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Monday, November 10, 2008

NEWS & POP CULTURE

California Supreme Court could rule as early as this week on a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Prop 8

The California Supreme Court could rule as early as this week on a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Prop 8, court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said today. Meanwhile, more than 40 Democratic state legislators filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of opponents of the gay marriage ban approved last week by California voters. The lawmakers -- including Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President pro Tem Don Perata and incoming Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- maintain the initiative process was improperly used. They say only the Legislature can place a measure before voters that radically revises the California Constitution. That's the same argument the ACLU and gay rights groups are making in their lawsuit, which also contends the constitutional amendment would undo the constitution's commitment to equality for everyone. Supporters of Proposition 8 have called the lawsuit "frivolous" and "an insult to voters." Legal experts, meanwhile, say it's a long shot the court will buy the arguments made by opponents of the measure.

Gay team beats out straight player for gay award

I am thrilled that rugby player Ben Cohen is incredibly gay-friendly and held a celebration last year for his gay fans. I also think it’s appropriate that he did not win the sports award from the London Stonewall gay rights group. The sports award instead went to the Stonewall Lions Football Club, an English gay soccer club that won this year’s Gay World Cup in London. The Stonewall Lions Football Club was cited for being “a beacon of light in the darkness of homophobia that exists in football.” READ MORE

Nicole Kidman lines up bisexual and trans roles

Actress Nicole Kidman is to play a Danish artist who underwent gender reassignment surgery in the 1930s, one of the first documented cases of transsexuality in a new film currently in pre-production. Ms Kidman is also producing The Danish Girl. It tells the story of Einar Wegener, who initially cross-dressed to pose for his wife, artist Gerda. The portraits became popular in 1920s Copenhagen, and eventually eventually "came out" as transsexual and had surgery over a period of nearly two years. The King of Denmark declared the Wegeners' marriage null and void in October 1930. Einar managed to get his sex and name legally changed, including a passport with her new name Lili Elbe, but died after complications from the fifth and final surgery in 1931. Ms Kidman is also slated to play bisexual British icon in an upcoming biopic of Dusty Springfield.

Hungarian parliament approves hate crimes legislation

Two landmark measures extending protections to LGBT people have been adopted by the Hungarian parliament. The country's hate crime laws will be altered to a general formulation of a "violent act against a member of a social group," which is believed to include sexual orientation. The second piece of legislation makes it possible to initiate civil proceedings against a person who engages in degrading or intimidating behaviour towards groups based on nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. There have been violent clashes with police and attacks on politicians and gay Pride in recent years. In July Budapest Pride was the target of violent fascist attacks. An estimated 1,500 people participated in the LGBT solidarity demonstration. READ MORE

School's play about homophobia attacked by right wing press

In an echo of the 1980s, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers have carried lurid stories this morning about a play aimed at secondary school kids that urges them to confront homophobia. FIT, written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, has already been performed in 75 schools nationwide, but an upcoming performance in Dagenham has caught the attention of Fleet Street. Two unnamed parents are quoted in The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Star as being "uncomfortable" with their children seeing the play. The papers were strong backers of Section 28, a 1988 amendment to the Local Government Act that barred local authorities from "promoting" homosexuality in schools. The consequence of the new law was misery and isolation for a generation of lesbian and gay kids, with teachers unwilling to discuss homophobic bullying and some even mocking gay pupils. It was repealed in 2003.

Chemical from medicinal plants may be used to fight HIV

Like other kinds of cells, immune cells lose the ability to divide as they age because a part of their chromosomes known as a telomere becomes progressively shorter with cell division. As a result, the cell changes in many ways, and its disease fighting ability is compromised. But a new UCLA AIDS Institute study has found that a chemical from the Astragalus root, frequently used in Chinese herbal therapy, can prevent or slow this progressive telomere shortening, which could make it a key weapon in the fight against HIV. "This has the potential to be either added to or possibly even replace the HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), which is not tolerated well by some patients and is also costly," said study co-author Rita Effros, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA AIDS Institute. READ MORE

Prop 8 protesters take it to the Catholics

More than 200 protesters gathered in front of Los Angeles’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sunday as part of a continuing spate of demonstrations against the narrow passage of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages. Initially billed as a “quiet vigil of peace” in an e-mail to local media from a group called the Latino/a LGBT Coalition, the event was more similar to recent Prop. 8 demonstrations, complete with a variety of signs with slogans like “No to H8,” “Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love,” and “How Would Jesus Vote” as well as loud chants, whistles, and even one protester dressed in a chicken suit. The outfit may have alluded to the farm safety-related Proposition 2, another ballot measure put in front of state voters last Tuesday that was approved by a wide margin. READ MORE

