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News and Pop Culture Round-Up

Irish trans woman applies for refugee status in Canada
An Northern Ireland-born trans woman is fighting to get refugee status in Canada because she says she could be at risk of attack if returned to her native country. Tanya Bloomfield, 40, has lived and worked in Nova Scotia since 2006 and has family and friends in the area. She has been denied temporary work and residency applications in the last year and her lawyer Lee Cohen said she could be deported immediately if her refugee claim is rejected. Ms Bloomfield owns a computer company in Chester, Nova Scotia, and says she contributes to Canadian society. She has raised thousands of dollars as sponsorship director for Halifax Pride and ran a charity marathon barefoot in May. She told the Vancouver Sun: "There is well-documented evidence of homophobic attacks [in Ireland] and I grew up there and it's just not a country I want to return to given that I'm transgendered because I'd be at risk." She added that she would "keep pushing on" with her case. (UK Pink News)

Cologne welcomes 10,000 competitors for the 2010 Gay Games
Around 10,000 gay and lesbian athletes from around the globe descended on the western German city of Cologne to participate in the international Gay Games. Entrants from more than 70 countries will take part in an eclectic mix of events including football, transgender ballroom dancing and cheerleading. A cultural programme includes art exhibitions, choir concerts and film screenings. Many of the participants have adopted false identities because of fears that they will be persecuted on their return home. While most participants come from Germany and the US, the list of countries represented will also include Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Zimbabwe. Eastern European sportsmen and women, from countries where discrimination is more or less systematic, have this year been invited to the event for free. The Gay Games first started in San Francisco in 1982 and takes place every four years. Its founding father was the openly gay decathlete Tom Waddell, who died of Aids in 1987. (UK Guardian)
Male 'victim' admits he lied about being raped by two men
A man who told police he had been kidnapped and raped by two men has admitted making the story up. Ashley Vaughan, from Gittisham, Devon, admitted wasting police time when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court. The 27-year-old told police he was attacked and sexually assaulted on the A375 near Gittisham in March last year by two men who had tied him up. Vaughan, who was told his lies had cost money and resources, was released on bail to be sentenced at a later date. Judge John Neligan told Vaughan the cost of his lies, including the use of the police helicopter, cost the Devon and Cornwall force thousands of pounds. Vaughan had reconciled with his family after a difficult period and was "looking forward", the judge added. As a result, and despite the seriousness of the crime, which carries a maximum sentence of six months, he told Vaughan he was unlikely to be sent to jail. "That's probably a bit severe," Judge Neligan said. (BBC)
U.S. bank failures now total 108
U.S. bank failures reached 108 so far in 2010 as regulators seized five small banks in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast, none publicly traded. Bank failures are expected to peak this quarter, with the industry slowly recovering from large portfolios of bad loans, many tied to commercial real estate. The banks seized were LibertyBank of Eugene, Oregon; The Cowlitz Bank of Longview, Washington; Coastal Community Bank of Panama City Beach, Florida; Northwest Bank & Trust of Acworth, Georgia; and Bayside Savings Bank of Port Saint Joe, Florida, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Although failures are still occurring at a rapid pace, it is mostly smaller institutions that have been collapsing recently. (Reuters)

X Factor winner, Joe McElderry: "I'm gay"
The 19 year-old singer told The Sun: "I'm gay and I'm proud." He said that he found his decision to come out "liberating" and that he could now "be happy". The teenager was prompted to go public after his Twitter account was targeted by hackers who published a post saying: "It's been difficult living a lie for so many years.." It was later deleted and the singer wrote: "Guys my twitter has been hacked!" However, McElderry described the experience as a "turning point". He said he had always denied being gay in the past because he had never been attracted to anyone before. The performer said he had kissed lots of girls but kissed a boy for the first time last year, before entering the X Factor competition. He said he had the full support of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole, who had advised him how to break the news to his mother. (UK Telegraph)

