Taking Names: Election officials defend special voting for Usher

Election officials in the Atlanta area are defending their decision to allow singer Usher to bypass long lines and cast his ballot on Election Day, infuriating voters who had to wait.

Fulton County election officials told WSB-TV that Usher Raymond IV was escorted to the front of the line to minimize distractions at his Roswell, Ga., polling place. They said in a statement that poll manager Frank Padula was directed to move Usher through the process as quickly as possible.

WSB reported that Usher took cellphone pictures of himself voting, then posted them on Twitter.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann questioned the decision. Ms. Hausmann said she can think of only a few people who might deserve such treatment, such as people with disabilities, the elderly and voters with small children.

Roger Waters performs with band of veterans

Roger Waters honored wounded veterans in New York by performing with them at the annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit on Thursday night.

The founding member of Pink Floyd took to the stage of the Beacon Theater with 14 wounded soldiers he met recently at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. He rehearsed with them at the hospital, and for several days in New York.

The event benefited the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which helps returning veterans and their families, and featured Mr. Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams and others.

Before the show, Mr. Waters chatted with veterans and called the experience “fantastic.” He said he’s “looking forward to pulling for the rest of these guys with their comrades” during the healing process.

“I never talk about the politics because it’s not relevant to me. I’m not interested in it,” he said. “What I am interested in is the burdens these guys bear and would never question motive or even dream of talking about any of the politics.”

He added: “If any of us have a responsibility in our lives, it is to tear down the walls of indifference and miscommunication between ourselves and our fellow men.”

Mr. Waters said he rehearsed with many of the soldiers at the hospital in between their medical procedures. Before the show, he walked the red carpet with Staff Sgt. Robert Henline, who was not in the band. In 2007, Sgt. Henline was the sole survivor of a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. He suffered burns over 38 percent of his body and his head was burned to the skull.

While Sgt. Henline has endured more than 40 surgeries, he still maintains a sense of humor. On the open red carpet on a chilly night, Mr. Waters pushed closer to Mr. Henline for warmth.

“Get next to the burn guy. I’m good. I’m heated up,” Mr. Henline joked.

No surprise. The retired soldier said he’s been doing stand-up comedy for the past year and a half.

Mr. Waters performed three songs with the veterans, including the Pink Floyd classic, “Wish You Were Here.”

Mr. Waters said he didn’t think there would be a reunion with his former band.

“I think David [Gilmour] is retired, by and large. I shouldn’t speak for him. But that’s the impression I get.”

Mr. Waters then added: “Hey, whatever. All good things come to an end.”

While his mammoth tour of “The Wall” ended this summer, Mr. Waters promised a theatrical version is planned for the Broadway stage.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation has supported more than 1 million veterans, service members and their families since it began in 2008.

Kenneth Branagh knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Kenneth Branagh, who has played royalty on stage and screen, has been made a real-life knight by Queen Elizabeth II.

The British actor said he was pleased to be honored in the year of the queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. He said, “It’s been a hell of a year for the U.K., and I feel very honored to be a tiny part of it.”

The Belfast-born Mr. Branagh was knighted at a Buckingham Palace ceremony Friday for services to drama and for his charity work in Northern Ireland.

Best known as a Shakespearean actor and as TV detective “Wallander,” Mr. Branagh joins the pantheon of theatrical knights alongside the late Sir Laurence Olivier — whom Mr. Branagh played in “My Week With Marilyn.”

He has also directed films, including “Henry V.”

Mark Wahlberg to star in next Transformers film

Mark Wahlberg, roll out.

“Transformers” director Michael Bay said the 41-year-old actor will star in the franchise’s fourth film, The Associated Press reports.

Mr. Bay called Mr. Wahlberg the “perfect guy to reinvigorate the franchise and carry on the Transformers’ legacy” in a post on his blog Thursday. He previously had squashed rumors that Mr. Wahlberg was joining the film franchise about warring robots.

Mr. Bay worked with Mr. Wahlberg on his upcoming film “Pain and Gain.”

“Transformers 4” is scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures on June 27, 2014.

Mr. Bay has said the next film will take the series in a new direction. The first three movies starred Shia LaBeouf and featured Peter Cullen as the voice of Autobot general Optimus Prime.

The third “Transformers” film, “Dark of the Moon,” was the second-highest-grossing film of 2011.

Compiled from Web and wire reports

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