Kamis, 24 November 2011

Ian Somerhalder: Thanksgiving Is About Family, Not Discount Shopping

Don't expect to see Ian Somerhalder lining up at midnight to score some of this season's best shopping deals
The 32-year-old Vampire Diaries star wished his Twitter followers a "happy Thanksgiving" late Wednesday night, though he also vented his frustration with what's become of the holiday.

"What I'm not grateful for is the midnight black Friday crap," he wrote. "Thousands of families are missing out on family time."
The actor -- currently dating his costar Nina Dobrev -- added that "stores should be ashamed."
"Family is all we have, the foundation of our country and our world," he explained. "Just my two cents. It may not matter, but I said it."

Read More:

Jumat, 18 November 2011

Capsule reviews of new releases

"Arthur Christmas" — This pleasant holiday treat from Aardman, the British animation outfit behind "Chicken Run" and the "Wallace and Gromit" cartoons, has the old-fashioned spirit of Christmas at heart, spinning a snowflake-light tale with warmth, energy and goofy humor. The movie unveils the vast high-tech enterprise run by Santa to deliver all those presents as his big-hearted but bumbling younger son, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), races to deliver a single gift that fell through the cracks. The delightful, drolly funny voice cast includes Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen. Director Sarah Smith offers a fresh look at the Santa legend with a flawed Claus whose family is as dysfunctional as everyone else's. There are lulls and comic misfires that feel like stocking stuffers thrown in to pad the simple story to feature length, and the manic banter comes a bit too fast for viewers to digest it all. Still, the visual gags will carry youngsters along, while there are plenty of clever wisecracks to keep their parents occupied. PG for some mild rude humor. 97 minutes. Three stars out of four.
David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"The Descendants" — Alexander Payne makes movies about men on the brink — of a nervous breakdown, of personal or professional ruin and, ultimately, maybe even some hard-earned peace. That's certainly true of George Clooney here. As real-estate lawyer Matt King, he finds everything in his life is in flux and on the verge of collapse simultaneously. This isn't any easier even though he lives in Hawaii, a place that's supposed to be paradise. Clooney being Clooney, though, makes every stage of his character's arc believable, from grief through anger and eventual acceptance, and he gives a performance that's so understated as to appear effortless. Matt's wife, Elizabeth, is lying in a hospital bed in a coma following a boating accident. Matt, who hasn't been the most available or hands-on father, must now take care of the couple's two daughters on his own: 17-year-old boarding school rebel Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old troublemaker Scottie (Amara Miller). Then Alexandra drops another bombshell on her father: Elizabeth was having an affair at the time of her accident. As if all this weren't enough to handle, Matt's enormous family has put him in charge of deciding what to do with the 25,000 acres of pristine land on Kauai that they've inherited from their royal Hawaiian ancestors. Payne's pacing is often so languid that we don't feel the sort of mounting tension that we should. But the story keeps us guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth. R for language including some sexual references. 115 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Happy Feet Two" — The dancing, singing penguins are as adorable as ever. Yet a couple of shrimplike krill almost steal the show in this animated sequel that sticks to the formula of the original while adding enough variety to give it a life of its own. It helps to have Brad Pitt and Matt Damon voicing the krill with great companionability as they join a vocal cast that includes returning stars Elijah Wood and Robin Williams. Wood's tap-dancing penguin now is a dad dealing with a misfit, runaway son embarrassed over his own lack of rhythm. Director and co-writer George Miller, who handled the same chores on the 2006 Academy Award-winning first film, keeps the focus on penguins in peril while adding an interesting nature-in-perspective angle with the side journey of those tiny krill trying to find their place in a world of bigger, hungrier things. The sequel delivers the key ingredients that made its predecessor such a hit: lovable characters, a rich blend of pop tunes employed in showstopping song-and-dance numbers and remarkable Antarctic landscapes whose bleak beauty pops off the screen even more than in the original, thanks to some of the finest use of 3-D animation since the digital age brought an extra dimension to the screen. PG for some rude humor and mild peril. 99 minutes. Three stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"The Muppets" — Jason Segel, Amy Adams and friends deliver a very welcome return for Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of Jim Henson's creations after a 12-year big-screen absence. From start to finish, the movie is a healthy, dizzy dose of childlike bliss, the songs campy but catchy, the humor corny but clever. Co-writer Segel and Adams play small-town tourists embarking on a quest to reunite the Muppets and save their old Hollywood studio, which is targeted for demolition by an evil oil man (Chris Cooper). Director James Bobin maintains a nimble pace throughout, the story gleefully dashing from song-and-dance numbers to hilarious montages to the sort of precious asides that are a staple of the Muppets, among them plenty of self-aware winks at Hollywood convention. Celebrity cameos, also a Muppet strength, are plentiful but a bit disappointing; after such a long time in mothballs, the Muppets deserve a better turnout of top stars to welcome them back. But overall, the movie's refreshing on every level, a piece of nostalgia so old it's new again, and a breather from Hollywood's 3-D digital onslaught in favor of fur and fuzz. PG for some mild rude humor. 110 minutes, including an amusing "Toy Story" short that precedes the movie. Three stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" — "Laughable" probably isn't the word the filmmakers were aiming for, but there it is; laughter, at all the wrong places. The fourth movie in the freakishly popular girl-vamp-wolf love triangle series is so self-serious, it's hard not to cackle at it. The dialogue is, of course, ridiculous and the acting ranges from stiff to mopey. But moments that should be pulsating with tension are usually hilarious because the special effects are still just so distractingly cheesy. This latest installment has yet another new director: Bill Condon, a man capable of both panache ("Dreamgirls") and serious artistry ("Gods and Monsters"), little of which you'll see here. The first of two films adapted from the final book in Stephenie Meyer's series (with part two coming next year), this serves as a placeholder for the ultimate finale but is jam-packed with developments in its own right. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), marry in a lavish, romantic outdoor ceremony. Bella's childhood best friend and the other man in the equation, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), stops by as a gesture of goodwill. Finally, Bella and Edward can have sex, the thing she has wanted all along but he has been reluctant to do for fear that deflowering her will, you know, kill her. And he may have been right. He impregnates her on the honeymoon and the resulting hybrid spawn threatens to destroy her from inside. PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements. 117 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.



