Monday, December 08, 2008

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

Canada's Liberal party leader Stephane Dion resigns, interim leader will be chosen December 17th

(Ottawa, Canada) The Liberal Party executive announced early Tuesday morning that it had approved a process to appoint an interim Liberal leader, and that the new leader would be chosen as early as next week. Party president Doug Ferguson announced the national executive approved a "consultative process" by which it will appoint the next leader. The announcement follows the resignation of Stephane Dion, who stepped down after mounting pressure from within the party as the spectre of a Liberal-led coalition government loomed. 'I will offer my unconditional and enthusiastic support to my successor in the same way I have always supported the leaders of our great party. I will work under the next leader’s direction with all my energy in order to give Canada a better government,' Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said in a statement Monday. "At this critical time in our country's history, the national executive, in consultation with caucus, is now tasked by our party's constitution with selecting an interim leader who will preside over a very volatile minority Parliament, and a possible general election," said Ferguson in a statement. Ferguson said the new leader would be chosen as early as Dec. 17. READ MORE

UPDATE (Tuesday, December 9, 2008 @ 10:10 am)
Bob Rae permanently drops out of the Liberal Party leadership race



Brazil police investigate possible serial killings of 13 gay men in last 2 years
(Sao Paulo, Brazil) Brazilian police are investigating whether a possible serial killer is behind the murders of more than a dozen gay men in a park in suburban Sao Paulo. Police chief Paulo Fernando Fortunato tells the O Globo newspaper that 13 gay men were killed there between February 2007 and August 2008. He says police are not sure whether a single person is responsible. Undercover police are now patrolling the park at night. Fortunato says he went public with the investigation to help warn people of the danger. His comments were published Monday. Requests for police comment were not immediately answered.

Teen in Lawrence King murder ruled competent to stand trial

(Oxnard, California) The 14-year old boy accused of killing openly gay teen Larry King has been found competent to stand trial. Judge Kevin McGee made the determination Monday after hearing from a court appointed psychiatrist and a psychologist. Brandon McInerney (pictured) is charged with murder as a hate crime and is being tried as an adult. If convicted he could be sentenced to 51 years to life. His attorneys sought to have the youth declared developmentally incapable of standing trial. If, McInerney had been found not competent he would be sent to a mental health facility - likely Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino - where he would be treated and held until he was deemed able to stand trial. McGee ordered a preliminary hearing to begin January 26. READ MORE

Gay marriage goes before Iowa Supreme Court
(Des Moines, Iowa) The Iowa Supreme Court this week will hear arguments in a case challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Both sides on the marriage issue will be given 30 minutes on Tuesday to make their arguments. It is the first state Supreme Court to hear a same-sex marriage case since California voters last month overturned a high court ruling that struck down that state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The Iowa case centers around a state appeal of a ruling by a Polk County judge that struck down a state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Six same-sex Iowa couples went to court in 2005 after the Polk County recorder denied them marriage licenses. Last year County Judge Robert Hanson ruled that the law violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.Less than two hours after the the ruling, two Des Moines men applied for a marriage license, found a judge to waive the waiting period, and were married. Hanson then stayed his ruling until the state could appeal it to the Iowa Supreme Court. The marriage of Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan remains the only legal same-sex marriage in the state. Lambda Legal, which represents the six couples said it is cautiously optimistic the Supreme Court will uphold Hanson’s ruling. Lambda attorney Camilla Taylor noted that the Iowa court traditionally has led the nation on civil rights issues, pointing out that the Iowa justices struck down a ban on interracial marriage more than a century before the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional. READ MORE

Nobel winner forsees end to the transmission of AIDS

A French scientist who shared this year's Nobel prize for medicine said on Saturday he believed the transmission of AIDS could be eliminated within years. Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, told a news conference together with this year's other winners for medicine that halting the transmission of AIDS would make it a disease much like others. Our job, of course, is to find complementary treatment to eradicate the infection. I think it's not impossible to do it within a few years," Montagnier said. "So I hope to see in my lifetime the eradication of, not the AIDS epidemic, but at least the infection," the 76-year-old said. "This could be achieved." Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, of the Institut Pasteur, shared half of the 2008 prize for discovering the virus that has killed 25 million people since the early 1980s. There is no cure for AIDS, which infects an estimated 33 million globally, but cocktails of drugs can control the virus and keep patients healthy. There is no vaccine either, although researchers are trying to find vaccines that either prevent infection or would control the virus so that patients are less likely to transmit it - a so-called therapeutic vaccine. Montagnier said he hoped such a therapeutic vaccine could be developed within about four to five years, noting he and colleagues had already been working on this for a decade.

