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By United Press International   |   Dec. 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

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The latest news on today's hottest celebrities ...

'THE X FACTOR:' Tate Stevens, a 37-year-old road worker from Missouri, was declared the winner of "The X Factor" in Los Angeles.

Stevens, a father of two children beat out runner-up Carly Rose Sonenclar and third-place-holder Fifth Harmony Thursday to win a $5 million recording contract.

"First and foremost, I got to thank the man upstairs for taking care of me, my family, all the country music fans -- God bless you," Stevens said. "Thank you so much for all the votes. This is the best day of my life."

"You deserve this. I'm proud to work with you. I think you represent 'The X Factor' really, really well. So on behalf of Simon and myself and all the judges, congratulations," judge L.A. Reid told Stevens.

Simon Cowell, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato also served as judges on the singing competition series this season.


FAT JOE: Joseph Cartagena, the rapper known professionally as Fat Joe, pleaded guilty in New Jersey federal court to tax evasion, officials said.

The 42-year-old hip-hop artist, who is known for his songs "What's Luv" and "Make It Rain," faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced in April, TMZ reported. Until then, he is free on $250,000 bond.

Fat Joe was accused of failing to pay about $700,000 in income taxes for 2007 and 2008.


SIMON COWELL and CARMEN ELECTRA: British TV personality Simon Cowell confirmed he is dating actress-model Carmen Electra, but he insisted the relationship isn't serious.

"She's not my girlfriend," Cowell said on Wednesday's edition of the radio program "On Air with Ryan Seacrest." "We're people who date. ... She's adorable, isn't she?"

Electra told "Access Hollywood Live" last month she is dating Cowell, Seacrest's former "American Idol" co-star.

"He's so cute. He is adorable. He's actually a sweetheart," she said. "The thing is, we worked together on 'Britain's Got Talent.' I was a guest judge and I had so much fun. I really liked him. I think he's really cool."


GERARD DEPARDIEU: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has invited Gerard Depardieu to move to the eastern European country now the actor confirms he is leaving France.

Depardieu reportedly has bought a house in Belgium and plans to seek citizenship there because of France's steep taxes.

Although the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault publicly called the move "pathetic," Kadyrov said he is "ready to welcome the great artist" to his republic, Radio France Internationale reported.

France has a 75 percent tax rate for incomes more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million).

Depardieu, 63, defended his actions in an angry open letter to the prime minister published in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

"I'm leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished. I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used," Depardieu wrote in the letter, adding the reasons behind his plan to leave France are "numerous and personal."

"I've no place to complain or to boast, but I refuse to be described as pathetic," he said.

The Wall Street Journal said Ayrault's office declined to comment on the letter.

Le Monde said Depardieu told friends Russian President Vladimir Putin had "already sent me a passport," but Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said the actor "most likely he was joking."

Depardieu is best known for his work in the films "Green Card" and "The Man in the Iron Mask." He plays a supporting role in the current release "Life of Pi."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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