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Kinkade battled alcoholism

A family member says painter Thomas Kinkade battled alcoholism over the past several years and had a relapse just before his death at his home in Santa Clara County.

Kinkade's brother, Patrick, tells the San Jose Mercury News that decades of attacks on Kinkade's work and a split with his wife two years ago had taken a toll on the famous "Painter of Light."

Kinkade died in Monte Sereno on April 6 at age 54 of what a spokesman has said was natural causes. An autopsy is pending.

A recording of a dispatcher involved in the response to his home says Kinkade had been drinking all night and was not moving.


Madonna backs leader

Madonna says she's happy that Malawi's former vice president is now leading the country.

Joyce Banda became president on April 7 and is the country's first female leader. Former President Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack on April 5.

Madonna adopted two Malawian children and started the charity Raising Malawi in 2006. It assists orphanages and other aid programs in the country.

The singer called Banda "amazing" and said she interviewed the 62-year-old for her 2008 documentary, "I Am Because We Are," about Malawian orphans who lost family members to HIV/AIDS.

"She was really into girls being educated in Africa, which is a good thing," Madonna said in an interview Thursday night. "So I'm glad."


Pitt, Jolie engaged

After seven years as a couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are finally engaged.

Pitt's manager, Cynthia Pett-Dante, confirmed the news to the Associated Press in an email Friday.

There isn't a wedding date yet. The engagement "is a promise for the future," Pett-Dante said.

Pitt, 48, and Jolie, 36, have six children together, including three who are adopted.

"Their kids are very happy," Pett-Dante also said.

Pitt and Jolie have been partners since they began a relationship while working on the film "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."


Celebrity birthdays

Sunday: Country singer Roy Clark is 79. Actress Emma Thompson is 53. Actress Emma Watson ("Harry Potter" movies) is 22.

Monday: Singer Bobby Vinton is 77. Actor Peter Billingsley ("A Christmas Story") is 41. Actor Lukas Haas is 36.

Tuesday: Actor Sean Bean ("Lord of the Rings") is 53. Singer Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls is 38. Actress Rooney Mara is 27.

Wednesday: Actress Hayley Mills is 66. Actor Rick Moranis is 59. Talk-show host Conan O'Brien is 49. Actress America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty") is 28.

Thursday: Actress Elinor Donahue ("Father Knows Best") is 75. Keyboardist Alan Price of the Animals is 70. Actress Ashley Judd is 44.

Friday: Actor George Takei ("Star Trek") is 75. Actress Jessica Lange is 63. Actor Andy Serkis ("Lord of the Rings") is 48. Actress Carmen Electra is 40.

Next Saturday: Singer Iggy Pop is 65. Actor James McAvoy ("X-Men: First Class") is 33.

-- From News and wire services