speech. To start with, he wants the government to raise fuel prices in quick steps and eventually deregulate them.

    India subsidizes the prices of certain fuels such as diesel, cooking gas and kerosene to make them affordable to more people. These sops are blamed for swelling India’s fiscal deficit and fuelling inflation by keeping the consumption of fuel artificially high.

    But Dr. Rajan is not alone in calling for the end to fuel subsidies. Apart from private-sector economists, the Reserve Bank of India and the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council are strong advocates of subsidy reform.

    What makes this reform difficult is a) the move is politically unpalatable and b) the ruling Congress party has to bring on board coalition partners before it can take such a step, a tough task for a politically contentious move.

    “Deficit-cutting is a good thing, but the finance ministry has political compulsions,” says Ashima Goyal, who advises the Indian central bank on monetary policy.

    Dr. Rajan’s predecessor, Kaushik Basu, had also arrived with strong credentials as an economist. He was a professor of economics and the C. Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University. Still, there’s not much he managed to push through in terms of reforms in the time he was India’s chief economic adviser.

    Lady Gaga Gets Naked While Recording New Album, 'ARTPOP'

    Gaga has reportedly decided to record her new album, ARTPOP, completely in the nude. "Gaga has really taken to the idea of naked recording," a source allegedly told the UK's The Sun. "She has been recording vocals while she’s been completely starkers. She thinks it makes her voice sound better.”

    Mother Monster is certainly not shy about baring her body, in public or in private.

    Earlier this month, she posted a home video to her official YouTube page, in which she dances around her home and lifts her sweater to flash the camera [NSFW]. In July, Gaga posted a nude photo of herself online on her social networking site LittleMonsters.com, wearing nothing but nude-colored underwear and holding her knees against her breasts [NSFW]. She also got naked for her perfume ad with little men crawling all over her body.

    Naked studio sessions seem quite tame, comparatively speaking.

    Her makeup artist, Tara Savelo tweeted:

    To which Gaga responded that ARTPOP will have a "stoned Disney Princess kinda vibe."

    "Let's just say I feel, I feel that when I wrote Born This Way, I demonstrated a sense of maturity," she told MTV News. "And I feel that on the next album, there's a lack of maturity — it's a tremendous lack of maturity or sense of responsibility."

    School asks deaf preschooler to change his sign language name

    Three-and-a-half  year old Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf, signs his name by crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down.

    To his family, friends and those who know the Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) language that the Grand Island, Neb., boy uses, that gesture uniquely means "Hunter Spanjer."

    But to Hunter's school district, it might mean something else. The district claims that it violates a rule that forbids anything in the school that looks like a weapon, reports KOLN-TV.

    And Hunter's parents claim that Grand Island Pubic Schools administrators have asked them to change their son's sign language name.

    "Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous," Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue told the TV station. "This is not threatening in any way."

    Hunter's father Brian Spanjer said, "It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E."

    The family told KOLN that lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf may push for Hunter's right to sign his name at the school.

    Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson told KOLN, "We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child."

    One Grand Island resident said she disagrees with the school.

    "I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Fredda Bartenbach said in the news report.

    Isaac thrashes New Orleans, overtops levee

    Authorities say a storm surge driven by Hurricane Isaac is overtopping a levee in a thinly populated part of mostly rural Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans.

    Parish spokeswoman Caitlin Campbell said water was running over an 18-mile stretch of the levee early Wednesday and some homes had been flooded.

    Sheriff's deputies from St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes were going house-to-house looking for residents who'd remained after an evacuation order.

    Parish President Billy Nungesser said a portion of the roof of his home had blown off. He described wind-driven rain coming into his home as "like standing in a light socket with a fire hose turned on."

    Dozens of residents in Plaquemines Parish are stranded and trapped inside homes in the area, The Times-Picayune reported.

    "The devastation of my house is worse than Katrina and the flooding in Woodlawn is worse than Katrina, so those things tell me that the damage on the east bank is worse than Katrina," Nungesser told The Times-Picayune.

    Hurricane Isaac knocked out power, flooded roads and pushed water over the top of a rural Louisiana levee before dawn Wednesday as it began a slow, wet slog toward a newly fortified New Orleans, seven years to the day after Katrina.

    Wind gusts and sheets of rain pelted the nearly empty streets of New Orleans, where people watched the incoming Isaac from behind levees that were strengthened after the much stronger Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

    Water pushed by the large and powerful storm flooded over an 18-mile stretch of one levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, flooding some homes in a thinly populated area. No injuries were reported. There have been no rescue efforts yet, due to the severity of the storm, the report said.

    Isaac was packing 80 mph winds, making it a Category 1 hurricane. It came ashore at 7:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday near the mouth of the Mississippi River, driving a wall of water nearly 11 feet high inland and soaking a neck of land that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico. Its next major target was New Orleans, 70 miles to the northwest, where forecasters said the city's skyscrapers could feel gusts up to 100 mph.

    Guns N' Roses Slash Once Caught David Bowie Naked With His Mom

    World-famous rockstars have seen it all: jet-setting to shows around the globe, partying in the most exclusive clubs and carousing with endless groupies. But Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash might have them all beat.

    Slash, formally known as Saul Hudson, really saw it all when he walked in on David Bowie naked with his mom. He found the glam-rock icon in bed with his costume designer mother, Ola Hudson, when he was just 8 years old.

    Slash revealed the shocking incident to Australian radio station Triple M (via NME):

        My mum started working with David professionally at first. I'm pretty sure that’s how it started. Then it turned into some sort of mysterious romance that went on for a while after that. She did his wardrobe for his whole Thin White Duke period and The Man Who Fell To Earth movie that he did. She did all that and he was around for a while.

        He was always over -– they were always together. I caught them naked once. They had a lot of stuff going on, but my perspective was limited. Looking back on it, I know exactly what was going on. When I look back on that whole combination of people, I can only imagine how freaky it was.

