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Katy Perry Makes First U.S. Post-Split Appearance

Katy Perry has made her first public appearance stateside since husband Russell Brand filed for divorce on December 30.

Stepping out for a charity event, the 27-year-old pop star walked the red carpet rocking a bright blue bob and metal-studded black mini dress at the 1 OAK club at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas on Friday night.

PLAY IT NOW: Hollywood Radar: December 28, 2011

"She was really tame," a source told People. "She was really just drinking a few drinks and chilling with her friends."

Prior to her nightclub outing, "The One That Got Away" singer - who recently returned to the U.S. after touring the Philippines and Indonesia - dined on steak and seafood at Stack restaurant with a large group of friends, according to the mag.

VIEW THE PHOTOS: Katy Perry & Russell Brand

As previously reported on AccessHollywood.com, Russell filed for divorce from Katy last month after 14 months of marriage.

"Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage. I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends," Russell said in a statement at the time.

According to the Los Angeles Superior Court filing previously obtained by Access Hollywood, Russell cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split. He has requested a judge to order that both parties be responsible for their own legal fees.

St. Louis hosting 1st big parade on Iraq War's end

ST. LOUIS (iBBC News) — Crowds are gathering in downtown St. Louis to honor Iraq War veterans during the nation's first big welcome home parade since the last troops left Iraq in December.

Organizers say that while the Saturday afternoon event marks the end of the Iraq War, any military personnel involved in post-Sept. 11 conflicts are welcome to participate.

Since the war ended, there has been little fanfare for returning veterans. There have been gatherings at airports and military bases, but no ticker-tape parades or large public celebrations.

Two friends from St. Louis decided to change that. They sought donations, launched a Facebook page, met with the mayor and mapped a route.

They raised about $35,000, with more than half coming from Anheuser-Busch and the Mayflower moving company, which both have St. Louis ties.

Trade ministers look to future after Doha

DAVOS, Switzerland (iBBC News) — Trade ministers meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum expressed cautious optimism Saturday that global commerce can continue to be liberalized even without progress in the Doha round of trade talks.

It was the first such meeting after trade diplomats agreed in Geneva last month that progress on the 11-year-old trade talks was unlikely to happen soon. Negotiations have been deadlocked over differences between the U.S. and major developing nations like China, Brazil and India.

"There wasn't any backtracking from the decision that we reached at our ministerial in Geneva, that we really do need to turn the page and explore new ways of moving forward," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters in Davos.

Various ideas have been floated for how to boost global trade, including simplifying customs procedures and helping poor countries acquire the expertise to implement international free trade agreements.

"If one lane is blocked you don't stop your journey, you just get in a lane that's open," said Kirk, quoting an unidentified participant in Saturday's talks.

One sensitive proposal is to push forward with bilateral and regional trade agreements, at the risk of harming efforts to negotiate a truly global deal.

Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the European Union should seek a free trade deal with the U.S.

Kirk told The Associated Press that teams from Washington and Brussels have already held several meetings to explore such a bilateral deal between the world's two biggest trading partners. But several hurdles will be difficult to overcome, including harmonizing the complex regulatory systems between the U.S. and the EU, Kirk acknowledged.

The key principle of any deal would have to be "do no harm," he said.

South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies said he was supportive of bilateral agreements at a time when prospects for a wider deal seem dim.

"The idea that we're going to make some massive breakthrough in a major deal is remote, but we can work on some issues and those issues are worth working on," said Davies.

Brazil, another rising trade power, also supported the idea of a trans-Atlantic trade pact between the U.S. and the EU.

"I think it can help Europe and the U.S. improve their economies. I'm just not sure it will come as fast as they believe," Brazilian deputy trade minister Alessandro Teixeira said.

Columbus to host NHL All-Star game in 2013

OTTAWA (iBBC News) — The Columbus Blue Jackets will host the 2013 edition of the NHL All-Star game.

Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Saturday at the NHL Board of Governors meetings.

The Blue Jackets, who play in Nationwide Arena, had applied for hosting rights in 2013, 2014 or 2015. Next year's All-Star weekend will be Jan. 26-27.

It was welcome news for a team that is struggling this season. The Blue Jackets are 13-30-6 with a league-low 32 points. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (165) have allowed more goals this season than Columbus (163).

