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By United Press International   |   Oct. 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM

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MICHAEL JACKSON: Dr. Conrad Murray's lawyers told the prosecution and judge in his Los Angeles trial they no longer intend to argue Michael Jackson killed himself.

E! News said Murray's defense team announced the decision to those directly involved in his involuntary manslaughter Wednesday morning behind closed doors.

Jackson died June 25, 2009, at age 50. Lethal levels of sedatives and the anesthesia propofol were found in his system.

Murray, the pop star's personal physician, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly giving Jackson the drugs to help him sleep, and then failing to come to his aid when he was in distress.

Murray's lawyers initially suggested Jackson gave himself the fatal dose when Murray left the room, but they backpedaled Wednesday.

Los Angeles County Deputy Medical Examiner Christopher Rogers, who performed the autopsy on Jackson's remains, testified Tuesday it was unlikely the singer could have woken up, orally taken the propofol and reacted to it in the 2-minute window Murray said it took him to use the bathroom.

Dr. Alon Steinberg, who conducted the California Medical Board review of Murray's behavior during the time of Jackson's death, testified at the trial Wednesday that Murray demonstrated gross negligence by using propofol when it was not medically needed and administering the drug in a home, unmonitored without proper medical equipment or assistance, E! News said.

Steinberg said if the deviations from medical protocol hadn't taken place, "Mr. Jackson would still be alive."


DEBBIE GIBSON: Singers Clay Aiken and Debbie Gibson, and reality TV personality Teresa Giudice are to compete on the next edition of "The Celebrity Apprentice" in New York.

The casting news was reported by People.com Wednesday.

NBC has not yet officially announced who will appear on the show's fifth season next spring.

The past winners of the business-themed competition series are TV personality Piers Morgan, comedian Joan Rivers, rocker Bret Michaels and country singer John Rich.


'BOARDWALK EMPIRE': HBO said Wednesday it has renewed "Boardwalk Empire," its Atlantic City-set gangster drama series starring Steve Buscemi, for a third season.

"Following a triumphant first season, I was eager to see what (series creator) Terry Winter, (producer) Martin Scorsese and the rest of their stellar team had in store, and they continue to surpass our highest expectations," The Hollywood Reporter quoted HBO programming president Michael Lombardo as saying Wednesday.

"The response from the media and our viewers has been extremely gratifying."

Season 2 of the show premiered last month.


GEORGE CLOONEY: George Clooney is to be presented with the Hollywood Actor Award at an upcoming gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., organizers said.

Clooney is being honored for his critically acclaimed performance in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."

The gala is part of the 15th annual Hollywood Film Festival and Hollywood Film Awards, presented by Starz Entertainment.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place Oct. 24.

"George Clooney delivered a flawless and passionate performance in Alexander Payne's human drama, 'The Descendants.' Clooney continues to shine as one of Hollywood's most gifted actors. We're delighted to honor him at this year's Hollywood Film Awards," Carlos de Abreu, Hollywood Film Festival founder and executive director, said in a statement Wednesday.

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