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Smurfs big at the box office!

DreamWorks/Universal's Cowboys & Aliens ticked up slightly from Friday to Saturday, while Sony Pictures' The Smurfs ticked down slightly. So it all depends on Sunday whether the Western/scifi mashup or the little blue guys get bragging (and marketing) rights as the #1 opening movie. Right now both Uni and Sony are projecting Cowboys and Smurfs tied at $36.2M for the weekend. Let's see when the dust clears for Monday's actuals. But a Sony exec emails me, "If we beat them or even are close Saturday, we've got them as our Sunday will definitely be better."

What is crystal clear is that Smurfs is overperforming way beyond expectations while Cowboys & Aliens is way behind expectations to the point of tanking. What's more humiliating than Hollywood execs overestimating the opening for Cowboys and having it fall short? Having their well-pedigreed motion picture with big Hollywood writers (Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman), stars (Daniel Craig & Harrison Ford), director (Jon Favreau), and producers (Steven Spielberg & Ron Howard & Brian Grazer) beaten at the box office by Smurfs. Especially with Smurfs playing in 355 fewer North American theaters than Cowboys but charging higher 3D ticket prices. Smurfs even beat Cowboys on CinemaScores: 'A' vs 'B'. The other major studio release was Warner Bros' rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love which received 'B+' CinemaScore and opened to the normal $19.3M for the weekend. This is another big summer weekend with overall moviegoing $175M which is +20% from last year.

Sure, it's easy to look down your nose at The Smurfs, but the studio tells me it was brought in out of turnaround from Paramount by no less than Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman/CEO Michael Lynton. Animation was overseen by Bob Osher and Hannah Minghella (who is now president of production for Sony's Columbia Pictures) while live action was shepherded by Doug Belgrad. Marketing was taken in hand by Jeff Blake and Marc Weinstock. Hollywood never expected Smurfs to have such a phenomenal Friday except Sony. "The studio has always had confidence in the franchise," an exec gushed to me. Exit polls showed that 35% of this weekend's audience was general moviegoers while 65% was kids with parents. Of the family sample, 40% were parents of children under age 12 and 25% were children under 12. The overall breakdown showed the film skewed female with 64% of the audience moms and/or their daughters. The general age breakdown showed 45% was under 25 and 55% was 25+. Overall, 3D accounted for 45% of all ticket sales.

The cartoon first launched in Europe in 1958 so the pic was tracking well overseas after Global Smurfs Day was organized by Sony in Brussels, Athens, The Hague, Dublin, Mexico City, Panama City, Warsaw, Moscow, Johannesburg, London, and NYC (which celebrated Smurfs Week including lighting the Empire State Building Smurf blue in a special event with UNICEF). There was even a small town in Spain where the village volunteered to paint their entire town Smurf blue. And Smurfs fans set a new Guinness world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as the little blue guys within a 24-hour period in multiple venues. "That, plus a huge opening in Spain, makes for a pretty Smurfy opening with worldwide prospects for France, Belgium, and Germany opening next week," a Sony exec says.

Look, I don't get the appeal of garden gnomes or troll dolls or Smurfs for that matter. They creep me out, frankly. But the little blue guys were first drawn by Belgian artist Pierre “Peyo” Culliford for a comic book. The “Schtroumpfs,” as they were initially called, have lasted 50 years and generated comics, books, television series, films, videogames, live shows, and figurines. The Smurfs movie also took a long time to come to the Big Screen. In 1980, the late (and great) Brandon Tartikoff developed the Hanna-Barbera show on NBC for Saturday mornings. It ran 8 years. In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner sent the first of a series of letters to Lafig, the licensing agent for the Smurfs brand, as a first step to making a movie. And in 2002, after seeing Kerner’s adaptation of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Peyo’s heirs gave the OK. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, and Hank Azaria, the roon/live action hybrid was directed by Raja Gosnell. Screenplay credits went to J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Jay Scherick & David Ronn with story by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss.

Sony focused its marketing first and foremost on introducing this brand to a whole new generation of kids who were not familiar with it. "The campaign used a two-pronged approach: one track targeted kids and children while the other hit the baby boomers who grew up with the hit NBC series and had a nostalgic connection to this brand from their youth," a Sony exec says. NBCUniversal, as the longtime home of the Smurfs' TV show, aired Sony's custom animation and custom promos including Smurfs-branded spots, vignettes, in-show integrations, logo animations, sneak peeks, and digital extensions during the past two weeks. One showed the Smurfs taking over an NBCUniversal control room. There also were Nickelodeon sneak peaks during the Saturday Morning Animation Block hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

In the consumer marketing arena, 3rd party partners included McDonald’s planned the year's largest global campaign in over 30,000 restaurants. Post cereal, which created the original Smurf Berry Crunch in 1983, is back again with a limited edition blue and white breakfast cereal and collectible box featuring two sides: one with 3D movie graphics and the other with the classic Smurf cartoon art. Gourmet Trading Company put the Smurfs into the nation’s grocery store produce aisles as the company featured the Smurfs on its packages of blueberries.

For more information visit:

Bush to Be in NYC to Mark 10th Anniversary of 9/11

By COLLEEN LONG Associated Press

The ceremony at the World Trade Center site marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks will be a solemn but stately event that will include former President George W. Bush and a chance for victims' families to view the names of loved ones etched into the memorial, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

President Barack Obama and Bloomberg will be joined by the leaders in charge during the 2001 attacks, including Bush, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former New York Gov. George Pataki. Current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will also be there, he said.

Speaking on his weekly radio show Friday on WOR-AM, Bloomberg said the lawmakers will read short poems or quotes. No speeches will be given.

"This cannot be political," he said. "So that's why there's a poem or a quote or something that each of the readers will read. No speeches whatsoever. That's not an appropriate thing."

The mayor also revealed a few more details for the ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 11. It will be held on the highway to the west of the site, and only relatives will be allowed inside the memorial to look for the names of their loved ones, etched into the railings at two huge waterfalls built in the footprint of the World Trade Center. The falls descend from street level down into a void.

The names of the nearly 3,000 victims — including those who died at the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, Pa., — will be read aloud for the first time.

The public will be allowed into the space, still a major construction site, the day after the ceremony but only with tickets. Bloomberg said limiting the number of people is a safety precaution as the work continues on 1 World Trade Center, the PATH station and museum.

He said there have been a couple hundred thousand reservations already, and a few days are already booked solid. He estimated that a million people annually will visit the site.