    Bowie dated Hudson when she and Slash's father broke up.

    "I really didn't like him that much, because he was the new guy in the house," Slash is quoted as saying of the Ziggy Stardust rocker during an interview with Rolling Stone in 1990. "I was really resentful."

    Bowie's dating history was quite expanisve.

    The singer identified himself as a bisexual during an interview with Playboy in 1976. "It's true -- I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me. Fun, too. We'll talk all about it."

    In 1993, he backtracked on this statement to Rolling Stone, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, telling the magazine he was a "closet heterosexual" because he wanted to develop his on-stage alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, as much as possible.

    ''I wanted to imbue Ziggy with real flesh and blood and muscle, and it was imperative that I find Ziggy and be him," Bowie told Rolling Stone. "The irony of it was that I was not gay. I was physical about it, but frankly it wasn't enjoyable.''

    In 1992, Bowie married supermodel Iman. The couple recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

    Officials: Hurricane Isaac's storm surge overtops levee, sends 12-foot flood into La. homes

     Hurricane Isaac made its second landfall in southeastern Louisiana early Wednesday, sending up to 12 feet of water into people’s homes as an 18-mile stretch of levee was overtopped, officials said.

    Officials in Plaquemines Parish said Coast Guard personnel and others were attempting to rescue people stranded on top of one levee.

    The storm surge also flooded areas of the Mississippi coast with water rising several feet in some parts, authorities said.

    Some 380,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

    The storm -- with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph -- hit land just west of Port Fourchon, La., at around 2:15 a.m. local time (3:15 a.m. ET), according to aircraft and radar data from the National Hurricane Center.

    Caitlin Campbell, a public information officer with Plaquemines Parish, told NBC News that the water had overtopped 18 miles of levee from St. Bernard Parish Line to White Ditch.

    Hurricane Isaac drenches multiple countries as it moves toward Louisiana.

    Shawn Reynolds, a producer at The Weather Channel, said in a message on Twitter that Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser had said 12 feet of water was inside some houses in the area.

    Nungesser added that officials were "working with U.S. Coast Guard to rescue people stranded on top of [a] levee," according to a Twitter message from The Weather Channel.

    "Our main concern right now is to try to get these men to safety and anybody else that did not get out in time," he told The Weather Channel.

    South Africa Mine Shooting Mourned By Relatives

    A fiery politician cast out of the ruling party Thursday hijacked the main memorial service for 34 striking miners killed by police, to accuse President Jacob Zuma's government of complicity in the shootings. Angry government ministers walked out.

    Zuma did not attend any of the services. He called a news conference to announce a retired supreme court judge will head a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate "the facts and circumstances which gave rise to the use of force and whether this was reasonable and justifiable in the particular circumstances."

    He announced a wide range of issues for the commission to investigate, including the role of London-registered Lonmin PLC, which owns the platinum mine where the violence was sparked by union rivalry.

    The commission would look at Lonmin's conduct and report "whether the company, by act or omission, created an environment which was conducive to the creation of tension, labour unrest, disunity among its employees or other harmful conduct," Zuma said.

    The somber and grieving tone of the memorial service at the mine was shattered by Julius Malema, who was expelled in April for sowing disunity in the African National Congress. Malema was applauded when he said the government has not intervened in the mines "because our leaders are involved in these mines." He said that President Zuma's foundation and other ANC leaders have shares in the mines.

    "Our government has become a pig that is eating its children," charged Malema.

    Malema's outburst came after church leaders had urged people not to use the memorial service to score political points.

    About a dozen Cabinet ministers left before they could address the crowd of more than 1,000 at the mine at Marikana, 70 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

    Last week's shootings were the worst display of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994 and have thrown the spotlight on growing anger at South Africa's massive inequality, poverty and unemployment.

    The violence unfolded as some 3,000 rock drill operators demanded a minimum wage of 12,500 rand ($1,560). The poorest 10 percent of the population shares 1.1 billion rand ($137.5 million) while the country's richest 10 percent has 381 billion (nearly $48 billion), the Congress of South African Trade Unions noted Thursday.

    Mr. Marcus Admits Starting Porn Syphilis Outbreak By Altering His Test Results

    Porn actor Mr. Marcus has come out and identified himself as the performer responsible for the current syphilis outbreak that has shut down production in the San Fernando Valley.

    He believes he contracted the STD on set but admits that he altered his syphilis-positive test so that he could keep performing. His altered test was what started the scare and initiated the industry's self-imposed 10-day moratorium while actors are tested and treated for syphilis.

    "I tried to cover it up… Because I said it was like the scarlet letter. It’s the word. Syphilis, whoa," Marcus said to XBiz. "Mr. Marcus, syphilis? Mr. Marcus, the one I worked with? The one that everybody works with? The one that’s been in this industry forever?"

    In an emotional interview that brought the 18-year veteran actor to tears, Marcus said that he only altered the test because his doctor told him he would not be contagious 10 days after taking a shot of penicillin. “I have to live with this, no one else does,” he said. “I’m very sorry. I did not think that this would come out like this."

    The porn actor was diagnosed with syphilis on July 12, received a penicillin shot on July 13 and returned to work 11 days later, on July 24, AVN reports. However, he still had the STD. Perhaps most disturbing, the producer of the shoot didn't ask for a paper or digital copy of Marcus' STD test. Instead, the actor showed a copy of the test on his cell phone so that the syphilis portion wasn't visible.

    For a subsequent porn shoot, Marcus said he folded his test covering the syphilis portion and photocopied it. However, a producer noticed this time that the numbers were missing and called Marcus out on it.

    Billionaire Ty Warner gives woman $20,000 for her cause after asking her for directions

    A woman who helped a lost man ended up with a surprise $20,000 gift.

    That's what happened last month when Jennifer Vasilakos guided Ty Warner when he stopped and asked for driving directions in Santa Barbara, Calif.

