George Pimentel / Getty Images file

Chaz Bono and Jennifer Elia at the premiere of “Becoming Chaz” in Park City, Utah, last January.

By Courtney Hazlett

Chaz Bono and his fiancee Jennifer Elia are “no longer a couple,” TMZ is reporting.

Bono’s rep Howard Bragman confirmed the news that the former “Dancing With the Stars” contestant?and Elia split. Bragman told TMZ, “They leave this relationship with great love, respect and affection toward one another. No further amplification will be forthcoming and they ask that you respect their privacy at this time.”

The couple began dating in 1999, and Bono’s proposal to Elia was seen last month on “Becoming Chaz.”

Source: http://scoop.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/19/9563155-chaz-bono-calls-off-his-engagement

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Holiday surprise for two parents with cancer

Just a few months ago the future seemed impossibly bleak for Elisa and Nathan Bond, young parents who had both been diagnosed with late stage cancers. But just this week the couple got the news that Elisa?s cancer had finally responded to therapy and disappeared.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/vp/45729222#45729222

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Here’s the AP’s list of the best albums of 2011:

1.?”21,” Adele: A predictable choice, to be sure. But when an artist has delivered an album that is as close to perfection as “21,” where else would it fall? Inspired by heartbreak, Adele’s sophomore album stirs more than just melancholy: Songs such as “Someone Like You” and “Don’t You Remember” will make you want to weep at their beauty. On “21,” Adele comes of age as an artist, a songwriter and one of music’s great voices.

2.?”Barton Hollow,” The Civil Wars: Joy Williams and John Paul White aren’t a couple, but they radiate passion and chemistry on their debut album ? all through a batch of understated, mellow tunes that blend country with folk, acoustic pop and whatever else that gives them their intangible appeal. Their songs about aching love and broken dreams catch your ear, but it’s their irresistible harmonies that will make your heart leap.

3.?”4,” Beyonce:?On paper, some may look at “4″ as a disappointment; it had no big smash singles compared with Beyonce’s past albums, and underperformed commercially. Artistically, though, it was a triumph. While she still had pulsating beats on songs like “Countdown” and “End of Time,” Beyonce dialed down her typical bombast for ballads, and midtempo grooves still smoldered as she relied more on passion than girl power.

4.?”Watch the Throne,” Jay-Z and Kanye West: While the first single, “Otis,” suggested an album full of “how rich am I” rhymes from rap’s most outsized figures, the album provided a much deeper narrative, as Kanye and Jay-Z mused on racism, black-on-black crime, fatherhood and other issues for an excellent album that was so much more than another vanity collaboration.

5.?”Nostalgia, Ultra,” Frank Ocean: Although Frank Ocean may be one of the most buzzed about new artists of 2011, you won’t find his debut album in the stores, on iTunes or Amazon.com. He released it on the Internet out of frustration that it wasn’t getting any traction at his label, Def Jam. We’re hoping the label dragged its feet on this brilliant debut because of valid issues (maybe they were waiting on that “Hotel California” sample clearance). But it’s a sad commentary on the failing label system that the young Ocean crafted a sonically rich album that shows him as hilarious, heartfelt, cocky, insecure and most important, thoughtful ? and it apparently fell on deaf ears.

6. “The Movie,” Betty Wright and the Roots: This soul veteran showed how real R&B should be done with her first album in 10 years. “The Movie” plays more like a lesson in music-making, celebrating classic soul with songs that are unapologetically “grown-folks music.” Yet, she smartly utilizes The Roots, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and other young stars (and even raps a little herself), hopefully showing that generation that great music doesn’t have to be disposable ? and can be timeless.

7.?”Hell on Heels,” Pistol Annies: Country music hasn’t had a trio of chicks this raucous since, well, the Dixie Chicks ? and the Pistol Annies delivered a well-needed dose of bad attitude. The trio of Miranda Lambert and friends Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe were the anti-Taylor Swift, with songs about pill-popping, man-stealing, family feuds and other sordid tales, told with a sharp tongue and witty tone. We hope Lambert’s side project grows into something more regular.

8.?”Undun,” The Roots: The hip-hop band has always had more goals than just making good music, and fresh off last year’s activist album “Wake Up!” with John Legend, they bring us “Undun,” the story of a drug dealer whose fate is already sealed: The album just gives us a three-dimensional portrait of him and why he ended up where he did. The grooves veer from frenetic to poignant, and the album is another example of why The Roots remain among music’s most innovative storytellers.