Calling in 'gay' to work is latest form of protest
(San Francisco) Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to "call in gay" Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it's wise to encourage skipping work given the nation's economic distress. Organizers of "Day Without a Gay" — scheduled to coincide with International Human Rights Day and modeled after similar work stoppages by Latino immigrants — also are encouraging people to perform volunteer work and refrain from spending money. Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer, dreamed up the idea with his boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, after reading online that a few angry gay-rights activists were calling for a daylong strike to protest California voters' passage last month of Proposition 8, which reversed this year's state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. Hetherington said he's been getting 100 e-mails an hour from people looking for volunteer opportunities, and that his "Day Without a Gay" Web site has gotten 100,000 hits since mid-November. The couple thought it would be more effective and less divisive if people were asked to perform community service instead of staying home with their wallets shut. Dozens of nonprofit agencies, from the National Women's Law Center in Washington to a Methodist church in Fresno collecting food for the homeless, have posted opportunities for volunteers on the couple's Web site. "We are all for a boycott if that is what brings about a sense of community for people," said Hetherington, 30, who plans to spend Wednesday volunteering at an inner-city school. "You can take away from the economy and give back in other ways."READ MORE

White House cool toward U.S. automaker bail-out plan

The White House has given a cool initial reaction to a plan by Democrats in Congress for a $15 billion bail-out of the "Big Three" US car firms. Aides to President George W Bush said the plan did not give enough assurance that only viable companies would get longer-term government help. Under the proposal, the government is expected to take non-voting shares in General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Also expected is the appointment of a "Car Tsar" to oversee the money. Although the White House did not give its immediate approval to the plan, analysts say an agreement could be signed into law by the end of the week. The bosses of General Motors (GM), Ford and Chrysler have all appeared before Congress in recent weeks to say that without financial help they risked collapse.

O.J. Simpson will begin serving 9 to 33 year prison sentence
O.J. Simpson was transferred Monday from jail to a Nevada state prison to begin serving nine to 33 years for his felony convictions in a gunpoint confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers, a state corrections official said. Simpson, 61, arrived at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Suzanne Pardee said. Simpson trial co-defendant Clarence (C.J.) Stewart remained Monday at the Clark County Detention Center, jail records showed. Stewart, 54, received 7½ to 27 years in prison when he and Simpson were sentenced Friday on 10 charges by Judge Jackie Glass in Las Vegas. A Clark County District Court jury found the two men guilty Oct. 3 of 12 charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and conspiracy in the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation. The judge dismissed two felony coercion charges at sentencing. Simpson, Stewart and four former co-defendants were accused of robbing two memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a cramped room at the Palace Station casino hotel.

Eli Stone's Jonny Lee Miller is a new dad

Jonny Lee Miller of TV's Eli Stone and his wife, actress Michele Hicks, have welcomed a son, his rep confirms exclusively to PEOPLE. Buster Timothy Miller was born Wednesday in Los Angeles, weighing in at 9 lbs. Miller, 36, and Hicks, 35, who has appeared on The Shield, were married earlier this year. This is their first child.

Soap opera's gay love scene ruled indecent

(New Zealand) A complaint about a gay love scene on popular local soap Shortland Street has been upheld by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The contentious episode featured asexual receptionist Gerald (pictured) in a sexual encounter with male friend Lindsay. They were undressing and kissing. Gerald was wearing his underwear, while Lindsay was topless but wore pants. The Authority described the scene in a statement issued this morning: "The two characters were shown lying in bed talking, covered up to their bare chests by blankets. Lindsay went under the blankets and Gerald nervously asked him 'where are you going?'. Lindsay popped his head back up and replied 'it’s a surprise' before descending back under but came back up when a ticklish Gerald began giggling. After Lindsay went back under the blankets, Gerald moved suddenly and accidentally hit Lindsay in the face with his knee, giving him a bloody nose." The episode was found to be a breach of good taste, decency and children's interests as specified in the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They made it clear that its findings had nothing to do with the fact that the scene involved two men, saying "the scene would have been equally inappropriate if it had involved a heterosexual couple". This is the first time that a complaint against Shortland Street has been upheld by the BSA.

