Sunday, November 23, 2008

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

'Kick a Ginger' tumult shows anti-bullying effort not working

(Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada) Another story of abuse has emerged in British Columbia as a result of a Facebook campaign to kick redheads — and this time it was a teacher's own brother who was targeted. A Facebook group, declaring Nov. 20 as "Kick a Ginger Day," encouraged people to kick their redheaded peers. The Facebook group was likely inspired by South Park, a satirical, animated TV show that aired an episode dealing with prejudice, focusing on one character's hateful attitude toward redheads. Prince Rupert Secondary School teacher Tulani Ackerman told CBC News her younger brother, who goes to high school in the Kootenays, was kicked in the groin by a number of students and fled the school out of fear. "My mother stated that he had been a victim to it, and that he felt so unsafe in his school because kids were kicking him that he left school and that he felt so unsafe going out that night without somebody with him," Ackerman said. She said the incident shows that anti-bullying messages aren't getting through to some kids. "It's as though they're in that mob mentality where they would not do it if they were by themselves," Ackerman said. "They get caught up in the energy of it and they just move with it. The scary thing about when kids get caught up in the movement of something is they have no idea of the impact on that child that has had to go home because they've been kicked." She and her class have decided to dye their hair red on Nov. 27, a week to the day of the event, to denounce the violence.

"Twilight" sinks its teeth into a $70 million blockbuster debut!

Twilight, director Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance novel, easily won the weekend box office with a $70.6 mil debut gross, according to Sunday's estimates. Fellow freshman flick Bolt and hefty holdover Quantum of Solace, meanwhile, trailed far behind. That huge premiere number represents achievements on many levels for Twilight. It's the top debut ever for a film directed by one woman (Mimi Leder's Deep Impact banked $41.2 mil on its initial weekend 10 years ago). It's the 29th best first-weekend bow of all time (falling just shy of 300's $70.9 mil and coming in just ahead of Transformers' $70.5 mil). It's by far the biggest opening yet for fledgling studio Summit, whose previous best bow was Never Back Down's $8.6 mil back in March. It stands as the fourth biggest premiere of the year -- better than Quantum of Solace's $67.5 mil opening, better than WALL-E's $63.1 mil, better than Hancock's $62.6 mil, to name a few.

eHarmony settles suit, agrees to offer same-sex services

Three years after a New Jersey resident filed a discrimination suit against Web-based matchmaking service, the online dating portal has settled out of court and agreed to offer same-sex matchmaking services to members. Garden State resident Eric McKinley filed suit against the California-based company in 2005. As part of the settlement, eHarmony agrees to provide new services for members identifying themselves as "male seeking a male" or "female seeking a female" by March 2009. eHarmony did reserve the right to provide a disclaimer -- that its compatibility-based matching system was developed solely on the basis of researched focused on married heterosexual couples. "I applaud the decision of eHarmony to settle this case and extend its matching services to those seeking same-sex relationships," New Jersey Division on Civil Rights director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo said in a statement Wednesday. eHarmony was one of a few Web-based dating holdouts that had not ventured into the world of offering same-sex dating services. Last year Time magazine named eHarmony one of the five websites to avoid, noting, among other things, its discrimination against gay people. READ MORE

Former cop pleads not guilty in beating of Duanna Johnson

A retired Memphis, Tenn., policeman entered a not-guilty plea Wednesday on charges that he violated the civil rights of a transgender prostitution suspect in a beating that was caught on tape, reports the Associated Press. The indictment accuses the officer, Bridges McRae, 28, of using excessive force during the intake of Duanna Johnson (pictured) at the Shelby County Jail in February. The video shows McRae repeatedly hitting Johnson, a trans woman, with his fists and handcuffs. McRae and his former partner, James Swain, 25, were both fired after the recording aired on local TV stations and online in June. After McRae pleaded not guilty, he was released on bail and no trial date has been set. If he is convicted of violating Johnson's civil rights while in a position of authority, McRae faces up to a 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. Johnson was fatally shot in Memphis earlier this month, and the slaying is still being investigated