    While Warner didn't know exactly how to get to where he was going, Vasilakos didn't realize who she was helping.

    Warner is the billionaire founder of Ty Inc., the Beanie Baby company.

    Vasilakos was at the intersection trying to raise $20,000 for a stem cell procedure she needs to help save her life because she suffers from kidney failure and does not qualify for a transplant.

    She describes their encounter in her blog:

        I often get asked by random strangers for directions.  Not one to miss an opportunity, I handed him my flyer and he made a fifty dollar donation.  As he drove off, I thought that was the end of our encounter... He'd returned after an hour or so.  Rolling down his window, he reached out his hand and introduced himself.  I immediately recognized his name.  He was kind and sincere as he looked directly into my eyes...  I listened as he repeated over and over that he was going to help me.  That my fundraising was done.  That I didn't need to worry any longer.  He said he would send a check after he returned to his offices during the week.

    He was true to his word. Vasilakos, an herbalist and Reiki teacher, received a package on July 16 with a $20,000 check and with a handwritten note from Warner. The note read in part, "Someone up there loves you because I was guided to meet you Saturday. I never lose my way, but fate had me lost and ask you for directions. The rest of the story I hope will be a wonderful new life for you."

    "Of course I started crying, because that's what girls do," Vasilakos said. "I'm incredibly thankful to Ty Warner and to everyone who has supported me with love and prayer."

    The check cleared a few weeks later and she booked a surgical procedure at an undisclosed foreign hospital to begin hematopoietic stem cell treatment. Hematopietic treatment takes a cell from the blood or bone marrow that can renew itself and develop into a variety of specialized cells.

    Chavril and Six Other Musical Signs of the Apocalypse

    When news of Chavril broke earlier this week, the Internet erupted with a collective shudder. Clearly, the surprise engagement of Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger and fallen pop-"punk" star Avril Lavigne,
     announced in such rock cred-heavy publications as People and Hello Canada, was a sure sign of the apocalypse. And we agree, them Mayans were dead-on with 2012 being the end of the world.
    But not just because of Chavril. There have many more musical signs this year that end is indeed nigh.

    'Black Swan' Intern Lawsuit Proceeds, Striking Blow Against Unpaid Labor In Film

    Former "Black Swan" interns Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman won a small skirmish in their court battle with Fox Searchlight this morning when Judge William H. Pauley III allowed them to file a motion to amend their suit to expand the plaintiff class to include everyone who has worked as an unpaid intern at Fox Entertainment Group for the past several years.

    Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with Outten and Golden, the firm representing the plaintiffs, told The Huffington Post that Pauley set the deadline for the motion at Sept. 5, and that he said he would rule on it at a hearing on Oct. 9. She said Pauley encouraged Fox's legal team not to contest the motion.

    Pauley also ruled today that Fox would have to give the plaintiffs an email the company sent to all former unpaid interns, which the plaintiffs say was designed to coerce them not to join the lawsuit.

    The results of today's court conference have no inherent bearing on the central legal questions in the case -- namely, whether Fox violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by refusing to pay its interns. But the rulings increase the chances of hundreds or even thousands of past interns joining the suit and demanding back pay. As such, they support the mission that Glatt, 43, says was central to his decision to sue Fox Searchlight: doing away with unpaid internships altogether.

    "I want to see the practice ended," Glatt told The Huffington Post. "I think unpaid internships are extremely detrimental to the labor market, and especially pernicious in creative industries."

    Glatt said that he feels a big problem with unpaid internships is that they disrupt the labor market for entry-level workers by forcing people at the beginning of their careers to work for no pay and suppressing wages for people who have been on the job for several years.

    John Williams, the founder of non-profit Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, which mentors underprivileged youth to prepare them for work in the film industry, said he thinks that the practice is skewing the entire industry away from equal representation.

    "If you're a poor kid, or you can't afford to work for free, and people are saying you should work for free, that's going to favor kids who can do that, whose parents can pay their bills for years. It probably has an impact on how diverse the film industry is," Williams said.

    Auriemma: No interest in coaching at 2016 Olympics

     Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said he has no interest in returning as head coach of the U.S. national team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    Auriemma met with reporters at UConn, five days after coaching the U.S. team to a fifth straight Olympic gold medal.

    He said he was honored to get the job and ecstatic with the results, but described his interest level in doing it again as "zero."

    "If you ask me right now, today, I would say it is somebody else's turn," he said.

    Mike Krzyzewski returned as coach of the men's team after the 2008 Games to lead them to another gold medal in London, but the USA has traditionally switched women's basketball coaches after each Olympics.

    Tara VanDerveer, Nell Fortner, Van Chancellor and Anne Donovan each led teams to Olympic gold before Auriemma took the job as national coach in 2009.

    USA Basketball spokeswoman Caroline Williams said it is too soon for the organization to begin thinking about the coach of the 2016 team.

    "USA Basketball generally doesn't even begin the process until at least the winter after the Olympics," she said in an email. "We still have many competitions this year and the next major competition for our USA National Team isn't until 2014, so the coaching staff for the next squad hasn't even come up for discussion yet."

    Auriemma said he believes it will be more difficult for the women to win in 2016. Other countries such as France and Turkey are making great strides with their programs, and some key players for the U.S. are aging, he said.

    "Do you see any other Sue Birds and Diana Taurasi's and Tamika Catchings out there?" he said. "I don't. I think we're going to have to work harder than we've ever worked to stay where we are."

    Auriemma, who has led UConn to seven national titles, said coaching the Olympics was the most pressure he has ever felt.

    The U.S. team faced its first halftime deficit in the Olympics in 12 years before pulling away to beat Australia 86-73 in the semifinal game.

    France stayed with the U.S. in the first 12 minutes of the final before Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight straight in the second quarter, to help the U.S. win the gold, 86-50.

    Auriemma said he would like to concentrate on coaching his Huskies, who he said could be very "special" over the next two seasons. UConn returns almost everyone from a 33-5 team that lost in the national semifinals and brings in another top-rated recruiting class.

