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Statue Of Liberty

Statue Of LibertyStatue of Liberty's crown to reopen July 4.

The National Park Service is planning a lottery for those wishing to climb the narrow, circular staircase of 168 steps inside the statue to its crown, which has been closed since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Reporting from Washington -- The lofty crown of the Statue of Liberty, closed to the public since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will reopen July 4, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced this morning.

Salazar announced the reopening, with the National Park Service planning a lottery for those wishing to climb the narrow, circular staircase of 168 steps inside the statue to the crown, in an appearance inside the crown this morning on NBC News' "Today" show.

Admission will be "egalitarian," the secretary said of a planned lottery for visitors wishing to make the staircase climb.

The reopening of the crown atop the statue, a gift to the United States from France in 1885 and a symbol of freedom standing on its island in New York City's harbor since then, will take place on Independence Day -- the anniversary of July 4, 1776, the date inscribed on the tablet that Lady Liberty holds in her hand.

Salazar, acknowledging that standing in the crown this morning gave him "goose bumps," said Park Service employees are being trained on ways to usher selected visitors up and down the single narrow stairway inside the statue.

He acknowledged that this would entail "risks" but also said that everyone allowed inside would have undergone "double screening" for security purposes at a national monument whose pinnacle has been closed to the public since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center towers in New York with hijacked airliners.

Although the crown has remained closed, the base, pedestal and lower observation deck have since been reopened.

NBC's Matt Lauer also asked Salazar, a former Colorado senator whom President Obama appointed Interior secretary, whether he wanted to be considered for the nomination to the Supreme Court that Obama now was weighing.

Salazar said he liked his job. Asked by Lauer if "that's a no," the secretary said, "That's a no."

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Mars Candy

Mars CandyNeil Patrick Harris makes life sweeter with Real Chocolate Relief Act.

Enough of the free KFC grilled chicken. How about some free Mars chocolate?

"How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris hands out free Mars candy bars in New York as part of Mars' Real Chocolate Relief Act, which aims to improve the world's mood through candy.

Mars has announced that the company will give away a quarter-of-a- million full-size packages of real chocolate on Free Chocolate Fridays.

Americans can claim one of 250,000 coupons each Friday beginning on May 8 at 9 a.m. by visiting

Coupons, which will be mailed to consumers, will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and are redeemable for any full-size Mars real chocolate product. The coupons will be limited to one per person, per week.

We give them this: NPH is way less creepy than Johnny Depp in "The Chocolate Factory."

And thank heavens there are no scary Oompa Loompas to frighten the children.

We're waiting for the free hybrid cars and free homes.

More free dish:

Chicken Riots overstated, says KFC. Gimme that drumstick!

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Top Baby Names 2009

Top Baby Names 2009
Top baby names 2009: "Emily" finally dethroned.

"Emma" (and "Isabella," for that matter) has ended "Emily's" 12-year reign as the top name for baby girls. Jacob kept its spot for the 10th year in the row for boy names.

Some interesting tidbits from the Social Security Administration's baby names report for 2009:

--"Barack" didn't make the top 1,000, but it did move up a record 10,126 spots, to No. 2,409.

--"Elvis" is still in the building, but it fell from 673 to 713.

--"Miley," you know, like as in teen queen Miley Cyrus, moved up 152 spots to No. 127. (Her stage name, "Hannah" fell from No. 9 to No. 17.)

--This year’s winner for the biggest jump is Khloe, which is undoubtedly related to the popularity of Khloe Kardashian from the show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Khloe with a K increased 469 spots to number 196 in 2008, up from 665 in 2007 and 960 in 2006 (the name's first year on the list).

-- Biblical names dominate the top choices for boys while popular culture appears to have influenced some of the girls' names.


Top five: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua and Daniel.
New to the top 10: Alexander
Gone from the top 10: Andrew
New names debuting in the top 1,000: Aaden (343), Chace (655), Marley (764) Kash (779) and Kymani (836). Beckham debuted at 893, perhaps a nod to the British soccer star, David Beckham, who now plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.


Top five: Emma, Isabella, Emily, Madison and Ava
New to the top 10: Chloe
Gone from the top 10: Isla (623), Mareli (718), Milagros (731), Dayami (750) and Nylah (821).

But don't be fooled by these "top" baby names 2009 from the Social Security Administration. The list doesn't take into account the same name spelled differently.

So you can still expect to run into a bunch of Braidens and Braydens and Katelyns and Kaitinns when your kid reaches the preschool years.

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