United States Armed Forces seeking to recruit foreign nationals - as long as they are straight
America's military leaders have approved a one-year pilot programme that aims to recruit up to 1,000 foreign nationals to plug chronic staff shortages. The Defence Department has identified a shortage of doctors, nurses and linguists and will encourage people who are in the US on student and temporary work visas and those granted refugee or political asylum to sign up. The Pentagon said there are shortages of doctors, nurses and linguists. At least 60 Arab linguists have been dismissed from the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation in recent years. Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as a major factor in the US government's failure to thwart the September 11 attacks. The independent September 11 commission came to the same conclusion. The ban on openly gay, bisexual or lesbian people serving in the US Armed Forces, known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," came into force in 1993. If army personnel are discovered to be LGB then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask military personnel about their sexual orientation. A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office reported that the Pentagon had fired 322 language specialists who "had skills in a foreign language that Department of Defence had considered to be especially important." READ MORE

The life and mysterious death of Sunny von Bülow
Long before Paris Hilton, there was Sunny von Bülow: rich, blond, a fixture of upper-crust New York and Newport, the very definition of a glamorous 1950s socialite. And with her death Dec. 6 after nearly 28 years in a persistent vegetative state – a coma-like condition her husband was accused of causing with a shot of insulin intended to kill her – von Bülow, 76, will remain forever an enigma. Born Martha Sharp Crawford – and nicknamed “Sunny” for her cheerful disposition – Bülow inherited an estimated $75 million fortune from her father, energy magnate George Crawford. With a beauty that earned comparisons to Grace Kelly and a party budget seemingly without limit, she become one of the most sought-after women in New York City. An Austrian prince, Alfred von Auersperg, caught her eye while von Bülow was traveling with her mother in Europe at age 24. They married and had a daughter, Ala, and a son, Alexander, before divorcing in 1965. A year later, Sunny wed Claus von Bülow, a Danish businessman who ran in the same circles as oil billionaire J. Paul Getty. They had their own daughter, Cosima, but it wasn’t long before their rocky union led to scandal. READ MORE

Cate Blanchett gets star on Walk of Fame
Cate Blanchett has been given a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Australian actress joked with crowds as she unveiled the 2,376th name on the footpath, reports PA. "Location, location, location," she said. "I thought I'd be outside the men's urinals like five miles from here but I'm outside the Egyptian Theatre which is incredible to me. "They've even spelled my name right, thank you." The Oscar winner said it was a bitter-sweet moment as she would have liked her father to be there. "I'm not a sentimental girl but I'm really sad today. Happy and sad that my father couldn't be here to see this because I think this is a massive moment. I think it's incredible and I hope he would be very proud if he could see me standing here," she said.

New York Times, Tribune Company and NBC announce financial problems amidst recession
Three major media companies all revealed grim news Monday. The Tribune Company announced it would be seeking bankruptcy protection: Media conglomerate Tribune Co., smothered by $13 billion in debt and a drop-off in advertising, on Monday became the first major newspaper publisher to seek bankruptcy protection since the Internet sent the industry into a tailspin.Most of the company's debt comes from the complex transaction in which the company was taken private, with employee ownership, by real estate mogul Sam Zell last year. Although Tribune's next major debt payment isn't due until June, the company has been in danger of missing financial targets set by its lenders.ngement, said James M. Follo, the Times Company's chief financial officer. READ MORE

