Tuesday, September 08, 2009

News and Pop Culture

Trans issue makes front-page news in Manitoba, Canada

The Manitoba NDP government's refusal to fund sex reassignment surgeries has finally made headline news in the province's mainstream press. Earlier this month, the Winnipeg Sun ran a front-page story titled 'No cash for sex change'. Two days later, the Winnipeg Free Press followed it up with an article called 'Cover sex-reassignment surgery: activists'. Frances Ennis, a member of the Winnipeg Transgender Group, says the media's coverage was "generally favourable." She says she welcomes the attention. "I think one of the biggest problems in the trans community is that we want so much to blend into the (wider) community that we don't speak out. But if we're silent, no one will ever understand us." Ennis says she wasn't surprised last spring to learn that the NDP government had turned down the original proposal. "We're a poorly understood group of people," she says. Ennis paid $30,000 for her surgery last year. She says many people simply can't afford it, and become depressed. "They're so incapacitated they can't work," she says, "and that leads to a different burden on society." She also points out that female-to-male surgery costs twice as much. Read more at Xtra.ca.

Days of Our Lives actor, James Scott voted Adonis 2009
In a development that probably surprised no one, DAYS stud James Scott was voted as soaphunks.net's Adonis 2009 on Sept. 2, the third straight year voters have accorded him the title of the hottest man on soaps. Scott's third victory marked his most competitive yet, as he bested runner-up Jake Silbermann of ATWT by a 50.9% to 49.1% margin. A full breakdown of the 2009 contest results is featured here.

41 people from anti-gay and fascist groups arrested at Budapest Pride

After violent fascist attacks last year, this year's Budapest Pride proceeded peacefully. Two thousand people took part in the march on Saturday amid a massive police presence. Although the huge security detail prevented any anti-gay groups infiltrating the march, it also meant that onlookers and well-wishers were kept at least a block away. A two-metre steel fence was erected for the duration of the four kilometre parade route, which began in Heroes Square. Forty-one people from various anti-gay and fascist groups were arrested during clashes with police, some for carrying explosives. The majority were released the following day. (UK Pink News)

Lesbian photographer, Annie Leibovitz sued by fellow photographer

The bad news continues to pile on celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, who now faces a lawsuit by an Italian photographer claiming she used his shots without permission. Leibovitz is already facing massive debt and a default on a major loan which could see the loss of her entire picture collection as well as three homes. Now, she faces another legal dispute. Paolo Pizzetti is seeking a court order to stop pictures, which he alleges he took, from being used and wants $300,000 US for copyright infringement in addition to having the photos destroyed, according to BBC News. He says Leibovitz used photos that he had taken in Rome and Venice and passed them off as her own for a coffee company's 2009 calendar. A spokesperson for the New York City-based photographer had no comment on the matter. Read more at CBC.

Actress Patricia Mauceri: ‘I was fired for religious beliefs’

One Life to Live actress Patricia Mauceri says she was axed from the soap earlier this year because her religious beliefs were at odds with a planned gay storyline. The actress tells Fox News it wasn’t the gay plotline she objected to, but rather her character’s handling of the issue. A devout Christian, Mauceri says she objected to the way the writers wanted her character -- a deeply religious, Latina mother -- to react to her son coming out of the closet. Mauceri says it was those objections that got her fired -- she says her character would not have been accepting. "I did not object to being in a gay storyline,” Mauceri said in a statement. “I objected to speaking the truth of what that person, how that person would live and breathe and act in that storyline," she said. "And this goes against everything I am, my belief system, and what I know the character's belief system is aligned to." Read more at Advocate.

"Grand Theft Auto IV" Debuts "The Ballad of Gay Tony"

Rocktar Games releases the highly anticipated trailer for the latest game and fourth generation of the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise: "Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony". The title character is Anthony "Gay Tony" Prince, a Tom Ford-styled, pansexual crime lord and nightclub owner who tells henchman and game protagonist Luis Lopez: "I'm the only man in the history of this town with the best gay and straight clubs at the same time, and I'm about to lose everything!'"
Read more at Rod 2.0.

Joseph Kennedy won't run for his late uncle Ted Kennedy's Senate seat

Joseph Kennedy, the nephew of Edward Kennedy, said Monday he won't run for the Senate seat held by his late uncle. Joseph Kennedy, who is the eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy and a former six-term Congressman, said the best way for him to contribute to causes such as decent housing is by staying with Citizens Energy Corp., a non-profit firm that he founded to provide free heating oil to the poor. His decision now opens the door for three veteran Massachusetts congressmen — Representatives Michael Capuano, Edward Markey and John Tierney — who have said they are considering campaigns but would not run against a member of the Kennedy family. Edward Kennedy, who was first elected to the Senate in 1962, died of brain cancer Aug. 25 at the age of 77. The senator's widow, Vicki, has ruled out a campaign. Read more at CBC.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Brendan Ayanbadejo supports gay marriage

"If Britney Spears can party it up in Vegas with one of her boys and go get married on a whim and annul her marriage the next day, why can’t a loving same sex couple tie the knot? How could our society grant more rights to a heterosexual one night stand wedding in Vegas than a gay couple that has been together for 3, 5, 10 years of true love? The divorce rate in America is currently 50%. I am willing to bet that same sex marriages have a higher success rate than heterosexual marriages." Read more at Outsports.