Professor who taught Catholic anti-gay doctrine to be reinstated
A university professor whose employment was not renewed following a complaint alleging homophobia will now be reinstated to his position, reported Catholic News Agency. Kenneth Howell, a non-tenured adjunct professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign, was let go after teaching his students that, according to the Catholic conception of "Natural Moral Law," acts of sexual intimacy between consenting adults of the same gender are wrong. Catholic news sites, including the Catholic News Agency, reported the firing of Kenneth Howell as a matter of suppression of free speech. However, the student who complained about the course material made a similar argument, saying that, "The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation." (edgelasvegas.com)

Asteroid could hit Earth in 172 years!
Astronomers have detected a half-kilometre wide asteroid that appears to be on a collision course with the Earth — in 172 years time. In a study reported in the journal Icarus, scientists say the asteroid named 1999-RQ36 has a one-in-1,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182. Known as a PHA, or potentially hazardous asteroid, 1999-RQ36 was first discovered about 10 years ago and since then astronomers have been plotting its orbital trajectory. Co-author of the study, Dr. Maria Eugenia Sansaturio from Spain's Universidad de Valladolid, says the total impact probability for 1999-RQ36 is estimated to be 0.092 per cent, and that 2182 is the most likely year for an impact to occur. (CBC)

Undercover cop suspended after fatal shooting of man during a gay sex sting
Authorities have suspended an undercover patrol designed to crackdown on gay men who use a county park for sexual activity after the shooting death of an Atlanta man by an officer, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. The sheriff’s action comes two weeks after the July 16 death of DeFarra Gaymon, 48, who authorities said was shot by an undercover officer after soliciting sex. Gaymon, the CEO of an Atlanta credit union, sought sex from the male undercover detective before lunging at the officer when he showed his badge, according to the officer’s statement to authorities. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is still investigating the shooting, and no charges have been filed. Garden State Equality, the state’s leading gay rights advocacy group, has now asked for documents related to previous lewdness arrests made at Branch Brook Park since 2005, saying any operation "targeting gay men or LGBT people specifically, or anyone perceived as such, is unconscionable — and as we strongly believe, illegal." Legal experts said though police cannot go after a specific group on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, neither can a defendant use that as a shield against committing a crime. (New Jersey Online)
Tracy Chapman finds love with actress Guinevere Turner
Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, Tracy Chapman has found love with actress Guinevere Turner and the new couple is planning to move in together. The "Fast Car" hitmaker was introduced to "The L Word" star Turner by a mutual friend earlier this year. The couple went public with their relationship at Los Angeles' Outfest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in early July after appearing together at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, California in June, where Turner was promoting her film, The Owls. Chapman was last romantically linked to "The Color Purple" author Alice Walker in the mid-1990s, while Turner was recently said to be dating "The L Word" 's writer/director Rose Troche. (foreign.peacefmonline)


Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore cleared of sexual abuse allegations
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore was cleared Friday of allegations he groped and assaulted a masseuse in a luxury Portland, Ore., hotel room in 2006, closing a case that could have tarnished the Nobel prize winner's reputation. After a four-week investigation that included interviews with Gore, masseuse Molly Hagerty, her acquaintances and hotel staff, as well as testing a pair of stained pants belonging to Hagerty, Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said there was no basis for prosecution. In a memo to Schrunk released with the decision, Don Rees, the senior deputy district attorney, cited "contradictory evidence, conflicting witness statements, credibility issues, lack of forensic evidence and denials by Mr. Gore." (CBC)

Starlite, New York City's oldest Black gay bar, closes
Last November, New York City's first black-owned gay bar which was threatened with closure following the sale of its building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The Starlite has been a fixture in Crown Heights since the 1960s and became a rite of passage for many black LGBT New Yorkers. After the building was sold in late 2009, many feared the lounge was doomed and a neighborhood group applied for landmark status to avoid closure. The application was denied. Read more at Rod 2.0

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