The museum is still under construction and is scheduled to open next year. Artifacts from the terrorist attacks are slowly being accumulated for the space, including a steel T-beam shaped like a cross that was discovered by a construction worker in the smoldering rubble. A national atheist group sued over the inclusion of the cross in the museum. It says all beliefs should be included, or none.

Bloomberg said on his radio show that the group had a right to sue, but the cross had a right to be there.

"This clearly influenced people," he said. "It gave them strength. In a museum you want to show things that impacted people's behavior back then, even if you don't think it was right. It's history. Museums are for history."

Bloomberg said other religious relics would be in the museum — a star of David cut from World Trade Center steel, a Bible found during the recovery effort and a Jewish prayer shawl.

Trace Adkins: Country's king of the county fair!

Story and photo's by Ray Tharaldson
Monday night Trace Adkins performed before a sold out crowd at one of America's premiere county fairs in Goshen, Indiana . The crowd rose to their feet early in the show and never sat down again. Trace's new single 'Just Fishin' drew a thundering applause as the video played on giant video screen's in the background. Several songs had never been performed in public before and the fans loved them. Trace Adkins smooth deep voice swooned the crowd for about ninety minutes before ending with a final encore.

Lucky fan, Patty Baker (right) caught Trace Adkin's hat after he'd tossed it into the crowd.

Another fan suffering from a degenerative disease was invited back stage to meet the performer.

Trace Adkins has scored 30 Top 40 singles in his legendary career, including his memorable 2005 Top 5 hit, 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.' Still, the 49-year old admits that, in spite of his epic success, he is at a loss when determining which of his tunes will be a hit at radio.

"I've been doing this for 15 years now, but I still can't always tell a hit," he admits to Massachusetts newspaper, the Patriot Ledger. "Radio is a very fickle mistress. One day she is hot, one day she is not.

 My first single off this new album is a song called 'Just Fishin',' which I recorded a couple of years ago. It almost ended up on my last album, but it was too close to 'You're Gonna Miss This,' so I held it back. I have ultimate veto power over my singles, but I don't usually fight with the record label over what they want to do. The record label usually knows best."

The Louisiana native sold more than six million albums on Capitol Records, before moving to Show Dog-Universal Music in 2010, where he released his No. 1 CD, 'Cowboy's Back in Town.' Now, with the release of his second album on the label, 'Proud to Be Here,' scheduled for August 2, the former oil-rig worker says the new set of tunes marks a career milestone for him.

"This is my first time in the studio with Mark Wright," Trace says of the heavyweight producer. "He's worked with some of the biggest names in the business, everyone from George Strait to Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire. His pedigree as songwriter and record producer is bar none."
'Just Fishin'' is a single he didn't write, but he admits it's one of the most autobiographical songs he has ever recorded. "'Just Fishin'' sounds like it's some redneck thing, but it's a song about a father going fishing with his little girl, and she thinks it's just fishin', but it's about much more than that," Trace tells The Boot. "As a father of daughters, it hit all the right buttons. I've taught all my girls to fish, and it's about the lessons that you learn from teaching your children to fish. It's the time that you spend together doing it. That's what's really important."

The 6'6" star is in the midst of rebuilding his home following a devastating fire last month, all the while keeping up with a summer full of concert dates, including several shows in Ontario, Canada, later this week. Keep track of his schedule here.

For more information and tour dates visit:

Oslo anti-violence rally draws 100,000

(Reuters) - At least 100,000 people, many carrying white or red roses, rallied in Oslo on Monday to show support for victims of attacks that killed 76 people, police said.

"Tonight the streets are filled with love," Crown Prince Haakon told the crowd, gathered to mark opposition to a bombing and shooting on Friday.

Ola Krokan, operations chief at Oslo police, told Reuters there were at least 100,000 people at the demonstration. Rallies were being held in other cities around the nation.

(Reporting by Kjetil Stormark)

Grizzly attacks 7 teens in wilderness school

A grizzly bear sow with a cub attacked a group of teenagers on a month-long survival-skills course Saturday night in the Talkeetna Mountains, causing severe injuries to two of the hikers, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The bear pounced as the seven hikers were crossing a creek about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Two of the teenagers suffered life-threatening injuries, and the other five were also injured, either by the bear or from exposure, Peters said.

Troopers and Alaska Air National Guard rescuers eventually evacuated the group, Peters said.

The hikers were all between 16 and 18 years old, and were participating in a National Outdoor Leadership School course, Peters said.

The group was on the 24th day of a 30-day backpacking trip, school spokesman Bruce Palmer said by phone from Wyoming. It was the group's first day unaccompanied by adult instructors, Palmer said.

"For the last bit of the course, we would have them travel as a student group without the instructors, utilizing the skills that they've learned over time," Palmer said.

The mauling occurred deep in the wilderness of the mountains east of the Parks Highway. According to a statement from the National Outdoor Leadership School, it was about 45 miles northeast of Talkeetna.

Troopers said it was about 34 miles east of Mile 143 of the Parks Highway. The Byers Lake campground in Denali State Park is at Mile 147.

The seven group members were in a line, calling out to make noise as they crossed the creek, Palmer said. The first hiker had apparently made it out of the water and was out of sight of the others when he began screaming, Palmer said.

The grizzly mauled the teen, attacked another group member, then returned to the first victim, Palmer said.

"It sounds like it was moving around within the group," Palmer said. The hikers carried three canisters of bear spray, but there was no initial indication that the hikers used the repellent, Palmer said.

Two 17-year-olds -- Joshua Berg of New City, N.Y. and Samuel Gottsegen of Denver -- suffered life-threatening bite and puncture wounds, Palmer said.

The rest of the group included Samuel Boas, 16, of Westport, Conn.; Noah Allaine, 16, of Albuquerque, N.M.; Simeon Melman, 17, of Huntington, N.Y.; Victor Martin, 18, of Richmond, Calif.; and Shane Garlock, 16, of Pittsford, N.Y.

The teens started first aid, made a camp and activated a locator beacon the instructors had given them. The Alaska Air National Guard's Rescue Coordination Center received the beacon transmission and notified troopers about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Peters said.

The troopers' Helo 1 flew from Fairbanks with a pilot and trooper onboard and located the camp about 2:45 a.m., Peters said.

Berg and Gottsegen were so badly injured that troopers decided it would be safer for responders with more medical experience and better equipment to evacuate them, Peters said.

"We did not want to make them worse," Peters said. "We felt that if we moved them, they might not make the trip back."

In the meantime, Helo 1 rescued four of the teenagers with less serious injuries and flew them to Talkeetna, where an ambulance took them to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Peters said.