Mark Doty wins National Book Award for poetry

An acclaimed gay writer just got more acclaimed. Mark Doty's Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems won the National Book Award for poetry at an awards presentation Wednesday night in New York City. "Elegant, plain-spoken, and unflinching, Mark Doty's poems in Fire to Fire gently invite us to share their ferocious compassion," says a blurb on the website of the National Book Foundation, the organization behind the National Book Awards. "With their praise for the world and their fierce accusation, their defiance and applause, they combine grief and glory in a music of crazy excelsis. In this generous retrospective volume a gifted young poet has become a master." Fire to Fire is a collection of Doty's work from 20 years and seven books of poetry, and it includes new poems as well. The pieces touch on moral ambiguity, art, and sensuality. Doty -- who splits his time between Provincetown, Mass., and Texas, where he teaches at the University of Houston -- has received much praise for his poems as well as memoirs, which include titles like Firebird, Still Life With Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy, and Dog Years. Doty has been honored with the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, and the T.S. Eliot Prize.

BBC Radio documentary will chart how AIDS changed America

A special documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day has been commissioned by BBC Radio 2. How AIDS Changed America will be presented by actor Paul Michael Glaser (pictured), of Starsky and Hutch fame, and will air on BBC Radio 2 at 10.30pm on December 2nd. Mr Glaser, whose wife and daughter died of an AIDS-related illness after his wife contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, will look back at nearly three decades of pain, prejudice and progress in the American peoples' struggle with the virus. READ MORE

Two charged with murdering gay teen, Michael Causer

Two teenagers denied the murder of Michael Causer (pictured) when they appeared at Liverpool Crown Court this morning. James O’Connor from Halton and Gavin Alker from Runcorn, both 19, had previously been charged with causing grevious bodily harm to Mr Causer, who was 18 and from Huyton. The pair's trial will begin on January 26th. 18 year old Michael Binstead from Prescot has been charged with perverting the course of justice. O’Connor and Binstead were granted conditional bail while Alker was remanded in custody. Michael Causer was attacked on 25th July this year. Despite brain surgery, he died in hospital on Saturday 2nd August.

  • Subway franchisee retracts Yes on 8 gift
  • JFK anniversary marked at Dallas shooting site
  • 'Controversial' George Harrison interview comes to light
  • Chicago's proposed LGBT high school shelved
  • Anger, frustration over shelving of Chicago gay school
  • ABC axes Sexy Money, Daisies, and Eli Stone
  • 100 vehicles vandalized with homophobic, racial slurs
  • Hillary Clinton rumored to accept secretary of state post
  • Homophobic crime on the rise in Amsterdam
  • Obama taps ex-Senate chief to head health agency
  • Thai marchers move on parliament in "final battle"
  • California State Supreme Court rejoins Prop. 8 fight
  • Canadian University enforces offensive-language ban
  • 18,000 California gay marriages in limbo until March at earliest

    • Michael Jackson 'reaches out-of-court deal'

      Michael Jackson reached an out-of-court settlement with an Arab sheikh over a multi-million pound court action, a spokeswoman said. The pop superstar was expected to appear at the High Court in London on Monday to give evidence in a case against the King of Bahrain's son, Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who claimed the singer owed him £4.7 million. But spokeswoman Celena Aponte, of The Outside Organisation Ltd, said: "As Mr Jackson was about to board his plane to London, he was advised by his legal team to postpone his travels since the parties had concluded a settlement in principle. Therefore, he will not be attending court on Monday."

