Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney among 180 entertainers who signed Billboard’s open letter calling on Congress to pass gun control measures

Billboard's latest cover is striking a powerful note. The magazine cover features an open letter signed by 180 music and entertainment figures calling on Congress to pass gun control measures in the wake of the Christina Grimmie and Orlando nightclub shootings. "The one thing that connects the recent tragedies in Orlando is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns," the open letter states. Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Jonas, Joan Jett and Katy Perry are among the signers. The letter calls for background checks in every gun sale and blocking suspected terrorists from buying guns. "Billboard and the undersigned implore you — the people who are elected to represent us — to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk," the letter closes. Grimmie, 22, who starred on NBC’s “The Voice,” was shot and killed by a deranged fan June 10 as she signed autographs after a show in Orlando. Roughly 27 hours later and about four miles southwest, a gunman opened fire inside Pulse nightclub in an unrelated attack, killing 49 clubgoers and injuring more than 50 others in one of the deadliest shootings in United States history. The tragedies have sparked discourse about gun control reform — including a sit-in staged by House Democrats in Washington — but little in terms of concrete change. Continue Reading

Why is the U.S. still entertaining Durban II? Obama should have nixed UN’s hatefest by now

Durban II - the UN "anti-racism" conference scheduled for April 20, 2009 in Geneva - is fast approaching. Well aware that the U.S. could undermine the credibility of this global human rights hoax instantaneously by deciding not to go, the Obama administration has still not announced its intentions. Canada and Israel have pulled out and, at the highest levels, Israel has asked President Obama not to attend. What lies behind the U.S.'s delay? For one, Obama is making new friends. The administration's decision last week to participate in planning meetings for Durban II was very well received by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). On February 21, 2009, the OIC "welcomed" the move as a "positive development." OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said it "would be widely perceived by the Muslim world as a credible signal of the new U.S. Administration's goodwill and desire to introduce a fresh, fair and objective approach to the . . . Middle East peace process as well as to rejuvenate the United States' positive image throughout the Muslim nations." Since both the Durban Declaration from 2001 and the current draft declaration for Durban II claim that Palestinian Arabs are victims of Israeli racism, U.S. agreement would certainly rejuvenate America's relationship with Islamic states. Apparently, the President is tantalized by the prospect. The second reason for the delay seems to be that Obama's new cabinet-level UN Ambassador Susan Rice is flexing her muscles. From Rice's perspective, Obama's commitment to multilateralism means embracing everything UN in sight, starting with joining the UN Human Rights Council. The idea is akin to diving headlong into the UN's equivalent of the shallow end. Recognizing the council's irreparable flaws, the Bush administration refused to run for a seat on the UN body, which was first created in 2006. Since that time, the council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other Continue Reading

Roger Clemens on ’60 Minutes’ is more entertainment than journalism

Roger Clemens signaling to the "60 Minutes" bullpen and calling for aged reliever Mike Wallace leaves one perception: Already, there are two winners - Clemens and CBS. It does not matter if Wallace, now listed as a "correspondent emeritus" on the "60 Minutes" roster, comes out Sunday night, when his interview with Clemens airs, throwing high hard ones at the Rocket, outed as a steroid user by his former trainer Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report, or tosses soft stuff. No matter where Wallace goes, Clemens will deny he juiced. In the interview, Rocket says McNamee injected him with "lidocaine and B-12." Clemens swears he never used any banned substances. Big news, right? Bigger news for CBS is this: Clemens' "revelation" will be made before a huge audience brought to CBS' table by perfect lead-in programming - an NFL playoff game (Titans-Chargers) saturated with "60 Minutes" promos. Those spots will only build on the free publicity CBS has already banked for the interview. Those very public threats to sue Clemens, made by McNamee's lawyer Richard Emery, might as well have been written by CBS' marketing department. The prospect of Clemens getting legally whacked for something he says to Wallace will drive "60 Minutes" ratings even higher. Oh, the suspense of it all. Will Clemens fall off the legal cliff? Stay tuned. This has become more of an event, an entertainment extravaganza, than an exercise in serious journalism. The Clemens interview, taped last Friday at his estate in Katy, Tex., will be viewed by a diverse audience. It will be comprised of viewers familiar with Major League Baseball's steroid epidemic in general and McNamee's allegations in particular. These informed eyeballs will see Clemens as a stone liar, a man obsessed with preserving his "legacy" at all costs. Still, there will be others - plenty of others - with just a casual interest in this story. These are the viewers most important to Clemens. For whatever reasons, they come Continue Reading