    As to whether he would ever consider returning to USA Basketball, Auriemma compared the experience to eating a bowl of his favorite mint-chocolate chip ice cream.

    Armstrong facing loss of 7 Tour de France titles

    Never one to back away from a fight, Lance Armstrong is finally giving in and the cost of quitting is steep: His seven Tour de France titles could be gone as soon as Friday.

    The superstar cyclist, whose stirring victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, chose not pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That was his last option in his bitter fight with USADA and his decision set the stage for the titles to be stripped and his name to be all but wiped from the record books of the sport he once ruled.

    Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, left no doubt that was the next step. He said Armstrong would lose the titles as soon as Friday and be hit with a lifetime ban, even though he is retired and turning 41 next month.

    Still to be heard from was the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong's legal challenge to USADA's authority. Tygart said the UCI was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it" as a signer of the World Anti-Doping Code.

    "They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code," he said.

    Armstrong clearly knew his legacy would be blemished by his decision. He said he has grown tired of defending himself in a seemingly never-ending fight against charges that he doped while piling up more Tour victories than anyone ever. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he passed as proof of his innocence during his extraordinary run of Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

    "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, `Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said Thursday night, hours before the deadline to enter arbitration. He called the USADA investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt."

    "I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," he said. "The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today - finished with this nonsense."

    USADA treated Armstrong's decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation's support for cancer research. Armstrong could lose other awards, event titles and cash earnings, and the International Olympic Committee might look at the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Games.

    "It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes," Tygart said. "It's a heartbreaking example of win-at-all-costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There's no success in cheating to win."

    While Tygart said the agency can strip the Tour titles, Armstrong disputed that, insisting his decision is not an admission of guilt but a refusal to enter an arbitration process he believes is unfair.

    "USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," he said. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

    Man Bites Snake to Death in Revenge

     A Nepali man who was bitten by a cobra snake subsequently bit the snake to death, a local newspaper reported on Thursday (Aug. 23).

    After being bitten by the snake, while he was working in his rice paddy on Tuesday, 55-year-old Mohamed Salmo Miya chased the snake, caught it and bit it until it died, the Annapurna Post reported, according to Reuters.

    "I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry," Miya was quoted as saying.

    Miya, who lives in a village some 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, was receiving treatment at a village health post at the time of the news report and was not in danger of dying from his snakebite. He will not b
    e charged with killing the snake, a local police official said, because cobras (called "goman" in Nepal) are not listed as endangered in the country.

    USADA to strip Lance Armstrong of 7 Tour titles

     With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.

    Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, he could lose other awards, event titles and cash earnings while the International Olympic Committee might look at the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Games.

    Armstrong, who retired last year, effectively dropped his fight by declining to enter USADA's arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests he passed as proof of his innocence while piling up Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

    "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said. He called the USADA investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt."

    "I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," he said. "The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense."

    USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong's decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation's support for cancer research.

    "It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes," Tygart said. "It's a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There's no success in cheating to win."

    Tygart said the agency had the power to strip the Tour titles, though Armstrong disputed that.

    "USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," he said. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

    Still to be heard from was the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong's legal challenge to USADA's authority and in theory could take the case before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    Obama: Team Romney coming on strong, playing dirty, time to ‘put them away’

    President Obama joined a group of former NBA stars at a fundraiser at New York’s Lincoln Center Wednesday night.  With Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and other basketball legends sitting nearby — “It’s very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth- or sixth-most interesting person,” Obama said — the president made a few obligatory remarks about opponent Mitt Romney’s tax and economic plans.  And then he addressed the presidential horse race — or basketball game.

    “I can’t resist a basketball analogy,” Obama told the crowd, according to a White House pool report.  “We are in the fourth quarter.  We’re up by a few points but the other side is coming on strong and they play a little dirty.”

    “We’ve got a few folks on our team in foul trouble.  We’ve got a couple of injuries, and I believe that they’ve got one last run in them.”

    “I’d say there’s about seven minutes to go in the game.  And [Michael Jordan's] competitiveness is legendary, and nobody knows better than Michael that if you’ve got a little bit of a lead and there’s about seven minutes to go — that’s when you put them away.”

    Electoral College Prediction Model Points To A Mitt Romney Win In 2012

    Two University of Colorado professors, one from Boulder and one from Denver, have put together an Electoral College forecast model to predict who will win the 2012 presidential election and the result is bad news for Barack Obama. The model points to a Mitt Romney victory in 2012.

    Ken Bickers from CU-Boulder and Michael Berry from CU-Denver, the two political science professors who devised the prediction model, say that it has correctly forecast every winner of the electoral race since 1980.

    "Based on our forecasting model, it becomes clear that the president is in electoral trouble," Bickers said in a press statement.

    To predict the race's outcome, the model uses economic indicators from all 50 states and it shows 320 electoral votes for Romney and 218 for Obama, according to The Associated Press. The model also suggests that Romney will win every state currently considered a swing state which includes Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado.

    The professors' model shows a very different picture than what current data suggests. Currently, The Huffington Post's Election Dashboard shows Obama with 257 electoral votes to Romney's 191 with only six "tossup" states including: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

    Berry cautions that just because the model has worked in the past, doesn't mean it will work this time. "As scholars and pundits well know, each election has unique elements that could lead one or more states to behave in ways in a particular election that the model is unable to correctly predict," Berry said in a statement. Some of those factors include the timeframe of the current economic data used in the study (the data used was taken five months before the November election, but Berry and Bickers plan to update it with more current data come September) as well as tight races. States that are very close to a 50-50 split, the authors warn, can fall in an unexpected direction.

    According to current data from The Huffington Post Election Dashboard, there are at least 13 states that are either dead heats or within a handful of percentage points in either direction.