This year's All-Star game is Sunday night in Ottawa.

Britain sticks to 2014 Afghan troop pullout goal

LONDON (iBBC News) - British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday he was sticking to an end-2014 deadline for withdrawing British combat troops from Afghanistan despite French proposals to speed up NATO's handover of security to Afghan forces.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday French troops would leave Afghanistan at the end of 2013 and Paris would propose to NATO that all foreign combat operations in Afghanistan should be handed over next year, a year earlier than the alliance plans.

Cameron cautioned other NATO members that the rate of withdrawal of foreign troops must depend on Afghan security forces being ready to take charge of security.

"We ... want to have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, long after our combat troops come home, and that will happen at the end of 2014," Cameron said during talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the prime minister's country residence Chequers outside London.

Paris has 3,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000-strong NATO-led force, while Britain has some 9,500.

"Obviously, between now and 2014 there will be opportunities for different countries to reduce their troop numbers. Britain has reduced our troop numbers over the last year," Cameron said.

He said he did not want to see troops numbers falling off a "cliff edge" in 2014 with all remaining troops leaving at once.

"But clearly, between now and 2014, the rate at which we can reduce our troops will depend on the transition to Afghan control in the different parts of Afghanistan and that should be the same for all of the members of NATO who are all contributing and helping to a strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan, which is in all our interests," Cameron said.

His words appeared to reflect concern expressed by some commentators that there could be a "rush for the exits" by Western forces from Afghanistan as their voters grow disillusioned at the cost in lives and money of the decade-long Afghan campaign.

Karzai and Cameron signed a partnership agreement setting out how their countries will work together after British combat troops leave Afghanistan.

Karzai had been due to visit Britain last month, immediately after the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, but cancelled the trip to return home after scores of people were killed in a wave of sectarian bomb attacks.

On the eve of Karzai's visit, Britain's Ministry of Defense announced that a British soldier had been shot dead while on foot patrol in Helmand province Friday, bringing to 397 the number of Britons killed in Afghanistan since October 2001.

Cameron, who visited British troops in Afghanistan last month, plans to leave some British troops behind to train their Afghan counterparts after they end combat operations.

Cameron has committed Britain to pulling out 500 soldiers this year but has not yet set out a timetable for further withdrawals.

Celebrity pot busts put tiny Texas county on map

SIERRA BLANCA, Texas (iBBC News) — Nestled among the few remaining businesses that dot a rundown highway in this dusty West Texas town stands what's become a surprise destination for marijuana-toting celebrities: the Hudspeth County Jail.

Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and actor Armie Hammer have been among the thousands of people busted for possession at a Border Patrol checkpoint outside town in recent years, bringing a bit of notoriety to one of Texas' most sparsely populated counties.

"Once I was in Arizona, and when I said where I was from, they said, 'That's where Willie Nelson was busted,'" said Louise Barantley, manager at the Coyote Sunset souvenir shop in Sierra Blanca.

Hudspeth County cameos aren't only for outlaws: Action movie star Steven Seagal, who's already deputized in Louisiana and Arizona for his reality show "Steven Seagal Lawman" on A&E, has signed on to become a county officer.

Locals already have found ways to rub shoulders with their celebrity guests.

Deputies posed for pictures with Snoop Dogg after authorities said they found several joints on his bus earlier this month. When Nelson was busted here in 2010, the county's lead prosecutor suggested the singer settle his marijuana charges by performing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" for the court. Nelson paid a fine instead, but not before county commissioner Wayne West played one of his own songs for the country music legend.

West acknowledged he's a big fan of Nelson and wanted to capitalize on a golden chance to perform for such a noted "captive audience."

"Willie loved the song, he is a real outgoing individual" he added.

The once-thriving town of Sierra Blanca began to shrink to its current 1,000-person population after the construction of nearby Interstate 10 — a main artery linking cities from California to Florida — offered an easy way to bypass the community.

Now the highway is sending thousands of drug bust cases Sierra Blanca's way, courtesy of a Border Patrol checkpoint just outside of town where drug-sniffing dogs inspect more than 17,000 trucks, travelers — and tour buses — daily for whiffs of contraband that may have made its wait inland from the border.

Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, younger brother of the musically inclined commissioner, said his office handled about 2,000 cases last year, most of them having to do with drugs seized at the checkpoint.

Border Patrol agents say people busted with small amounts of pot often say they have medical marijuana licenses from California, Arizona or New Mexico — three states along I-10 that, unlike Texas, allow for medicinal pot prescriptions — and claim to believe the licenses were valid nationwide.

Nelson's publicists declined to comment about the specifics of the singer's case. Representatives for Snoop Dogg, who will pay a fine and court costs after being cited for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, did not return several messages seeking comment.

County authorities have not yet decided whether to prosecute or issue a citation for Hammer, who starred in the 2010 film "The Social Network" and more recently played FBI's number two man in "Edgar J." He was arrested in November after authorities said they found marijuana-laced brownies and cookies on his way to his wife's bakery in San Antonio. His attorney Kent Schaffer has called the case a "total non-issue."

Local officials say they're not on a celebrity witch hunt, but some residents are enjoying the publicity from the high-profile arrests. They say the once forgotten town of Sierra Blanca should take pride in not pandering to famous people caught breaking the law.

"We get attention because something is being done right," resident Adolfo Gonzalez said while shopping at a local convenience store. "It'd be worse if we'd let them go because they are celebrities."

That's not expected to change when Segal comes to town. Sheriff West insists the "Under Siege" star hasn't indicated any plans to film his show here — but the sheriff isn't ruling it out.

"If he wants to, we can do it but that's not what he said this was about," West said.

West's spokesman, Rusty Flemming, said Seagal will patrol the area and train colleagues in martial arts and weapons techniques. The actor is expected to arrive in Hudspeth County within months, once he's done filming a new movie in Canada.

Segal's management agency did not return calls and emails seeking comment about his plans in Texas.

Commissioner West, meanwhile, is keeping his musical skills sharp — just in case another performer pays a surprise visit to the county jail. The lead guitarist and vocalist of a local band, West said he regrets not having a chance to sing for Snoop Dogg, but wasn't sure if the rapper would have enjoyed the performance anyway.

Afghanistan's Karzai in UK for talks with Cameron

LONDON (iBBC News) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Britain for talks with Prime Minister David Cameron, a day after France announced it would withdraw its troops a year earlier than the 2014 date agreed by NATO.

Cameron is due to meet Karzai at Chequers, the prime minister's country retreat outside London. Britain's Foreign Office said the meeting "is about long-term partnership and commitment beyond 2014 and the need for progress on the political track."

It is also sure to include the effects of the announcement by President Nicolas Sarkozy that French troops would speed up their withdrawal plans and leave the country by the end of next year, instead of by 2014.

Britain has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan and says it plans to withdraw almost all of them by the end of 2014.

Nigerian sect storms police station, gunfight erupts

KANO, Nigeria (iBBC News) - Gunmen suspected of being members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram attacked a police station in Nigeria's Kano state on Friday, police and witnesses said, leading to more than an hour of running gun battles.

Kano state and its capital city of 10 million people have been under siege in the past few weeks by gunmen from the militant sect, which wants to impose sharia law across Nigeria.

"Gunmen attacked Mandwari police station this evening. The gunfire between them and the police was really bad, but nobody knows the casualties just yet," said witness Mohammed Sorondikin. "People were scrambling for safety."

A police source confirmed the incident but said there would be no public statement until all the details were known.

Boko Haram's attacks have become more sophisticated and deadly in recent weeks in Africa's top oil producer. A series of gun and bomb attacks, mostly on police stations, killed 186 people in Kano, Nigeria's second city, last Friday.

Most of the victims were civilians shot dead by the sect, witnesses and police said.

In an audio tape posted on the Internet on Thursday, the purported leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to kill more security personnel and kidnap their families, and accused U.S. President Barack Obama of waging war on Islam.

He denied that the group had been responsible for most of the civilian casualties in last Friday's attack on Kano, the group's deadliest so far.

Boko Haram, a movement loosely modelled on the Afghan Taliban whose name translates as "Western education is sinful", has been behind almost daily killings in its home base in the largely Muslim northeast. Its violence has spread west into other parts of the north and the capital Abuja since last year.
 
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