9. “Own the Night,” Lady Antebellum: They may not have come up with another song that resonated quite like 2010′s “Need You Now,” but Lady Antebellum still has plenty of musical magic left. Their harmonies are as smooth as ever, and the tales behind the tunes are just as captivating.

10.?”Hot Sauce Committee Part Two,” Beastie Boys: The future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are still serving up funky hip-hop grooves with the right blend of wackiness, and “Hot Sauce Committee, Part II” is the best example of that in years, with songs like “Funky Donkey” and “Lee Majors Come Again.”

Honorable mentions: “Metals,” Feist; “El Camino,” The Black Keys; “Paper Airplane,” Alison Krauss and Union Station; “Got to Get Back!” the Bo-Keys; “Break of Dawn,” Goapele.

__

Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP’s music editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/music/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20111220/ap_en_mu/bc_us_ye_top10_albums

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World Leaders’ React (TIME)

December 31, 2011

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The United States is poised to announce a significant donation of food aid to North Korea this week, the first concrete accomplishment after months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic contacts between the two wartime enemies. An agreement by North Korea to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program will likely follow within days.

A broad outline of the emerging agreement has been made known to The Associated Press by people close to the negotiations.

Discussions have been taking place since summer in New York, Geneva and Beijing. They have already yielded agreements by North Korea to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile testing, readmit international nuclear inspectors expelled in 2009, and resume a dialogue between North Korea and South Korea, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the negotiations.

The announcement of the food aid, expected to take place as early as Monday in Washington, not only would be welcome news for North Korea, but also pave the way for another crucial U.S.-North Korea meeting in Beijing on Thursday. That meeting in turn could lead within weeks to the resumption of nuclear disarmament talks that would also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Six-party talks
The so-called six-party talks were last held three years ago, and resuming them would amount to a foreign policy coup for the Obama administration.

Suspension of uranium enrichment by North Korea had been a key demand from both the U.S. and South Korea of the North, which has tested two atomic devices in the past five years.

The U.S. would provide 240,000 tons of high-protein biscuits and vitamins ? 20,000 tons a month for a year ? but not much-wanted rice, according to reports in the South Korean media. It would be the first food aid from the U.S. in nearly three years.

Negotiators have sought for two decades to convince North Korea to dismantle its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which the government insists exists to generate much-needed power. But plutonium, when enriched, can be used to make atomic bombs, and North Korea also stands by its right to develop missiles to defend itself against the nuclear-armed United States.

In 2009, North Korea tested a missile capable of reaching U.S. shores, earning widespread condemnation and strengthened U.N. sanctions. An incensed North Korea, which insisted the rocket launch was designed to send a satellite into space, walked away from ongoing nuclear disarmament talks in protest.

In the weeks that followed, North Korea tested a nuclear device and announced it would begin enriching uranium, which would give it a second way to make atomic weapons.

“North Korea’s disclosure of a uranium enrichment program was bait” for negotiations and aid, said Jeung Young-tae, an analyst with the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “And the United States grabbed that bait.”

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With little arable land and outdated agricultural practices, North Korea has long struggled to feed its people. Flooding and a harsh winter further destroyed crops. The World Food Program issued a plea earlier this year for $218 million in humanitarian help to feed the most vulnerable.

As donations trickled in, Washington deliberated for months on whether to contribute food aid.

Then, in July, U.S. and North Korean negotiators met in New York, and again in Geneva in November. Two days of discussion on food aid last week in Beijing led up to this week’s expected announcement of a food-aid package.

State of war
This diplomatic dance has unfolded as North Korea prepares for two milestone events for its citizens: the 100th anniversary of the April 1912 birth of President Kim Il Sung, who is officially regarded as the nation’s “eternal president” long after his death, and a movement to prepare Kim Jong Un, son of current leader Kim Jong Il, to become the next ruler.

A peace treaty with the U.S. to formally end the Korean War and ensure stability on the Korean peninsula has remained a key goal for the North Korean leadership. The war that erupted in 1950 was suspended with an armistice in 1953, but tensions on the Korean peninsula have remained high ever since.

A technical state of war remains, and the U.S. maintains a garrison of 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect its ally against aggression.

