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Dateline: Week Of September 1, 2009 In News, Pop Culture, Tech News & Fascinating Facts

In The News -

A relentless Southern California wildfire raged with 84 homes up in smoke, thousands more threatened and new rounds of evacuations as towering flames crackled close to foothill neighborhoods in the path of the blaze. Flames plowed through half-century-old thickets of tinder-dry brush, bush and trees just 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Firefighters awaited daybreak to learn the new extent of the fire, which is now expected to burn for weeks. The size of fire in the Angeles National Forest grew to more than 190 square miles overnight, U.S. Forest Service Cmdr. Mike Dietrich said. So far, two firefighters have died and one injured.

A Taliban suicide attack killed 23 people, including Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence and the head of a provincial council, an official said Wednesday. The explosion ripped through a crowd attending the inauguration of a mosque in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan.

A fashion designer has been sentenced to 59 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting aspiring models he lured to Los Angeles. Superior Court Judge David Wesley on Monday sentenced 35-year-old Anand Jon Alexander, who was convicted in November of 14 counts including forcible rape. He was found not guilty of four felonies, and jurors could not reach a verdict on three counts. His victims, some of whom spoke at the hearing, ranged in age from 14 to 21. Prosecutors said Alexander often found women online, baited them with promises of glamorous photo shoots and other modeling work, only to fondle or rape them at his Beverly Hills apartment. The designer has been featured on the television show "America's Next Top Model."

JUAREZ, Mexico - Gunmen broke into a drug rehabilitation center, lined people against a wall and shot 17 dead in a particularly bloody day in Mexico's relentless drug war. The brazen attack followed the killing of the No. 2 security official in President Felipe Calderon's home state.

Dozens of sobbing relatives rushed to the El Aliviane center in Ciudad Juarez to find out if their loved ones were among the dead. Soldiers and federal agents patrolled the streets surrounding the center.

New jobless claims fell slightly last week while the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose, a sign the job market's recovery will be long and bumpy. While most economists believe the recession has ended, they predict the jobless rate will keep rising until at least next summer as the country struggles to mount a sustained recovery. The worry is that household incomes will remain depressed and consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the total economy, will continue to lag.

The unemployment rate jumped almost half a point to 9.7 percent in August, the highest since 1983, reflecting a poor job market that will make it hard for the economy to begin a sustained recovery. While the jobless rate rose more than expected, the economy shed a net total of 216,000 jobs, less than July's revised 276,000 and the fewest monthly losses in a year, according to Labor Department data released Friday. Economists expected the unemployment rate to rise to 9.5 percent from July's 9.4 percent and job reductions to total 225,000.

Kraft Foods Inc. on Monday proposed a 10.2 billion pound ($16.7 billion) takeover of Cadbury PLC, but the offer was immediately rejected by the British maker of chocolate, gum and candy.Cadbury shares shot up 41 percent to 803.5 pence at midday on the London Stock Exchange, about the minimum analysts suggested Kraft would have to pay to clinch a deal.

President Barack Obama is getting no shortage of advice on what to say in his health care speech to Congress, and much of it conflicts.

Liberals want him to issue a call to action in his Wednesday address, clear and bold. Conservatives hope he'll back away from his push for sweeping changes this year and break health care legislation into smaller pieces.

Everyone is hungry for specifics about Obama's stand on major elements of the package.The biggest challenge he faces is taking ownership of legislation that until now has been shaped by political conflicts in Congress. Lawmakers return this week from a summer break that saw contentious forums on the issue in their districts and eroding public support for an overhaul. Obama was previewing his new health care theme during a Labor Day speech Monday in Cincinnati at an AFL-CIO picnic.

Israel officially approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in the West Bank, the Defense Ministry said Monday, deepening an already unprecedented rift with the U.S. over Israeli settlement expansion. The construction is the first approved by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under heavy U.S. pressure to freeze all settlement activity on captured lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

Michael Jackson Funeral News – September 1, 2009 -

Michael Jackson was given an intimate, private version of the lavish public memorial held shortly after his death in June. The funeral at Glendale Memorial Park was simple but touching, according to one guest. The person, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the day, said Gladys Knight's performance of the hymn "Our Father" (The Lord's Prayer) soared in the vast mausoleum and moved many to tears.

Entertainment/TV/Celebrity/Music News – September 1, 2009

whitney houston news sept 1 2009Whitney Houston is set to make several high-brow TV appearances. First is Good Morning America and the second is with Oprah Winfrey. Both interviews will be pre-taped. Houston has a new album coming out and is said to be on the comeback trail.

ABC newsanchor Charlie Gibson announces his retirement at the end of the year and replacing him on ABC’s nightly newscast is Dianne Sawyer.

Lady GaGa is known for her chart-topping pop songs and unusual stage attire but she's managed to shock fans again, teaming up with Michael Bolton. GaGa has co-written a ballad with the adult-contemporary singer, expected to land on his upcoming album, "One World Love," which is due out later this month. The song is called "Murder My Heart."

More than two months after his death, Michael Jackson is finally be laid to rest this week – at Forrest Lawn in Glendale, Ca. The family will pay total expenses, including police security. The service was private.

Whitney Houston struggled with her voice during her much-hyped comeback performance on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week. I Look To You" -- Houston's first album in seven years -- is expected to sell upward of 200,000 copies during the week ended September 6, which should easily enable it to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart when rankings are released next week. Houston would do well to suppress any loud cheers so that she doesn't hurt her famous pipes. During Tuesday's performance for 5,000 concert-goers at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield, she apologized for her voice.

Several years ago, Steve Mazan, a stand-up comedian, was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. Unsure of how much time he had left, Mr. Mazan immediately set out to achieve his life-long dream -- perform comedy on the David Letterman show. This week - that goal became a reality.

With the recent addition of two new members to Saturday Night Live comes the news that Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson will no longer be on the long-running series. Watkins began her short stint on SNL in November and had several memorable characters and impersonations, including Arianna Huffington and Today host Hoda Kotb. "The only explanation I got from [Lorne Michaels] — and he's not known to say things just to make people feel better — was that he felt deep down that I should have my own show. And I agreed," "SNL was a dream come true for me. It was a fantastic year. I don't have any regrets."

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