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The daily dish ..

Star witness

Accustomed to wearing Vera Wang gowns on red carpets, singing at the Grammys or autographing her weight-loss memoir, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson's next big role will be under a very different spotlight -- in Chicago's drab criminal courts building at the trial of the man charged with murdering her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

The Hollywood star's presence, and the accompanying media hubbub, is bound to affect the proceedings, which begin today. That's when presiding Judge Charles Burns plans to start questioning would-be jurors one by one, trying to weed out anyone who could be swayed by Hudson's celebrity status.

Hudson is expected to be at the trial every day once testimony begins, court officials say, and she's on the 300-name list of witnesses who could testify.

Prosecutors say William Balfour, the 30-year-old estranged husband of Hudson's sister, shot the family in a jealous rage because Julia Hudson was dating another man. Jennifer Hudson, also 30, and Balfour grew up in the same South Side neighborhood.

Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death in the family's home on Oct. 24, 2008. The body of her nephew, Julian King, was found days later.

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Surprise proposal

Country singer Jake Owen proposed to his girlfriend, Lacey Buchanan, on Saturday night in front of friends and family at the Citrus Bowl at Vero Beach High (his alma mater), People magazine reported on its website.

While singing his hit "Don't Think I Can't Love You," Owen brought Buchanan out on stage for what at first appeared to be a dance. He then got down on one knee and popped the question in front of the audience. He was just missing one thing.

"You're probably wondering where your ring is, right?" Owen could be heard asking over the speakers. Referencing the lyrics of the song, he added: "I just said I can't buy you a big diamond ring or a big old house on the hill, but I promise you I'll love you forever and ever and ever."

Owen then finished the song, singing directly to Buchanan, who has appeared in his music videos for "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "Eight Second Ride." The couple then shared a hug and several kisses onstage.

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Royal promotion

Queen Elizabeth II has appointed the Duchess of Cornwall to the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, Buckingham Palace said Monday.

The announcement that Camilla has been made a Dame Grand Cross comes on the day of her seventh wedding anniversary with Prince Charles, the queen's son.

Once vilified as a the old flame who poisoned Charles' first marriage to Princess Diana, Camilla has become an integral member of the royal family since she married the prince on April 9, 2005 -- eight years after Diana's death.

-- From News and wire services