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Taking Names: Jackie Chan to combat Myanmar child trafficking

- - Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan is going to Myanmar this week on a three-day mission to help combat child trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.

UNICEF announced Tuesday that in his capacity as a good-will ambassador, Mr. Chan will visit the agency's projects for supporting trafficked children under special care for trauma and distress. He also will meet with officials of the Social Welfare Ministry and members of the Myanmar Police Anti-Trafficking Task Force in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city.

The U.S. State Department's annual report on human trafficking said thousands of children in Myanmar are forced to serve in the national army and ethnic military groups. Myanmar signed an agreement with the United Nations last week to ban the recruitment of child soldiers and demobilize those already serving.

Kiss takes giant book to London for launch

American glam rockers Kiss are unleashing their "Monster" on the U.K. public.

The band — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer — was in London on Tuesday to launch its new retrospective book, "Kiss Monster," and to hold a news conference.

The limited-edition book — which is 3 feet highl — features unseen photographs from the band's 40-year career.

"A band that is bigger than life deserves a book that's bigger than life. You could call it a coffee-table book, but if you put legs on it, it is a coffee table," Mr. Stanley joked.

Only 1,000 copies of "Kiss Monster" will be produced and each one will be signed by the band. It will retail at a staggering $4,299.

"It's not a cheap book because it is hand bound, hand put together. It's the Rolls-Royce of books," Mr. Simmons said.

"KISS Monster" is now on sale via the band's website.

Opera star Evelyn Lear dies at age 86

American soprano Evelyn Lear, who became an opera star in Europe while singing some of the most difficult contemporary operas before returning to the U.S., has died. She was 86.

Longtime friend and collaborator John Edward Niles said Ms. Lear died Sunday at a nursing home in Sandy Spring. He said she had been ailing for months after suffering a mild stroke.

Ms. Lear and her now late husband, Thomas Stewart, the acclaimed bass-baritone, settled in Montgomery County after singing together for decades around the world. They wanted to be closer to their grandchildren.

After being overlooked by U.S. opera houses, Ms. Lear won fame in Vienna singing the title character in Alban Berg's "Lulu."

Leaders in the opera world lauded her versatility, beauty, musicality and stage presence.

Christian singer Battistelli welcomes baby girl

It's a girl for Grammy-nominated Christian singer Francesca Battistelli.

The 27-year-old and her husband, Matthew Goodwin, welcomed their second child, Audrey Jane Goodwin, at their Atlanta area home early Tuesday morning. The family then went to a hospital.

Her publicist told the Associated Press the baby weighs 8 pounds, 11 ounces and is 20 inches long. The couple have a son, Matthew Elijah, who was born in September 2010.

Ms. Battistelli said she was "so incredibly blessed with a beautiful baby girl" and added that big brother Eli is "so excited to have a little sister."

Ms. Battistelli's hits include "Free to Be Me" and "I'm Letting Go."

Fight over Kinkade estate to remain public for now

Hearings in the dispute between Thomas Kinkade's widow and girlfriend over the late artist's $66 million estate will not be conducted behind closed doors — at least for now, a judge ruled Monday.

Kinkade's widow, Nanette Kinkade, had sought to keep the matter private, asking Judge Thomas Cain to immediately send the case to an arbitration panel and not open probate court.

But Judge Cain rejected that request, saying he was being asked to make findings based on very limited information, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

At the center of the dispute are handwritten notes that Kinkade's girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, said bequeath to her his mansion in Monte Sereno and $10 million to establish a museum of his paintings. She was living with Kinkade and found his body when he died in April.

Mrs. Kinkade, Kinkade's wife of 30 years, disputes those claims and is seeking full control of the estate. She and Kinkade were legally separated when Kinkade, 54, died of an accidental alcohol and Valium overdose.

"We're pleased that [the judge] is going to keep this matter in the probate court," Sonia Agee, Ms. Pinto-Walsh's attorney, told KGO-TV outside court. "We think it's the right place for it, not only for Ms. Pinto, but also for the public interest."

The case was continued until Aug. 13. Ms. Pinto-Walsh was present in court. Mrs. Kinkade was not.

Kinkade, the self-described "painter of light," was known for sentimental scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes. His work led to a commercial empire of franchised galleries, reproduced artwork and spin-off products that was said to fetch some $100 million each year in sales.

In recent years, however, he had run into personal difficulties, including a 2010 bankruptcy filing by one of his companies and an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence that same year outside Carmel, Calif.

• Compiled from Web and wire reports