Detectives taking new look at Natalie Wood's death

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The circumstances of Natalie Wood's drowning death nearly 30 years ago remain one of Hollywood's enduring mysteries and continue to create renewed intrigue, with homicide detectives unexpectedly re-opening a case Thursday that had long been classified as a tragic accident.

A Los Angeles County sheriff's detective will speak to reporters Friday about the decision to take another look at the Oscar-nominated actress' nighttime demise in the chilly waters off Southern California on Nov. 29, 1981. Wood drowned after spending several hours drinking on Catalina Island and a yacht with husband Robert Wagner, fellow actor Christopher Walken and the ship's captain.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday the renewed inquiry was prompted by unspecified new information about Woods' case. The Los Angeles Times quoted Sheriff Lee Baca as saying recent comments by the captain, Dennis Davern, who was interviewed for a book project and whose comments from a 2000 article by Vanity Fair are being featured on a new print edition and a "48 Hours Mystery" episode that focus on Hollywood scandals.

In the magazine, Davern is quoted as saying that Wood and Wagner fought in their cabin before the actress went missing. Coroner's officials ruled her death an accidental drowning, perhaps caused by her slipping off the boat while trying to tie down a dinghy.

Wood's death sparked tabloid speculation that foul play was involved, but Wagner and Wood's sister have dismissed any suggestion the actress' death was anything more than an accident. Coroner's officials at the time agreed, writing that Wood was "possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face."

It is not the first time Davern has contradicted statements he and others made to investigators after Woods' death, and the magazine notes that he has told his story through tabloids and has been shopping for a book deal for years. Attempts to reach Davern were unsuccessful Thursday night.

Sheriff's officials are also hoping for tips from the public that may shed new light on how Wood, who was afraid of being in the water, ended up drowning.

"Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff's department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the LA County Sheriff's Dept. and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30 year anniversary of her tragic death," Wagner spokesman Alan Nierob wrote in a statement.

Wood, a three-time Oscar nominee famous for roles in "West Side Story," ''Rebel Without a Cause" and other Hollywood hits, was 43 when she died. She and Wagner, star of the TV series "Hart to Hart," were twice married, first in 1957 before divorcing six years later. They remarried in 1972.

Lana Wood wrote in a biography on her sister, "What happened is that Natalie drank too much that night."

Wagner wrote in a 2008 autobiography that he blamed himself for his wife's death.

