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Clint Hurdle Dismissed

Clint Hurdle DismissedRockies dismiss Hurdle; Tracy gets helm.

Colorado's poor start leads to end of eight-year run as skipper.

The Rockies dismissed manager Clint Hurdle and replaced him with bench coach Jim Tracy on Friday. The official announcement was made during a news conference at Coors Field.

The last straw for the Rockies was being swept at home in a three-game series this week by the Dodgers, with the Rockies being outscored by a combined 31-13. At 18-28, the club is a season-worst 10 games below .500, last in the NL West, and trailing the first-place Dodgers by 14 games.

Tom Reynolds, manager of the Rockies' Triple-A team in Colorado Springs, will be named bench coach to replace Tracy.

Hurdle, 51, went 534-625 (.461) as Rockies manager after taking over for Buddy Bell on April 26, 2002. He finished with one winning season. That was a doozy.

In 2007, the Rockies seemed headed once again for also-ran status, but they won 14 of their final 15 regular-season games. The last game was a 9-8, 13-inning victory over the Padres in a one-game showdown for the NL Wild Card. The Rockies swept the NL Division Series and Championship Series before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.

But the Rockies didn't maintain that momentum in 2008. With injuries to several key players during the first two months, inconsistent pitching and poor performances with men in scoring position, they fell to 74-88 last year. An offseason of coaching changes has not paid off in 2009.

Tracy, 53, is in his 32nd season of professional baseball as a player, coach and manager. The Rockies hired him as bench coach amid a flurry of changes during the offseasons.

Tracy has managed the Dodgers (2001-05) and the Pirates (2006-07), going 562-572. He led the Dodgers to the 2004 NL West crown with a 93-69 record. The Cardinals beat those Dodgers in the NL Division Series, three games to one.

Tracy came to Colorado along with hitting coach Don Baylor, third base coach Rich Dauer and bullpen coach Jim Wright.

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UkuleleUkulele meets Cello to make beautiful music.

Think ukulele and images of a garlanded Elvis Presley gyrating with the tiny guitar-looking instrument may come to mind.

But the stringed instrument is more than one to be relegated to the realms of simple tunes.

In Singapore to get people to sing a different tune to the ukulele is James Hill, who is regarded as one the world's top composer and ukulele players.

Lesson one on the instrument - getting its name right.

It is pronounced "uku-lele" in the Hawaiian way.

According to Hill, it is made up of two words, 'uku' and 'lele' which translate into "The Jumping Flea".

With such a fun name, it can only mean that this is one friendly instrument.

If you've always wanted to play a musical instrument and either didn't have the time or think you're not too musically inclined - the ukulele is an instrument for you.

"Within five minutes (of learning the ukulele), you can be playing a song and for a lot of people" says Hill.

Having played the ukulele for more than just five minutes, Hill took his love for music and the intrument and teamed it with his other love, cellist Anne Davidson, for a remarkable blend.

Hill and Davidson met at music school and after dating, slowly warmed up to the idea of playing together.

"For three years, we never even considered playing together because it would seem so odd" said Hill.

"But slowly, we got on to the idea with the duo thing and realized what a good combination it is."

The combination of casual ukulele and classic cello may seem like chalk and cheese but these two seemingly incompatible instruments complement beautifully.

"When people come to our concert, they do not know what to expect, or worse, they don't expect," said Hill.

Playing on this doubtfulness is what allows both Hill and Davidson to surprise their audience and change conventional thinking.

"The ukulele has a higher range where the cello has a lower range" said Davidson.

"I also have the capability of using the bow to create long sustained sound which compliments the plucking sound of the ukulele."

Unlike the cello which has a long history, the ukulele is a 'young' 120-year-old in the music world, which explains its unorthodox style, which allows its player to invent his own particular style.

This freedom opened the way for Hill to create his style which he calls 'mono-strumming'.

"Instead of strumming where you can hear all the strings, you only hear a note as you mute the rest of the sound" he explains.

Sounds intriguing? Have a listen to the couple on their only stop in South East Asia, with their "melting of genres" performance on Friday 29 May, 8pm at the DBS Auditorium.

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Lana Clarkson Killer Phil Spector Gets 19 Years

Lana Clarkson Killer Phil Spector Gets 19 YearsSpector gets 19 years to life for Clarkson's death.

Music producer Phil Spector has been sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

A Los Angeles judge sentenced Spector on Friday to 15 years to life for second-degree murder and four years for personal use of a gun. The judge is also ordering restitution payments.

A jury convicted the 69-year-old Spector in the fatal shooting of Clarkson at his home in 2003.

Spector plans an appeal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Six years ago, Phil Spector was barely a blip on the American celebrity radar screen. Although his music lived on, his name and face were only dimly recalled by rock music aficionados until a shooting at his Alhambra mansion propelled him to notoriety.

