Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Britney Spears has baby boy 

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NEW YORK - Britney Spears has given birth to a baby boy, Us Weekly reported.

The baby was born Wednesday by Caesarean section at the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center in California, the magazine said. No other details were available.

A call to Spears’ publicist by The Associated Press wasn’t immediately returned.

It is the first child for the 23-year-old pop star and her husband, Kevin Federline. Federline, 27, has two children with ex-girlfriend Shar Jackson.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Orleans strip joint wants to get back to work 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - There's no water for the "wash the girl of your choice" service and there aren't any girls either, but Big Daddy's strip club on New Orleans' Bourbon Street is getting ready to bring back erotic spectacle to the devastated city.

Friday night on Bourbon Street, usually a throbbing artery of the party-going French Quarter, was pretty grim this time around in what has become a foul-smelling ghost town partly covered with a swamp of filthy water.

Police patrol cars and military Humvees made up most of the traffic on the street.

But Big Daddy's general manager, Saint Jones, and a band of helpers defied an evacuation order by arriving to clean up their premises in the historic French Quarter, which escaped largely unscathed from the floods.

Jones told Reuters he would open for business as soon as he could get electricity, water and dancers.

He was already had electricity from a generator, which was moving a pair of robotic woman's legs, in stockings and pink high heels, waving invitingly on the street by the sign for Big Daddy's.

He also had plenty of bottled water.

But his former employees had been evacuated, so his main problem was convincing girls to come to a town without services and supposedly off limits to most civilians.

But Jones, a corpulent man with a strawberry blond beard wearing a black t-shirt reading "I'm smiling because they haven't found the bodies yet," foresaw few problems getting strippers.

"It shouldn't be too hard. Everyone's going to come back in town and want to work. You know, if you've got 50 dancers in Houston and they're not making money, they're going to spread out," he said.

Judging from the number of military and police vehicles which stopped or slowed passing Big Daddy's, they'll have plenty of customers. It didn't seem to occur to the men in uniform to enforce the evacuation order in effect on the city -- they preferred to ask when the strippers would be back.

One army Humvee, carrying a team of Puerto Rican troops, stopped so that a soldier could pose with his M16 rifle by a life-size picture of a naked blonde while his buddy took a photo.

Jones gave them vodka on the rocks in plastic cups, which they enjoyed before hopping back in the Humvee.

Big Daddy's sign advertises several attractions, including "Bottomless. Topless. Table top dancing," and "Wash the girl of your choice."

This last item seemed to provide a business challenge in a city where the scant running water available in some districts is infected with feces and toxic loads of bacteria.

But Jones was undaunted.

"We'll make sure they get showers," he said.

Of course, Jones will fail in his ambition if he is compelled to evacuate.

One of his helpers, Vietnam veteran Terry Fredricks, who has temporarily moved into the strip joint because his home is flooded, said they would only leave if they were forced to go but they would go peacefully if it came to that.

Jones maintained his optimism. Asked about the identity of his potential customers, he replied, inaccurately as it happens, "probably you."

NBA stars play in Houston for hurricane relief 

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HOUSTON — Chris LaRoche doesn't have any clothes, toys or a place to go home to, but on Sunday the 12-year-old's dream came true when he played basketball against LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Ron Artest and a host of other NBA stars.

LaRoche and about 1,100 other Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center got a morning visit from about a dozen NBA players in town for an evening charity game.

"I can't believe it," LaRoche said, a huge grin on his face. "I was guarding LeBron. It was so crazy."

James, a standout forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the other players spent about 90 minutes playing with kids, signing autographs and greeting fans.

"Hopefully we can put some smiles on their faces and maybe for just that little moment they cannot think about what happened," James said.

TNT basketball analyst Kenny Smith organized the game, played at the Toyota Center before a packed crowd that included at least 5,000 evacuees who were given free tickets to the game. Smith said each of the almost 30 players participating in the event donated a minimum of $10,000 in money or supplies to the relief effort.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu thanked the players and the city of Houston for its support before Jerry Stackhouse treated the crowd to a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

"This is an American tragedy that brought us to our knees," Landrieu said. "And the American people have reached down and lifted us up. We will rebuild."

Kobe Bryant, who spent the day visiting victims, said he was inspired by their positive attitudes.

"I had in my mind that it was just going to be a really sad sight," Bryant said. "But when you walk in you see that everybody was just real spirited. There was a lot of energy in there — a lot of resolve and determination to bounce back."