He recounted the night of Wood's disappearance, during which the couple and Walken drank at a restaurant and on the boat. Wood went to the master cabin during an argument between her husband and Walken. The last time Wagner saw his wife, she was fixing her hair at a bathroom vanity and she shut the door.

Wagner wrote that despite various theories about what led Wood to the water, which she feared, it was impossible to know what exactly happened.

"Nobody knows," he wrote. "There are only two possibilities; either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened."

Later in the book, Wagner wrote, "Did I blame myself? If I had been there, I could have done something. But I wasn't there. I didn't see her."

He wrote that he has never returned to Catalina Island.

Phone and email messages to Walken's publicist were not returned Thursday. Walken and Wood were co-stars in "Brainstorm," which was the actress' final big screen role.


AP reporter Alicia Rancilio contributed to this report.

Read More:


Rabu, 16 November 2011

Drake : Biography

Known initially for his role as Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Toronto, Ontario, native Drake (born Aubrey Drake Graham) stepped out as a rapper and singer with pop appeal in 2006, when he initiated a series of mixtapes. A year later, despite being unsigned, he scored major exposure when his cocky and laid-back track "Replacement Girl," featuring Trey Songz, was featured on BET's 106 & Park program as its "Joint of the Day." He raised his profile throughout the next several months by popping up on countless mixtapes and remixes, and as rumors swirled about contract offers from labels, he gradually became one of the most talked-about artists in the industry. It did not hurt that he had support from the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne. By the end of June 2009, "Best I Ever Had," a promotional single, had climbed to number two on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. After a fierce bidding war, Drake signed with Universal Motown in late summer and released an EP (So Far Gone) made up of songs from his popular So Far Gone mixtape. It peaked at number six on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and won a 2010 Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year. Thank Me Later, a full-length featuring collaborations with the Kings of Leon, the-Dream, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, was issued through Young Money the following year. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
Read More: 