Now he faces sentencing Friday on second-degree murder of actress Lana Clarkson, a conviction that suggests to some that California prosecutors have broken a decades-long string of celebrity murder case losses. The names O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake come to mind.

But Spector is in a class of his own. He was not a performer, not a sports star with a following or a singer who captivated the public. He was a music producer, a behind-the-scenes guy whose ideas changed the sound of rock music. He invented the "Wall of Sound," a revolutionary recording technique. And he was known for bizarre behavior. Famous, yes. A celebrity? Not in today's pop culture.

Spector is a frail and ailing 69-year-old for whom the mandated minimum sentence of 15 years would likely be a life sentence. His lawyer says he is enduring jail by focusing on his plans to appeal.

"He's doing fairly well," said Doron Weinberg. "He's adjusting to the circumstances and settling down to wait out an appeal with high hopes. He feels he will win the appeal."

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler has little leeway in sentencing. The 15-years-to-life sentence is mandated by law. Fidler's only decision is whether to add three or four years for personal use of a gun. The prosecution has asked for four and the defense has said three years is appropriate.

Spector had two trials with essentially the same evidence. His first in 2007 was televised gavel to gavel and spectators flocked to the courtroom. But when the jury deadlocked after a five-month trial, his legal "dream team," which at times numbered half a dozen lawyers, bailed out.

By the time the second trial started in 2008, interest had waned. The judge ordered cameras turned off and only a handful of spectators and reporters stopped in sporadically to watch testimony.

The retrial lasted the same length of time as the first trial, but there was only one defense lawyer: Weinberg, a well-regarded veteran from San Francisco. A young woman prosecutor, Truc Do, was brought in to work with Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson. Most importantly, there was a new jury. The forewoman wept after the guilty verdict but gave no hint of what tipped the scales on the panel's decision except to say it was based on "all the evidence, all the testimony."

During jury selection, only a few panelists remembered Spector's heyday as producer of teen anthems including "To Know Him is to Love Him," The Ronette's "Be My Baby," The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" and The Righteous Brothers' classic, "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'." Spector also worked on a Beatles album with John Lennon.

Ironically, Clarkson didn't know Spector's music legacy either when she met him only hours before she wound up dead at his Alhambra "castle." The 40-year-old actress had starred in Roger Corman's 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen," but in 2003 she was working as a hostess at the House of Blues nightclub, where she had to be told by a manager that Spector was an important man.

His time had passed. And Clarkson's career was also ebbing. Their fateful meeting, recounted in both trials, led to her death and the end of his life as he knew it. For the next six years he spent millions on lawyers as he sought to prove that Clarkson killed herself.

But what had happened inside his house was never clear. Clarkson's body was slumped in a chair in a foyer. A gun had been fired inside her mouth. Spector's chauffeur, the key witness, said he heard a gunshot, then saw Spector emerge holding a gun and heard him say: "I think I killed somebody."

Weinberg said forensic evidence proved that Clarkson shot herself and cited her desperation at not being able to get acting work. Jackson said the shooting fit the pattern of other confrontations between Spector and women, and Do said Spector would become "a demonic maniac" when he drank.

Much of the case hinged on the testimony of five women from Spector's past who said he threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence. The parallels with the night Clarkson died were chilling even if the stories were very old — 31 years in one instance.

Weinberg said Spector's appeal will assert that the judge erred in allowing the women to testify.

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Canon Powershot A480

Canon Powershot A480

Canon Powershot A480 10Mp 3.3X Digital Camera in Silver

Canon Powershot A480
is designed for people who want to shoot pictures without fussing over camera settings. It's a dead-simple, reasonably stylish point-and-shoot camera to have on hand when you're hanging out with friends and family.

The boxy PowerShot A480 measures 3.6 by 2.4 by 1.2 inches and weighs just under 5 ounces. Its lens, whose focal length ranges from 37mm to 122mm (35mm equivalent), retracts into the body when you turn off the camera. The A480 slips easily in and out of a pocket. Its plastic body feels solid, and the raised metal plate emblazoned with "10.0 MEGA PIXELS" acts as a grip for securing your hold on the camera.

The A480's controls are basic and uncomplicated. The shutter and on/off buttons are located on top of the camera. The back has zoom controls; a playback button; a four-way button that acts as a navigation control when you are in the software controls or want instant access to set ISO, flash, or timer, or to toggle between macro, normal, and landscape modes; a Function/Set button; a mode button for switching shooting modes; and a menu button. The button layout is clear and you'll learn it quickly as you tap the buttons with your right thumb.

Most users of the A480 will rely on the camera's Auto mode to determine the proper camera settings for a shot. Alternatively, you can choose from 12 scene modes: Aquarium, Beach, Fireworks, Foliage, Indoor, Kids&Pets, Long Shutter, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Snow, Sunset, and Super Macro. Though these modes sound friendly, you shouldn't take the names absolutely literally. For example, the Aquarium shooting mode is useful for more than just taking pictures of fish in a tank; it sets the camera so that it can better shoot anything behind glass.

