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

1. Innovators and entrepreneurs meet investors today and Thursday in Venture Forum 2012, which merges Buffalo's Bright Buffalo Niagara Investment Conference with the Upstate SmartStart UNYTECH Venture Forum, a production of the Center for Economic Growth in Albany. The University at Buffalo-led event attracts people who are getting their ideas off the ground, while UNYTECH generally works with those further along in development. Today's session is in UB's Center for the Arts on the North Campus in Amherst, featuring discussions on how industry can encourage innovation. Thursday's session in Albright-Knox Art Gallery will connect investors with start-up companies from across New York State and Southern Ontario. For information, visit

2. Michael Niman, associate professor of communication at Buffalo State College and public affairs commentator, will discuss the effectiveness and staying power of leaderless groups such as Alcohols Anonymous, al-Qaida and Occupy when he speaks from noon to 1 p.m. in the Ring of Knowledge in the Central Library at Lafayette Square. It's free and open to the public. Niman wrote about one such group in his recent book, "People of the Rainbow."

3. Television newswoman Rita Cosby brings her savviness and star power to the Amherst Republican Committee's annual spring dinner this evening in Sean Patrick's Banquet Facility, 3480 Millersport Highway, Amherst. Cosby, the host of "Weekend Edition" on Fox News for 10 years and now a special correspondent for CBS-TV's "Inside Edition," will be autographing copies of her memoir, "Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father's Past," which recounts his days as a Polish resistance fighter in World War II. It's included in the $70 ticket for the dinner. Also planning to attend are Republican U.S. Senate candidates Wendy Long and George Maragos.

4. Vocal Authority, a group of 16 singers from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn., delivers uplifting spiritual songs with such power that it's said they instill the presence of God in their listeners. Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Mike Jasper, who attended Bethel, is bringing the group's Cover the Earth Tour to Bethesda World Harvest International Church, 1365 Main St., for a performance from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Jasper will be joined by nine of his teammates, and all will sign autographs after the final encore.

5. Life just got better for lost and abandoned dogs in Clarence. The town has renovated and expanded its animal shelter behind the Highway Department facilities at 6185 Goodrich Road. Heating and ventilation have been improved, and now there are 16 dog runs instead of six. Dog control officer Jerome Schuler and his staff will show off the new quarters during an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

6. Fans of awesomely played electric guitar have an almost unbearable choice to make tonight. At 8 in the Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St., there's Steve Kimock, long connected with Grateful Dead-themed bands. Currently, he's teamed with legendary Parliament Funkadelic and Talking Heads keyboardist Bernie Worrell, Timbuk 3 drummer Wally Ingram and Gov't Mule/Black Crowes bassist Andy Hess. Meanwhile, at the same hour next door in Shea's Performing Arts Center, it's Joe Bonamassa, whose total command of the blues in both the American and British styles is unsurpassed. Either way, it's a night to remember.

7. Mikel Doktor, veteran area guitarist and former member of such bands as the Dollywatchers and Space Trucker, had been building his own well-regarded solid-body electric guitars for a few years, but after seeing a documentary on primitive instruments, he decided to switch gears. Now working under the name of Medicine Man Cigar Box Guitars, he will show some 60 instruments made from cigar boxes and other resonant junk and play them, too, from 7 to 10 p.m. in Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St. They're for sale at prices ranging from $40 to $400. "Playing these guitars doesn't make it too easy for you," he says. "A song won't just pop out of one of then. You have to work for it."