DIY decorations keep kids entertained

The cost of holiday decorations and small gifts can add up. But making them at home is a fun way to save money and keep the kids entertained. "Crafting can be very therapeutic for children and adults," says Gabrielle Blair, who blogs at designmom.com. "There is something about working with your hands, making something out of nothing. Kids catch a vision of the project and get excited to see it through and show it off. "Also, the nature of most crafts allows messing up," she adds. "You can patch over things with more glitter or more paper. This is great for kids who often make mistakes." Blair, a freelance graphic designer and mother of five, does craft projects with her kids at least once a week. Before the holidays, they're busy making gifts for one another, their neighbors, gymnastics teachers and bus drivers. "Last year, we took my husband's old sweaters, shrunk them down and made mittens and hats," she says. "[The children] have made jewelry for each other. They made a bracelet of little jingle bells for the baby that she could kick around on her ankles. One son made a snow globe for another son with a cow inside because he loves cows." "You get to make a mess," said Blair's 8-year-old daughter, Maude, at a recent craft-making workshop in Manhattan. "And when glue dries on you hand, you get to pull it off. It feels cool." Art projects can be overwhelming for parents who don't have a design background. Here are Blair's tips for constructive crafting. 1. Be prepared for a mess. Cover surfaces with newsprint or butcher paper to catch bits of paper, glitter and drops of glue. Use materials (adhesive, markers, etc.) that are washable. 2. Don't tell them the craft should look a certain way. Either don't present an example at all, or present several options, so your child knows he can use his imagination. 3. Look for crafts that are age-appropriate. If the craft is complicated, break it into steps and figure out which ones your Continue Reading

Knicks don’t figure to match Celtics’ rise to the top of Eastern Conference

It's been nothing but target practice, at about 10 paces, since Isiah Thomas brought his famous smile to town. Since his arrival three days shy of Christmas, 2003, Thomas has been a treasure trove of column fodder, always saying something that defied logic and reason, followed up by a personnel move that made no sense. Rip jobs gave way to more hatchet jobs. The supply of ammo was endless. Life was good if you carried a laptop and were assigned to write columns about the Knicks. "I never took it personal," Thomas said last night. "I know it's entertainment. Sometimes you wear the white hat and sometimes you wear the black hat. As Denzel (Washington) told me a long time ago, you're going to get the Bronx cheers." This column measures 750 words, give or take, and you could use every one of them to rip Thomas one more time, just from some of the wonderfully inane comments he made during his last pregame spiel at the Garden, before the Knicks lost their home finale, 99-93, to the Celtics. Tempting as it is, we'll pass. He's persona non grata, on the fast track to a Knicks consultant's job. If it's the same one other NBA team executives are assigned once they've been stripped of all power, he'll never be seen at the Garden again. He'll have nothing more to do with the Knicks. "It seems like I'm always fighting against the Celtics," Thomas said, remembering that when he played, the first peak he had to climb to get the Pistons to where they wanted to go was Mount Bird. "They're the team we'd like to be like." Here's the scary thing: If you believe James Dolan, the Knicks can be just like the Celtics, who have secured the greatest turnaround in NBA history after winning only 24 times last season. It's false hope, but Dolan has always been a sucker. Dolan still believes in his heart of hearts that the Knicks are only a Kevin Garnett trade away from giving New York blue skies and championship parades. He believed, and probably still believes, to some Continue Reading