More recently, the deadly March 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship and a November 2010 artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island populated by civilians only deepened tensions between North Korea and the West.

Besides a food aid deal, another tangible sign of diplomatic progress has been North Korea’s recent willingness to discuss letting U.S. military officials into North Korea to recover remains of U.S. servicemen killed ? a project suspended by Washington in 2005. North Korea has agreed to allow a first U.S. team into the country in the spring, officials said.

But overlying all of this is a desire by the U.S. and its allies to restart nuclear disarmament negotiations.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that there was no announcement yet on food aid or further U.S. talks with North Korea.

However, those with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP an announcement was expected as soon as Monday, and would include a provision for better monitoring of food distribution to allay concerns that aid meant for the most needy is diverted to North Korea’s powerful military.

Nuland, who has said the government wants to ensure the food goes to the needy, “not to the regime, and not to go locked up in storehouses,” has confirmed that the food in question is better characterized as “nutritional assistance.”

“When you think about food, you think about sacks of rice, cans of food, things that might easily be diverted to the wrong purpose,” she said Thursday.

“When you talk about nutritional assistance, it could be that, but it could also be things like vitamin supplements to populations in need, like women and children; it could be high protein biscuits or other things.” The concern, she said, is that items intended for starving women and children “not find themselves on some leader’s banquet table.”

___

Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee, AP’s Korea bureau chief, on Twitter at twitter.com/newsjean.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45714468/ns/world_news-asia_pacific/

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Hugh Hefner tweets that actress’ January/February issue is selling well.
By Jocelyn Vena


Lindsay Lohan in Playboy cover
Photo: Playboy

Despite Lindsay Lohan‘s leaked Playboy photos and cancellation of her appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” it seems the issue is doing quite well.

After early reports surfaced that the magazine, which hit newsstands last week, wasn’t selling so hot, TMZ reported that her retro-themed shoot is starting to sell out. Sources say retailers in cities like Los Angeles and New York have had to order more issues, and subscriptions to the Playboy website have increased since the issue became available.

The news seems to have pleased head honcho Hugh Hefner, who confirmed the report on Twitter. “The Lindsay Lohan January-February Double Issue is breaking sales records,” he wrote on Sunday.

Last week, Lohan took to Twitter and opened up about the nude pictorial she had done in the style of Marilyn Monroe’s classic spreads. “Playboy on stands now!” she said. “I was so nervous! I hope people like it and pick up a copy!!! ….xoxo.”

In the January/February issue, Lohan also talks about her ongoing problems. “Looking back, I probably would have listened to and taken more advice from the people whom I admire and would have followed through with it more,” she told the magazine. “My stubbornness at 18 and 19 years old got in the way. During the past five years, I’ve learned that time flies faster than you think, and because you only live once, you have to learn from your mistakes, live your dreams and be accountable.”

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Source: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1676198/lindsay-lohan-playboy-record-sales.jhtml

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Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.

The past week saw several groundbreaking developments in climate news as the Chinese government said that it will control rainfall to generate 10 percent more precipitation by 2015. Stanford researchers developed a new type of concrete that removes CO2 from the atmosphere, and Facebook teamed up with Greenpeace to power future data centers with renewable energy. Japan also announced the cold shutdown of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the US solar industry got a giant boost as it grew more in the third quarter of 2011 than in all of 2009. Wind power in Scotland had a rocky week as a turbine burst into flames during hurricane force winds.

In other news, it was an intense week in the world of architecture as renowned firm MVRDV apologized for its “Cloud” skyscrapers, which many people found to resemble the form of the exploding Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks. We also brought you two high-profile architecture interviews – one with Gensler’s Chris Chan on the tallest skyscraper in Asia and one with HOK’s Bill Odell on the world’s largest LEED platinum project. Meanwhile, BIG unveiled a luxury resort topped with a functional ski slope and we saw a winter wonderland of LED topiaries pop up in Atlanta’s botanical garden.

As the holiday shopping season reached its peak we also highlighted some of our favorite green gadgets – don’t miss these 10 great green gizmos and these 7 eco-chic gifts for techies. We also shared an exclusive tutorial on how to make your own pair of texting gloves, and we checked out Pong’s iPhone and iPad cases, which reduce exposure to cell phone radiation. Finally, we saw scientists in Japan create the world’s first renewable bio-based polyester and we brought you N-product’s iPod watchbands, which are made from discarded backpacks and inner tubes.