      Vermont Governor would reject marriage bill

      Vermont governor Jim Douglas would oppose a law granting same-sex marriages, according to the Associated Press. The Republican governor said Thursday that the state's "current civil union law is sufficient." State senator John Campbell, who said he would introduce the bill during the legislature's next session, said it won't gain much traction without the governor's backing. Instead, the governor said, he would rather the legislature concentrate on the state's fiscal shortfalls. Vermont has accrued a $36.8 million revenue shortfall, with a $27 million request for new spending. However, Campbell and Vermont's Freedom to Marry Task Force's Beth Robinson say that Douglas is asserting that the legislature can only take on one issue at a time. "The notion that working on civil rights takes away from these other issues really is a false one," Robinson told the Associated Press.

      Daniel Radcliffe's 'Equus' hit by poor sales

      Daniel Radcliffe's Broadway show Equus has been hit by poor ticket sales, US reports say. The Harry Potter actor made his Broadway debut in the Peter Shaffer play in September, with stars including Kathleen Turner and Glenn Close turning out for the opening night. However, audiences have since slumped and just over 50% of tickets are now being sold per performance. The West End run of the show in 2007 was a sell-out, with Radcliffe's performance winning him the Newcomer Of The Year gong at the Whatsonstage Theatregoers's Choice Awards.

      A Fortune 500 take on Prop. 8

      The old saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining. And on November 5, the day after California voters stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry, so many around the country were searching for one. It is easy to get bogged down with all the negative news about California’s Proposition 8 -- the continuing bias against loving, committed gay and lesbian couples among communities of faith, who with breathtaking efficiency raised millions of dollars to enshrine discrimination into the Golden State's constitution; the now-discredited claims that people of color were the reason for the ban’s passage; and the lasting ramifications of those premature, divisive, and ultimately false assertions. READ MORE

    • Obama posts an eight-point LGBT civil rights plan
    • Police investigate death threat against gay ally, John Campbell
    • Michigan hate crime law would include LGBT
    • Film Fest director's resignation over Prop. 8 not accepted
    • Lesbian mom fired from Catholic school
    • Vermont lawmaker to introduce gay marriage bill
    • A letter to my brother, Newt Gingrich, by Candace Gingrich
    • Maine Catholics told to oppose gay marriage
    • Activists seek to tie ‘Milk’ to a campaign for gay rights
    • Prop. 8 boycott talk spreads to movies and more
    • California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass: No on 8 "bypassed Black LGBT Leadership"

      • NEW Interview: Politics and progress with Patti LaBelle

        The last time girl-group Labelle dropped an album, the thought of a black president or same-sex marriage seemed as “far-out” as the band’s disco-spacewoman suits and fusion of disco, rock, and soul. It was 1976, to be exact, and even though Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, and Patti LaBelle continued to put out their own work, 2008's Back to Now is their first full-length effort since Elton John came out of the closet. Always a fan of her own gay following, we caught up with Miss Patti, fresh off of a cross-country red-eye flight, and did some much-needed dishing about the new album, Barack Obama, and her pal Jennifer Hudson. READ MORE

        Ireland's gays reveal isolation and discrimination: study

        A new study of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the West of Ireland has found that nearly 70% of them have suffered some form of discrimination. 90% felt isolated at times because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The report was commissioned by LGBT West - a consortium of statutory and voluntary service providers in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, including county councils, rural and city partnership companies and lesbian and gay groups. 50% of those who had experienced discrimination were verbally abused and 20% had been physically attacked. "The extent and nature of discrimination reported by respondents is of extreme concern," the report said. "The impacts of discrimination can range from isolation and social exclusion to psychological distress, unemployment, poverty and a poor quality of life." Half of respondents said their health care provider assumed they are heterosexuals. READ MORE

        Gay novelist, Tom Rob Smith's debut, Child 44, nominated for prestigious book award

        The acclaimed thriller Child 44 has been nominated for a top award for the 2008 Costa First Novel Award. Tom Rob Smith's masterful book, set against the bleak backdrop of 1950s Russia, follows respected secret policeman Leo Demidov and his wife Raisa. His first novel, it caused a fierce bidding war at the London Book Fair. Child 44 follows Leo as he struggles to track down a child-murdering serial killer whilst facing the Soviet system that refuses to believe crime exists unless committed by so-called 'deviants.' In the poverty-stricken era of Stalin's cruel regime, homeless drunks and homosexuals are arrested for non-existent offences while paranoid citizens are pressured into denouncing suspected criminals, including friends and family members. Since the release of Child 44 in February, Smith has been thrust rather rapidly into the limelight of the literary world. The 29-year-old was nominated for the Man Booker, one of the most prestigious prizes in literature, earlier this year. READ MORE