Pararescuemen aboard an Air National Guard helicopter arrived about four hours later and evacuated the three remaining group members, including Berg and Gottsegen and the trooper, Peters said. That group was flown directly to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, she said.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and state Department of Fish and Game biologists are discussing what to do about the bear, which troopers were still looking for Sunday afternoon, Peters said.

Another group of seven teenagers and three adult instructors was still in the area late Sunday and awaiting air transport, Palmer, the school spokesman, said.

The National Outdoor Leadership School is a not-for- profit organization that aims to teach leadership skills in wilderness settings around the United States, according to its website.

The expeditions instruct students on outdoor techniques that will allow them to later lead their own excursions into the backcountry, Palmer said. The school has been operating in Alaska for 40 years, he said.

Saturday's bear attack is only the second in the school's history, and the only mauling involving a grizzly, Palmer said. In 2003, a black bear wandered into a camp in Utah and bit a student, he said.

Ohio Abortion Ban Challenges Terms Of Roe V. Wade

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a bill on Wednesday that bans abortions after 20 weeks if the fetus is determined to be viable, making Ohio the latest in a series of states to ban late-term abortions.

The Ohio bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest and only a very narrow exception for health of the mother, which means that an Ohio physician must be able to prove in court that he performed a late-term abortion to save the woman's life. If a doctor violates this rule, he could be arrested and lose his medical license.

"This is a big deal, in that it could have a real chilling effect on later abortions because there's a potential to be thrust into the court system for providing an abortion after viability," said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. "It would be a huge burden for a provider to go through all of that and have to hire a lawyer to prove that you provided an abortion under the law."

The Ohio law is similar to the 20-week abortion bans that passed in Nebraska in 2010 and in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma in 2011. These bills prohibit all abortions after 20 weeks, while the Ohio bill bans abortions only after the fetus is viable -- but doctors are required to start testing for viability at 20 weeks.

None of the 20-week bans have been challenged in federal court so far, despite the fact that they directly violate Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that prohibits states from banning abortions before the fetus is viable. The Roe decision states that fetal viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks," and it provides exceptions for both the life and health -- including the mental health -- of the mother.

The Ohio bill contains no exception for the mental health of a mother after the fetus is viable and severely narrows the health exception, but Ohio anti-abortion leaders are touting its health protections.

"By signing this critical pro-life legislation, Governor Kasich demonstrated to all Ohioans that the health and welfare of mothers and their unborn children are of paramount importance to the state of Ohio," said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement.

Marine's parents sued over sign of support in their Bossier City front yard

By The Associated Press
A south Bossier City homeowners association has sued to force a family to remove a front yard sign supporting their son's military service because it violated subdivision covenants.

The Times reports that the Gardens of Southgate filed the suit this month against Timothy and Jodi Burr, who have lived in the subdivision since 2006. The Burrs placed a large multicolored banner with a picture of their 20-year-old son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Corey Burr, and the phrase "Our son defends our freedom" in January after Corey Burr was deployed to Afghanistan.

Jodi Burr says her family will fight the suit and do not intend to remove the sign.

An attorney representing the association, declined to comment.

The Burrs contend signs supporting a school or team are visible throughout the neighborhood.

Rep. David Wu has been accused of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the teenage daughter of a longtime friend, the latest scandal to engulf the troubled Oregon Democrat.

The Oregonian reported that the 56-year-old Wu “acknowledged a sexual encounter to his senior aides but insisted it was consensual,” according to sources aware of the incident.

A distraught young woman called U.S. Rep. David Wu's Portland office this spring, accusing him of an unwanted sexual encounter, according to multiple sources.

When confronted, the Oregon Democrat acknowledged a sexual encounter to his senior aides but insisted it was consensual, the sources said.

The woman is the daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor. She apparently did not contact police at the time.

One person who heard the voice mail described the woman as upset, breathing heavily and "distraught."

In the voice mail, the young woman accused Wu of aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior, according to sources with direct knowledge of the message and its contents.

Reporters could not verify the young woman's age. Notes on Facebook over the past 18 months indicate she graduated from high school in 2010. California records show she registered to vote in August.

Wu, 56,  did not respond to repeated questions from The Oregonian over the past four days.

Late Friday, Wu issued a one-sentence response: "This is very serious, and I have absolutely no desire to bring unwanted publicity, attention, or stress to a young woman and her family."

The Oregonian’s continuing coverage of David Wu in Congress.
Sources familiar with the voice mail said it was clear that the woman was the daughter of a high school friend of Wu's in Orange County. The Oregonian does not use the names of victims of sexual assault without their permission. In this case, the newspaper is withholding some details about the family that might identify them given the allegations.

The young woman and her mother and father declined to speak to a reporter outside their home Friday. The family said through an attorney that "they are not interested in talking to" the press. The attorney, David Swanson, is an Orange County lawyer who specializes in criminal law, according to his website.

Sources who talked to The Oregonian agreed to speak only on condition they not be named. They offered information about the alleged incident independently, and each said they had direct knowledge of its details.

Two people with knowledge of the recording and the later conversation with Wu said the alleged incident took place over Thanksgiving weekend. Sources said they were told that the woman went outside and Wu left after her. The sexual encounter followed, they said.

Two sources said the woman believed there was not enough evidence to press charges. There were no witnesses, and it would be her word against a seven-term member of the U.S. Congress.

The alleged incident raises new questions about Wu's behavior during the 1st District congressman's re-election campaign last year. According to staff at the time and emails from the period, he behaved so erratically that staff avoided scheduling him for public appearances and ran a campaign that relied heavily on advertising. Shortly before the Nov. 2 election, senior staff quietly shut down the campaign office and sent other campaign workers home.

In February, following unexpectedly large staff turnover, Wu acknowledged extreme stress last year, which he attributed to the campaign and problems in his marriage. He and his wife are in the process of getting a divorce. He said he sought counseling and has taken medication for an unspecified mental condition.

The Southern California incident allegedly occurred a little over three weeks after the election.

In 2004, The Oregonian reported on a 1976 case when Wu was a student at Stanford University and was disciplined for trying to force an ex-girlfriend to have sex.

Wu refused interview requests related to the Stanford incident for months and hired an attorney who aggressively attacked the paper's reporting and sought to stop publication. When the story ran three weeks before the 2004 election, Wu quickly apologized for his "inexcusable behavior" and was re-elected.

-- Charles Pope

Jayme Fraser and Lynne Palombo of The Oregonian staff contributed to this story.

