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Billy Joel surprises New York high school

NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Joel is back in high school.

The singer surprised an assembly full of students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, N.Y., on Thursday. Joel appeared with Tony Bennett, who opened the school in 2001 through his Explore the Arts program.

Billy Joel, center left, and Tony Bennett, center right, pose with students on stage before a special master class school-wide assembly event for the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, the public high school Bennett founded, on Thursday, May 30, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)Joel performed some songs on piano and answered questions from students. One male student asked for a hug as the audience cheered on. Another had the 64-year-old sign his yearbook.

Joel said in an interview that his favorite moment in school was cutting class to go play the piano. Joel did not graduate with his class and instead was given a diploma 25 years later.

He has made a number of visits to colleges in recent years — including a recent trip to Vanderbilt that went viral.

Paterno family files suit against NCAA

photo by Ray Tharaldson WRLTHD News

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - The NCAA is facing another attack in court after several former Penn State players joined the family of the late coach Joe Paterno in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the landmark sanctions against the school for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Centre County sought to show that the NCAA and its top leadership overstepped the organization's own rules in levying the four-year bowl ban, steep scholarship cuts and other penalties against the football program.

Paterno family representatives also hope the case will raise new questions about the university's internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, along with how and why the NCAA used Freeh's report as a basis for its sanctions in July.

Several trustees and faculty members also are part of the suit.

Here are some highlights from the introduction, which states in general why the suit has been filed. You can read the full filing by clicking the link below.

In particular, this lawsuit seeks to remedy the harms caused by their unprecedented imposition of sanctions on Pennsylvania State University (“Penn State”) for conduct that did not violate the NCAA’s rules and was unrelated to any athletics issue the NCAA could permissibly regulate. As part of their unlawful conduct, and as alleged in more detail below, Defendants breached their contractual obligations and violated their duties of good faith and fair dealing, intentionally and tortiously interfered with Plaintiffs’ contractual relations, and defamed and commercially disparaged Plaintiffs.
Among other things, Defendants circumvented the procedures required by the NCAA’s rules and violated and conspired with others to violate Plaintiffs’ rights, causing Plaintiffs significant harm. Defendants took these actions based on conclusions reached in a flawed, unsubstantiated, and controversial report that Defendants knew or should have known was not the result of a thorough, reliable investigation; had been prepared without complying with the NCAA’s investigative rules and procedures; reached conclusions that were false, misleading, or otherwise unworthy of credence; and reflected an improper “rush to judgment” based on unsound speculation and innuendo. Defendants also knew or should have known that by embracing the flawed report, they would effectively terminate the search for truth and cause Plaintiffs grave harm. Nonetheless, Defendants took their unauthorized and unlawful actions in an effort to deflect attention away from the NCAA’s institutional failures and to expand the scope of their own authority by exerting control over matters unrelated to recruiting and athletic competition.

Cruz on Obama’s Texas visit: ‘Perhaps he will learn how to create’ jobs ‘from the folks who know how’

11:31 AM 05/09/2013

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz welcomed President Obama to Texas Thursday, where Obama is scheduled to begin his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour,” by highlighting Texas’ job record in comparison with the administration’s.

“America is stuck with high unemployment and low GDP growth, so it’s encouraging to see the President coming to Austin to talk about jobs — perhaps he will learn how to create some from the folks who know how,” Cruz said in a statement.

“Texas is leading the nation in economic growth and job creation because of principled, conservative leaders who understand the keys to economic success are lower, flatter taxes, limited government and restrained spending,” he added. “Texas has shown the country how it’s done, and we hope the President will take some of these lessons back to Washington to bring true economic recovery to our nation.”

This is Obama’s second visit to Texas in two weeks, Bloomberg reported. The Dallas Morning News speculated Thursday that part of the visit is to make Cruz the face of Republican obstruction.

“What Obama wants to do is come into Texas and say, look at how great everything is and to take credit for something that really isn’t his. And without saying it, he’s saying you’ve got this Sen. Ted Cruz who wants to be the fly in the ointment. Tell him to fall in line,” The Morning News quoted Bob Vander Plaats, president of the The Family Leader.

Cruz further highlighted the fact that his state “continues to outperform the nation in terms of economic growth and job creation,” noting Texas’ 6.4 percent unemployment rate in comparison to the national 7.6 percent average and the fact that eight of the 15 fastest-growing cities from 2010 to 2011 are in Texas. 

“[A]s states with high spending and high taxes are losing jobs, Texas is gaining them. In fact, between 2006 and 2012, Texas gained one million jobs, while California lost 359,000 jobs,” Cruz said. “Additionally, Texas continues to receive national accolades for its robust business climate, most recently in a report released this week by Chief Executive Magazine, naming Texas the best state for business for the ninth consecutive year.”

Unemployment Rates for States
Monthly Rankings
Seasonally Adjusted
Mar. 2013p
5 IOWA 4.9
5 UTAH 4.9
9 HAWAII 5.1
12 KANSAS 5.6
12 MONTANA 5.6
15 ALASKA 6.2
15 IDAHO 6.2
18 TEXAS 6.4
24 MAINE 7.1
24 OHIO 7.1
28 ALABAMA 7.2
32 FLORIDA 7.5
33 ARIZONA 7.9
38 NEW YORK 8.2
38 OREGON 8.2
40 GEORGIA 8.4
44 INDIANA 8.7
51 NEVADA 9.7

= preliminary.
NOTE: Rates shown are a percentage of the labor force. Data refer to place of residence. Estimates for the current month are subject to revision the following month.