Trial begins for Chicago cops accused of beating gay man
(Chicago, Illinois) Jury selection began in a federal lawsuit against two Chicago police officers accused of beating a gay man. Alexander Ruppert (pictured) claims that officers Vincent Torres and Kent Pemberton beat him and denied him his civil rights solely because of his sexuality in a 2006 altercation. Ruppert, 37, says he was beaten nearly unconscious while the cops hurled anti-gay remarks at him and then placed him in a holding cell for two days without food or water. The lawsuit also names the City of Chicago as a defendant. The lawsuit claims Ruppert was removed by the two officers from the Uptown Lounge following a disturbance and placed in a squad car. He was not initially charged with any offense and was not handcuffed, court papers say. The suit says that Ruppert then was driven to deserted area behind a theater where he was beaten while the officers called him a “faggot” and other derogatory remarks. The cops allegedly stopped the beating when Ruppert told them he had AIDS. Ruppert was then taken to an area hospital where he received 16 stitches for injuries to his face and head. The lawsuit says that following the hospital visit, he was taken to the Foster Avenue police station and held for 48 hours without food or water. The court papers say that Ruppert was forced to drink from a toilet. He was charged with resisting arrest and aggravated battery against a police officer, and held for a week in the Cook County Jail, until he could make a $50,000 bond. The felony charges were dropped after Ruppert agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Oscar Wilde's lost letters and manuscripts discovered

Lost for 50 years, nine manuscripts and four letters written by legendary writer Oscar Wilde have been found and donated to the Morgan Library in New York. Among the pieces discovered was the earliest surviving letter from Wilde to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. The Independent newspaper reports the letter was most likely written in late 1892; it documents Wilde's yearning for Douglas, a college undergraduate whom Wilde called Bosie. Wilde writes, "Dearest Bosie, I am so glad you are better and that you like the little card case [given to Bosie for his 22nd birthday]. Oxford is quite uncomfortable in winter. I go to Paris next, or in the next 10 days or so ... I should awfully like to go away with you somewhere where it is hot ... I am terribly busy in town ... If the poem I will write tomorrow, Oscar." Bosie destroyed many of Wilde's letters (most of the surviving letters can be found at the Clark Library at the University of California, Los Angeles). The found volume belonged to Bosie's father, the ninth Marquess of Queensberry, whose fury over his son's relationship with Wilde led to the eventual conviction of Wilde for "gross indecency." The 11th Marquess of Queensbury, the grandson of the ninth, found the Wilde papers, which include a letter Wilde wrote to a young man about his 1888 collection of stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales.

Could Thomas Jefferson's DNA trail reveal Middle-Eastern origins?
DNA testing carried out by University of Leicester geneticists and funded by The Wellcome Trust has thrown new light on the ancestry of one of the USA's most revered figures, the third President, Thomas Jefferson. Almost 10 years ago, the University of Leicester team, led by Professor Mark Jobling, together with international collaborators, showed that Thomas Jefferson had fathered at least one of the sons of Sally Hemings, a slave of Jefferson's. The work was done using the Y chromosome, a male-specific part of our DNA that passes down from father to son. Jefferson carried a very unusual Y chromosome type, which helped to strengthen the evidence in the historical paternity case. Now, new techniques have been brought to bear on Jefferson's Y chromosome, in a study reported in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The presidential chromosome turns out to belong to a rare class called 'K2', which is found at its highest frequency in the Middle East and Eastern Africa, including Oman, Somalia and Iraq. Its closest match was in a man from Egypt. Could this mean that the President had recent ancestry in the Middle East? READ MORE

Trevor Project annual holiday fund-raiser another big success!

California’s passage of the same-sex marriage ban Proposition 8 was a recurring theme running through Cracked Xmas 11, the annual holiday fund-raiser for the teen help line the Trevor Project. Held at Los Angeles’s Wiltern Theater, the December 7 event brought thousands out for what the Trevor Project describes as its annual “evening of irreverent comedy, music, and awards.” One of the charity’s main fund-raisers, Cracked Xmas helps the Trevor Project maintain its 24-7 crisis and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youths. Since its inception in 1998, Trevor has taken over 100,000 phone calls.
After opening the show with a performance from the traveling production of the Tony Award–winning Spring Awakening, comedian Wanda Sykes was introduced by Kath & Kim stars Selma Blair and Mikey Day. Sykes, who recently came out at a post-election Prop. 8 protest in Las Vegas, got a standing ovation when she came onstage. “It’s like you’ve never seen a black lesbian before,” Sykes quipped. Sykes ridiculed the arguments put forth by Prop. 8 supporters that banning same-sex marriage was necessary to protect traditional marriage. READ MORE