New generation of music central to Occupy protests

NEW YORK (AP) -- The sound of insistent drumming bounces off the sides of nearby office towers announcing the location of the Occupy Wall Street home base long before its inhabitants are otherwise seen or heard.
Turn a corner in Zuccotti Park and you're likely to run into a drum circle or find someone strumming a guitar. Maybe it's an amateur trying to keep spirits up, or it could be the real deal — recording artists such as David Crosby and Graham Nash.
Find: More news on the 'Occupy' movement
Music and musicians are woven into the fabric of the Occupy Wall Street protest, much as they were in movements, confrontations and protests of the past, from the American Revolution to slavery to the Civil War, suffrage movement, labor movement, civil rights movement and Vietnam War. But no defining anthem such as "We Shall Overcome" or "Which Side Are You On" has yet emerged for the protesters who have taken on corporate America.
Related: Rappers take to mic in Oakland Occupy protest
"Every successful progressive social movement has a great soundtrack. The soundtrack (for Occupy Wall Street) is just as democratic and grass roots as the movement," said singer Tom Morello, who was given an MTV online music award for his performance of "The Fabled City" at Zuccotti Park last month. A clip of the performance has spread widely online.
Morello, who performs solo as The Nightwatchman and was a member of Rage Against the Machine, has also brought his guitar and sung at Occupy demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Nottingham and Newcastle, England. Just before midnight Wednesday, he performed near a darkened kitchen area at a demonstration in London.
He has also volunteered to contribute to an album of protest songs that Occupy Wall Street is putting together as a fundraiser this winter.
If Occupy Wall Street has no anthem yet, it's partly due to how a new generation experiences music: through personalized iPod playlists streaming through headphones instead of communal singalongs.
True to a movement that claims to speak for the 99 percent of Americans who aren't super-rich, Occupy Wall Street embraces many forms of expression. Musicians across several generations and styles have given their support.
"The more the merrier as long as you're going to bring in positive vibrations for the movement," said Kanaska Carter, a singer-songwriter who traveled from her home in Canada to camp out at Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan near Wall Street. She helped arrange Morello's appearance and is shown in the video clip of his performance, standing near him holding a guitar.
Crosby and Nash's manager sent an email to Occupy Wall Street's website asking if the musicians could perform. Crosby quietly came a few days earlier to check out the scene, worried that cold weather would make it difficult for him to play guitar, said Beth Bogart, who helped show him around. The day of their visit was warm, however. Because police don't allow amplification, the performance was decidedly old school. The audience heard only as far as the singers' voices could project.
Bogart couldn't hear Crosby and Nash, but "you could just see the energy," she said. "When the whole audience started singing you could see their spirit lifted. It really was a good vibe."
Among the first New York performers was Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, an indie rock cult favorite who played a long set. Rapper Talib Kweli performed and so did Michael Franti. A 92-year-old Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, veterans of the labor, peace and civil rights movements, sang "We Shall Overcome." Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright offered an irony-drenched version of Madonna's "Material Girl."
Kanye West and Katy Perry walked through Zuccotti, but didn't perform.
Then there are those drums, beaten steadily by about a dozen people who call themselves Pulse. Police and protesters have limited the hours of drumming to help neighbors work and occupiers sleep.
An Internet-connected, do-it-yourself culture allows people beyond those at Occupy demonstrations to join in. They can write their own songs and spread them on Twitter or YouTube. The band Atari Teenage Riot has made a new video for its song "Black Flag" that includes clips from Occupy demonstrations sent in by fans, said Shannon Connolly, vice president for digital music strategies at MTV. While she's staying in Zuccotti Park, Carter has written movement-inspired songs "Stand Up to Wall Street" and "Game of Chess" that she's put on her websites.
"The movement is not waiting for superstars to grace it with their presence," Morello said. "It's not waiting for a Diane Warren-penned anthem featuring Rihanna and Drake."
Occupy Wall Street's nature as a sometimes unfocused expression of dissatisfaction plays into the diversity, too, said Amy Wlodarski, a music professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
"There's no centralized musical figure because there isn't a coherent value that is going to be communally expressed in song," she said.
Yet from the earliest days of America, music has been a cornerstone of protests and conflicts and movements. Music provided a voice for the disenfranchised and stirred people to fight injustice. The Revolutionary War produced "The Liberty Song." "Follow the Drinking Gourd," with its escape directions for fleeing slaves, was the anthem of the underground railroad, while "Battle Hymn of the Republic" gave support to Union soldiers during the Civil War. Women fighting for the right to vote in the early 1900s had "Suffrage Song." There was even a protest song about lynching, the jazz-infused "Strange Fruit."
The labor and peace movements created some of the more enduring music, with such artists as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. "We Shall Overcome" was born during a strike in 1945. Based on an early 20th century gospel song, it became the theme of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Meanwhile, anti-war sentiments flared in such songs as "All Along the Watchtower," "Blowin' in the Wind," "Give Peace a Chance" and "What's Going On?"
Socially conscious music never went away. Such artists as Bruce Springsteen, OutKast and Bonnie Raitt continue to take on injustice. Others also give voice to social issues from the economy to anti-war to the environment to abuse. "We Are the World" galvanized anti-hunger efforts. Rappers such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. offered messages from the streets. Steve Earle puts a string of progressive causes to music and Neil Young recorded a disc of opposition to the Iraq War.
The more current protest music is not noticed as much as the music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s because music is increasingly a more individualized experience. People rarely gather at each other's homes and pump up the volume on their stereos for a shared listen of a hot album. Instead, friends might burn a CD for a buddy or share a download of a tune.
But if Occupy Wall Street needs a song to call its own, Texas songwriter James McMurtry's seething "We Can't Make it Here," written in 2004, is a virtual blueprint for the movement. It tumbles with images about damage done to the country through corporate greed and political neglect. McMurtry knew he had something the first time he played a version of the song, then unreleased, during a visit to an Austin radio station.
"I had some really nasty emails on my website before I had even gotten home," he said.
Hopeful that things might change, McMurtry stopped performing what is probably his best-known song when Barack Obama was elected. He has since started playing it again. McMurtry said he's going to make "We Can't Make it Here" available for free on his website in a gesture of solidarity, and is encouraging fans to make their own videos to accompany it.
"I'd be glad to let them use that song," he said. "Whatever helps."
Morello, who has done what amounts to a tour of Occupy demonstration sites, considers it his job as a musician to "keep steel in the backbone and wind in the sails of people who are standing up for economic justice."
"I've been down there a couple of times," said MTV's Connolly. "There's always music. It's sort of a thread that runs through it."

Read More :

Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw Announce 2012 Brothers of the Sun Stadium Tour

Two of the biggest stars in country music, Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, will be touring together in 2012.