Aside from the Auto and Scene modes, a Program mode lets you tweak settings such as aperture (ISO 80 to 1600), white balance, exposure, light metering, and color effects. While testing the A480, I used the Program mode more frequently than I expected. The Scene modes do a good job overall, but I got better results using the Program mode and adjusting the white balance, ISO, and light metering as appropriate.

The A480's design encourages users to set the shooting mode and forget about it. The camera doesn't have a wheel for quickly switching modes--a drawback when you step out of a museum, say, and into the bright daylight of a park. To switch modes, you have to press the Mode button, and then choose from among four on-screen selections: Auto, Program, Scene, and Movie. If you want to switch to one of Scene modes, you then have to navigate the Scene menu to find the scene you want. This process can take 7 to10 seconds, whereas with a mode wheel you can make the switch in a second.

When you power on the A480, it's ready to shoot almost instantly, and there's no shutter lag. I noticed about a 1-second gap between shots with the A480 operating in Continuous Shooting mode.

The A480 lacks one major feature: image stabilization. This wasn't a problem for me when I was shooting posed subjects while standing still in good lighting: Even subtle movements of the camera didn't diminish image quality. But in low light, or when the camera's movements were move pronounced, pictures were blurry.

The absence of action shooting modes, a somewhat slow Continuous Shooting mode, and the omission of image stabilization means that the A480 is a poor choice at sporting events or any type of event involving fast movement. The A480 works best as a casual snapshooter.

In our lab tests, the A480 finished neck-and-neck with the Nikon Coolpix L20 and the Canon Powershot A1100 IS for best overall image quality among sub-$200 cameras. It was in the top bracket in our tests for Color Quality, Distortion, and Exposure. The one weak spot was the A480's performance in our sharpness test, where the camera earned middle-of-the-pack scores.

The camera can record video (in AVI format) at 640 by 480 or 320 by 240 resolution, both at 30 frames per second. The video quality is good, but since there's no image stabilization, movies suffer from the jitters if you hold the camera in your hand while recording. Zoom is disabled in movie mode, and in my testing the built-in microphone was sensitive to wind.

If you're a tripod-shooter, a steady-handed photographer, or just want a bargain-bin camera with good image quality, the PowerShot A480 is worth a look. Its lack of image stabilization and some modes, however, may cause action photographers to pass it up.

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Cyber Czar

Cyber Czar
“President Barack Obama will announce on Friday the creation of a ‘cyber czar’ position, stepping up his administration's efforts to better protect the nation's computer networks,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The cybersecurity chief will report to both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council, a compromise resulting from a fierce White House turf battle over the responsibilities and powers of the new office.” More: “Mr. Obama won't announce on Friday the person who will fill the new job. That isn't expected for at least a few more days.”

It’s now or never on health care, Obama said yesterday, per the AP. “President Barack Obama warned Thursday that if Congress doesn't deliver health care legislation by the end of the year the opportunity will be lost, a plea to political supporters to pressure lawmakers to act. ‘If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done,’ Obama told supporters by phone as he flew home on Air Force One from a West Coast fundraising trip.”

The Boston Globe front-pages, "Obama tells Israel to halt expansion." The paper adds, "But hours before the two men met, the Israeli government flatly rejected the demand. Spokesman Mark Regev said that "normal life in those communities must be allowed to continue," including some construction. The exchange has set the stage for one of Obama's toughest foreign policy challenges. As he prepares to fly to the Middle East next week to give a speech on his policy toward the region and US-Muslim relations, it seemed clear yesterday that his administration is willing to risk prickly relations with one of the closest US allies -- and possible anger from some Jewish voters -- to try to create a Palestinian state."

The AP called it Obama "deepening his involvement in the quest for a difficult peace." Asking for concessions from both sides: "Obama pushed Palestinians for progress, too, including a direct call for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reduce anti-Israeli sentiment in schools and mosques." The AP gets Abbas' reaction: "Abbas told The Associated Press after the session with Obama that no meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on the horizon. Abbas said he is meeting his commitments under the road map and that Israel should do the same."

With the president today attending a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA, the group is urging Obama to make mitigation the centerpiece of federal efforts managing hurricane and disaster preparedness. “For decades, federal policies have incentivized construction in hurricane-prone, environmentally sensitive areas,” the group says in a press release. “It’s time to update these policies to emphasize smart mitigation measures that protect the environment, put Americans to work and make current coastal residents safer.”

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John Rich Alleged Assault On Jared Ashley

John Rich Alleged Assault On Jared AshleyJohn Rich charged for alleged 'Nashville Star' assault.

Country star John Rich of Big & Rich was charged on May 28 with assault and harassment, E! Online reports. Rich allegedly smacked former Nashville Star contestant Jared Ashley in the face; he has denied the charges. "I trust that the truth will come out through the process of our American justice system and that I will be completely exonerated at the end of the day," the singer said in a statement.

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