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Read this: Simon Cowell leaving 'Idol,' Sarah Palin joining Fox News, zoo on panda pregnancy watch

Newsmakers: Simon Cowell (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg), Sarah Palin (AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Robert DeBerry) and Mei Xiang the panda (Courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo).

Good afternoon, everyone! It's a day of comings and goings. And later we may deliver a White House crasher update (after a carefully executed stakeout of today's grand jury proceedings related to Tareq and Michaele Salahi, of course). Here are some morsels to tide you over until then:

  • Simon Cowell is following in Paula Abdul's footsteps, leaving his "American Idol" judge chair empty to host Fox's "The X Factor" singing competition show. Forget about Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres! However will Randy Jackson fill the void in viewer's hearts? Writes Lisa de Moraes:

    "It's like having a good player on a good football team," Cowell said of his departure. "When the player retires, the team continues to be successful."
    But it's nothing like that, skeptics might say. It's more like NBC trying to continue "Seinfeld" after losing Jerry after losing Elaine.

  • Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is taking a contributor gig at Fox News, a far more effective platform for political missives than her Facebook page.

  • The National Zoo is, once again, on panda pregnancy watch.

  • President Obama is shifting message, relying more heavily on speechwriter Ben Rhodes for "exposition and argument" on delicate issues. Jason Horowitz reports.

  • New music drops today from OK Go, Omarion and Owen Pallett.

    Tips? Sightings? E-mail us: And follow us on Twitter: @ReliableSource.

  • By The Reliable Source  |  January 12, 2010; 12:14 PM ET
    Categories:  Read This  
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    Next: What does a real White House state-dinner invitation look like?

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