Kenny Chesney is well-established as the biggest live audience draw in country music. His summer stadium concerts are like Jimmy Buffett concerts on steroids, growing to easily sell out the largest venues in the country through the summer months. Now Tim McGraw has joined Chesney in what is being billed as the Brothers of the Sun Stadium Tour in 2012. The series will kick off in Tampa, Florida on June 2 and will finish up in Foxboro, Massachusetts on August 25.

Along the way, Chesney and McGraw will hit most of the major outdoor music venues in the country. To have arguably the two biggest stars in country music paired together for a summer concert series is noteworthy in itself, but the fact that McGraw is joining Chesney's now-iconic concert series is even more difficult to grasp. Chesney definitely doesn't need the additional fan support that McGraw offers, but the venture appears to be much more about two old friends having fun than whether or not they can make a little more money from their fans.

"It’s two artists who’ve known each other for 20 years, who’ve been friends for 20 years, at the top of our game to be able to go out and do this together," McGraw said. "To get two artists to agree on anything is pretty spectacular. But to agree to go out together, do a tour together and just have a great time together and play music together is a pretty unique and remarkable thing. And I think that can only happen with guys who are as good of friends as we are."

McGraw and Chesney have known each other since living in the same apartment building outside Nashville when both were struggling new artists. Eventually, McGraw broke through and he brought Chesney on the road with him as the two opened for George Strait. Now both artists have risen to the top of country music, while also crossing over into the main stream because of their laid-back personas and massive followings. With most of the concert dates and venues already announced, tickets are going to be hot commodities in 2012.
By Buzzle Staff and Agencies
Published: 11/14/2011

Senin, 14 November 2011

Author Achebe turns down Nigeria honor _ again

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- The author of internationally acclaimed novel "Things Fall Apart" and other works examining the political failures and corruption of oil-rich Nigeria has again turned down a national honor over the failings of the nation.
Chinua Achebe rejected being honored with the title of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, an honorary position awarded to others during a ceremony Monday by President Goodluck Jonathan. Achebe's terse letter to Jonathan noted he rejected the award in 2004 and said problems he cited then "have not been addressed, let alone solved."
The rejection by the 80-year-old writer sparked an equally curt response from the presidency, which said Achebe's decision "clearly flies in the face of the reality of Nigeria's current political situation."
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Pippa Middleton splits from Alex Loudon, perhaps for good

Pippa Middleton is a single woman, reports say. The 28-year-old sister of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton has split with her long-term boyfriend, cricket player turned financier Alex Loundon, after a series of fights in recent weeks.

"[Pippa] and Alex split briefly in the summer — but this time it's over," a source tells The Sun. "They are barely speaking

In the wake of the breakup, Middleton is said to have turned to her sister and Prince William for comfort last night. Middleton also apparently spent the weekend with the royal couple at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

It's unclear exactly what caused the split after three years. Some friends claim Loudon was never comfortable with Middleton's status as a sex symbol and tabloid fixation, following her headline-making turn in a figure-hugging gown at her sister's wedding in April. But a source tells The Sun that Prince Harry was at the crux of the couple's demise. "It was said after the wedding that Alex was jealous of Pippa flirting with Prince Harry," the source said. "But the truth is she and Harry are just mates."

During Middleton and Loudon's brief break this summer, Middleton was spotted out with her ex, George Percy, at a dinner in London and then at a Wimbledon tennis match. But the couple eventually reconnected and, last month, was photographed kissing outside the Boodles Boxing Ball at 4:30 a.m.while waiting for a taxi.

Just a few weeks ago, reports said that Loudon had asked a friend to help him shop for an engagement ring and had his eye on a blingy Diane von Furstenberg sparkler for Middleton. A source told The Sun at the time, "Alex knows that if he doesn't ask her soon he might lose her. He's an ideal choice for Pippa."

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/pippa_middleton_splits_from_alex_Be94UQmAx29Poy9x0mQjbP#ixzz1dhOP1A6v

Jumat, 11 November 2011

Canada's Loch Ness Monster Caught on Tape?

A possible sighting of Canada’s version of the Loch Ness monster at a lake in British Columbia has stirred up the legend of the sea creature long-rumored to reside there.

A man visiting British Colombia’s Lake Okanagan claims he filmed video of what could only be the elusive monster, known to locals as Ogopogo. The 30-second video shows two long ripples in the water in a seemingly deserted area of the lake.