    Obama Leads Romney By 7 Points As Negative Ads Take Toll

    President Barack Obama is leading Mitt Romney by 7 points among registered voters -- 52 percent to 45 percent -- in a just-released CNN/ORC International poll.

    The margin echoes those of other polls released in recent days, and suggests that the barrage of tough advertisements against the presumptive Republican nominee has taken a toll. As CNN notes:

        While Romney's favorable rating has remained steady (47% now compared to 48% in July), his unfavorable rating has jumped from 42% last month to 48% now ... Among independents, the poll indicates Romney's image has taken a beating. In May, only 40% of independents had an unfavorable view of Romney. Now, 52% of independents have a negative view of him.

    These polls are, of course, just snapshots in time. But they underscore the problem that Romney's campaign now has on its hands. His image among the public has been largely defined by his opponent. And while Romney has plenty of cash to run ads of his own, time is running out for him to reverse this trend.

    Take, for example, the following findings within the poll:

        Sixty-four percent of all Americans, and 68% of independents, think Romney favors the rich over the middle class. And 63% of the public thinks Romney should release more tax returns than he has already made public, a figure which rises to 67% among independents.

    UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. -- The recent trend of generally good news for the president continued on Thursday afternoon, with the release of a new poll by Fox News that showed Obama besting Romney by a 49 to 40 percent margin among registered voters. His lead has increased since last month's poll, when he enjoyed a 45 to 41 percent margin.

    As with the CNN poll, the primary factor appears to be the barrage of negative ads directed Romney's way.

        The Obama campaign has spent heavily on advertising attacking Romney’s time at Bain Capital and his tax returns. And it appears to be working. Romney’s favorable rating dropped six percentage points since last month and now sits at 46 percent, down from 52 percent in mid-July. At the same time his unfavorable rating went up five points. Romney’s favorable rating has held steady among his party faithful, but it’s down eight percentage points among independents and seven points among Democrats.

    Conjoined twins 'Abby & Brittany' get their own reality show

    TLC has given us reality TV shows about strange addictions, extreme couponers, and pint-size pageant queens. But it may top itself later this month with "Abby & Brittany," a look at the lives of conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel, who have miraculously survived to the age of 22 despite sharing one body fused together at the torso. When Abby and Brittany were born back in 1990, the doctors told their parents they most likely wouldn't survive the night. (One in 40,000 twin births are conjoined, and just one percent of those make it to the age of one.) But they defied the medical odds by not only surviving, but thriving. At six years old, the twins were featured on Oprah and appeared on the cover of Life magazine, but since then, parents Patty and Mike have raised the twins out of the media spotlight in rural Minnesota, giving them a chance at a normal childhood.
    And the most shocking thing about "Abby & Brittany" is how normal the girls are. They do share a body (with Abby controlling the right side and Brittany the left), but the girls have two very distinct personalities; as Brittany says, "Believe me, we are totally different people." They've worked together to earn a drivers' license and graduate from college, and now are getting ready to enter the job market and see the world with their friends... with reality TV cameras following their every move.

    German Stephan Feck had the worst dive of the Olympics

    Stephan Feck didn't win a medal at the Olympics, but he's receiving much more attention than your average 29th-place finisher.

    Feck lit up the Internet with jokes after going reverse belly-flop into the pool on a dive off the 3M springboard on Monday. The 22-year-old German lost the grip on his leg while doing his flips and landed flat on his back during his second dive of the preliminary round. The youngster received a 0.0 score on the dive and finished last out of 29 competitors. About the only thing positive to say is that at least his score should impress Brother Bluto.

    Feck finished with a score of 133.80 for his three dives and was 167.65 points behind the diver who finished second-to-last. He did not perform his final three dives after feeling sick, but we commend him just for giving it another effort with a third dive after that disaster. Russian Ilya Zakharov led all divers with a score of 507.65.

    Olympians spend years perfecting their skills in hopes of impressing the judges and representing their country proudly. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. All it takes is one mistake and the next thing you know you're a household name across the world for all the wrong reasons. The Olympics can bring a lot of glory, but also plenty of embarrassment for athletes like Feck, or even this guy.

    Kim Kardashian Hits The Gym, Goes Makeup-Free

    Newly crowned "perfect bitch" Kim Kardashian arose bright and early to hit the gym Tuesday morning, when photographers spotted au naturel Kim joining a Pilates class. Kanye's girlfriend also indulged in other activities necessary to maintain her "perfect" status, like getting a mani-pedi combo at a nail salon afterward. Hey, who said being perfect was easy?

    Lady Gaga, 'ARTPOP': Mother Monster Names Her New Album

    Little Monsters, rejoice! Lady Gaga has confirmed that the title of her new album is ARTPOP.

    On Sunday, Mother Monster tweeted the highly anticipated news, following her new ARTPOP ink. Gaga made the announcement on her own littlemonsters.com site with a photo of her new tattoo on the underside of her arm.

    While fans will have to wait for more album details to emerge, Gaga has already given her Little Monsters a taste of what to expect. In June, Gaga debuted a melancholy piano ballad called "Princess Die." At the time, Gaga told the crowd, "It's in no way reflective of the rest of music on the album, but it's about some of the most deep and personal thoughts I've ever had." Then in July, the singer gave her fans a special treat. Sitting in her car in New York City, Gaga played a new dance-heavy track off her upcoming album.

    It didn't take long for Gaga's faithful to appreciate the new material. “Amazing," one fan at the scene shouted. The assembled Monsters then began tweeting about meeting the singer and getting the exclusive first listen. "Just met GaGa," one fan wrote. "She was playing a song from her new album! ... It was a very heavy dance/club song! The beat was f---ing insane!"

    'Hope Springs': Meryl Streep And Tommy Lee Jones Talk Sex And Marriage In Their New Film

    The movie “Hope Springs” brings two words to mind: painfully funny. This gem of a film stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as Kay and Arnold, a Midwestern couple with two grown children. Married more than 30 years, their relationship has been ossified by age, domestic routine and a sea of unspoken hurts that crest like a tsunami between them. Seeking to revive their intimacy, Kay schedules a week of intensive couples therapy in Maine with a counselor named Dr. Feld, played by Steve Carell.

