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The film, in which she plays the mother of showbiz sisters, could have marked a big-screen comeback for the star who achieved overnight success in 1992’s “The Bodyguard.”

Whitney Houston, who died Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, will make one final appearance on the big screen when Sony Pictures releases Sparkle on Aug. 17.

“Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened and the world has lost an incomparable talent. Right now our thoughts are with her daughter, her family and her friends,” spokesman Steve Elzer said on behalf of the studio.

Houston had completed filming on the project, a remake of the 1976 movie Sparkle, the showbiz saga of a trio of singers, which, in turn, was loosely based on the career of the Supremes. The film could have marked the beginning of a feature film comeback for Houston, who shone briefly but brightly in the ’90s with starring roles in The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife.

“This would have been a big, big comeback, she is so brilliant in it,” Howard Rosenman, who is an executive producer on the new film, said of Houston’s performance. Rosenman, who produced the original ’76 movie and also has a story credit on the remake, had seen a rough cut of the film Friday night, and said, “I was just raving about her performance, she was so great in it. I’m just in shock.”

Jordin Sparks, American Idol season six winner, is playing the title role in the movie about three sisters, who start singing in a church choir, become a successful girl group and then must contend with a series of personal problems. Houston’s role is that of the sister’s not-so-encouraging mother. Mike Epps also is appearing in the film as a stand-up comedian who marries one of the sisters and gets her hooked on drugs.

Mara Brock Akil, who created and executive produces BET’s hit comedy The Game, wrote the script, and her husband Salim Akil, who has helmed every episode of Game and many episodes of the UPN hit Girlfriends, is directing.

Billboard reported Saturday that Houston’s final recordings will be heard in the film. She sings the gospel classic “Eyes on the Sparrow” and duets with Sparks on a new R. Kelly song, “Celebrate,” over the end credits.
Houston made her screen debut in 1992’s The Bodygard, starring opposite Kevin Costner. The Warners release, in which she plays a pop star, grossed $411 million worldwide, and included her famous rendition of the Dolly Parton-written “I Will Always Love You.”

She followed up that overnight film success with a role in the ensemble drama Waiting to Exhale, based on Terry McMillan’s novel, in 1995, in which she played a TV producer in love with a married man. Grossing $81.4 million worldwide, the movie was considered a success with particular appeal to African-American women.

In 1996, she played the title role in The Preacher’s Wife, opposite Denzel Washington, an inspirational drama that was a remake of the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife. The film took in just $48 million domestically.

Poll: Govt passes 6-month test

Posted by arnon_k On February - 12 - 2012 1 COMMENT

The government under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra passed the test after six months in office, Suan Dusit Poll reveals on Sunday.

The poll was conducted on 5,373 people throughout the country between Feb 1-10.

Prime Minister Yingluck was scored 6.58 out of 10 for her attention to work and 5.59 for her overall performance.

The entire cabinet was scored 5.86 for its attention to work, 5.82 for their performance, 5.51 for giving independence to permanent officials, and 5.16 for honesty.

The most outstanding work of the government during the first six months in office was drug suppression, the majority or 53.6 per cent of the people polled said.

(Reuters) – Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba plans to take its Hong Kong-listed unit private, two sources familiar with the matter said, as part of a complex deal that would strengthen founder Jack Ma’s control and give key stakeholder Yahoo cash and a direct stake in one of Alibaba’s operating businesses.

Alibaba Group, the online business-to-business group set up in 1999 by former tour guide and now billionaire Ma, plans to buy back most of the 40 percent stake in it that Yahoo purchased for about $1 billion in 2005.

Under the plans being discussed, Alibaba Group would use bank loans and cash plus an asset swap to buy back about a 25 percent stake, leaving Yahoo holding 15 percent, the sources said. The U.S. group’s 40 percent holding is worth an estimated $13 billion to $14 billion, based on recent deal valuations.

Alibaba Group, one of the three leading players in the world’s largest Internet market, plans to pay a third of the consideration through a stake in one of its operating assets — making a deal tax-free for Yahoo — and the rest, around $6 billion, in cash, the sources said. It is looking to raise a loan of about $3 billion to help fund the deal.

The sources said taking Alibaba.com private was just one of the proposals under discussion and was not a pre-condition of any Yahoo deal. Any final agreement could be several weeks away, they added.

Alibaba Group’s plans are part of an overall deal being discussed by Yahoo, an Internet pioneer under pressure from investors to turn around a lackluster performance. Last month, Yahoo appointed Scott Thompson as CEO to replace Carol Bartz, who was fired in September, and co-founder Jerry Yang quit the company.