  • NY conservatives vow to thwart gay marriage bill
  • Moscow assures gays they will be safe at Eurovision
  • Thousands of lives could be saved by new anal cancer test
  • Gay marriage to be legal in Sweden next year
  • Obama win triggers run on guns in many stores
  • Will Smith's son Jaden to star in remake of The Karate Kid
  • Debunking the Black blame by Teresa Morrison
  • 3rd Episcopal diocese splits from church over gays
  • Obama transition team bans LGBT discrimination
  • The religious right promises more amendments, do we have a plan?
    • Actress Michelle Williams' father to be extradited to US

      Michelle Williams' father, a prominent stock market trader, agreed Tuesday to return to the United States to face tax evasion charges. Larry Williams has been fighting extradition since he was arrested by Australian police in 2006 after flying to Sydney for a speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand. He has been free on bail. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service wants to question the 65-year-old Virgin Islands resident about a possible $1.5 million in unpaid taxes from book royalties and earnings related to international seminars he conducted between 1990 and 2001. Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Williams will leave for Los Angeles on Wednesday. "I will fight this and win," Williams said before sheriffs escorted him from court. "I will be back — I have a lot of friends here in Australia." Michelle Williams received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress for her performance in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, playing the wife of Heath Ledger's character. Ledger, who died from an accidental prescription drug overdose in January, is the father of her 3-year-old daughter Matilda Rose, Larry Williams' granddaughter.

      1918 Spanish Flu records could hold the key to solving future pandemics

      Ninety years after Australian scientists began their race to stop the spread of Spanish flu in Australia, University of Melbourne researchers are hoping records from the 1918 epidemic may hold the key to preventing future deadly pandemic outbreaks. Professorial Fellow John Mathews and colleagues are analysing the records of 24,000 people collected from 12 locations in the UK during the Spanish flu outbreak including Cambridge University, public boarding schools and elementary schools. He says gaining a better understanding of how and why the virus spread will help health authorities make decisions about how to tackle future pandemics. "In the 1918/19 pandemic, mortality was greatest among previously healthy young adults, when normally you would expect that elderly people would be the most likely to die,'' Professor Mathews says "We don't really understand why children and older adults were at lesser risk. "One explanation may be that children were protected by innate immunity while older people may have been exposed to a similar virus in the decades before 1890 which gave them partial but long-lasting protection. READ MORE

      Josh Brolin and Barbra Streisand clashed over 'W'

      Josh Brolin has revealed that Barbra Streisand was not impressed when she learned that he would be playing George W. Bush. The actor portrays the 43rd President of the United States in Oliver Stone's biopic W. but said the news of his casting did not go down well with his stepmother. He told The Times: "She said: 'How much are you getting paid?' I told her it was a very low fee. She said: 'Then why are you doing it?' "She was furious and would not talk to me. I kind of liked that one. I think, in the end, she was pleased that I was doing something of this weight." Brolin also revealed that he does not think Bush will ever get in touch with him regarding the movie. "I don't expect a call of congratulations anytime soon," he said.

      Astronaut will be Japan's first mom in space

      A Japanese astronaut and mother of one has been picked as a crew member of the space shuttle Atlantis, Japan's space agency said Tuesday, making her the country's first mom to go into space. Naoko Yamazaki, mother of a 6-year-old girl, will board Atlantis, set to lift off sometime after February 2010 for a two-week flight, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. "There have been times when it was hard to balance work and child rearing," Yamazaki, 37, told a news conference. "My daughter is starting to understand about space and space shuttles... She told me 'Now, you'll be the one to ride that, mummy. I'm very happy'."

      Obama makes historic White House visit

      U.S. President-elect Barack Obama visited the White House on Monday for his first post-election meeting with President George W. Bush, a strikingly symbolic moment in the transition of power. Obama, who will take office on January 20 with the country close to recession, urged Bush to back immediate emergency aid for the struggling U.S. automakers, The New York Times reported. The president and first lady Laura Bush greeted the newly elected president and his wife, Michelle, with smiles and handshakes, even as Obama's advisers reviewed some of Bush's executive orders with an eye to reversing them after he is sworn in on January 20. The two men met privately in the Oval Office for over an hour in talks thought to have encompassed the global financial crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other daunting challenges the Republican president will bequeath to his Democratic successor. It was their first face-to-face encounter following Obama's resounding victory over Republican John McCain in Tuesday's election, which will make him the United States' first black president. READ MORE

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