“It was not going with the waves,” Richard Huls, who captured the scene on camera during a visit to a local winery, told the Vancouver Sun. “It was not a wave, obviously, just a darker color. The size and the fact that they were not parallel with the waves made me think it had to be something else.”

Ogopogo is the Canadian version of Scotland’s famous Loch Ness monster. The first recorded sighting of the alleged creature in Loch Ness was nearly 1,500 years ago when a giant beast is said to have leaped out of a lake near Inverness, Scotland, to eat a local farmer. Since then, the legend has taken on a life of its own through first-person accounts of those who claim to have seen it and in public imagination.
As with Loch Ness, the Ogopogo phenomenon dates back hundreds of years and is believed to have its origins in native Canadian Indian folklore with a creature called N’ha-a-itk. The locals would not cross the area of the lake where they thought the monster resided without an offering to feed the monster if attacked.

Ogopogo is most commonly described as a 40- to 50-foot-long sea serpent. There have reportedly been thousands of sightings of the monster through the years, including a marathon swimmer in 2000 who claimed he saw two large creatures in Ogopogo’s likeness swimming with him at times. The lake has been searched and no concrete evidence of the monster has turned up. Still, the legend of the lake monster lives on.

So, is the latest video just a ripple in the water or something more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


US soldier gets life sentence in Afghan killings

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (AP) — A military jury sentenced an Afghan war veteran to life in prison after the Army staff sergeant was convicted of murder, conspiracy and other charges in the deaths of civilians, in one of the most gruesome cases to emerge from the conflict.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Mont., was accused of exhorting his bored underlings to slaughter three Afghan civilians for sport.

The jury for the court martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle sentenced Gibbs Thursday to life in prison, but he will be eligible for parole in less than nine years.

The 26-year-old soldier was the highest ranking of five soldiers charged in the deaths of the unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar province early last year.

At his seven-day court martial, he acknowledged cutting fingers off corpses and yanking out a victim's tooth to keep as war trophies, "like keeping the antlers off a deer you'd shoot." But he insisted he wasn't involved in the first or third killings, and in the second he merely returned fire.

Prosecutors said Gibbs and his co-defendants knew the victims posed no danger but dropped weapons by their dead bodies to make them appear to have been combatants.

Three of the co-defendants pleaded guilty, and two of them testified against him, portraying him as an imposing, bloodthirsty leader who in one instance played with a victim's corpse and moved the mouth like a puppet. Gibbs' lawyer insisted they conspired to blame him for what they had done and told the five jurors the case represented "the ultimate betrayal of an infantryman."

The jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting him on all charges. The sentencing hearing began immediately after the verdict was announced, with a prosecutor, Maj. Andre LeBlanc, asking for the maximum, life without parole. He told jurors that Gibbs was supposed to protect the Afghan people but instead caused many to lose trust in Americans, hurting the mission. LeBlanc noted that Gibbs repeatedly called the Afghans "savages."

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is the savage — Staff Sgt. Gibbs is the savage," he said.

Gibbs' lawyer, Phil Stackhouse, asked for leniency — life with parole, instead of without it — and noted that Gibbs could be eligible for parole if they allowed it.

"He'd like you to know he has had failures in his life and he's had a lot of time to think about them," Stackhouse said. "He wants you to know he's not the same person he was in Afghanistan. He doesn't want his wife to have to raise their son on her own."

The investigation into the 5th Stryker Brigade unit exposed widespread misconduct — a platoon that was "out of control," in the words of a prosecutor, Maj. Robert Stelle. The wrongdoing included hash-smoking, the collection of illicit weapons, the mutilation and photography of Afghan remains, and the gang-beating of a soldier who reported the drug use.

In all, 12 soldiers were charged; all but two have now been convicted.

The probe also raised questions about the brigade's permissive leadership culture and the Army's mechanisms for reporting misconduct.

After the first killing, one soldier, then-Spc. Adam Winfield, alerted his parents and told them more killings were planned, but his father's call to a sergeant at Lewis-McChord relaying the warning went unheeded. Winfield later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the last killing, saying he took part because he believed Gibbs would kill him if he didn't.

The case against Gibbs relied heavily on testimony from former Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, who is serving 24 years after admitting his involvement in all three killings.

According to Morlock, Gibbs gave him an "off-the-books" grenade that Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, of Boise, Idaho, used in the first killing — a teenager in a field — in January 2010.

