Andrew Tobias: HEALTH CARE FACTS FOX HAS NOT STRESSED
129 million of us have a pre-existing condition and will no longer have to worry about losing or being unable to afford coverage
105 million Americans are paying less for preventive care
105 million Americans no longer have to fear lifetime limits on care
1 in 5 were denied coverage in the old individual market
Health care costs are increasing at the slowest rate in 50 years
3.1 million young adults have been able to stay on their parents' plans because they're not yet 26
Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer: an audience with geek royalty (Guardian)
Musician Amanda Palmer and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman met, fell in love, toured and have now made an album. The misfit heroes of the alt scene share their lives with millions of Twitter fans. What's public and what's off-limits? Hermione Hoby joins them for gluten-free crackers and a chat.
Christopher Orr: Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time (Atlantic)
The movie knows little-and cares less-about how people fall in love.
Caspar Llewellyn Smith: "Mick Jagger: 'If you start thinking how pretty the sunset is, you get lost'" (Guardian)
The Rolling Stones showed their enduring power in a storming Glastonbury debut.
Tim Lewis: "Kim Wilde: 'I don't see ghosts, but I did see a UFO once'" (Guardian)
The 80s pop star turned gardener on her new Christmas album, being filmed drunk and dating Adam Ant.
Tim Adams: "Ray Davies: 'I'm haunted by the songs I have written but never recorded'" (Guardian)
The Kinks frontman on London's changing face, eavesdropping and his fear of big fish and artichokes.
Diana Wagman: The saddest Christmas wish lists ever (LA Times)
Instead of toys and electronics, the requests of many Santa letters fielded by the L.A. post office this year are for food and supplies.
Alison Nastasi: Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World (Flavorwire)
The commercialism surrounding American holidays grows exponentially each year, and most companies are already hawking their Christmas wares come Halloween. But at the heart of all this gross merchandising are traditions that were established centuries ago. Around the world, Christmas celebrations take radically different forms, and some might seem totally bizarre - as if idolizing an old guy who rides flying reindeer and hangs out with elves were totally normal.
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Michelle in AZ
From The Creator of 'Avery Ant'
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Mostly sunny, but much colder than seasonal.
Music legend Neil Young is playing four concerts in his native Canada to benefit a northern Alberta aboriginal band fighting oilsands development in its territory.
Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall is to appear as a special guest.
Tickets for the January shows scheduled for Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary go on sale Tuesday.
"The theme of the concerts is honour the treaties," said Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokeswoman Eriel Deranger. "All the ticket sales, all the proceeds from the concerts, not a single cent goes to anyone other than (the First Nation)."
Young is one of a number of global entertainment celebrities who have visited the oilsands. The list includes actresses Darryl Hannah and Neve Campbell and film director James Cameron.
The Trevor Project Honors
On Sunday, celebrities united for TrevorLIVE, which took place at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.
Kathy Griffin hosted the star-studded event benefiting The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people under 24.
Paula Abdul, Adam Lambert, Mandy Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Fergie, and Josh Duhamel, and the casts of "Glee" and "The Vampire Diaries" all came out to support the cause.
Almost the entire "Glee" gang was back together as Chris Colfer, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Dot-Marie Jones, and Harry Shum Jr. all came to support one of the night's honorees, Jane Lynch.
The rock bands Heart and Barenaked Ladies along with country singer Willie Nelson have canceled their planned performances at SeaWorld in Florida, citing the recent documentary "Blackfish," which raises questions about the effects of captivity on whales.
Joan Jett on Monday also joined the list of recording artists distancing themselves from the marine park when she sent a letter to SeaWorld President Jim Atchison asking that the park stop using her song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as the opening music for its "Shamu Rocks" show.
"I'm among the millions who saw 'Blackfish' and am sickened that my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive marine mammals," Jett said in the letter.
Heart was the latest act in the past week to cancel appearances at SeaWorld Orlando's Bands, Brew & Barbecue music series in February, making their announcement over the weekend. The series is held over several weekends and features top classic rock and country acts.
Nelson and Barenaked Ladies made their decisions after fans launched Change.org petitions urging them not to perform at SeaWorld.
You can always count on Hayden Panettiere to take a stand.
The vocal "Nashville" star and her fianc้, Wladimir Klitschko, visited anti-government protesters in the Ukraine over the weekend and made a brief speech, showing their support for those fighting to have closer ties to the European Union instead of to Russia.
"As an American, I want you to know that I stand by you, I support your fight, and I will support it until the country of Ukraine in its entirety reflects the beauty, the true beauty of Ukrainian people. Keep fighting. I love you all," she said. "'There's a movement happening here, and you have a chance to make things right, to make things just. You have a right to a democracy."
As she spoke, her Ukranian beau translated her speech into Russian.
While the blond bombshell is American, her hubby-to-be is from the Ukraine, as is his brother Vitali, who is also a world boxing champion and has become a very popular opposition leader for the country's protestors.
