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By United Press International   |   June 9, 2011 at 4:00 AM
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The latest news on today's hottest celebrities ...

LILIAN JACKSON BRAUN: U.S. author Lilian Jackson Braun has died in a hospice in Landrum, S.C., her family said. She was 97.

The BBC confirmed the scribe's Saturday death but did not specify the exact cause.

A former feature writer for the Detroit Free Press, Braun is best known for her "The Cat Who ... " series of 29 mystery novels, the first of which was published in 1966.

The author of two short story collections retired in 2007 after the publication of "The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers," the British broadcaster said.


JA RULE: Rapper Ja Rule Wednesday began serving a two-year prison sentence for gun possession in New York, officials said.

The hip-hop artist, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, pleaded guilty to gun possession and was sentenced in a Manhattan court Wednesday.

Atkins was arrested after police found an unlicensed handgun in his vehicle after a concert in 2007.

The New York Post said the rapper signed autographs for fans in the hallway outside the courtroom where the sentencing took place.

"See you in 18," the newspaper reported he said, referring to the number of months he expects to spend behind bars, with good behavior.

His mother and wife were crying in the courtroom as he was led away, the Post said.


MEREDITH VIEIRA: Meredith Vieira taped her last episode of the "Today" show in New York Wednesday, ending her five-year stint as the morning show's co-anchor.

Vieira, 57, left the program so she could spend more time with her family, including her journalist husband Richard Cohen, who has multiple sclerosis.

Cohen was by Vieira's side, along with "Today" stars Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry, as Vieira left the studio for the last time after watching taped tributes from celebrities and highlights from her tenure on the show, People.com said.

"I have never enjoyed working with anyone as I have enjoyed working with Meredith," said Lauer.

People.com said he went on to describe the experience as "a privilege" and "a great ride."

"It started to hit me that this was the last day and I tried to push it back -- way back -- somewhere in the back of my head," Vieira told "Access Hollywood" Wednesday in an interview on the set of "Today."

"When I got here, I had to face the facts, even though this is my choice. It's really hard to leave this place."


LAURENCE FISHBURNE: Actor Laurence Fishburne is leaving the U.S. police procedural "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" after two and a half seasons, Deadline reported.

Fishburne, whose film credits include "What's Love Got to Do With It," "The Matrix" and "Mystic River," succeeded original "CSI" leading man William Petersen when he left the series in December 2008.

Deadline said Fishburne's contract expires soon and he has chosen not to renew it because he wants to focus again on making movies.

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