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By Teri Goldberg

To kick off (PRODUCT) RED, the buy-red-and-do-good campaign, Oprah devoted an entire show to a shopping spree along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Television cameras followed America’s favorite talk show host and U2 lead singer Bono as they hunted down — and showcased — some of the hot products, where a certain percent of the proceeds will be donated to The Global Fund, whose mission is to “rid the world of AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.”

Some of the media questioned the motives of the celebrities involved — was it more about drawing attention to themselves or the cause? Or is it “cause marketing” at its best, when companies align with charitable campaigns to boost their image? In the end, it’s doesn’t matter. And the brilliance of (RED) is the goods are cool.

Gap.com sold out the first shipment of red T-shirts, $28, printed with expressions, such as INSPI(RED) and DESI(RED), within hours after “The Oprah Winfrey Show” aired on the East Coast, says a Gap company spokesperson. Product availability still varies.

Not all the products are red but it’s hard to resist some of the shiny red products, even if you don’t need them (the cardinal shopping sin). But someone on your list must. Here’s just a sampling of the offerings. (A complete list of the companies and the Web sites who developed products for the campaign is available at joinred.com.)

Apple introduced a bright red 4GB nanno iPod, of which $10 of the $199 sticker price supports the cause. Giorgio Armani unveiled a RED collection, which includes a sleek new digital watch with a red face and black band, priced at $225. Forty percent of the proceeds will be donated to The Global Fund. The coolest of the cool being Converse’s limited-edition high tops, made of African mudcloth. Pricey at $295 but certainly fun. Why red, not purple or even green? “Because it’s the color of emergency and the color of blood, which is one of the ways HIV enters the system,” explains a joinred.com spokesperson.

Apple

Madonna also has been in the news a lot these days, mostly centering on the adoption of an African boy named David Banda. Less attention has focused on her new children’s book, where all the process will be donated to Raising Malawi, a grassroots initiative to help orphans in Malawi. The new title “The English Roses, Too Good to Be True,” (Callaway, 2006, $19.95), the sequel to “The English Roses” published in 2003, continues the clever saga of five best friends.

Cook like the starsA lesser known “celebrity project” this season is the “Hollywood Cookbook” (Silverback Books, 2006, $35.) Knowing the public’s fascination with how the rich and famous live, authors Jackie Zabel and Morgan Most put together a collection of recipes that offers a glimpse into how the rich and famous eat (or so they say). The 270-page book features complete menus from 20 celebrities and six well-known chefs. “We asked our celebrities to share 4 to 6 themed recipes that they themselves loved to prepare and eat. Then we tested and occasionally tweaked the recipes with the help of the professional culinary staff and students at Kitchen Academy Hollywood,” says Zabel.

Hollywoodcookbook.com

Each celebrity not only selected recipes they wanted to highlight but also charities that would benefit from the book’s creation. Five dollars from the sale of each book will be divided up equally to the various organizations.

Surprisingly or not, many celebrities chose recipes that require few ingredients and little preparation time. Ron Howard offers up a “quick and easy dinner” of bread with olive oil, an arugula rocket salad, tofu Mariana and maple coffee. “Just because it’s easy to make doesn’t mean it’s boring or bland,” writes Howard about his picks.

Ann Hathaway, who played Andy Sachs in “The Devil Wears Prada,” selected a slightly more exotic menu of Mediterranean food, which she admits is “simple to prepare.” Actor James Denton, a.k.a. Mike Delfino in “Desperate Housewives,” reveals some of his tasty recipes for Southern comfort foods, including a cheese grits soufflé and baked apples.

Other celebs featured in the book include Michael J. Fox, Bob Saget and Treat Williams, who selected The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Scleroderma Research Foundation and Save the Children, respectively.

Support America's soldiers
You could join Cher in her campaign to provide soldiers with helmet upgrade kits, which offer an added level of comfort and protection. The grassroots group Operation Helmet just launched another appeal to send kits to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are, however, lots of other ways to help support the soldiers overseas. Best known for its entertainment shows in World War II, the United Service Organization (USO) sends care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. For a donation of $25, you can sponsor a package that contains at a minimum pre-paid phone cards, sunscreen, travel-sized toiletries and a disposable camera. Many of the goods are donated by corporations so the retail cost actually runs about $50-$75 per package.

Through “Gifts from the Homefront” at Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), gift certificates can be sent to soldiers, which are redeemable at one-stop military shops called PX (Postage Exchange) or BX (Base Exchange) worldwide. Currently, there are 57 exchanges scattered throughout “Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom,” says an AAFES spokesperson.

The exchanges stock anything from Slim Jims for .25 cents each to a $2,279 VAIO notebook computer. Munchies and magazines rank high on the list of popular goodies. Top-selling items include Red Bull energy drink, Rice Krispies marshmallow squares, a four-pack of AAA batteries and Maxim magazine, which sold 88,941, 26,601, 21,552 and 10,999 units in August respectively, according to an AAFES spokesperson.

Several programs exist where you can “adopt a soldier” and even “a platoon.” Among them are Operation Military Pride, Soldiers Angels and Adopt a Platoon.