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By United Press International  |  July 9, 2011 at 4:03 AM
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BETTY FORD: Former U.S. first lady Betty Ford has died, the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Friday. She was 93.

Elaine Didier confirmed the death of the former first lady, The Washington Post reported. There were no immediate details on the cause or place of death.

Ford, whose husband Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon as president in 1974, was known for her public outspokenness on social issues, including her own substance abuse, an experience that was instrumental in her founding of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

President Barack Obama Friday said Betty Ford "distinguished herself through her courage and compassion."

"As our nation's first lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. "After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan issued a statement saying she was "deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford's death," ABC News reported.

"She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center," Reagan said. "She was Jerry Ford's strength through some very difficult days in our country's history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us."

Former President George H.W. Bush issued a statement saying he and former first lady Barbara Bush "loved Betty Ford very much."

"She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous first lady. No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced," the former president said. "The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern."

Born Elizabeth Bloomer in 1918 in Chicago, Betty Ford was raised in Michigan and studied dance under Martha Graham in New York, where she also worked as a fashion model. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she met Gerald Ford in 1947 and they were married in 1948, the year he was first elected to Congress from Michigan.

Betty Ford became a public advocate on cancer-related issues after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She supported legal abortion and promoted the equal rights amendment, which was never ratified.

After leaving the White House in 1977, Betty Ford publicly acknowledged she was addicted to alcohol and painkillers. She founded the Betty Ford Center in 1982.

"I'm not out to rescue anybody who doesn't want to be rescued," she once said, ABC reported Friday. "I just think it's important to say how easy it is to slip into a dependency on pills or alcohol. And how hard it is to admit that dependency."

J.K. ROWLING: British author J.K. Rowling says she hasn't ruled out revisiting her Harry Potter characters again someday.

Rowling chronicled the adventures of the fictional wizard-in-training in seven blockbuster novels, which have spawned eight films.

She has said in the past she wrapped up the saga with her seventh book.

However, at Thursday's London premiere of the final movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," Rowling hinted she might have more stories to tell about Harry and his friends.

The Daily Telegraph quoted Rowling as telling fans she has no immediate plans to revisit the world she created for "Potter," but would "never say never."

"It is my baby and if I want to bring it out to play again, I will," she added.

JOHN LEGEND: A New Jersey songwriter is suing John Legend, claiming the recording star's song "Maxine's Interlude" strongly resembles one of his tunes.

The copyright infringement lawsuit was filed this week in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Newark.

Songwriter Anthony Stokes said he approached Legend after a concert at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where Stokes was a student and handed Legend a demo tape, which included Stokes' original, copyrighted composition, "Where Are You Now."

Stokes contends in court documents filed by the law firm of Marks & Klein that he asked Legend to listen to the tape and the performer agreed, but never contacted him after their initial meeting, the law firm said in a news release.

The lawsuit contends "Maxine's Interlude," which was released as a track on Legend's 2006 "Once Again" album, bears a striking resemblance to Stokes' song and misappropriates significant elements -- both lyrically and musically -- of "Where Are You Now."

"We are confident that we can prove the two required elements of copyright infringement: first, that Mr. Legend had access to Mr. Stokes' copyrighted work, and, second, that substantial musical and lyrical similarities exist between the two compositions required to prove a claim for infringement under the Copyright Act," Louis D. Tambaro of the Red Bank, N.J.-based Marks & Klein law firm said in a statement Thursday. "We have reached out to Sony and Mr. Legend's representation directly several times in order to attempt to amicably resolve this matter; however, our good faith efforts have been rebuffed. The only alternative with which we are left is to litigate. My client had the foresight to properly register his copyright, which entitles him to an award of statutory damages and attorneys' fees, if successful."

Legend has not publicly commented on the lawsuit.

OPRAH WINFREY: The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says Oprah Winfrey is not set to preside over the 84th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Online reports claimed Friday the media mogul is in talks to serve as host of next year's Oscars ceremony.

"The camera loves Oprah. Oprah's a genius. But it's not true, and I don't know where that story even came from," Academy President Tom Sherak told The Hollywood Reporter.

"You have to remember how it works," Sherak added. "First, I have to hire a producer, and then the producer comes to the academy with suggestions for the host. So how could we have a host without a producer?"

Winfrey recently ended her 25-season run as host of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" so she could focus on her OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on cable television.

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