Norway massacre suspect driven by "crusade"

 By Patrick Lannin and Johan Ahlander | ReutersOSLO (Reuters) -
The man suspected of Norway's gun and bomb massacre had belonged to an anti-immigration party and opposed multi-culturalism, Islam and the "cultural Marxists" of the establishment, web postings, acquaintances and officials said Saturday.

Anders Behring Breivik was accused of gunning down 85 people at a youth camp and killing another seven in a bomb attack on Friday.

"Before we can start our crusade we must do our duty by decimating cultural marxism," said a caption under a video called "Knights Templar 2083" on the YouTube website.

At the end of the approximately 12 minute clip, several images appear of Breivik, including one of him in a Navy Seal type scuba diving outfit pointing an automatic weapon.

Two pictures also appeared earlier on a Facebook page created on July 17. The video was uploaded to YouTube on July 22, the day of the attacks.

A Norwegian discussion website provided a link to an 1,500 page electronic book by an individual called Andrew Berwick, who also uploaded the video. In the book, Berwick is revealed as Anders Behring Breivik.

It could not be verified who posted the video or who wrote the book.

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on its website reported that at least one Finnish politician, a member of the populist True Finns, received the e-mail manifesto Friday afternoon.

"Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike," the book said.

Norway has traditionally been open to immigration, which has been criticized by the Progress Party, of which Breivik was for a short time a member. The Labor Party, whose youth camp Breivik attacked, has long been in favor of immigration.

In the book, there is a direct reference to the summer camp where he writes about infiltrating the youth camp of a ruling party and assassinating the party leader.

The video and book are in contrast to the more measured tones used by Breivik in 2009 and 2010 in comments on blogs on a Norwegian website critical of Islam, www.documents.no.

"What most people still do not understand is that the ongoing Islamicisation of Europe cannot be stopped before one gets to grips with the political doctrine which it make possible (and the individuals which front these doctrines)," he wrote in October 2009.

Another entry dated February 16 last year said: "According to two studies, 13 percent of young British Muslims aged between 15 and 25 support al Qaeda ideology."

He does not advocate violence in any of the comments.

Breivik wrote he was a backer of the "Vienna School of Thought," which was against multi-culturalism and the spread of Islam. He also wrote he admired Geert Wilders, the populist anti-Islam Dutch politician, for following that school.

The Vienna reference seems to concern the halt of the Ottoman Turkish invasion at Vienna in 1683.

Wilders said in a statement on Saturday: "I despise everything he stands for and everything he did."


Breivik was a freemason, said a spokesman for the organization. Freemasons meet in secretive fraternal groups in many parts of the world.

The suspected killer was also a member of the Oslo gun club and was fond of weightlifting. Police said Breivik carried a pistol and an automatic weapon during the attack, adding he had never before come to the attention of the police.

"He was rather introverted at school, even though he was a good student," said Michael Tomola, who knew Breivik from the age of 13 to 16 at the school they went to in an Oslo suburb.

"I'm very surprised by this (attack). I had a good impression, although he became very engaged in subjects he cared for. He got very extreme about things he cared for," Tomola told Reuters.

The Facebook page set up last week included a variety of interests such as hunting and political and stock analysis.

His tastes in music included classical and trance, a hypnotic form of dance music.

The profile veered between references to political philosophers and gory popular films, TV shows and video games.

Nina Hjerpset-Ostlie, a contributing journalist to the website, said she had met Breivik at a meeting in late 2009.

"The only thing we noticed about him is that he seemed like anyone else and that he had some very high-flying, unrealistic, ideas about marketing of our website," she told Reuters.

Police searched an apartment in an Oslo suburb Friday, which neighbors said belonged to Breivik's mother.

"It is the mother who lives there. She is a very polite lady, pleasant and very friendly," said Hemet Noaman, 27, an accounting consultant who lives in the same building in the upmarket part of the capital.

"He often came to visit his mother but did not live here."

Breivik, who attended a middle class high school called Handelsgym in Oslo, had also been a member of the Progress Party, the second-largest in parliament. He was a member from 2004-2006 and in its youth party from 1997-2006/2007.

The Progress Party wants far tighter restrictions on immigration, whereas the center-left government backs multi-culturalism. The party leads some public opinion polls.

A politician who met Breivik in 2002-2003, when he was interested in Oslo politics, said he did not attract attention.

"I got the impression that he was a modest person ... he was well dressed, it seemed like he was well educated," Joeran Kallmyr, 33, an Oslo municipality politician representing the Progress Party, told Reuters.

Progress leader Siv Jensen stressed Breivik had left the party and that she regretted he had been a member.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's youngest son expected to make full recovery after surfing accident

Christopher Schwarzenegger, the youngest of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's children, was boogie boarding on Escondido Beach, Malibu, when he had the mishap. He suffered a collapsed lung, broken bones and broken ribs.

His mother Marioa Shriver, who was with him on the beach, called emegency services.“What’s the emergency, ma’am?” asked the 911 operator.

“It was a boogie boarding accident” replied Shriver, who is fighting her estranged husband for financial support. "He can’t move off the beach… broken ribs or something like that.”

Shriver told the operator it was her son, Christopher, 13, who was hurt. She described his fragile condition: “He’s awake and breathing. He can’t move. He’s having trouble breathing.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger has visited Christopher in the intensive care unit and Maria Shriver has been at his bedside throughout. They issued the following statement:

“While it has been a very scary week, Christopher is surrounded by his family and friends. He is a brave boy and is expected to make a full recovery.”

The couple’s oldest son, Patrick, tweeted “this kid is strongest kid I have ever seen … keep praying.”

And his sister, Katherine, also posted a message on Twitter: "Thank you guys for ur concern and prayers for my baby brother!" she wrote. "He's a tough little guy and getting better! Please keep praying for him!"

Schwarzenegger and Shriver have beguan court proceedings to end their 25-year marriage after it was revealed that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with an employee, Mildred Baena.

Norway: Powerful blast near Norwegian PM's office

Witnesses reported the massive blast blew out most windows in the building as well as nearby government departments including the oil ministry, in Norway's capital and most populated city.

Most of the windows in the 20-floor highrise were blown out, and the bottom floor appeared to be gutted. Nearby offices were also heavily damaged and evacuated, including those housing some of Norway's leading newspapers and news agency NTB.

Meanwhile, Norway's oil ministry has been evacuated following an explosion close to the government's headquarters amid reports that the oil ministry is on fire and may have been the target of the attack.

Ingunn Andersen, a journalist with Norwegian public radio NRK, said from the scene: "I see that some windows of the VG [a popular Norwegian tabloid newspaper] building and the government headquarters have been broken."

