WHITNEY HOUSTON VISITS ISRAEL
Singer Whitney Houston and members of her family have been in Israel this week to visit the famous biblical cities there. The trip is being billed as "personal" with no political implications. The high-profile couple met this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and held a news conference. Later, Houston went for a retreat in the desert town of Dimona among a community of Black Hebrews. The Black Hebrews were founded in Chicago during the late 1960s and members approve of polygamy, frown on birth control and encourage members to abandon "slave names" in favor of biblical monikers. Houston's family has had ties to the Black Hebrews for years. According to her publicist, Houston, along with husband Bobby Brown and several other family members, traveled on El Al to the Jewish State for what they are calling a pilgrimage. In these security conscious days, Houston noted she trusted El Al because of its well known high level of security.
ROBERT SMITH REMEMBER DAD, VETERANS
Noted American composer and arranger Robert W. Smith has just released a huge tribute to his father and other Korean War veterans. Warner Bros. says Smith, also known as one of the country's busiest music educators, already had created an impressive body of work. His newest composition is called "Inchon." Released by Warner as a concert band arrangement on CD, as well as an orchestral work, the composition is described by the label as being a "stirring musical interpretation of the Inchon-Seoul action." That was a daring 1950 amphibious landing that turned the tide in the Korean campaign. Smith's father was a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. He died in 2002 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking the nation's capital.
SINGER CRUSADES AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Singer Soraya's new breast cancer anthem comes right from the heart, after her own surgery this year. She's a survivor. By 2002 she had already scored two No. 1 hits on Billboard's Latin Airplay Charts and was touring with major artists. During one concert season she appeared with Sting, Alanis Morissette and Natalie Merchant. While working on her third album she discovered a lump and found she had breast cancer. The disease had already taken the lives of her grandmother, an aunt and her mother. Her new song is called "No One Else." It's part of a campaign called "Living Without It," a support program for women who have had breast cancer surgery. The Latina singer says the project makes information available to women and their families, some of it hard-to-get literature and referrals. By the way, each time the song is downloaded from the Internet -- via livingwithit.org -- $1 will be donated to support a special breast cancer information program.
VAN SANT REVELS IN CANNES AWARD
A week ago filmmaker Gus Van Sant thought he had little chance of winning at Cannes, now the victor is singing a different tune. According to published reports, his film, "Elephant," was a real long-shot at the annual French film festival but he's now a winner of the coveted Golden Palm award. Many thought the favorite to cop the statuette was "Dogville." Another front-runner was "The Barbarian Invasions." That's a multi-Kleenex movie about a man who knows he's about to die. "Elephant" is a treatment of the massacre at Denver's Columbine High School. Van Sant says winning was a real victory, considering his problems in the past getting his avant-garde films into the prestigious festival.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 600
Well, here we are at the end of an era, reporting the final answer to the final question. Last week we asked: "What was your favorite question from our series?" From our random dip into the e-mail inbox we found there was a tie between our questions about "cross-country bus trips" and "fulfilling your New Year's promises." Both were fun questions. My special thanks to all who wrote to say they are sad to see the series end. But all things do come to an end, including the hoola-hoop fad, the Crimean War and Tiny Tim's wedding. Again, thanks for your interesting answers and also your suggestions for additional questions. GBA