Sunday, September 21, 2008

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

George Michael arrested (again) for drugs

British pop star George Michael has expressed regret to his fans about his arrest on Friday in London for possession of drugs. "I want to apologize to my fans for screwing up again, and to promise them I'll sort myself out. And to say sorry to everybody else, just for boring them." The performer was cautioned by police after being arrested in a public washroom. The singer was taken to a police station and given the caution for possessing class A and class C drugs, police said. Class A drugs include ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms and amphetamines, while class C drugs are listed as cannabis, tranquilizers, some painkillers, Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and Ketamine. Only last month, the former Wham! singer completed his 25 Live world tour, the first in 15 years. After performing his final concert, Michael said he wanted to lead a quieter life and would retire from stadium concerts.

4 dead in fiery plane crash tragedy

There is promising long-range news in the medical condition of air-tragedy victims Travis Barker and DJ AM. The medical director of the Georgia burn center where the two are being treated after their escape from a fiery plane crash around midnight Friday said Sunday morning that both critically injured men are expected to make full recoveries. Dr. Fred Mullins of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors' Hospital in Augusta said at a press conference that former Blink 182 drummer Barker, 32, and DJ Am (real name: Adam Goldstein), 35, are being treated for second- and third-degree burns. Mullins says recovery from such burns can take as long as a year but says that the men suffered no other injuries, adding: "Since both Barker and Goldstein are in overall good health and didn't suffer from any other crash-related complications, a full recovery is expected." Mullins says Barker was burned on his torso and lower body, while DJ AM, was burned on his arms and a portion of his head. The doctor described both as remaining in critical but stable condition and in the intensive-care unit of the hospital. Regarding their emotional state, he declined to discuss specifics, but said of burn victims that "45 percent of all patients have some emotional trouble." There were six people on the plane, and the other four perished. They were pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, Calif.; security guard Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles; and Barker's assistant Chris Baker, 29, also of Los Angeles.

Matthew Mitcham signs with Grand Slam International

Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham has appointed Grand Slam International (GSI) for exclusive management and marketing representation. Grand Slam International managing director David Flaskas said he was delighted to have Matthew Mitcham as part of the Grand Slam International team. "Matthew is an outstanding young athlete whose performance in Beijing was breathtaking. He acted with great modesty and sportsmanship in light of his success and that has endeared him to all Australians," Flaskas said. "We very much look forward to supporting Matthew. He has further ambitions in his sporting career including the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2012 London Olympics." Matthew is excited about the opportunity to join with Grand Slam International. "Winning gold in Beijing was an amazing experience for me. I've been overwhelmed with the public's response to my achievement and am looking forward to the road ahead," Matthew said. Mitcham joins an outstanding group of stars at Grand Slam International including Olympians Ian Thorpe, Leisel Jones, Alisa Camplin, Torah Bright and Steve Hooker. (H/

Leonard Bernstein's lover loses latest court round

Mark Taylor, identified as having had an "intimate relationship" with Leonard Bernstein (pictured) in a 1994 biography of the late composer and conductor, has suffered a reversal of his sexual orientation discrimination verdict against New York University Medical Center (NYUMC). A three-judge Appellate Term panel of the New York County Supreme Court, on September 10, reversed a civil court jury verdict that Taylor lost his job as NYUMC's director of external affairs because of anti-gay bias by Peter Ferrara, who became his supervisor just four months before he was discharged. If the jury verdict, adjusted somewhat by the trial judge, had stood, Taylor would have collected $1.6 million in damages.