"Some people covered with blood are lying in the street. There is glass everywhere. It is total chaos. The windows of the all the surrounding buildings have been blown out."

NATO member Norway has in the past been threatened by leaders of Al Qaeda for its involvement in Afghanistan.

Norway has been part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from its foundation in late 2001. Television footage from the scene showed rubble and glass from shattered windows in the streets - smoke was around some buildings. The wreckage of at least one car was in street.

Al Jazeera reports the blast blew out the windows of the building which houses the Prime Minister's office.

The cause of the blast is unknown, but a tangled wreckage of a car was spotted outside one of the buildings. The damage appeared consistent with that from car bombs. Police and fire officials however declined to comment.

Photos posted on the NRK website showed shattered glass in front of the devastated facade of the VG building, and soldiers closing off the area and people surrounding someone apparently injured in the blast.

Last week, a Norwegian prosecutor filed terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric for threatening Norwegian politicians with death if he's deported from the Nordic country.

The indictment centered on statements that Mullah Krekar -- the founder of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam made to various media, including American network NBC.

 "Norway will pay a heavy price for my death," Krekar had said. "If, for example, Erna Solberg deports me and I die as a result, she will suffer the same fate."

A second theory that has been proposed behind Friday's attack is the cartoon crisis. In early 2006, a small Norwegian newspaper had angered many Muslims by reprinting Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Senior adviser Oivind Ostang told Norwegian TV2: "We can confirm that everybody who was working in the prime minister's office today are safe.

"The only thing I know is that there has been a fire or something approaching a fire in the R4-buildling which houses the oil- and energy office."

A second theory that has been proposed behind Friday's attack is the cartoon crisis.

In early 2006, a small Norwegian newspaper had angered many Muslims by reprinting Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Meanwhile, chaos prevails in Oslo.

The police depatment has asked people to nefrain from using cellphones, as the networks are at a breaking point.

Oistein Mjarum, head of communications at the Norwegian Red Cross, told the BBC the area hit by the blast would have been "very busy" on Friday afternoon.

Actor Gary Sinise Launching Foundation”

By Richard Webster.
Award-winning actor Gary Sinise launched the Gary Sinise Foundation on July 4th, 2011 to honor the Nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. The foundation will provide and support unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.

Some of the many programs include relief for wounded warriors, entertainment for service members and their families, school supplies for children where U.S. troops are deployed, and scholarships for veterans.  The foundation will also support and promote several quality organizations, some of which include The United Service Organization (USO), Operation International Children, Snowball Express, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial, Fisher House Foundation, People to People International, Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, TAPS-Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, The FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation, Hope For The Warriors, The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, The Navy Seal Foundation, and Disabled American Veterans.

 The launch will coincided with the release of Jonathan Flora’s documentary “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good”.  During the 30-day online release, when people stream the film at www.LtDanBandMovie.com , one out of every four dollars will go to the Gary Sinise Foundation to support its programs.

In 2008 he received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. He is only the second actor, and one of only 110 people in history to have received the honor. Other awards include The Medal of Honor’s Bob Hope Excellence in Entertainment Award, The Spirit of the USO Award, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, The Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award, and the Heart of a Patriot Award from USO of Illinois.  In April 2011 he received the USC School of Social Work’s Crystal Heart, the school’s highest honor for his outstanding community service, and the university established the Gary Sinise Endowed Scholarship in the School of Social Work in his name to support further education in the area of military social work.

Sinise has done hundreds of personal appearances and concerts with the Lt. Dan Band worldwide, mostly for military related organizations.  He has participated in over 40 tours and made over 150 appearances for the USO alone, and traveled to bases in Alaska and throughout the US, and overseas to locations such as Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Belgium, The UK, The Netherlands, Italy, UAE, Qatar, Korea, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Okinawa and Guantanamo Bay, raising the spirits and boosting morale of hundreds of thousands of troops and their families.

As a result of Sinise’s first two trips to Iraq, he started Operation International Children with Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, which has worked with schools in the U.S., corporate sponsors and People to People International to supply the military with well over a quarter of a million school supply kits, along with more than half a million toys and thousands of blankets, backpacks, pairs of shoes, Arabic-language books, and sets of sports equipment to provide to children in conflict areas.

Sinise serves as the spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial (www.avdlm.org/site/c.gnKFIJNqEqG/b.5307877/k.B20F/About_the_Memorial.htm), traveling the country to raise funds to build the memorial to honor America’s 3 million living disabled military veterans, which broke ground in 2010.  He was involved in raising funds for The Pentagon Memorial (www.whs.mil/memorial) located just southwest of The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, where one can find a permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people killed in the building, and on American Airlines Flight 77.  He also helped raise funds to build The Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance (www.brooklynwall.us) in KeySpan Park, to honor the first responders, those fire, police and emergency personnel from across the nation who raced to the sites after the terrorist attacks, risking their lives in service to others.

 “The Foundation is a strong, dependable resource to spread the ‘give-back goodness’.”  That’s what Gary Sinise wants his Foundation to do,  “provide opportunities for people to give back.”

 Currently, Sinise stars as Detective Mac Taylor and is also a producer of CBS’ highly successful “CSI: NY.”

Gary Sinise is an actor/musician who has long supported our troops.  He takes time to do USO shows and meet as many military service people and families as he can, just to say Thank You! Now he’s made a documentary that will support the troops every time you watch it.The documentary visits and spotlights our military service people from all branches.  Gary Sinise formed a band named after his character “Lt. Dan” in the Forrest Gump movie.  The Lt. Dan Band has since toured many bases and towns both overseas and right here in the states to entertain the military and their families.

This new documentary “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good” will be released July 4th and one of every four dollars raised goes to the Gary Sinise Foundation.  That organization supports others such as the USO, Operation International Children and Snowball Express.

For more information about the Lt. Dan Band and the Gary Sinise Foundation check out the websites.

Michael Jackson & Barry Gibb collaboration unearthed!

With the world clamoring for posthumous Michael Jackson material, most of what has been unveiled so far has been mired in controversy for one reason or another. The Bee Gees' Barry Gibb, who is an official Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) lest you forget, is hoping to change that. Turns out, he's been sitting on an undisputed but largely unknown collaboration with Jackson that dates back to 2002.

"Michael Jackson and I were the dearest of friends, that's simply what it was," writes Gibb in a statement on his website. "We gravitated towards the same kind of music and we loved collaborating and he was the easiest person to write with. The more we got to know each other, the more those ideas entwined and it all came to this song, 'All in Your Name.'"

