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Quick Takes: James Cameron eyes Mars

“Avatar” director James Cameron is helping to build a high-resolution 3-D camera on the next-generation Mars rover.

The camera will be mounted atop Curiosity, the next rover mission to Mars set for launch next year.

Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scaled back its plans in 2007 to mount a 3-D camera atop Curiosity because the upcoming flagship mission to Mars was consistently over budget and behind schedule. But Cameron lobbied NASA administrator Charles Bolden for inclusion of the 3-D camera during a January meeting, saying a rover with a better set of eyes will help the public connect with the mission.

—Associated Press

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Leno stays atop late-night

For the eighth consecutive week since he returned as host of “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno trumped David Letterman in the ratings last week.

The Nielsen Co. reported Thursday that Leno averaged 4 million viewers a night last week, compared to 3.2 million for Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS. NBC also had the edge among viewers in the 18-49 age demographic that many advertisers prefer.

Meanwhile, in his first interview since leaving NBC, Conan O’Brien said he would not have done what Leno did, reclaiming his late-night spot after having relinquished it less than a year earlier. “He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed ... I wouldn’t have done that,” O’Brien told “60 Minutes” in an interview that will be broadcast Sunday.

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—Lee Margulies

Opry lines up stars for party

An all-star jam band of Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner will kick off the Grand Ole Opry’s 85th birthday celebration.

The quartet of accomplished pickers will join together May 25 in Nashville to launch months of celebrations at the Opry through December with a birthday party and shows planned for Oct. 8-9.

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The Opry plans as many as four shows a week over the summer with performances by Lady Antebellum, Charley Pride and the Oak Ridge Boys scheduled along with exhibits and activities.

—Associated Press

Battle named to lead Ailey

Alvin Ailey’s artistic director has announced a successor, a 37-year-old choreographer with a decade-long history with the world-renowned modern dance company.

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Robert Battle will take the helm at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011, when Judith Jamison steps down after 20 years, Jamison said Thursday. Until then, the two will work side-by-side.

Battle “has a worldview and is capable of taking this company in new directions, while at the same time understanding our traditions,” Jamison said. “Choosing Robert Battle is the giant leap I want to take to ensure that this company stays vibrant in the future.”

Battle, who will be Alvin Ailey’s third artistic director, has created ballets for the Ailey company and its Ailey II junior troupe since 1999.

He said he hoped to honor his new responsibility " in the only way Alvin Ailey would have accepted: by keeping it new, alive and moving forward.”

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—Associated Press

Robber mars Mayberry life

The actress who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” was robbed in the town that inspired the show’s idyllic Mayberry setting, after moving to the area to avoid big city crime.

Betty Lou Lynn had her wallet stolen at a shopping center in Mount Airy, N.C., the birthplace of Andy Griffith.

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The Mount Airy News reported that a man had been arrested in connection with the theft and was being held Thursday on a $10,000 bond.

In an earlier interview with the newspaper, the 83-year-old Lynn said she moved to Mount Airy after being robbed three times in Los Angeles.

In the 1960s TV series, Thelma Lou was the girlfriend of Deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.

—Associated Press

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Finally

Casting news: Greg Kinnear will star as President John F. Kennedy and Katie Holmes will portray his wife, Jacqueline, in “The Kennedys,” an eight-hour miniseries that the History Channel plans to show next year.

Benefit: Country music icon Alan Jackson will donate the profits from a May 22 performance in Charleston, W.Va., to the families of the 29 miners killed in an explosion this month at the Upper Big Branch mine.


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