Yahoo shareholders are frustrated at stakeholders’ apparent indecision over how to handle investments in Alibaba and other Asian assets.

“Alibaba.com’s share price has been quite bumpy since its listing,” said Wendy Huang, head of regional Internet and media research at RBS in Hong Kong. “Probably taking it private will make it more flexible for the group to do the transformation that it’s going through.”

Trading in Alibaba.com shares was halted on Thursday pending an announcement regarding its parent. Alibaba.com, which is about 73 percent-owned by Alibaba Group, has a market value of nearly $6 billion, making the remaining stake in it worth around $1.6 billion.

Alibaba.com is the most likely operating unit in which Yahoo may be offered a stake, one of the sources said. Both parties have an understanding on this arrangement, but have not signed any formal deal yet, the source added.

Other Alibaba Group assets that could be used in a swap deal with Yahoo could include Taobao.com, often dubbed “China’s e-Bay”, Taomall, Yahoo (China) and Alipay, an e-payment business, sources said, adding Yahoo would get to choose which assets it wants.

The sources requested anonymity because the discussions were private. An Alibaba Group spokesman declined to comment. A representative for Yahoo declined to comment.

Sources previously told Reuters that under a “cash rich split” plan being discussed, Yahoo would effectively transfer most of its 40 percent Alibaba stake back to the Chinese company, and all of its more than one-third stake in Yahoo Japan to Softbank Corp in return for cash and assets.

The idea behind the deal is twofold for Yahoo, sources previously said. Most of the company’s value is locked up in its Alibaba and Yahoo Japan stakes, so selling them down would simplify its ownership structure. That in turn would make it easier for potential buyers to value Yahoo’s U.S. operations and provide for a cleaner transaction should one come to fruition.

Secondly, Yahoo can use the more than $6 billion in cash it will generate from the two deals to return money to shareholders in the form of a dividend or share buyback. Yahoo’s shareholders have been clamoring for some kind of liquidity event since the company turned down Microsoft’s $44 billion takeover offer four years ago this month.

Yahoo shares were up 1.8 percent at $16.29 in midday Nasdaq trading.

Shares in Softbank jumped more than 4 percent to a 5-week high of 2,319 yen on Friday. Softbank has an indirect stake of 31 percent to 32 percent in Alibaba.com as it holds close to a third of Alibaba Group and owns 58 percent of Alibaba Japan.

Yahoo had also entertained separate proposals from private equity firms TPG and Silver Lake about minority investments in the company, but those offers fell short of Yahoo’s expectations.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Aldred, Kazunori Takada, Saeed Azhar, Melanie Lee, Chyen Yee Lee and Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Ian Geoghegan and Lisa Von Ahn)

Jordan: We’d give Abu Qatada fair trial

Posted by arnon_k On February - 12 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Hate preacher promise

THE Sun’s campaign to kick out hate preacher Abu Qatada was boosted last night when Jordan issued a cast-iron pledge that he will get a fair trial if deported.

The Arab state is filing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights over its ruling that Britain cannot boot out terror suspect Qatada.

It came as 35,000 Sun readers signed our Must Try Harder To Kick Out Qatada petition. You can call for him to be shown the door by signing our petition below.

Jordan’s communications minister Rakan Al Majali told The Sun that suspects are protected in his country, thanks to laws passed last year. European judges in Strasbourg said Qatada might not get a fair trial in Jordan and evidence against him may have been gathered by torture.

A British judge has since ruled that the Muslim fanatic — a suspect over bombings in his native Jordan — must be freed on bail.

But the new assurance from Jordan would strengthen PM David Cameron’s hand if he defied Strasbourg and sent Qatada home. Mr Majali told us: “We are closely co-operating with the British authorities regarding the decision of the European Court to ban the extradition.

“Jordan’s government will lodge an official objection against the verdict and guarantee to provide a fair trial for Abu Qatada.

“Last year’s constitutional amendments protect such guarantees for a fair trial and prevent any form of torture or physical or moral abuse. The amendments also prevent any statement obtained under coercion, torture or threat being put before the judicial authorities.” The Sun has offered to buy Qatada a one-way ticket to Jordan for just £141.99 with budget airline easyJet.

Our Kick Out Qatada campaign comes amid mounting fury that he could walk out of the British jail where he is being held within days.

Mr Cameron said: “We are doing everything we can.”

Qatada, said to have been a lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden, preached hate on videos owned by a 9/11 bomber. He has been dodging deportation for 6½ years.

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