On Wednesday (May 25), Gibb also released a 34-second teaser video of him and Jackson working on the song in the studio, as shown below. Gibb revealed that there's more than two hours of footage in all, filmed by his son Ashley Gibb, during the December, 2002 recording sessions. The sessions took place at the Bee Gees' once-renowned but now defunct Middle Ear Studios in Miami, Fla.

"'All in Your Name' is, in fact, the message that Michael wanted to send out to all of his fans all over the world, that he did it all for them and for the pure love of music," writes Gibb. "I hope and pray that we all get to hear it in its entirety. This experience, I will treasure forever."

Merle Haggard: New Album Due Oct. 4

Photo by Ray Tharaldson
all rights reserved 2000

Merle Haggard will release a new album, Working in Tennessee, on Oct. 4 on Vanguard Records. Along with many of his new songs, Haggard recorded a version of "Working Man Blues" featuring his son, Ben, as well as Willie Nelson. In addition, Haggard wrote one new song with his daughter, Jenessa, and three others with his wife, Theresa. The album concludes with a rendition of "Jackson," the classic Johnny Cash-June Carter Cash duet, sung with Theresa. Haggard recorded the project in his home studio in California with producer Lou Bradley.

Heirs Lose Fight With Gov't to Keep Rare Gold Coins

By Maryclaire Dane

A jury has decided that a set of rare gold coins found in a bank deposit box rightfully belongs to the U.S. government.

The decision, made on Wednesday, caps an unusual civil case that combined history, coin collecting and whether the set of rare $20 "double eagles" should have ever let the U.S. Mint in 1933.

Federal prosecutors had asserted that the coins never circulated when the country went off the gold standard. Most of the batch was instead melted down.

But Joan Langbord, the daughter of a Philadelphia jeweler, said she found the 10 coins in her father's bank deposit bank after he died.

She said that her father could have acquired them legally, perhaps through a trade of gold scrap.

One 1933 double eagle sold for $7.6 million in 2002.

Apple Soars!

 By Poornima Gupta and Noel Randewich
(Reuters) - Blockbuster sales of the iPhone and strong Asian business again helped Apple Inc crush Wall Street's expectations, driving its shares up more than 7 percent to record highs.

Sales of its iconic products far outpaced forecasts, helping drive a near-doubling of revenue in the fiscal third quarter. Its shares leapt to a high of $405 after a brief after-hours trading suspension.

Apple sold 20.34 million iPhones during the quarter versus an expected 17 million to 18 million, which analysts say helped it vault past Nokia and Samsung Electronics to become the world's biggest smartphone maker.

That "figure may indeed make them the largest smartphone maker by volume, which is somewhat ironic in a quarter that many thought would be about the Mac," said CCS Insight analyst John Jackson. "That they accomplished this without a new model speaks volumes about both their strength and the relative challenges facing competitors."

Apple's earnings beat was spectacular even by its own lofty track record. Its quarterly EPS beat the average forecast by 33 percent, versus beats of about 20 percent in the past two quarters.

The stellar results came as concern over iPad 2 supply constraints eased, with Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer saying more than 1 million iPads remained in stock at the end of June but demand was still overstripping supply in some markets.

Oppenheimer also hinted at an upcoming product launch, saying it would impact the September quarter, but he gave no details.

In coming months, Apple is expected to roll out a new iPhone, which is likely to give the world's most valuable technology company another shot in the arm and offer a stiff challenge to rivals such as Google Inc and Research in Motion.

"They never cease to amaze me, these guys," YCMNET Advisors Chief Executive Michael Yoshikami said. "The numbers are obviously very strong and they seem to be accelerating earnings on all fronts."

The Cupertino, California company said its fiscal third-quarter revenue rose to $28.57 billion, trouncing the average analyst estimate of $24.99 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oppenheimer attributed the big margin boost to higher sales of the iPhone, particularly in Asia. International sales accounted for 62 percent of the quarter's revenue.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook told analysts they were particularly optimistic about Greater China, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where Apple's year-over-year revenue was up sixfold at $3.8 billion. Overall, Asia Pacific revenue more than tripled to $6.3 billion in the quarter.

"I firmly believe that we are just scratching the surface right now," Cook said of China. "I think there is an incredible opportunity for Apple there."

Cooks also remarked on Apple TV, one of the few Apple products that has not really connected with consumers, saying it still had a "hobby status" within the company.

Apple sold 9.25 million iPads and 3.95 million Mac computers. Gross margin for the quarter came to 41.7 percent.

Shares of Apple have emerged from the limbo they had fallen into after Chief Executive Steve Jobs took leave last January for unspecified medical reasons.

Based on a price of $400, Apple would have a market capitalization of $369.90 billion, putting it close to Exxon Mobil, the largest company in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which has a $411.97 billion market value.

The stock has gained 16.8 percent so far this year and has had only two "down" years in the last 10: in 2002, when it lost 35 percent, and in 2008, when it dropped 57 percent.

On Tuesday, Jobs' health again came to the forefront after the Wall Street Journal reported that several Apple board members had discussed a successor to the Silicon Valley icon, and talked it over with at least one head of a high-profile tech company.

Succession planning at Apple has been a hot topic since Jobs announced his medical leave, with many not expecting him to return to lead the company he founded in 1976.

The fate of Apple is tied to how the iPhone and iPad maker handles the eventual departure of its iconic chief. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is overseeing day-to-day operations.

Shareholders representing almost a third of Apple's stock voted in February in favor of a proposal to disclose a succession plan for Jobs, underscoring worries over who will replace the visionary leader at the helm.

Apple, notorious for its conservative forecasts, estimated earnings for the September quarter of $5.50 a share on revenue of $25 billion, below analysts' average estimate of $6.45 a share on revenue of $27.7 billion.

(Writing by Edwin Chan in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang)

Casey Anthony: In the British Virgin Islands?

Casey Anthony was seen on the remote island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands on Monday morning July 18 by locals and some tourist staying at the Sandcastle Inn on White Bay Beach. Several local residence of the sparsely populated tropical island who work at the Soggy Dollar Bar were certain that they saw the newly freed Anthony lounging on the beach in front of the small beachfront Inn.

Around 10:00 am several guests of the small hotel that offers only a handful of private bungalows hidden along a short stretch of beach were surprised to see a woman that looked to be Casey Anthony reading a magazine under the palms that shade the hotels grounds. Both the Bars staff and hotel guests say that Casey quickly disappeared back into her bungalow and they have yet to see her reappear since.

