Madonna Returns to Africa; A-Rod Gets Spiritual

• Madonna is taking a quick trip over to Malawi this weekend "to lay the foundation stone" at the new "multi-million dollar girls school she's building." That's funny. We could swear we heard about another celebrity doing almost exact same thing not too long ago. Oh, yes, her! Hopefully this time around there's a little less controversy. And let's also hope Malawian schoolchildren are ready to study Kabbalah from dawn till dusk. [Reuters]
• In related news, Madonna's ex, Alex Rodriguez, now appears to be taking an interest in Buddhism thanks to girlfriend Kate Hudson. Or at least he's pretending to be interested in it to make her happy. You decide! [NYDN]
• Ashlee Simpson-Wentz—sister of Jessica, wife of Pete, and the character Violet on The CW's Melrose Place—is now unemployed. Melrose's producers are taking a "It's not you, it's me" approach and saying the decision to cut her out of the show had nothing to do with the fact she can't act, but was because that had been their plan for the character from the beginning. [EW, People]

• Lindsay Lohan sufffered some tragic news back in June when was banned from the club Avenue for tweeting that Justin Timberlake had been getting cozy with someone other than Jessica Biel. LiLo claimed her account was hacked, but Avenue wasn't buying it. But now it's been resolved, thanl goodness. Upset about her lack of late-night options, she reportedly "besieged the management with calls and emails to let her back in," and they've agreed to do so, and she's been to the club twice this week. [P6]
• Oliver Stone has been filming Wall Street 2 around town for the past few weeks. But because it's always risky having starving actors play rich people, he's hired many of his posh friends to serve as extras, including Vogue's Hamish Bowles, Vanity Fair's Amy Fine Collins, publicist Peggy Siegal, finance man Don Marron, and Julia Koch, the wife of oil billionaire David Koch. [P6]
• An "utterly well mannered" Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to gun possession in court yesterday and received a not-so-lil one-year jail sentence. [NYP]
• Sienna Miller made her Broadway debut in After Miss Julie, although the reviews haven't been all that kind. "A novice at a piano," says one, while another suggested she has "no business playing a classic stage role." But Miller seemed to be pretty happy with the effort, following up her performance by confidently sporting the shortest dress ever. [DM, People]
• If you see Robin Wright Penn, do not ask her why she broke up with Sean Penn and then, when she rebuffs you, tell her that she owes you an explanation what with Sean and her being big-time celebrities and all. You will not like what comes next. [People]
• Chris Brown defended his behavior once again on Hot 97 yesterday, repeatedly saying "I'm human" before adding that, "It's not right to judge someone. People make mistakes all the time." Which is so true and is something we're going to tell ourselves the next time we punch one of our loves ones in the face. [NYDN]
• Alex McCord of the Real Housewives of New York City and her husband Simon are now giving Bethenny Frankel parenting advice. Oh, dear. [People]
• This bizarre mess with Brooke Hundley, the 22-year-old woman who had a fling with ESPN analyst Steve Phillips, is only getting more bizarre and more messy. [TMZ]
• Two additional arrests have been made in the Lindsay Lohan/Audrina Patridge burglary mystery, and law enforcement sources believe that the two new suspects, both teenage women, may also be behind burglaries at the homes of Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and Rachel Bilson. [TMZ]
• The Bahamian politician responsible for the mistrial in John Travolta $25 million extortion case has been called to testify about his actions. In case you haven't heard, he declared that one of the defendants was found not guilty before the jury was finished deliberating. In the meantime, Travolta's lawyer is seeking to have the case moved to Florida. [TMZ]
• The United States has made a formal request that the Swiss extradite Roman Polanski. Don't expect Polanski to be returning to US soil in the near future. The process could take years if he decides to challenge it. [MSNBC]
• Jessica Simpson and Gerard Butler may not be dating, after all. "There is nothing romantic there at all," says a "source close to the singer." [Us]