The next month, Morlock said, Gibbs killed the second victim with Spc. Michael Wagnon, of Las Vegas, and tossed an AK-47 at the man's feet to make him appear to have been an enemy fighter. Morlock and Winfield said that during the third killing, in May, Gibbs threw a grenade at the victim as he ordered them to shoot.

Morlock and others told investigators that soon after Gibbs joined the unit in 2010, he began talking about how easy it would be to kill civilians, and discussed scenarios where they might carry out such murders.

Asked why soldiers might have agreed to go along with it, Morlock testified that the brigade had trained for deployment to Iraq before having their orders shifted at the last minute to Afghanistan.

The infantrymen wanted action and firefights, he testified, but instead they found themselves carrying out a more humanitarian counter-insurgency strategy that involved meetings and handshaking.

Another soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens, who at the time was a close friend of Gibbs, told investigators that in March 2010, he and others followed orders from Gibbs to fire on two unarmed farmers in a field; no one was injured. Gibbs claimed one was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, but that was obviously false, Stevens said.

Stevens also testified that Gibbs bragged to him about the second killing, admitting he planted an AK-47 on the victim's body because he suspected the man of involvement with the Taliban, according to a report on the testimony in The News Tribune newspaper of Tacoma.

But during the trial, Gibbs insisted he came under fire.

"I was engaged by an enemy combatant," he said. "Luckily his weapon appeared to malfunction and I didn't die."

Gibbs testified that he wasn't proud about having removed fingers from the bodies of the victims, but said he tried to disassociate the corpses from the humans they had been as a means of coming to terms with the things soldiers are asked to do in battle.

The muscular 6-foot-4 staff sergeant also testified that he did it because other soldiers wanted the trophies, and he agreed in part because he didn't want his subordinates to think he was a wimp.

Gibbs initially faced 16 charges, but one was dropped during the trial.


Michelle Obama: If Malia or Sasha Joined the Military, "I Would Be Proud"

In honor of Veterans' Day, Yahoo! Shine went to the White House for an exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to talk about Joining Forces, the White House initiative to support military families. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Shine readers submitted nearly 5,000 questions that they wanted us to ask, including how Mrs. Obama would react if her daughters Malia and Sasha said that they wanted to join the armed forces. Here's what she had to say about the idea:
Jill Biden already knows what it's like--she's a Blue Star mom herself. "Our son, Beau, is Delaware Army National Guard. He's been in for 10 years," she told Yahoo! Shine. "He joined in his 30s. And he was deployed to Iraq for a year."

"I felt proud when Beau told me that he was going to join," she said. "He's now a captain, and he's soon to be made a major. We'll go to that ceremony, the entire Biden clan will be there. So we're just very proud."

With the troops from Iraq expected to be home from the holidays, some Yahoo! readers wondered what the Obama Administration is doing to help support military wives and family members who are coping with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that soldiers may be struggling with.

"Well, our husbands, through this administration, have expanded outreach and counseling through Veterans Affairs, first and foremost," Mrs. Obama pointed out. "But we need more awareness. We need more trained professionals available. And that's something that Joining Forces is working on--finding the collaborations of universities out there that are going to improve their curriculums to really gain an expertise in how do you treat and identify post-traumatic stress disorder."

"But we have to realize, as a nation, that this stress doesn't just apply to the men and women in uniform. That similar stress is happening at home. And I think a lot of Americans don't think about that," she added. "So we need local professionals and neighbors and community members and teachers aware. This is why you have to know who are the military families in your communities, be able to identify... those stressors."

Dr. Biden, who still teaches English full-time at a community college in Virginia, says that schools are on the front line in treating PTSD.

"We're taking curriculums into the teachers colleges so that teachers could be aware of the children in their classroom who may have a parent deployed, and what they're going through, and making them aware of it," she explained. "And also I think that the services are doing a much better job of working with the families."

Those who serve in the National Guard live in with their families in civilian neighborhoods, not on military bases, which means that they may not have the same level of support as other soldiers do once they return home, Dr. Biden pointed out. "I think it's the families that help to work within each other and help to recognize some of the problems."

We also asked the First Lady and Dr. Biden about their families' holiday traditions, what they'd do differently as parents, and how they maintain their own identities and careers. And stay tuned-they also talk about what civilians can do to help military veterans on Veterans' Day and every day, only on Yahoo! Shine.