Shane Cooke, a local charter boat captain with Tortola Charters, landed on the beach around 9:45 with a small group of tourist from the nearby island of Tortola. As soon as he made it to the beach he was surprised to find a woman that appeared to be Casey Anthony sitting in a beach chair reading a magazine. He joined the group that had gathered at the nearby Soggy Dollar to talk about the Casey sighting. He had no doubt that it was her and didn’t blame her for heading out of Orlando and to Jost Van Dyke. “It’s the perfect hideaway down here, when Kenny Chesney wants to get away he comes here; so if I’d been in jail for 3 years why not head here too – makes sense to me – I’m sure it was her – but people don’t realize that we get Fox down here too.” Captain Cooke said that Casey was wearing a large white hat and a one piece black bathing suit.

 Tourist and Locals at the Soggy Dollar Bar

A quick scan of the bar revealed a couple of more witnesses but none who got as close as the Captain. “There’s no pier here so people don’t realize that we’ll be dropping anchor and swimming to shore; I don’t think Casey saw me until I was right in front of her – within a couple of feet – she looked good – I don’t like what she did so I wouldn’t ask her out like some of the crazy guys in Orlando would – that really creeps me out.”

Meanwhile the island has been overwhelmed by the press joining the locals in the fray. The hotel has called in the islands police to clear the beach of all onlookers and the hotels owner has assured everyone that Anthony is not among his guests. Rumors have fueled speculation even more that there is the connection between the hotel owner who has Orlando connections and the Anthony family; an issue that has not been clarified with certainty as of yet; but many say that the trial was on at the bar almost everyday and that the relationship between the families is common knowledge here.

Just after midnight on Sunday July 17, Casey Anthony quickly walked out the front door of the Orange County jail. Outside in the glare of TV lights, a crowd of about 1,000 hurled curses at the notorious “Tot Mom,” who, according to many, killed her child for slowing down her party-girl lifestyle.

Many protesters and supporters alike wondered where Casey Anthony would go first when released and now maybe they know – the beautiful island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

Betty White Declines Marine Invite

Betty White attends her 89th birthday party at Le Cirque in New York City
Betty White became the first celebrity to turn down an invite to a Marine Corps event on Monday.

Access Hollywood reported that Sgt. Ray Lewis, who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, invited White via YouTube, following in the footsteps of previous marines who had gone the same route and earned dates from Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake.

"She's funny, she's sweet, she's mature. She's the all-around perfect woman," Sgt. Lewis said of White. "I really think we'd have a good time. I'm fun, you know… I think I can make her laugh. I think she can make me laugh. I think we can laugh together," he said, before adding "Call me!"

White released her statement to Access Hollywood:

"I am deeply flattered and truly appreciate the invitation, as everyone knows I love a man in uniform… but unfortunately I cannot accept, as I will be taping an episode of 'Hot in Cleveland. Love, Betty White."

Kunis and Timberlake appeared on NBC's "Today" show on Monday to confirm they would both be attending separate Marine Corps Balls, Kunis with Sgt. Scott Moore and Timberlake with Cpl. Kelsey De Santis.

The two noted that there is more than one Marine Corps ball: Kunis will be attending the one in North Carolina on Nov. 18, while Timberlake will be going to one in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12.

"Marines have a lot of balls," Kunis joked.

Campbell shines in 1st show since Alzheimer's news

© AP
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) -- Glen Campbell leaned over his blue electric guitar, plucked a few strings and made a sour face.

"Dadgum it," he said.

Find: Glen Campbell videos, discography and more

Campbell, 75, fiddled a few seconds longer while standing backstage Friday night at the IP Casino and finally found a perfect D chord.

"There it is," he said, before turning on his heel and marching into the spotlight. He launched into "Gentle on my Mind" and — without so much as clearing his throat — nailed it.

"That first one is a doozey, ain't it?" Campbell asked the crowd.

It was classic Glen Campbell. Alzheimer's disease may have changed a lot of things in the Country Music Hall of Famer's life, but his ability to create sounds that still resonate in our shared memory with his blue G&L Comanche on "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" or his Hamer 12-string on "Southern Nights" is virtually untouched.

In the night's finest moment, Campbell brought the crowd to its feet after nailing the delicate runs in the middle of his classic "Wichita Lineman."

Campbell's first performance since announcing he has Alzheimer's, the degenerative brain disease that's slowly robbing him of his memories and abilities, was largely a triumph. His family and road crew were worried he might be rusty after a long layoff since his last performance. Except for a few flubbed lyrics, quickly corrected with the help of teleprompters, Campbell and his band powered through a tight 22-song set interspersed with self-deprecating jokes.

Fronting a band that includes four of his children and close friends, Campbell played favorites like "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Galveston" and finished the evening with two songs from his new album, "Ghost on the Canvas," out Aug. 30 on Surfdog Records.

The album, which features guest appearances and song contributions from Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan, Keith Urban, Billy Corgan, Brian Setzer, Rick Nielsen and Dick Dale, is Campbell's last studio album.

Tour manager Bill Maclay said the good mood is due to the presence of Campbell's family. His wife, Kim, began coming on the road with him three years ago. And his band includes his oldest daughter, Debby Campbell-Cloyd, who sings harmony, and his three youngest children: sons Cal on drums and Shannon on guitar, and daughter Ashley on banjo and keyboards. All those familiar faces make Campbell feel comfortable.

 The original video for Galveston, one of Glen's most loved classic's!

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announce split!

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced their surprising decision to end their marriage Friday, but there were signs of trouble leading up to the power couple's split.

Anthony, 42, was conspicuously absent at the star-packed BAFTA Brits to Watch bash in L.A. on July 9. Lopez, 40, brought her mother Guadalupe as her date to meet Prince William and Duchess Kate.

Also noticeably absent at the event? The American Idol judge's wedding ring.

"We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters," Lopez and Anthony said in a joint statement Friday. "It is a painful time for all involved, and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time."

The couple are parents to three-year-old twins Max and Emme. As recently as January, Lopez gushed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show about having kids with Anthony. "As soon as I had the babies, I thought to myself, 'I want to do this a thousand more times…' I love this. This is life."

Friends for years, Lopez and Anthony dated briefly in the 1990s. They stepped out again as a couple in early 2004, shortly after Lopez's broken engagement from Ben Affleck, and in the midst of Anthony's divorce from first wife, former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres. They wed at a quiet home wedding in June 2004.

The duo renewed their vows in 2008, then again in 2010. "We realized the bets in Vegas [on whether we'd make it] stopped at five years," Anthony joked to Us at the time.