Charles Barkley, who helped with the TNT broadcast, said he was proud of the outpouring of support the NBA showed Sunday.

"Everybody has got to do a little part," he said. "We're all in this world together and I appreciate them doing something positive with their time."

Allen Iverson arrived about 10 minutes before the game, causing quite a stir. He didn't play but got perhaps the biggest ovation of the day when introduced. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and encouraged the East team from their bench.

Fans were given another treat in the fourth quarter when rapper Kanye West, who publicly criticized President Bush during a telethon last week, arrived at the game.

Stephon Marbury dashed across the court to hand West a microphone and he rapped over a verse of his hit Gold Digger while the game was delayed and players danced to the music.

The West won the game 114-95.

Other players participating in or attending the game included Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade, Damon Jones, Steve Francis, Carmelo Anthony, Jermaine O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire.

Earlier in the day at the convention center, the players milled through rows of air mattresses as children spotted them and excitedly ran to get autographs, clutching any scrap of paper they could find.

"They're huge," Dayvon Bell, 11, said after getting an autograph and a very high five from the 6-foot-11 Garnett. "It's so cool."

Bell and his mother, Tema Knox, were at the convention center with 19 other relatives who escaped New Orleans. She doesn't know the status of her home and said this has been the most stressful time of her life.

"Anything that will make my kids happy even for a minute I'm all for," Knox said. "It means so much for these players to make time for the kids."

Garnett also showed love to one of the smallest victims, signing the shirt of a sleeping infant girl with a fat purple marker.

"It's about showing a sign of unity," Carlos Boozer said. "Us as black folks are joining together with a strong bond to help these young people."

While evacuees enjoyed seeing the players downstairs, the real fun began when the group moved to a third-floor ballroom that had been converted into a makeshift gymnasium.

The room was filled with three basketball goals, two pingpong tables and a soccer goal, and had hundreds of kids darting around. The players immediately joined in, with Garnett tossing a football to some teenagers and Billups shooting hoops with scores of other younger kids.

"I just wanted to do something that could help the kids," Artest said. "It's good to see people happy."

Marbury was much more upbeat than earlier in the week, when he broke down into sobs while announcing a donation of $500,000 to $1 million to Katrina victims. He laughed while tickling toddlers and playing pingpong with preteens.

Notes: About 50 evacuee children filed onto the floor before the fourth quarter and formed a circle around the Harlem Globetrotters while they performed to thunderous applause.


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DAYTONA BEACH, Flordia -- This year has been like a tale of two seasons for Daryl Harr (No. 71 WestWorld Computers Chevrolet). His competition in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series early in 2005 was filled with frustration. The 23-year-old Canadian from St. Albert, Alberta, managed to turn his season around, however, and is enjoying momentum as the series heads into its final three events. Harr hopes to keep things moving in a positive direction as the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series heads to Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Ore., for the NAPA 200 presented by NAPA Belts & Hose on Saturday, Sept. 17. It will mark the first time for the annual event to be televised to a national audience on SPEED Channel. Harr, who finished ninth in this event a year ago, is looking forward to returning to Roseburg. "It's like a lot of tracks in Canada," he said of the half-mile paved oval at the fairgrounds. "It's small, it's flat, it has really tight quarters and no walls in the corners. It's a lot of fun, actually."

His team heads to Oregon bolstered by its recent performance, according to Harr. "Coming off of qualifying third and finishing sixth at Fontana, everybody on my team's riding high," he said. "I think that's going to give us a boost of confidence going in there. This year we hope to be in the top five there. I think that's attainable with the car that I'll be bringing."

His optimism is contrary to his outlook earlier in the year when he failed to crack the top 10 in the first four races. "The early part of the season was really frustrating, especially coming off of last year where we finished seventh and had so many top 10s in what I felt was equipment that was not as good as what we had this year," Harr explained.

"I didn't know what was going on or what I could do to make it better," he said. "We had some bad luck - got spun a couple of times, lost a motor and I made a couple of mistakes."

With four of 12 races completed, Harr was mired near the bottom of the championship standings. "After the first four races we had a long break and it gave me a lot of time to think," he recalled. "I was back in 14th or 15th position in the point standings. In the first four races I had wanted to establish myself solid in the top 10. Instead, I found myself having to reevaluate my goals for the season."