Stars Share Memories of George Jones at Memorial Service

Alan Jackson
Photo Credit: Ray Tharaldson & Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Kenny Chesney, Charlie Daniels, Brad Paisley and Many Others Eulogize the Late Singer

Alan Jackson
George Jones' funeral at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville was a somber yet uplifting ceremony of music and remembrances of the Country Music Hall of Fame member who is widely considered the greatest country singer of all time.

Jones passed away Friday (April 26) at age of 81.

Numerous country stars, politicians and other celebrities were in attendance Thursday (May 2) to pay their respects to Jones and his wife Nancy. Some provided musical tributes while others offered eulogies and fond memories about the late singer's talent and friendships.

Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis, the the Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Barbara Mandrell, Kid Rock, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Brad Paisley, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Chesney, Wynonna and Alan Jackson all spoke or performed a song in Jones' memory.

Also speaking were Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, CBS chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer, former first lady Laura Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The Rev. Mike Wilson, Jones' pastor, offered opening prayers and the ceremony's closing benediction.

Stars who did not take the stage but were in the audience for the event included Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Jamey Johnson, Rodney Crowell, Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, Bill Anderson, Marty Stuart, Little Jimmy Dickens, Joe Diffie, Bobby Bare, producer Buddy Cannon and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

Thousands of Jones' fans lined up hoping to secure a seat in the Opry House, filling the theater's upper deck and outer flanks after friends and family were allowed to take their seats closer to the stage.

Tucker opened the proceedings with a poem before giving the stage over to Gov. Haslam, who remarked about a trip he took to Tokyo, Japan, in which he found himself in the city's only "country bar" listening to the house band play George Jones covers. Jones was truly a worldwide star, he said.

Travis spoke in a shaky voice about playing a concert with Jones in which the elder demanded to take the stage first -- a common occurrence in Jones' later years of performing -- saying he "would have [paid] all those people to leave" rather than follow the star.

The Oak Ridge Boys spoke of trusting in God's word as they performed "Farther Along," then made way for Schieffer to take the podium. The Texas-born newsman has been a lifelong country music and George Jones fan.

 Photo by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2013
"Nobody could sing like George Jones," Schieffer said, "You couldn't because you hadn't been through what he had been through."

Then Schieffer explained what it was that made Jones such a hero to his fans.

"I think it was the honesty in George's voice that gave it such universal appeal," Schieffer said. "He was as honest and open in his music as he was about himself. He knew what it was like to make a hard living -- the kind of job that some parts of your body are going to hurt when you go home that night. He knew about heartbreak, he knew about disappointment, he knew about betrayal. He was more than a country singer. He was a country song. And it was never an easy song. ... God made just one like him, but aren't we glad He did."

Daniels received a rousing applause after remarking that Jones refused to follow trends and fads in country music, staying true to himself and old-school country instead.

Throughout the event, speakers and performers did not shy away or lessen the truth of Jones' troubles during the '60s and '70s -- from his tendency to miss shows to his well-known love of drink.

Opry announcer Keith Bilbrey commented on such trials but reminded the crowd that Jones was an honest man and that "if he did it, he admitted it and he made it right."

Tritt offered the repeated refrain that all of Jones' friends, family and fans owed Jones' wife Nancy a debt of gratitude, crediting her with pulling him out of alcoholism and various other personal issues that most thought would eventually kill him.

Fighting back tears, Barbra Mandrell spoke of Jones as a kind and caring man who helped out younger artists whenever possible.

Kid Rock, who became close with Jones toward the end of his life and visited the singer in the hospital before he died, delivered a poignant speech, much of it directly to Nancy.

"Quite frankly, I know how difficult it can be to be with one of us," he said. "We give so much of our self to the people, to the fans, to the crowds and to the business that sometimes when you come home, it can be a little empty there because you don't have so much left to give. ... But no matter what we got of George Jones, [Nancy] got the best of him."

He then performed an original tune titled "Best of Me" that echoed the sentiment.

Vince Gill and Patty Loveless brought the Opry house to tears, partially for their soaring rendition of Gill's "Go Rest High on That Mountain" but mostly because Gill could not sing much of the song through his own crying. Loveless consoled the singer as he omitted one verse in favor of a guitar solo for lack of a voice.

"It is my belief that they don't make those shoes anymore," he said before the performance, referring to Jones' song about the changing times of country music, "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes."

Former first lady Laura Bush remarked that Jones' voice had made an impression on countless Americans, herself included.

"Pain and Love," she said. "George Jones spoke of them both whenever he sang a note."

Paisley used his time onstage to encourage young people watching on TV to discover Jones if they hadn't already. He also spoke of the redemption Jones achieved in his life and what an inspiration it was for others.

Huckabee said that when he was younger, men were not supposed to cry. It was Jones' songs, he said, that did the crying on their behalf.

Kenny Chesney, who was clearly shaken, said he looked up to Jones like a father, while Wynonna contended that America had lost a national treasure.

But perhaps the most powerful speech of the night was not a speech at all. To close the ceremony, Jackson strode the microphone and seemed to will himself to get through Jones' signature song, "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Forceful with the song's heartbreaking lyrics but with quivering lips, Jackson removed his cowboy hat as the Opry house joined him for the song's final line.

"We love you, George," was all that was left to say.