Inhabitat’s Week in Green: Flaming turbines, seven eco-chic gifts and a winter wonderland of LED originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 18 Dec 2011 20:30:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/18/inhabitats-week-in-green-flaming-turbines-seven-eco-chic-gift/

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007, file photo, Iraq’s vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks to reporters during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq’s Shiite-led government has issued an arrest warrant Monday Dec. 19, 2011, for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest ranking Sunni official, on alleged terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

FILE – In this Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007, file photo, Iraq’s vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks to reporters during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq’s Shiite-led government has issued an arrest warrant Monday Dec. 19, 2011, for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest ranking Sunni official, on alleged terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

FILE – In this Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, file photo, Iraq’s vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq’s Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant Monday Dec. 19, 2011, for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest ranking Sunni official, on alleged terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)

(AP) ? Iraq’s Sunni vice president denied charges he ran a hit squad that killed government officials during the nation’s wave of sectarian bloodletting, accusing the Shiite-led government Tuesday of waging a campaign of persecution.

Acting just a day after American forces completed their withdrawal, the government issued an arrest warrant Monday for Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest-ranking Sunni official. The step risks tearing at the same sectarian fault lines that pushed Iraq to the edge of civil war just a few years ago ? a prospect that is all the more dire with no U.S. forces on the ground.

Responding to the accusations, al-Hashemi told a televised news conference Tuesday that he has not committed any “sin” against Iraq and described the charges as “fabricated.” He accused the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of being behind a plot to smear him and declared that efforts at national reconciliation had been blown apart.

“I’m shocked by all these things,” al-Hashemi told reporters in the northern city of Irbil. “I swear to God that al-Hashemi didn’t commit any sin or do anything wrong against any Iraqi either today or tomorrow and this is my pledge to God.”

He said the arrest warrant was a campaign to “embarrass” him. He blamed al-Maliki, although he did not say specifically what he believed the Shiite premier had done.

“Al-Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of al-Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame al-Maliki,” he said.

The Iraqi prime minister effectively runs the Interior Ministry, where the charges originated.

Iraqi officials on Monday accused al-Hashemi of running a hit squad that assassinated government and security officials, and state-run television aired what it characterized as confessions by men said to be working as bodyguards for al-Hashemi.

The news of the warrant against al-Hashemi has hiked tensions between Sunnis and Shiites at a particularly fragile time for the nation. The last U.S. soldiers withdrew from the country on Sunday, leaving behind a country where sectarian tensions run deep.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated Baath party regime, the Sunni minority has constantly complained of attempts by the Shiite majority to sideline them.

At first the Sunnis waged an insurgency against the Americans, then became U.S. allies against al-Qaida, but relations with the Shiite-led national government are still frosty.

Al-Hashemi left Baghdad on Sunday for northern Iraq’s semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, presumably hoping that Kurdish authorities would not turn him in.

On Tuesday, he thanked Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for his support and said that Talabani promised he would be responsible for his security.

The vice president said security officials had come to his office and house in Baghdad and taken computers and documents. He said the staff working in his office were asked to turn in their badges and told to go home.

Al-Hashemi also sought to play down speculation that he would flee the country. He said that while he might leave for a short period of time, he would always return to Iraq.

The arrest warrant against Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni political leader has thrown Iraq’s still fragile political system into a tailspin.

While al-Hashemi himself did not want to describe the campaign against him or his political bloc, Iraqiya, as sectarian, the Sunni-Shiite overtones were hard to ignore.

Al-Hashemi is Sunni and Iraqiya is overwhelmingly Sunni, while al-Maliki and his government are dominated by Shiites. Iraqiya has increasingly complained about what they describe as al-Maliki’s authoritarian tendencies and reluctance to share power.

Sunnis suspected the charges against al-Hashemi were politically motivated. Al-Hashemi is an old rival of al-Maliki, and the arrest order came two days after Iraqiya suspended its participation in parliament because al-Maliki refused to give up control over key posts.

___

Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/apdefault/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2011-12-20-ML-Iraq/id-7d50ea5a41a549b1aedef45564da65ca

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CNBC’s Jon Fortt discusses Oracle’s earnings report for Q2. Also, sharing details of the company’s past and current position with, Neil Herman, Ticonderoga Securities and Daniel Morgan, Synovus Securities.

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