    Although it’s high-stakes drama –- you really don’t know until the end if this marriage can be saved -- it’s a nuanced portrait of a relationship in which nothing, and yet everything, happens.

    “It’s a little journey,” said Streep in a roundtable with a dozen reporters in New York. “That’s the story: A door opens. It’s not hyperbolic at all; it’s just a little movement within a relationship. But it’s seismic and it speaks to people; it’s [about] your deepest yearning.”

    Ironically, screenwriter Vanessa Taylor, co-executive producer on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” is unmarried and decades younger than the characters in the film. So why this story for her first feature?

    “I kept having these unsuccessful relationships [that weren’t] just unsuccessful, they were unsuccessful in exactly the same way. I kept ending up at this place of distance,” she told me in sit-down interview. Taylor began reading therapy books, and found the composite couples described tended to be older and long-married. “And it just suddenly started to dawn on me: I’m having this problem and I’m younger and feel pretty in the swim of things. How much harder would that be? How awkward would that be?”

    And awkward it is: Carell, who plays the straight man in this set piece, asks the couple pointed questions about their sex lives that leaves the audience alternately cringing and laughing out loud. I asked Carell if he was squeamish about certain lines.

    “You mean, ‘What about masturbation?’” he said, eliciting a roar of laughter from reporters. “No, I wasn’t. When I read the part I thought, ‘Am I really going to say these things to Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones?’” But he quickly got into character: “The last thing a therapist would do is to shy away from any of those topics. I feel like he’s old school in his approach … and [he] comes from a place of real kindness and earnestness.”

    Tommy Lee Jones delivers a richly layered performance as Arnold, who is stoic and frugal and a bit of a bully toward Kay at the outset -- but also a solid and loyal family man. As he moves toward acknowledging his pain, vulnerability and desire -- as he regains lost hope -- there’s almost a physical transformation, from frumpy to sexy.

    Lee Toland Krieger On Directing Rashida Jones And Andy Samberg

    Celeste And Jesse Forever

    Lee Toland Krieger wasn't planning to read the script for "Celeste and Jesse Forever" in one night. It just sort of happened that way.

    "I thought, 'I'll read it first thing in the morning,'" Krieger told HuffPost Entertainment. "I opened the first page, though, and was immediately hooked. I read the whole thing right there."

    Following the late-night reading frenzy, Krieger had a meeting with producer Jennifer Todd and co-writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack to make his case as director.

    "Luckily enough I was able to get the gig."

    Luck probably had little to do with it: Not even 30 years old, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is Krieger's third feature directing credit, but judging from the critical and financial response to the film, it will hardly be his last. Co-starring Jones and Andy Samberg as a couple who try to remain friends after their divorce, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" joins "Ruby Sparks" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" as 2012 indie romances that don't feel like typical indie romances. Credit for that goes to Krieger, who makes the film -- and Los Angeles -- look exceedingly original and unconventional.

    With "Celeste and Jesse Forever" out in New York and Los Angeles now (a wider rollout will follow soon), Krieger chatted with HuffPost Entertainment about his inspirations for the film, how he got such a great performance out of Samberg, and whether he was satisfied with the script's bittersweet ending.

    You met with Rashida, Will and Jen after reading the script. How'd you sell yourself to them?
    What I tried to present were that my touchstones for this movie were going to be "Broadcast News," "Husbands & Wives" and "When Harry Met Sally," and not so much a contemporary, fluffier rom-com, for lack of a better description. Will, Rashida and Jen were determined to make the film as authentic as possible in terms of putting on the screen what it's like to really have a broken heart and go through the six stages of grief we go through. I don't think they wanted to pull any punches either. That's what they responded to primarily.

    The movie certainly owes a large debt to "Husbands & Wives" and "When Harry Met Sally," but why "Broadcast News"?
    At times Celeste can have this very vitriolic component to her character and be fairly unlikeable. We wanted to make sure that was never marginalized. We wanted to make sure we didn't do what a lot of rom-coms do, which is take the lead actress and pound her into the ground in the first act -- she loses her job, her boyfriend breaks up with her -- and then we root for her to rise again. We wanted to make sure Rashida was this tough, type-A personality, and we didn't hold back from that. I know in the cutting process we played around with things: How far can we go with this before she becomes unlikeable? Fortunately for us, Rashida is such an incredibly likeable person to begin with, we found we could take it pretty far. She's got a lot of goodwill out there because she's sweet and likeable and there's an undercurrent of vulnerability that exists in her performance. That was why "Broadcast News" came up. Elements of that film are tough -- they don't pull punches.

    You previously got an unexpectedly dramatic turn from Adam Scott in "The Vicious Kind"; now you do something similar here with Andy Samberg. What's your secret to getting actors to perform out of their comfort zone?
    In the case with Adam, I knew his work a little bit. Before "Party Down" and long before "Parks and Recreation," I had seen him on the HBO show "Tell Me You Love" where he played a dark, quiet, brooding character. Then I saw him do broad comedy and thought, "This guy can do both." For me, it's more about making sure you're finding someone who really fits the material perfectly. In the case of Andy,who better to play a 30-year-old man-boy who doesn't want to grow up? The real Andy is very sophisticated and grown up and a savvy businessman, but generally speaking, he's tapped into this "I'm going to feel like I'm in college forever!" vibe. It's not like we're asking him to play Hamlet. I'm not saying he's not capable of playing that too, but for this you want to make sure it's a stretch to an extent -- you want to make sure he feels pushed and challenged -- but that it's not so far out of his wheelhouse that people are going to have a knee-jerk response to the role or performance. Again, they wrote a great part for him. It fit him well and I tried to stay out of the way and make sure that Andy knew he was going to be safe with me and we can make it as small as we want. We're not doing sketch comedy where you're sharing the stage with 12 people. I'm going to be on a long lens, really tight, and if you think it, it's going to be there.

