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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama celebrates 48th birthday

On his own 48th birthday, US President Barack Obama Tuesday turned the spotlight on a reporter also celebrating her special day, who pitched up at the White House in the year he was born.Obama sang "Happy Birthday" and presented Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, with cupcakes and a single candle to celebrate her 89th birthday, before planting a kiss on her cheek.

The outspoken Thomas, who has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, spoke quietly to Obama, who ignored reporters' shouted questions about his own birthday and ex-president Bill Clinton's mercy mission to North Korea."Helen wished for world peace, (and) no prejudice, but she and I also had a common birthday wish," Obama said.

"She said she wishes for a healthcare reform bill," Obama said, referring to his signature domestic reform legislation, working its tortuous way through Congress.Thomas, a former UPI wire service reporter who now works for Hearst Newspapers, has a place of honor in the front row of the White House briefing room, and first worked the White House beat in 1961.

Obama celebrated his own birthday by largely avoiding reporters, and holding a lunchtime meeting with a 57 of the 60 Democratic senators and independents who largely control the fact of his domestic agenda in Congress.Missing were senators Edward Kennedy, Robert Byrd and Barbara Mikulski for health reason.White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Obama celebrated his birthday at the weekend with a trip to the Camp David presidential retreat surrounded by family and friends.

Paula Abdul will not return to 'American Idol'

If Paula Abdul’s abrupt Twitter announcement that she’s quitting “American Idol” is a contract negotiating ploy, it’s a spectacular one.If not, she’s potentially blown a hole in TV’s top-rated show — and rejected an eight-figure deal that represented a 30 percent raise, according to a person familiar with the talks. The person, lacking authority to speak publicly, asked not to be identified.Abdul dropped her online bombshell Tuesday evening, right before season-nine auditions begin Friday in Denver. That has the whiff of a pressure tactic on Abdul’s part, although boycotting the early auditions that skip from city to city might have been a less dramatic way to negotiate.Her tweets, however, seemed to have an air of finality.

“With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return” to Fox’s singing contest, Abdul said on her Twitter account. “I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day 1 become an international phenomenon.”There was a sense of closure, too, in a statement from Fox and producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment.The companies said Abdul was “an important part of the ‘American Idol’ family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show.”They said she was “a tremendous talent” and wished her the best.

Abdul’s banter and bickering with acerbic fellow judge Simon Cowell was as regular an “Idol” fixture as off-key contestants. So was her shimmying behind the judges’ table when contestants sang uptempo songs.Earlier this year, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly called Abdul “an integral part of the show.”Her announcement came the day after Fox said that Kara DioGuardi would return for a second season on the “American Idol” judging panel.The addition of Grammy-nominated songwriter DioGuardi last year raised questions about Abdul’s future on the show, which was based on the British series “Pop Idol.”

Cowell, DioGuardi and Randy Jackson are signed through season nine. Ryan Seacrest just agreed to a new deal, reportedly worth $45 million, that keeps him on as “Idol” host through 2012 and provides the opportunity for new entertainment ventures.Despite a decline in its ratings, “American Idol” remains the No. 1-rated show and a money machine for Fox, its producers and for the record labels and singers like Carrie Underwood that have benefited from its star-making power. Removing any part of a familiar and winning TV formula can be risky and makes the show’s future an open question.In July, Abdul told The Associated Press that she had been invited to stay with “Idol” as long as the show lasted and that she was optimistic that she’d be able to negotiate a new contract.

But the 47-year-old singer-dancer said the invitation to come back was subject to agreement on the details of a new deal.Abdul began working with a new manager, David Sonenberg, in recent weeks, and he said last month that prospects for a deal looked dim.“What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me,” Abdul said to followers on Twitter in making her announcement.A onetime-Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader, Abdul became an award-winning choreographer and singer, didn’t indicate her post-“Idol” career plans in her tweet.

DioGuardi didn’t slip smoothly into her new job. She endured eye rolls from Cowell over her comments and criticism of her judging abilities and long-winded, earnest style from viewers. She admitted to suffering nerves and worrying about fitting in.But DioGuardi provided one of the season’s highlights: Her feud with Katrina “Bikini Girl” Darrell during the audition rounds, when the judge — a talented singer in her own right — told the scantily clad wannabe to bring a stripper pole next time.

Exam passes reach record levels in Scotland

Record numbers of Scottish teenagers opening their exam results this morning will have passed.A total of 98.5% of the nearly 160,000 15- and 16-year-olds were successful in their standard grade exams, with one in five pupils achieving the top level – grade 1 – and more than a quarter reaching grade 2.Nearly three quarters of the 167,635 higher exams taken by 16- and 17-year-olds this year resulted in passes, as did 77.8% of the advanced higher papers, sat by the brightest 17- and 18-year-olds.

The success rate is the highest since the exams were introduced in the 1970s, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said. Last year, pass rates were 98% for standard grade exam papers and 73.4% for higher papers. For advanced higher papers, the rate was 75.8%. The number of pupils who sat advanced higher papers rose by 4.2% this year to 19,645.But the pass rate for a qualification sat by 15- and 16-year-olds in basic literacy and numeracy fell by 4.7 percentage points, to 63.5% from 68.2% last year. The number of entries for this qualification, known as access 2, fell to 2,457 from 3,049 last year.

The number of pupils who sat standard grade papers this summer compared with last dropped by 28,398 to 358,459. SQA said this was because of a drop in the number of 15- and 16-year-olds in Scotland – and possibly because pupils may be taking other qualifications.The number of pupils who took higher and advanced highers this summer was the highest for five years.Janet Brown, Scotland's chief examining officer, said: "Individual results will determine what the future will hold for individual candidates and, for the vast majority, that future is bright."

Michael Jackson's 2009 Rehersal on DVD

Michael Jackson’s last days have been entrance to a theater—or DVD rack, during least— nearby you.Sony-owned Columbia Pictures has purchased a rights to a King of Pop’s 2009 operation footage from unison upholder AEG Live for $60 million, according to justice papers filed Friday by Jackson’s estate. A decider still needs to pointer off upon a transaction, which would concede Columbia to qualification a PG-rated, feature-length movie revolving around Jackson’s preparations for what was ostensible to be a 50-date quip rendezvous in London.The $60 million encompasses merchandising rights, product tie-ins, a special director’s cut, etc. AEG has pronounced which some-more than 100 hours of footage exists, yet a movie is authorised to be no longer than 150 minutes.

This contingency be a little of which “significant value” a special administrators were articulate about when they sensitive a justice they were hammering out assorted deals to heighten Jackson’s estate as well as beneficiaries. Of course, that’s presumption there will be a direct for such a film—and which Katherine Jackson, who has sealed a confidentiality agreement permitting her entrance to a estate’s destiny commercial operation dealings—has no vital objections.And because should she? Not usually does a stipulate foreordain which a movie contingency uncover Jackson in a certain light, though 90 percent of a distinction will go to her son’s estate, with a residue starting to AEG Live.The make a difference will be addressed during a subsequent conference upon estate matters, scheduled for Aug. 10.

Salman Khan’s ‘WANTED’ Trailer

Directed by Prabhu Deva, ‘WANTED’ stars Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Mahesh Manjrekar, Asseem Merchant, Vinod Khanna and Prakash Raj. The movie is the story of an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of hardcore criminals to hunt down a notorious gangster. The movie will release on September 18, 2009.