Self-perception biggest predictor of gay men's health

A new study from the University of Minnesota has found that the more gay men experience internalized homonegativity (a negative attitude about being gay), the more likely they are to have poor mental and sexual health, according to Science Daily. The study showed that self-perception is what affects gay men's health -- not simply being gay. "In all cases, internalized homonegativity, not being homosexual, predicted poorer mental health (particularly increased depression) and worse sexual health," reports Science Daily. The findings appear in the September issue of the Journal of Homosexuality. "This study is a missing link in our understanding of the relationship between sexuality and health," said Simon Rosser, a researcher at Minnesota's School of Public Health and the lead investigator of the study. "It provides new evidence that negative attitudes toward homosexuality, not homosexuality itself, are associated with both poorer mental and sexual health outcomes seen in sexual minorities. Conversely, positive attitudes toward homosexuality are associated with better mental and sexual health.

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden to address LGBT group, Human Rights Commission

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden will be the featured speaker at a fundraising event next month for the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. The Twelfth Annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner will be held in Washington on October 4th. HRC endorsed the Democratic presidential ticket in June and took an active role at the Democratic National Committee Convention in Denver. Biden has consistently scored among the highest in Congress on LGBT rights, HRC said in announcing Biden’s appearance at the dinner. “I’m honored to participate in this event. Discrimination has no place in this country and I am proud to stand with HRC in the fight to end it,” Biden said in a statement released by the HRC. “Barack Obama and I will bring the change we need in Washington. The Bush Administration’s policies have been disastrous for the LGBT community and a McCain administration would just mean four more years of the same.” Biden’s record in Congress includes opposing a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; favoring a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; and expanding existing hate crimes law to include the LGBT community.

The government of India to scrap the 148-year-old law that criminalizes gay sex?

In 96 hours, the government might finally say it will scrap a 148-year-old law dating from British times, which criminalizes gay sex. It has taken eight long years and much debate for India to get to the stage of even thinking seriously about decriminalizing homosexuality. If Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code were repealed, it would be a giant leap forward for AIDS prevention in a country with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Gay rights activists say the delay in repealing the law is criminal. On Thursday, the government will argue its case in the Delhi High Court.

John Barrowman: 'It's OK for men to cheat'

John Barrowman has revealed that he believes it is acceptable for men to cheat on each other. The Torchwood star said that men's attitudes towards fidelity are different and homosexual relationships are more relaxed. "When a guy strays and ends up with someone else, it's not a big deal... Sex for men is external. I think it's hard for women to realise this," he remarked. "We saw each other casually for about a year, but before it got serious I had my fair share of wham-bam," he said. Barrowman admitted that he continued to sleep around after meeting civil partner Scott Gill, despite knowing instantly that he was "the one". The pair have been together for 15 years.

The populations of the world's common birds are declining as a result of continued habitat loss

The survey by BirdLife International found that 45% of Europe's common birds had seen numbers fall, as had more than 80% of Australia's wading species. The study's authors said governments were failing to fund their promises to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. In Europe, an analysis of 124 species over a 26-year period revealed that 56 species had declined in 20 countries. Farmland birds were worst affected, with the number of European turtle-doves (Streptopelia turtur) falling by 79%. In Africa, birds of prey were experiencing "widespread decline" outside of protected areas. While in Asia, 62% of the continent's migratory water bird species were "declining or already extinct". The State of the World's Birds 2008 report, the first update since 2004, found that common species - ones considered to be familiar in people's everyday lives - were declining in all parts of the world. The new findings will be presented at the group's World Conference in Argentina.

African-American LGBT group honors Congressional Black Caucus

The National Black Justice Coalition will honor Congressional Black Caucus members who are founders of the LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress on Monday. The LGBT Equality Caucus is the first Congressional Caucus to advance the rights of equality, repealing discriminatory laws, and educating lawmakers on gay issues. “We are proud to have members of the Congressional Black Caucus stand up for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as we try to move an inclusive and progressive civil rights agenda forward for Black LGBT people of color,” said H. Alexander Robinson, executive director of NBJC, the nation’s largest African-American gay group. The five members are Reps. Yvette Clarke (NY), Keith Ellison (MN), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), and Barbara Lee (CA) - all Democrats.