Political apathy and obsession with entertainment have a price | Jones

I recently reflected on a visit to an Islamic mosque some years ago. No, I’m not a Muslim (not that there is anything wrong with that before some readers start judging). I went because the mosque’s leader extended a kind invitation. It was a remarkable experience. The venue and service were both spartan. There was no huge choir, flamboyant minister of music, hooping, shouting, speaking in tongues, fainting in the aisles or dance ministry. There was little one would expect to find at a typical gathering of black religious folk. Disturbingly, entertainment (and the socio-political anaesthetization that comes with it) have become the order of the day. In the post-modern age, people aggressively dedicate themselves more to buying the “right” clothes, purses and shoes, going to the best parties, attending the largest churches and staging the most popular social gatherings than trying to resolve our country’s troubling issues. As Rome declined, its citizenry was also numbed by hedonism, games and shallowness. Will our empire suffer the same fate as we pleasure ourselves and glorify empty celebrities, but refuse to wrestle with economic, political and cultural problems?The return of NBA basketball this week provides another example that highlights the entertainment vs. education conundrum. Years ago, PBS personality Tavis Smiley offered an annual “State of Black America” forum at different sites across the country. Smiley’s event brought some of the country’s foremost intellectuals and socio-political figures together to discuss America’s problems and possibilities. The timing and location of the 2003 gathering in Detroit created an interesting opportunity to conduct a small experiment.  More: Most black athletes are not prepared for this brawl | Ricky Jones More: Confederate monument supporters are the ones really sanitizing history | Ricky L. Jones Continue Reading

Merv Griffin, entertainer and businessman, dead at 82

Merv Griffin sits poolside at his Beverly Hilton Hotel in 2003. Merv Griffin, a big band singer who struck it rich twice as a nice-guy talk show host and the creator of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," died yesterday of prostate cancer. He was 82. Griffin was hospitalized several weeks ago after being diagnosed with a fast-spreading recurrence of the cancer that had gone into remission in 1996. Over more than six decades in showbiz, he starred on radio, on Broadway, on record and on television as well as running a production company whose success propelled him into nine-figure investments like casinos. "My father was a visionary," Griffin's son, Tony Griffin, said yesterday. "He loved business and continued his many projects and holdings even while hospitalized." Earlier this year, Griffin announced a new TV game show based on crossword puzzles, one of his lifelong passions. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who along with the late President Ronald Reagan was a close friend of Griffin, said yesterday in a statement, "This is heartbreaking, not just for those of us who loved Merv personally, but for everyone around the world who has known Merv through his music, his television shows and his business." Pat Sajak, host of "Wheel of Fortune," called Griffin's death "the loss of a dear friend. . . . He meant so much to my life, and it's hard to imagine it without him." While much of Griffin's fortune stemmed from game show production, he was best known for hosting one of the most successful syndicated talk shows in the country between 1965 and 1986. Unlike many later talk hosts, he was not confrontational with guests and rarely expressed his own political or topical views. This approach helped him round up opposing views for shows on controversial topics like the Vietnam War and to land ordinarily elusive subjects like Richard Nixon, Bertrand Russell, the Reagans, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jerry Seinfeld, Grace Kelly, John Wayne and Prince Continue Reading