Internet addiction center opens in United States

Ben Alexander (pictured) spent nearly every waking minute playing the video game "World of Warcraft." As a result, he flunked out of the University of Iowa. Alexander, 19, needed help to break an addiction he calls as destructive as alcohol or drugs. He found it in this suburb of high-tech Seattle, where what claims to be the first residential treatment center for Internet addiction in the United States just opened its doors. The center, called ReSTART, is somewhat ironically located near Redmond, headquarters of Microsoft and a world center of the computer industry. It opened in July and for $14,000 offers a 45-day program intended to help people wean themselves from pathological computer use, which can include obsessive use of video games, texting, Facebook, eBay, Twitter and any other time-killers brought courtesy of technology. "We've been doing this for years on an outpatient basis," said Hilarie Cash, a therapist and executive director of the center. "Up until now, we had no place to send them." Internet addiction is not recognized as a separate disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and treatment is not generally covered by insurance. But there are many such treatment centers in China, South Korea and Taiwan — where Internet addiction is taken very seriously — and many psychiatric experts say it is clear that Internet addiction is real and harmful. Read more here.

Jerry Lewis' MDA Telethon raises over $60 million

Despite the tough economy, officials with the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon say contributions and pledges from this year's Labor Day event totaled nearly $60.5 million. Officials say the funds will allow the Muscular Dystrophy Association to continue funding worldwide research to find treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and related diseases. Lewis, the Tucson-based MDA's national chairman, thanked the American people for their generosity Monday. He says that even though the total was down from last year's record $65 million, it was an amazing accomplishment considering the state of the nation's economy. The 44th annual telethon originated for the fourth consecutive year from the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas. (AP)

New York senate could vote on gay marriage this month

A gay New York state senator has said that the Senate could vote on gay marriage in the next few weeks. According to Democrat Tom Duane, who is the state's only openly gay senator, the bill will not be dealt with immediately but could be discussed in a special session called by governor David Paterson. "We are not going to bring up marriage on September 10th," Duane said. "I am hopeful that we will bring it up when the governor calls us all back into session. He hasn't set that date; it'll probably be in late September." Read more at UK Pink News.

Caster Semenya's coach quits amid runner's gender controversy

The remorseful coach of a South African runner whose gender has been questioned has resigned over the way her case was handled, saying gender-verification tests were done on the athlete in South Africa under the guise of a doping check. Wilfred Daniels's comments contradicted statements from Athletics South Africa officials who have said the tests to verify the gender of world 800-metre champion Caster Semenya were done only abroad, not in South Africa. The officials have denied any responsibility for the tests and accused the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field's international governing body, of publicly humiliating Semenya. (CBC)

Oscar voters will rank best-picture choices this year

Academy Awards voters are going to have to put extra effort into their choices for best picture. Oscar overseers are adopting a preferential-voting system in which academy members rank their best-picture favorites from 1 to 10. The change was made because of the academy's decision to expand the best-picture field from five nominees to 10 starting with the awards next March. Under the old system with five nominees, voters simply chose one film, making the winner the one that received the most votes. The new method adds weight to voters' No. 2 and 3 picks. If the academy had maintained the old system, the best picture prize conceivably could have gone to a film with barely 10 percent of the vote. Under the new system, if a best picture nominee gets more than 50 percent of the No. 1 votes, it will win. If that doesn't happen, the nominee with the lowest total of No. 1 votes will be taken out of the running, and voters' No. 2 picks will be added to the totals of the other nominees. The process will keep repeating until one film passes the 50-percent mark. (Zap2it)

Antibodies may help AIDS vaccine hunt

The discovery of two new powerful antibodies that neutralize HIV strains could help vaccine developers. In this week's issue of the journal Science, researchers targeted what appears to be an Achilles heel of the virus after checking for antibodies in the blood of 1,800 people infected with HIV. "The findings themselves are an exciting advance toward the goal of an effective AIDS vaccine because now we've got a new, potentially better target on HIV to focus our efforts for vaccine design," Wayne Koff, senior vice-president of research and development at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which led and sponsored the study.

Researchers said these are the first broadly neutralizing antibodies to have been identified in more than a decade. The newly identified antibodies, called PG9 and PG16, are also the first to be isolated from donors in seven sub-Saharan countries, where most new HIV infections occur.

Part of the problem in developing HIV vaccines is that the virus mutates so readily that someone may be infected with millions of different versions, and each one looks different to the immune system. Drug cocktails have helped to keep the virus under control but no drug eradicates it. Read more at CBC.