Locke - Baxter
Wedding bells chimed for "Family Ties" star Meredith Baxter and her longtime partner this weekend.
Baxter married contractor Nancy Locke, whom she has been dating for seven years, in Los Angeles Sunday (Dec. 8), according to People magazine. The two were surrounded by family and friends when they exchanged handwritten vows.
Fans of Baxter, who played the role of flower-child mom Elyse Keaton on the popular 1980s sitcom, might have known a wedding was coming. Baxter and Locke obtained a marriage license in Beverly Hills last month.
Baxter has been married three times before, to men. She came out as gay in 2009 during an interview with the "Today" show.
"I thought I was gonna drop into a hole," she told AOL last year. "I thought it was going to be the end of my career. I thought it was setting myself on fire. I thought it was the end. And it turned out to be the best possible thing I could ever have done. I didn't know to want the freedom that came, but it was glorious. I really hope other people will take that as an example, a vote of hope and confidence, that their life can change and be okay after coming out."
Locke - Baxter
French Auction House Ignores Plea
A French auction house on Monday ignored an urgent request by the U.S. Embassy to delay an auction of dozens of sacred Hopi masks and put them on sale.
EVE auctioneers say the sale of 32 artifacts is legal in France and it proceeded Monday afternoon under high security, with several guards in the auction room. The American Indian tribes say the artifacts represent their ancestors' spirits and are unsellable.
The U.S. Embassy made a request for delay on behalf of the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes, to allow them time to travel and identify the controversial artifacts and investigate whether they have a claim to the items under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Both France and the U.S. are signatories to the treaty.
The tribe has said it believes the masks, which date back to the late 19th and early 20th century, were taken illegally from a northern Arizona reservation in the early 20th century.
"What shocks me is that people ask the Hopis to prove these things are theirs," said Maria White, a coordinator for the nongovernmental organization Idle No More and a member of the Kogui tribe in Colombia. "How can you think these objects have been taken legally? It's certain they're stolen."
Violent dramas on the broadcast networks carry milder parental cautions than cable shows like "The Walking Dead" but can equal them in graphic gore, a failure of the TV ratings system, a new study found.
Scenes of stabbings, shootings, rape, decapitation and mutilation invariably received a TV-14 "parents strongly cautioned" rating on network TV, according to the Parents Television Council study released Monday.
But similar fare on cable typically was given the most stringent label, TV-MA for mature audiences only, researchers for the media watchdog group found.
The study of 14 series during a four-week period found a 6 percent difference in the overall incidence of violence of all types on cable versus broadcast, with 1,482 violent acts on the cable programs and 1,392 on the network series.
Federally regulated broadcasters face sanctions if they cross the line on indecency or expletives but not violence. With competition from unregulated cable and its variously daring series such as "Breaking Bad" and "Masters of Sex," networks have resorted to more mayhem.
American and British intelligence operations have been spying on gamers across the world, media outlets reported, saying that the world's most powerful espionage agencies sent undercover agents into virtual universes to monitor activity in online fantasy games such as "World of Warcraft."
Stories carried Monday by The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica said U.S. and U.K. spies have spent years trawling online games for terrorists or informants. The stories, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, offer an unusual take on America's world-spanning surveillance campaign, suggesting that even the fantasy worlds popular with children, teens, and escapists of all ages aren't beyond the attention of the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.
Virtual universes like "World of Warcraft" can be massively popular, drawing in millions of players who log months' worth of real-world time competing with other players for online glory, virtual treasure, and magical loot. At its height, "World of Warcraft" boasted some 12 million paying subscribers, more than the population of Greece. Other virtual worlds, like Linden Labs' "Second Life" or the various games hosted by Microsoft's Xbox - home to the popular science fiction-themed shoot-em-up "Halo" - host millions more.
At the request of GCHQ, the NSA began extracting "World of Warcraft" data from its global intelligence haul, trying to tie specific accounts and characters to Islamic extremism and arms dealing efforts, the Guardian reported. Intelligence on the fantasy world could eventually translate to real-world espionage success, one of the documents suggested, noting that "World of Warcraft" subscribers included "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military and other intelligence agencies."
"World of Warcraft" wasn't the only target. Another memo noted that GCHQ had "successfully been able to get the discussions between different game players on Xbox Live." Meanwhile, so many U.S. spies were roaming around "Second Life" that a special "deconfliction" unit was set up to prevent them from stepping on each other's toes.
Confiscated Sock Monkey's Toy Gun
Transportation Security Administration workers can face real danger, as was demonstrated during the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last month.
Still, confiscating a sock monkey's sidearm? Washington state resident Phyllis May told Seattle's King5.com that she was chastised by a TSA agent over the fact that her stuffed sock monkey (name: Rooster Monkburn, a takeoff on Rooster Cogburn of "True Grit" fame) carried a toy pistol.
May told King5.com that she and her husband were going through security at St. Louis International Airport when a TSA agent held up one of her bags and asked who it belonged to.
May, who sells customized sock monkeys online, told the agent it belonged to her. That's then things took a turn for the surreal.