Cruise entertainment, dining options increase, diversify

A new generation of bigger, glitzier vessels has broadened cruising's appeal and – the sinking of the Costa Concordia notwithstanding – turned it into the fastest growing segment of the travel industry. Today's mega-ships now feature everything from deck-top water parks to Broadway shows to celebrity chef-run eateries – in short, everything you'll find at the biggest resorts on land, and sometimes more. How has the shipboard experience evolved, and what more is coming in the future?USA TODAY assembled four of the industry's top executives in Miami late last month for a roundtable discussion on the topic: Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines; Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line; and Frank Del Rio, Chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent company of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises. The hour-long panel discussion was moderated by USA TODAY's Gene Sloan and Veronica Gould Stoddart.USA TODAY: Let's start with a hypothetical vacationer who hasn't been on cruise in a decade or two or three. What would they find familiar on today's ships. What would surprise them?Goldstein: They would find a very high-level service, just like before, (and) a real attention to the needs of the guests that has always distinguished our category. They would find a main dining room experience where the wait staff was extremely attuned to their needs and would come to know (them) very well, (and) they would come to know the stateroom attendants in a way that is not normal if you're staying in a hotel. True then, true now. They might see some of the elements of entertainment that they saw then, but ... the entertainment has gone several dimensions up the ladder.Del Rio: The same lifestyle changes that you've experienced ashore, you're going to find in the (cruise) product. It's more sophisticated. It's a higher quality. It's more diversity in terms of dining options, itinerary Continue Reading

3 steps to figure out how much mortgage you can afford

Generally, the amount a lender will allow you to borrow for a mortgage is the amount at which the monthly loan payments (including principal, interest, property taxes, and homeowners insurance) equal no more than 28% of your gross monthly income.If you have excellent credit, some lenders may allow room for leniency. Additionally, your total debt payments (including the mortgage payment and all other debt) typically cannot exceed 36% of your monthly income.While many borrowers use this as a guideline for the mortgage they can afford, it is really meant to be a lending guideline for how much you can borrow. However, the amount you should borrow is not necessarily the same as the amount you can borrow. More: 5 things every service member needs to consider before buying a house More: Thirty-year fixed mortgage rate rises to 3.83% More: Buying a home? Ask your partner these 4 questions first Follow this three-step process to help you determine how much you should spend on a home.1. Prepare a budgetIn order to determine the mortgage payment you can afford, you need to first prepare a budget. It is critical to include the proper short-term savings and long-term investing in your budget before you establish the amount to allocate toward a mortgage payment. While owning a home can help build your net worth, it is an extremely illiquid asset that is not easily converted to cash. You should make certain that you have enough in short-term savings to pay your mortgage for at least six months in the event of an unforeseen financial setback. Also, make certain not to reduce your long-term savings goals for things such as retirement or your children’s future college education expenses.2. Account for increased expensesThe good news is many of your budgeted items will not change with the purchase of a new home. For example, dining, food, clothing, and travel expenses will likely remain as they were before the move. However, some items like Continue Reading


PASADENA - ABC has upped the ante this fall by moving "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday nights at 9, opposite "CSI." And CBS expects to lose a little ground to the top-rated medical drama. "Who'd have thought that 'CSI' would be the underdog," said Nina Tassler, president of CBS entertainment. "We expect to be dinged by 'Grey's.' It's a very competitive night. 'Grey's' is a very good show." . Katie Couric, who will become the first solo female anchor of a nightly news broadcast when she takes over the "CBS Evening News" Sept. 5, said she has talked with her historical predecessor Barbara Walters. "I think she feels very confident and excited for me," said Couric" Walters was the first woman to coanchor an evening network news broadcast when she was paired with Harry Reasoner in 1976. It was an experience Walters has described as "awful." "I think it was a very different time," said Couric. Couric in turn, had good wishes for her "Today" show successor, Meredith Vieira. "I think she's going to be great," said Couric. "She and Matt (Lauer) will a great relationship." . CBS announced the field of contestants for the 10th edition of "The Amazing Race" will expand to 24 (12 teams of two), including Miss USA's reigning Miss New York and a gay couple from New York City. Kandice Pelletier, a Rockette, met best friend and blonde doppelganger Dustin Konzelman (Miss California) when the two of them roomed together while competing for Miss USA. The gay couple, Tom Rock and Terry Cosentino, have been dating for two years. Also running for the new edition, which launches in September in its new Sunday 8 p.m. slot, are the show's first Islamic team, the first Indian-American team, and the first amputee. "We've never really had such a broad spectrum of people." host Phil Keoghan told reporters Saturday. - Join the Conversation: Continue Reading