He and his father, Carl, who operated as a two-car team, decided it was time for a change. They opted to park Carl's car on a temporary basis and concentrate on Daryl's effort.

"With a quarter of the season over already, it was time to change the game plan," Harr said of the decision for his dad to put his driving career on hold. "I was real fortunate that my dad was able to come over and help. Once we started working together, I think the results were almost automatic."

The change has allowed the team to concentrate on just one car, Harr pointed out. "The biggest resource that we were able to contribute was to focus - focus on one team, focus the manpower on one team, focus all our knowledge on one team. That really brought us all back together. We all know what our goal is - that is to get the 71 car the best it can be. In some aspects, it's great having a teammate, but when you don't have the resources or you're spread too thin, it's all for not. The way it's been going is a lot better than the way it was."

In addition to improving the team's performance, it has also made this season fun again, Harr said. "That's the biggest thing in the last half of the season; I've been having fun," he said. "I want to go out there and do the best I can and have fun."

Since making the change, Harr has finished in the top 10 in four of five races. An engine failure accounted for his only finish out of the top 10. He feels the team's recent performance indicates their true potential. "It reflects the way we're going with the team," Harr said. "It's only going to get better. I know as a driver, I've been able to focus on what's going in the driver's seat. I haven't had to worry about mechanical problems. I haven't had to worry about making chassis changes. I get in the car and focus on what the car is doing. I get out and say 'this is what it's doing.' From there I can focus back on what I'm doing on the race track. For the last five races it's just been getting better and better.

"I think by the end of the year, barring any bad luck, I think you're going to see our runs continue to get better," he said. "I'm confident in my crew. I'm confident of the cars that we have. We have a lot more time to focus on just the one team and the one car. With that, we're bringing in a better arsenal of knowledge to the track to do better."

Although Harr just moved to 10th in the championship standings, he is only 31 points out of seventh. He is hopeful of continuing his climb in the point standings with three remaining races. "My goal is to get back to where I was last year, which was seventh," he said. "With 31 points, I could get there in one race if things go the right way. I'd be thrilled if we get back up to seventh. I think it's really going to show the character of the team."

News & Notes

* The race ... The NAPA 200 presented by NAPA Belts & Hose is the 10th race on the series schedule for 2005. It is the only visit by the series to the state of Oregon this year.

* The track ... Douglas County Speedway is a half-mile paved oval with 11 degrees banking in the corners. The track - located just off Interstate 5 on the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg, Ore. - hosted four West Series races between 1966 and 1971, when it was a quarter-mile oval. The series has made three visits to the track since it was renovated and expanded in 2001.

* Annual kick-off festivities in Roseburg ... The annual parade of NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series team haulers is slated to wind its way through Roseburg, Ore., to the speedway on Friday, Sept. 16. It will be followed by a driver autograph session, which is open to the public, at the speedway from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

* History in the making ... History will be made in the West Series at Roseburg, with three female drivers entered in the event. Indy 500 veteran Sarah Fisher (No. 20 NAPA Filters/Domino's Pizza/Office Depot Chevrolet) has two top-10 finishes this season and is currently 12th in the championship standings. Kristi Schmitt (No. 10 Kristi Schmitt Racing Dodge), the granddaughter of four-time series champion Bill Schmitt, is slated to make her third career start in the series. Series newcomer 19-year-old Michelle Theriault (No. 77 NutriSystems/Sherm's Thunderbird Markets/Mission Foods Ford) of Bristol, Conn., meanwhile, has raced quarter midgets, Legends and late model stock cars.

* Last year's event ... Scott Lynch (No. 08 Mr. Gas Dodge) appeared almost surprised to be in victory lane following last year's event. Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) won the Bud Pole and paced the field for much of the event, with Austin Cameron running second. Although Duncan stretched out his lead just past the midway point of the race, it was erased by a caution on lap 110. Just after the restart, Duncan and Cameron spun to the inside of the track as they came in contact coming off turn two - leading to a wild scramble as drivers swerved to avoid the pair. Their two cars, along with several others, were damaged in the incident, but all were able to continue after visiting the pits for repairs. Lynch, meanwhile, avoided the incident and took over the lead and went on to win. David Gilliland (No. 88 RaceCarCeilingFans.com Chevrolet) took the runner-up spot, while Duncan recovered for third. The first portion of the race was run on Saturday night, but inclement weather halted the action on lap 68 and postponed the conclusion of the 200-lap event until Sunday.

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