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Seven by Seven / Seven things you need to know by 7 a.m.

1. When the University at Buffalo Undergraduate Student Association is asked to choose someone for the Distinguished Speaker Series, it unfailingly picks a red-hot cultural icon. It has brought in the Dalai Lama, former Vice President Al Gore, Bill Cosby and talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. This year, it hit the jackpot again. Taking the podium at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena on the North Campus in Amherst is former athlete, Hollywood star and governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

2. How should New York State revamp its high school graduation requirements? The top state education officials will be in town today to get input on that question from more than 250 local teachers and others. This forum, the sixth of eight across the state, will feature Education Commissioner David M. Steiner, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Robert Bennett at 5 p.m. at Erie 1 BOCES, 355 Harlem Road. Seats for the event are no longer available, but The Buffalo News will have full coverage in Friday's paper and at the School Zone blog, blogs.buffalonews.com/school_zone.

3. Western New Yorkers have a new way to escape the cold and snow. Florida-based Spirit Airlines holds a news conference this afternoon in the terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport to announce the start of its three-day-a-week service to and from Fort Lauderdale. The first Airbus headed for the sunny South takes off Friday. One-way fares often can be as low as $42. But to fly Spirit, you'll have to either get up early or stay up late. Planes leave for Florida on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:55 a.m. and come back Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays after midnight.

4. Has someone finally come up with a miracle solution to save the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system? Maybe. The Erie County Legislature's Community Enrichment Committee meets at 1 p.m. to receive a briefing on a new way to provide money for the libraries. The session is in the Central Library's second-floor board room.

5. Canisius College welcomes back a famous graduate tonight in the Montante Cultural Center. He's Steve Brown, Class of 1983, a reporter for Fox News since 1998. He began his career right here in Buffalo as weekend anchor and reporter at WGRZ-TV and investigative reporter at WKBW-TV. The title of his talk at 7:30 is "Here's What I Think: America's Pundit-Driven Politics and the Obligations of Today's Campaign Journalists." It's free and open to the public.

6. Loop 2.4.3, the acclaimed New York City-based percussion duo, begins its new tour today on UB's North Campus in Amherst. Working with a variety of unconventional rhythm instruments, including some they devised themselves, the classically trained performers, who met at Central Michigan University, give a free concert at noon, followed by master class sessions with UB music students. One prominent admirer says Loop 2.4.3 "takes listeners on a sonic journey that at once feels otherworldly and very much of the heart."

7. Black popular culture expert Mark Anthony Neal will give an address commemorating the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at 4 p.m. in Hilbert College's Palisano Lecture Room in Bogel Hall on the Hamburg campus. The Duke University professor will discuss the knowledge gap between the civil rights movement and the hip-hop generation and also will address King's historical significance with current events. Neal, professor of black popular culture in Duke's department of African and African-American studies, is the author of five books and a regular commentator on National Public Radio.

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Don't miss on buffalonews.com:

For a preview of what to do for entertainment in Western New York this weekend, check out GustoTV at video.buffalonews.com.

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