Rufus Wainwright to perform at recovery rally

On September 28 thousands of people in alcohol and drug recovery programs are expected to form a human chain across the Brooklyn Bridge before marching to New York City Hall and hearing a performance by gay musician Rufus Wainwright. The Recovery Rally is being organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence with the purpose of spreading the message that addiction is treatable and recovery possible. The rally is part of the Recovery Project, a a multiyear initiative of the A&E Network -- which broadcasts the reality show Intervention -- to address addiction. After the walk across the bridge, rally participants will gather at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan where they will be greeted by politicians and celebrities. Wainwright -- who speaks openly about his former addiction to crystal methamphetamine -- will cap the day's event with a solo performance.

Almost 13,000 babies in hospital after drinking tainted milk

Almost 13,000 infants in China have been taken to hospital after falling ill from drinking tainted milk powder, the health ministry said Sunday, according to state media. The ministry said in a briefing on the crisis that the total number of babies admitted to hospital after drinking poisoned formula was now 12,892, according to Xinhua news agency. Four babies have died after drinking milk powder contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical, according to government statements, in the latest in a string of health scandals to tarnish Chinese-made goods. There were 104 cases in which babies showed serious symptoms, said the ministry, and 1,579 babies had been cured and left hospital, Xinhua said.

Dolly Parton 'sick of death claims'

Dolly Parton has revealed that she has had enough of rumours that she has died. A major TV news channel recently stated that the country star had passed away after suffering a heart attack in her sleep. Parton said that she was asleep when the report was aired, but her husband woke her up and told her to let her family know that she was fine. She said: "I was at the lake house with my husband and it came across Fox News that I had died of a heart attack. My husband comes and wakes me up saying, 'Wake up! You're dead! You need to call some people to let them know its not so!'" The singer added that she has no idea where reports of her demise originate, but she would like them to stop. "I think it's terrible that people would stoop so low that they'd scare people. They called my family back home - my brothers and sisters - and everybody was calling, some thinking it was true. There's some sick people out there and I ain't one of them," she said.

Barack Obama would try and seek a consensus and won’t repeal ‘DADT’ on his own:

Democrat Barack Obama said if elected president he would not try to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on his own. Obama said in an interview to run in gay publications that he wants to work with military leaders to build a consensus on removing the ban on openly gay service members in the armed forces. He said that wouldn’t be accomplished by attaching a signing statement to a military spending bill, a process that President Bush has used to set other military policies. “I want to make sure that when we revert ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ it’s gone through a process and we’ve built a consensus or at least a clarity of what my expectations are so that it works. My first obligation as the president is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and that our military is functioning effectively,” Obama said. “Although I have consistently said I would repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be.” READ MORE

Spain to exhume executed gay poet’s body

Federico Garcia Lorca's family won’t oppose the opening of a mass grave where his body is believed to have been dumped after Franco supporters allegedly executed the poet and playwright at the outbreak of Spain’s Civil War, a leading daily said Thursday. We will not oppose it,” Laura Garcia Loca, the poet’s niece, was quoted as saying by El Pais. “Although we would prefer it weren’t done, we respect the wishes of the other parties involved.” No one at the Federico Garcia Lorca Foundation was immediately available to comment, but the center said it would release a statement later in the day. Last week, relatives of two other men believed to be buried in the same grave asked National Court judge Baltasar Garzon to order the grave opened. The request is part of a surging nationwide movement to give proper burial to the thousands of people known to have been killed by supporters of late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco and buried in mass graves. But Lorca's family have long preferred to let the matter rest, leaving one of the 1936-39 war’s most intriguing mysteries - the whereabouts of the poet’s body - unresolved. Investigations indicate the poet, who was open about his homosexuality, was shot along with a school teacher named Dioscoro Galindo Gonzalez and two labor union activists - Francisco Galadi and Juan Arcolla - on Aug. 18, 1936, near the Viznar mountain gorge in his native province of Granada in the south.