"She said, 'This is a gun,' " said May. "I said no, it's not a gun it's a prop for my monkey."
152-Year-Old Shipwreck Found
The Keystone State
The wreckage of a wooden steamship that sank 152 years ago in a storm on Lake Huron with no survivors has been found, a Michigan explorer said on Monday.
What exactly happened to the Keystone State and its 33 occupants in a November 1861 voyage to Milwaukee from Detroit remains a mystery, said David Trotter, who found the wreck with his crew of explorers in July.
The 288-foot side-wheel steam ship hit rough weather and was last seen in a disabled condition off Port Austin on November 8 or 9 in 1861, Trotter said.
"She literally sailed into oblivion. Nobody heard anything from her," Trotter said in a telephone interview.
The wreck was found in 175 feet of water 30 miles northeast of Harrisville, a small city north of Lansing. The location put the wreck about 50 miles off course.
The Keystone State
Ida Pollock once said she was born to write. And so she did - millions of words over more than seven decades, spinning tales of impecunious young women romanced by handsome older men in far-flung locations.
The centenarian author of more than 120 books, believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.
Daughter Rosemary Pollock - also a romance novelist - said the writer died Dec. 3 at a nursing home near her house in Lanreath, southwest England.
Born in London in 1908 and raised by a single mother, Pollock had her first stories published while she was in her teens, and went on to write scores of books under almost a dozen pseudonyms. Her output included some 70 "bodice-rippers" for romance publisher Mills & Boon, the British arm of Harlequin Enterprises.
After an adventurous early life that included a solo trip to Morocco while still a teenager and work in London during the Blitz, Pollock took up writing intensely to support her family after her husband went bankrupt in 1950.
"And then she was happy," her daughter said. "She was a lovely, charming mother but she was in a dream until she got back to her writing - and then she was herself."
Her novels - written as Susan Barrie, Rose Burghley, Marguerite Bell and others - had titles like "White Heat," ''The Devil's Daughter" and "The Sweet Surrender." They stuck to the formula of sparring but ultimately happy unions between inexperienced young heroines and dashing older men.
Ida Pollock said her books were "full of hope and romance rather than sex" and always contained one crucial element: "A happy ending is an absolute must."
Pollock's husband was the soldier and publisher Hugh Pollock, who had previously been married to children's writer Enid Blyton and edited Winston Churchill's book "The World Crisis."
"Even though he had edited Winston Churchill, he wasn't allowed to edit my mother," Rosemary Pollock said.
Hugh Pollock died in 1971. Ida Pollock is survived by Rosemary.
Eleanor Parker, who was nominated for Academy Awards three times for her portrayals of strong-willed women and played a scheming baroness in "The Sound of Music," has died at 91.
Family friend Richard Gale said Parker died Monday morning due to complications from pneumonia. "She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her children at a medical facility near her home in Palm Springs," Gale added.
Parker was nominated for Oscars in 1950, 1951 and 1955, but then saw her career begin to wane in the early 1960s. Her last memorable role came in 1965's "The Sound of Music," in which she played the scheming baroness who loses Christopher Plummer to Julie Andrews.
"Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known," said Plummer in a statement. "Both as a person and as a beauty. I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever."
Parker worked only infrequently after "The Sound of Music," appearing in films and on such TV shows as "Fantasy Island," ''Murder, She Wrote" and "The Love Boat." She also starred in the short-lived 1960s TV series "Bracken's World."
She was signed to a contract at Warner Bros., where she played only minor roles until the studio recognized her dramatic depth and cast her as Mildred Rogers in the 1946 remake of "Of Human Bondage."
But the film flopped, and Parker was again relegated to mediocre roles until her breakthrough performance as an inmate in a brutal prison in the 1950 film "Caged." The role brought Parker her first Oscar nomination, for best actress.
Her second came the following year as Kirk Douglas's frustrated wife in "Detective Story."
Her career fully blossomed with such follow-up films as "Scaramouche" with Stewart Granger, "Above and Beyond" with Robert Taylor, "Escape from Fort Bravo" with Holden, "Valley of the Kings" with Taylor, and "The Naked Jungle" with Charlton Heston.
She took on one of her most challenging roles in 1955 in "Interrupted Melody," portraying opera star Marjorie Lawrence, who continued her career after contracting polio. Faced with having to lip-sync nine arias in three languages, she holed up in a Lake Arrowhead cabin for two weeks and played records eight to 10 hours a day.
The result: her third Oscar nomination.
Other notable films included "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "A Hole in the Head" (both opposite Frank Sinatra) and "The King and Four Queens" with Clark Gable.
Parker's first three marriages ended in divorce: to Navy dentist Fred L. Losse; producer Bert Friedlob, which resulted in three children, Susan, Sharon and Richard; and painter Paul Clemens, with whom she had a son, actor Paul Clemens. Her 1966 marriage to Shubert Theater manager Raymond Hirsch ended with his death in 2001.