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People in the News

Eds: Updates with items on Jessica Simpson, Peter Allen, Bob Greene, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ken Blanchard. Contains items on Jon Stewart, Celine Dion, Jackie Chan, and Raymond Gubbay. In Stewart item, Parkinsong Foundation is cq.

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By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) – As if she weren’t everywhere already, Jessica Simpson is coming to a concert venue near you.

The pop music and reality television star announced a summer tour Tuesday, starting June 4 in New Orleans.

“The Jessica Simpson Reality Tour” will feature stops across the county, including New York, Chicago and her hometown of Dallas, and end Aug. 1 in Paso Robles, Calif.

This will be the 23-year-old’s first tour since the success of her MTV series “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” with her husband, Nick Lachey. Her album, “In This Skin,” is in the Billboard Top 20. She recently shot a sitcom pilot for ABC and has a line of fragrances and beauty products called “Dessert.”

On the Net:


NEW YORK (AP) – Peter Allen is signing off after 29 years as announcer of the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts.

Allen is retiring after having completed the Met’s 2003-04 broadcast season on April 24.

“Except for my marriage, the broadcasts – and preparing for them – have been the richest experience of my life. I’ll miss them and the many helpful friends I’ve been lucky enough to work with,” the 84-year-old said Tuesday. “But the broadcasts are demanding, and it’s probably best for them and me to sign off while I’m ahead.”

Allen said he still planned to be involved with opera in some way.

“We have been very fortunate to have Peter Allen as the voice of the Met on the air for so many years,” said the opera’s general manager, Joseph Volpe. “His vast knowledge of opera and his assured, unflappable presence have added interest and dignity to our broadcasts, and we will sorely miss him.”

Allen, a Toronto native, took over as host in January 1975 after Milton Cross, the broadcast’s original announcer since 1931, died suddenly. He has also worked as an actor, announcer and narrator in radio, television and film.

On the Net:


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – The fitness guru who trimmed Oprah Winfrey and is riding his bicycle across the country to promote health and wellness is sticking up for his sponsor, McDonald’s.

Bob Greene is biking 3,000 miles over 36 days as part of the fast food restaurant’s “Go Active!” challenge. Greene said that those who criticize McDonald’s – like Morgan Spurlock, director of the new documentary “Super Size Me” – are just taking cheap shots at the restaurant.

“It’s the movie coming out or lawyers,” Greene said Monday during a rest stop in a McDonald’s parking lot, alluding to a pair of class-action lawsuits the restaurant chain faced accusing it of making consumers fat. The U.S. House voted in March to ban class such lawsuits.

“Those things just don’t have teeth,” Greene said.

Greene said McDonald’s is spending money to promote fitness and healthy menu items, like salads.

“They don’t need to be doing that,” he said. “They’re taking it to another level.”

Spurlock’s movie opened last weekend. In it, he chows down on a McDonald’s-only diet for a month in an examination of American obesity.

McDonald’s introduced new Happy Meals last month specially for adults with salad, bottled water and pedometers.

Greene and Winfrey co-authored the book “Make the Connection: 10 Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life.”

On the Net:


TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan hoped to inject some star power into its May 20 presidential inauguration by inviting terminator-turned-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he was too busy to come, an official said Tuesday.

Schwarzenegger’s invitation attracted the most attention when the Presidential Office released the list of 400 foreign guests who’ve been asked to attend President Chen Shui-bian’s inauguration. Most of the visitors are heads of state or diplomats.

“There is a superstar who really wanted to come, but he cannot come because of his official business,” presidential spokesman James Huang told reporters.

“That is the governor of California, the terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Huang said, adding a bit of showmanship to a routine news conference.

Instead, Schwarzenegger will send his lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, Huang said. The governor, famous for starring in “Conan the Barbarian” and the “Terminator” movies, sent a congratulatory message to Chen after he was re-elected March 20, Huang said.

Chen’s narrow re-election prompted calls for a recount, which began Monday and was expected to be finished just before the inauguration.

PHOENIX (AP) – Grand Canyon University plans to name its business college after author and management consultant Ken Blanchard.

Officials with the Phoenix-based private Christian university said Monday that the Ken Blanchard College of Business – formerly known as the College of Business and Professional Studies – will include many of Blanchard’s leadership and management techniques in its curriculum.

The author isn’t making a financial contribution to Grand Canyon, according to The Arizona Republic. Instead, the university will pay Blanchard royalties for the use of his management curriculum in business classes.

Blanchard has written or co-written more than 30 books, including the 1981 best seller “The One Minute Manager.” He is chairman and chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Cos., a consulting and training firm in Escondido, Calif.

Blanchard primarily will work with students online as part of efforts to emphasize ethical leadership and real-world training, said Grand Canyon vice president Michael Clifford.

Grand Canyon has more than 3,500 students, and the business school is the fastest-growing part of the university.

On the Net:


NEW YORK (AP) – Selma Litowitz laughed, and for that, Jon Stewart is still grateful.

The “Daily Show” host is promoting a two-CD compilation by singer-songwriters to benefit the Parkinsong Foundation. It was set up by the children of Litowitz, Stewart’s former English teacher who has Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative nerve condition.

Stewart was a self-confessed smart aleck while in high school in Lawrence, N.J., and most of his teachers were constantly telling him to pipe down.

Not Mrs. Litowitz.

“She was very patient, she was very understanding,” Stewart recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. “She was the only one who made me feel that there was some kind of useful skill behind what I was doing.”

And how did she do that?

“She laughed,” he said.

On the Net:


LAS VEGAS (AP) – Celine Dion canceled three performances of her nightly show at Caesars Palace this week after a doctor told the singer she needed to rest.

Dion won’t perform “A New Day …” on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

The star has been hampered by a sprained neck for the past week, which she aggravated while doing her show, show spokeswoman Kris Lingle said Monday.

Dion, 36, will resume performances on Saturday.

The singer is in the second year of a three-year engagement at the Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino.

On the Net:


HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan said he was deeply moved after digging up land mines for a week during a recent trip to Cambodia to raise awareness about the issue there.

Chan, a newly appointed U.N. goodwill ambassador, spent three days in Cambodia in late April, visiting land mine explosion victims and HIV/AIDS patients.

Cambodia has Southeast Asia’s highest HIV infection rate at 2.6 percent for 2002, according to the United Nations. The country’s remote areas are still strewn with land mines and unexploded bombs left over from three decades of fighting.

The 50-year-old actor, a star of Hollywood and Chinese-language movies for more than 20 years, told reporters Monday he walked through an area once sown with land mines that has since been mostly – but not entirely – cleared.

Chan said he wasn’t afraid, but “for a week, whenever I had a dream, I dreamt about digging (up) land mines.”

“A child could go to buy milk and return without legs,” he said.

On the Net:


LONDON (AP) – The Savoy Opera, created to make opera more accessible with affordable tickets and English-language lyrics, is suspending plans for a second season because of weak sales.

The month-old Savoy said performances would be suspended after June 19, when runs of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Barber of Seville” conclude.

No final decision had been made on the fate of the opera company, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

Founder Raymond Gubbay had hoped ticket prices below $90 – compared with a top price of $305 at the Royal Opera House and $126 at the English National Opera – would lure crowds, but they never materialized.

The company chose popular operas and performed them frequently, in English, but reviews were poor.

“I’m not surprised it’s closing,” John Allison, editor of Opera magazine, told the Financial Times. “What is surprising is that it collapsed after such a short time.”

AP-ES-05-11-04 1434EDT

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