        Scientists discover 21st century plague

        Bacteria that can cause serious heart disease in humans are being spread by rat fleas, sparking concern that the infections could become a bigger problem in humans. Research published in the December issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology suggests that brown rats, the biggest and most common rats in Europe, may now be carrying the bacteria. Since the early 1990s, more than 20 species of Bartonella bacteria have been discovered. They are considered to be emerging zoonotic pathogens, because they can cause serious illness in humans worldwide from heart disease to infection of the spleen and nervous system. "A new species called Bartonella rochalimae was recently discovered in a patient with an enlarged spleen who had travelled to South America," said Professor Chao-Chin Chang from the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan. "This event raised concern that it could be a newly emerged zoonotic pathogen. Therefore, we decided to investigate further to understand if rodents living close to human environment could carry this bacteria."

        Gay man murdered sitting in car

        (Syracuse, New York) A 20-year-old man is charged with the unprovoked murder of a Syracuse man in what police say was a hate crime. Moses Cannon, 20 (pictured), was sitting in a car with his brother Mark, 18, about to enter a party they had been invited to by an acquaintance. Before they could get out of the vehicle, guests at the party came outside the house and began yelling homophobic epithets at them. Syracuse Police Chief Gary Miguel said that one of the guests, Dwight DeLee, went into the residence and returned with a 22-caliber rifle. Miguel said DeLee then put the rifle to the driver’s side window of that vehicle and fired one round. “And that one round strikes Mark Cannon in the arm, and continues on and strikes Moses Cannon in the chest area,” Miguel told local cable news station News 10. According to Miguel, DeLee fired at the brothers because Moses Cannon was gay. “Our suspect took a rifle and shot and killed this person, wounding also his brother, for the sole reason that he didn’t care for the sexual preference of our victim. And isn’t that sad?” Miguel told the station. READ MORE

        How global warming may affect U.S. beaches, coastline

        Several scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are finding that sea level rise will have different consequences in different places but that they will be profound on virtually all coastlines. Land in some areas of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States will simply be underwater. On the West Coast, with its different topography and different climate regimes, problems will likely play out differently. The scientists’ most recent conclusions, even when conservative scenarios are involved, suggest that coastal development, popular beaches, vital estuaries, and even California’s supply of fresh water could be severely impacted by a combination of natural and human-made forces. Scripps climate scientists often consider changes in average conditions over many years but, in this case, it’s the extremes that have them worried. A global sea level rise that makes gentle summer surf lap at a beachgoer’s knees rather than his or her ankles is one thing. But when coupled with energetic winter El NiƱo-fueled storms and high tides, elevated water levels would have dramatic consequences. The result could transform the appearance of the beaches at the heart of California’s allure. “As sea level goes up, some beaches are going to shrink,” said Scripps oceanographer Peter Bromirski. “Some will probably disappear.” READ MORE

        James Franco takes on another gay role, playing Allen Ginsberg

        James Franco is to play homosexual poet Allen Ginsberg in new movie Howl. The picture marks the second consecutive gay role for the actor after he played Scott Smith, the longtime partner of gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, in Milk. However, Franco insisted that the sexuality of the characters he plays does not "make any difference to me". "Ginsberg has been one of my heroes, and this movie is just so important," he told the New York Daily News. "I'm playing him when he was in his late 20s, just after he went to Columbia. We work with the old pictures. He has hair, he doesn't have a beard and he's not huge." Howl is named after Ginsberg's most famous poem. The movie will focus on the 1957 obscenity trial caused by the piece.