Lopez (who famously dated Sean Combs in addition to Affleck), had been married twice before: to restauranteur Ojani Noa (they split in 1998) and former backup dancer Cris Judd, to whom she was married from 2001 to 2003.

'Soul Surfer' is heart, grit and inspiration

Movie Review:
By CONNIE OGLE, McClatchy Newspapers
The real story of surfer Bethany Hamilton is so remarkable that it makes the film version seem embroidered by Hollywood's heavy hand, even though it's not.

AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany Hamilton in “Soul Surfer,” a dramatization about a real shark attack that forced Hamilton to deal with the many challenges of losing her arm when she was 13 years old.

"SOUL SURFER," starring AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood and Kevin Sorbo. Directed by Sean McNamara. Rated PG for intense action sequence, thematic material. Running time: 1:46

At 13, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing with friends off Kauai's North Shore. Her arm was severed, and, though she lost 60 percent of her blood, she survived. Even more surprising, she never lost her drive to compete or her irrepressible spirit: A month after the attack, she was back in the water, training for her goal of becoming a professional surfer. A little more than a year later, she won her first national title. Two years after that, she turned pro.

"Soul Surfer" is a feel-good dramatization of Bethany's story, and while it may not be perfect in moviemaking terms, everyone comes away from it feeling hopeful and more than a little of ashamed of their comparatively petty complaints. It's a good, solid family film, too; if there ever was a better movie to pass along a message about perseverance, courage and faith and also highlight the sheer glory of riding a wave, I can't imagine it. (Perhaps unintentionally, the movie also does some nice pro-bono visual work on behalf of the Hawaii tourism board.)

Such an inspirational story runs the risk of making its heroine into something of a saint, but as played by AnnaSophia Robb ("Bridge to Terabithia"), Bethany seems to be a normal kid. Born into a family of surfers, she goes to church and has a close relationship with her youth counselor (singer Carrie Underwood) but sneaks out with her best friend to a party late at night. She has a jokey, one-of-the-boys relationship with her brothers and dad (Dennis Quaid) but isn't above trying to weasel out of studying with her home-schooling mom (Helen Hunt). Quaid and Hunt surf a little in the movie; Robb surfs a lot, and the competitive scenes of girls riding waves is as much fun as anything you saw in "Blue Crush."

Director Sean McNamara and his team of writers wisely underplay the shark attack; in the compelling immediate aftermath, Bethany bobs on her board in shock, and a family friend (Kevin Sorbo) grimly sets about the crucial task of getting her out of the water before she bleeds to death. The effects that show Robb minus an arm are realistic, and nothing quite displays the measure of Bethany's mettle as her steely reaction to her first good look at her stump.

Sure, peppered as it is with hokey lines ("Let's let the surfing do the talking!"), the dialogue isn't terribly compelling, and Underwood's presence may seem merely a device to pile on the Christian message. But the real Bethany, the closing credits show us, is religious and had a close relationship with her youth minister. She even traveled with a group to Thailand in the wake of the tsunami to help with relief efforts. The film's portrait of a loving, quietly devout family will doubtless put off more cynical viewers, but even they would be hard-pressed to disdain such a recovery -- and such a life.

For more information visit: 

U.S. women's soccer captures America's attention

Every once in a while, a sports story transcends the field and grabs the nation's collective attention.

And so it is with the U.S. women's soccer team, a fabulous group of athletes who have ridden a wave of mettle and moxie to today's World Cup title game against Japan.

What's not to like about this team?

The goalie's name is Hope Solo. You couldn't make up a better name for a goalkeeper. And her spectacular saves against Brazil - allowed and disallowed - made the difference in one of this country's most dramatic wins since Mike Eruzione was skating around in Lake Placid. Even the Brazilian public, soccer-mad by anyone's estimation, embraced her as a conquering hero after the big win.

Abby Wambach has become one of the most prolific performers in U.S. soccer history, using her head to win in the most literal way possible. Not since Michelle Akers and Alexi Lalas were outjumping opponents for winning headers in the 1990s has U.S. soccer had someone so adept at scoring with the noggin. Wambach has 12 career goals in the World Cup, which ties her for the most by a U.S. player and third most for any World Cup player.

Megan Rapinoe, born and bred in Redding, has emerged as the team's killer waif, finding a way to impact most every game of the tournament in dramatic fashion. Her left-footed cross to Wambach with seconds to go against Brazil soared across the pitch and into history as one of the great passes of all time. And she's not too bad with a microphone in her hand, either, singing "Born in the USA" into one of the field mikes during a game and charming the world with pithy quotes in her postgame interviews.

Cal's own Alex Morgan has emerged, as photogenic as she is talented, providing late spark and scoring opportunities as a substitute while winning over photo editors around the world with her exuberant celebrations. As her father, Mike Morgan, told The Chronicle's Tom FitzGerald, "I didn't think she'd be anything like this. I don't think she's reached the top of her game even yet." At 22, Morgan has a lot of soccer in front of her.

And on the sideline, coach Pia Sundhage has pulled all the right levers. One of the greatest female players in history for her native Sweden, Sundhage scored 71 goals over a 22-year career. And as a coach, she's known for her unorthodox methods. When she first took over the U.S. squad, she famously walked into the locker room, pulled out a guitar and started singing Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Four years later, Sundhage pulled off an absolutely brilliant substitution in the semifinal against France, playing Lauren Cheney and Rapinoe together for the first time. It resulted in an offensive surge that capped the win.

So, here they stand. America's team in Germany. Poised to make history. They face a Japanese squad that is playing brilliantly on behalf of a nation that was nearly broken by a brutal tsunami in March. It will be emotional on both sides of the ball.

Win or lose, women's soccer has the world's attention. And it couldn't have happened to a better group of athletes.

Dons coach: USF baseball coach Nino Giarratano is recovering from surgery, having donated a kidney to his 80-year-old father, Mickey.

Both made it out of surgery in good shape. Nino will spend two days in the hospital and then another week in the Denver area before he is cleared to travel back to San Francisco. Mickey is told he will spend a week in the hospital and then up to another month in the Denver area for daily checkups.

It all started last September, when Mickey went in for routine gall bladder surgery. Afterward, his kidneys failed. Facing life on dialysis, his only other choice was a transplant. That's when his son stepped to the plate.

The two men decided the donation was the best course of action, and shortly after the Dons finished their baseball season with a trip to the NCAA Los Angeles Regional, Nino was able to make his way to Denver for the procedure, performed July 11.

Women's World Cup

Today's game

Who: U.S. vs. Japan

When: 11:45 a.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/1050