    Marla Sokoloff’s Blog: My Daughter Underwent Lung Surgery

    Since audiences first got to know her at age 12 as Gia on Full House, Sokoloff has had many memorable TV roles — Jody on Party of Five, Lucy on The Practice, Claire on Desperate Housewives – as well as turns on the big screen in Whatever It Takes, Dude, Where’s My Car? and Sugar & Spice.

    Sokoloff, 31, also sings and plays guitar and released an album, Grateful, in 2005.

    She wed her husband, music composer Alec Puro, in November 2009 and the couple — plus pup Coco Puro — make their home in Los Angeles.

    You can find Marla, now mom to 5-month-old daughter Elliotte Anne, on Twitter.

    July 11th:

    I am writing this blog from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. The last time I was at this hospital, it was to visit my dear friend Kristy, who had just given birth to her son Cohen. Sadly, I am here today for a less celebratory occasion.

    I am currently sitting in the waiting room with my husband Alec. We are doing everything and anything to distract ourselves (which is proving to be an impossible task) because — at this very moment — our 5-month-old daughter Elliotte is having lung surgery.

    Just minutes ago, we endured the hideous task of handing our precious girl over to a nurse, as they don’t allow parents in the operating room, obviously. (They did kindly allow us to stand in the doorway as they put her under anesthesia.)

    This little lady has been by my side since the moment she was born, and I just watched as a complete stranger carried her away. A stranger who has promised to update me every hour over the next five hours while Elliotte is in surgery.

    (For the record — my brave little girl didn’t shed a tear — she even smiled as they took her away. Mommy and Daddy are a different story.)

    I know this news may come as a shock, as I have never mentioned any of this before — but it’s no shock to my family and me. Remember that second trimester scare I had? Well … the blood work was in fact a false positive, and the amnio did come back showing a completely perfect little baby girl … but when they performed the level 2 ultrasound, they saw some very worrisome lung tissue.

    Divine intervention is putting it mildly, because if my blood work wasn’t red-flagged, we may have never known about Elliotte’s condition, as there was no correlation between her lung issue and my abnormal blood work. I couldn’t see it at the time because I was so scared and confused, but someone was definitely watching over my family and me.

    Report: Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Breaking Up?

    Nick Cannon is the funny-guy host of America’s Got Talent and it’s no secret that he’s absolutely against his wife Mariah Carey selling her soul to American Idol, but has this little disagreement caused their relationship to go on the fritz? Are Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon breaking up? While Nick admits that his wife will be an amazing judge on American Idol, he’s furious that she’ll be working on a show that is in direct competition with his own show. Snap crackle pop!

    An inside source for the National Enquirer said, “Nick was tossing around outrageous sal­ary figures in hopes of pricing Mariah out of the market. Right until the eleventh hour, he was begging her to pass on the offer.”

    It seems as if Nick was trying everything and more to get people to bow out of pursuing his wife for the show, but he should know by now that Mariah gets what Mariah wants. Come on, Nick . . . we know who wears the pants (or dress) in this relationship — and I’m pretty sure it’s not you. The insider for the tabloid even said that Nick went so far as to bribe (that’s right, bribe) his wife to stay away from the show:

    “He was dangling incentives –- diamond jewelry, a luxurious spa vacation, even promising to pay her a one-time ‘gift’ of $15 million for saying no [. . .] Nick wants her to be a stay-at-home mom to their twins, at least until they turn 5. He was even hoping to have another baby, but Mariah has effectively scorched that dream.”

    We’re not quite sure if Nick Cannon is just overreacting here or if this is actually the small beginnings to something bigger . . . Is there another big divorce on the horizon? It would be unfortunate if the two let something as petty as this come between them, but people in Hollywood have broken up over smaller things — True Dat!

    Karina Smirnoff Weighs In on All-Star Cast of Dancing with the Stars

    Since the all-star cast of the fall season of Dancing with the Stars was revealed, it's become clear that all bets are off regarding the show's next winner. After all, the cast includes returning champions like former NFL player Emmitt Smith and Olympians Apolo Anton Ohno and Shawn Johnson, as well as beloved fan-favorites like Melissa Rycroft, Kirstie Alley and Gilles Marini.

    But Dancing pro (and season 13 winner) Karina Smirnoff isn't afraid to share her thoughts on who might emerge victorious in the show's new season, which premieres Sept. 24 on ABC.

    "The women are very strong, but the male celebrity guests are a little bit stronger overall," Smirnoff told PEOPLE at an event sponsored by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I mean, we have an Olympian male guest – Apolo Anton Ohno. I'm sure he'll go very far."

    Otherwise, added Smirnoff, it's a crapshoot. "It's going to depend on the chemistry that [the stars] have with their partners, the quality of the dancing that [they] do, and who has more fans," she said.

    There is one star for whom Smirnoff doesn't have high hopes, however. "I'd be very, very surprised if [Bristol Palin] won," she said. "Bristol was not known as the best dancer of [her] season. ... There was so much controversy when she was on." (Still, the reality star landed in the finale during season 11.)

    Smirnoff doesn't know with whom she'll be waltzing this fall, but she says she'll be happy to start rehearsals with any of the male all-stars. "From Joey Fatone to Gilles Marini to Emmit Smith," she said, "Whoever it is, I can't go wrong."

    Russell Brand Documentary: Actor Smokes Heroin In Shocking Scene From 'From Addiction To Recovery'

    Russell Brand is the subject of an upcoming documentary for BBC Three, entitled "Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery." In the tell-all special, Brand reveals that he feels jealous of his old self when watching footage of him taking heroin.

    According to The Sun, the shocking footage -- of Brand smoking smack in his 20s -- will be featured in the BBC film, which depicts Brand’s highs and lows as he recalls his drug-addicted past.

    "This is when you know it's a disease. It doesn't matter that I was sat in that flat in Hackney and now I'm in the Savoy. I'm jealous of me then," he tells his friend Martino Sclavi as he watches the homemade video at the London’s Savoy Hotel. "It doesn't make a difference to me. The money, the fame, the power, the sex, the women - none of it. I'd rather be a drug addict."

    In April, the comedian and actor testified before a parliamentary committee reviewing U.K. drug policy to call for more "compassionate" action toward drug addicts.

    "By regarding addiction as an illness, by offering treatment instead of a more punitive approach, we can prevent people from committing crimes," Brand told members of Parliament, before opening up about his own struggles with heroin addiction. "Personally, I was a criminal when I was a drug addict by virtue of my addiction and the ways that I had to acquire money to get drugs."

    According to The Guardian, Brand testified to advocate for treating drug addiction as a health and social welfare issue rather than as a criminal one. Despite cracking a few jokes, Brand was serious in his plea. "I think there needs to be love and compassion for everybody involved," said Brand. "If people are committing criminal behavior, then it needs to be dealt with legally, but you need to offer them treatment."

    Brand has been open about his battle to overcome drug addiction in the past and has said society needs to change the way it views addicts. After the death of singer Amy Winehouse in July, Brand wrote a passionate blog post on his website to not only honor his late friend but also to advocate for treatment, claiming that drug addiction should be treated like a potentially fatal illness.

    "Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death," he wrote. "All we can do is adapt the way we view [addiction], not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill."

    Brand, who has been sober for nearly a decade, attends AA meetings three times a week in order to keep his addiction in check.

    The White World of Sports: What Gabby Douglas’ vault into Olympic history means

    Late last night, minutes after NBC aired the much-anticipated cuticle-picker that was the Olympic women's all-around gymnastics finals—hours after the event actually took place, of course—the broadcast director cut from an on-floor interview with gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas to a broadcast booth somewhere nearby. In it sat longtime NBC commentator and sports journalism veteran Bob Costas, his prime-time-friendly, man-child hairdo in perfect position.

    "You know, it's a happy measure of how far we've come that it doesn't seem all that remarkable, but still it's noteworthy, Gabby Douglas is, as it happens, the first African-American to win the women's all-around in gymnastics," Costas intoned, his besuited left elbow resting comfortably on the anchor desk. "The barriers have long since been down, but sometimes there can be an imaginary barrier, based on how one might see oneself."

    In a political and cultural environment in which the patriotism—the very Americanness—of people of color (including the current president of the United States) is often called into question, Costas's scripted deep thought—his "little homily,” as one Twitterer called it—was at worst dishonest, at best naive. What leveled barriers, I wondered, was Mr. Costas referring to? Who, excepting the most Pollyanna-ish or cloistered of cultural observers—the type who assert the legitimacy of phrases like "post-racial"—would believe that Gabby Douglas' challenges were primarily psychic, a statement that can be contradicted by pretty much any news story or feature profile on the 16-year old gymnast, all of which make no secret of the undeniable whiteness of being that is high-level American gymnastics? "Bob Costas just re-affirmed that the success of a black person means we're not racist anymore. THANK GOD THAT'S OVER," wrote the political writer Ana Marie Cox. A few moments later she offered a revision of sorts: "Ok what he said was 'a barrier has fallen' or somesuch but one person over the wall does not a fallen barrier make. TAKES NOTHING FROM GABS."

    Costas, of course, did have a point: Our ideas about ourselves, no matter our color, often prove as limiting and toxic as the external and institutional roadblocks put in our way. But you can't have one without the other. In this, Douglas' triumph seems extremely remarkable, both because of the commonality of her situation—the big dreams, the economic hardships, the one-parent household—and its unusualness: a minority in a historically "white" sport.

    Vijay Kumar gives India second medal from the ranges

    Army marksman Vijay Kumar gave India its second medal of the London Olympics, winning the silver in the men's 25 metre rapid fire pistol event after his compatriot and rifleman Jaydeep Karmakar narrowly missed a bronze, finishing fourth in the men's 50-metre prone event here Friday.
    Leuris Pupo kept his cool to win Cuba's first gold of the Olympics. Pupo scored 34 to edge out India's Vijay Kumar, who took silver with 30.
    China's Ding Feng won bronze after being edged out by Kumar by one point in the final elimination round at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
    Russia's Alexei Klimov had set a new world record of 592 in qualifying, but struggled in the final after two low-scoring rounds early on, and eventually finished fourth after failing to make it into the final two medal rounds.
    It was an exciting battle as the rapid fire pistol event was being held under new rules, where one of the six shooters was being eliminated after every round. German Christian Reitz was the first to be eliminated followed by Chinese Jian Zhang and Russian Alexei Klimov.
    In the final round, all the six shooters had to start from scratch as their qualification scores are not counted unlike other shooting events.
    Vijay, who was fourth in the qualification, was in his element right from the start in the final round. He shot a perfect five in the first series to take joint lead. Vijay followed it up with a series of 4, 4, 3, 4, 4 and 4 to stay in the medal contention. But going into the final round it was all over for Vijay and he managed just two, his worst, in the final series.

    The marksman became the first Indian pistol shooter to win an Olympic medal. He is also the second Indian after double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to win a silver medal. Rathore won the maiden individual Olympic silver for India at 2004 Athens.
    Vijay's medal was second for India in the 2012 London Games after rifle shooter Gagan Narang had won bronze in the men's 10 metre air rifle event here Monday.
    Narang, however, flopped Friday in the men's 50m rifle prone event where his teammate Karmakar excelled.
    Karmakar finished a creditable fourth in the finals while Gagan Narang failed to qualify for the final round.
    Karmakar shot an overall score of 699.1, including 595 in the qualification and 104.1 in the medal round. His score in the final was third highest among the eight shooters.

    Total Pageviews