Wednesday, September 16, 2009

News and Pop Culture

Atlanta gay bar raid: Police 'saw men having sex'

Police who raided an Atlanta gay leather bar saw patrons having sex on the premises on two occasions, Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington said yesterday. Hundreds protested at the weekend over Thursday night's raid at the Atlanta Eagle, accusing police of using excessive force and homophobic language. The raid was organized after two anonymous callers said they had seen men having sex at the bar. It was also alleged drugs were being used in the bar, something the owners have strenuously denied. No illegal substances were found but eight employees were arrested for not having correct permits. At a press conference, Pennington said undercover officers had seen men participating openly in sex acts in the club on two occasions. He added he was taking seriously allegations of officer misconduct and promised to "take appropriate action" if officers are found to have acted improperly. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he said no search warrant was issued and said officers had "frisked" patrons to check for drugs. However, patrons present during the raid maintain they were illegally searched. Lawyer for the Atlanta Eagle, Alan Begner, said: "What happened to the customers was an assault. They were not free to go. There was no suspicion any of them had committed a crime. This is unbelievable.” Read more at Pink News.

Critics slam Leno, viewers tune in by the millions

The critics savaged Jay Leno's prime-time experiment. Viewers gave it the biggest audience for an entertainment show since the "American Idol" finale in May. What's next is anybody's guess. An estimated 18.4 million viewers sampled the first night of "The Jay Leno Show" Monday, Nielsen Media Research said. But the most hyped debut of the fall season had the added advantage of being piggybacked onto one of the country's biggest stories. Leno interviewed Kanye West about why he had interrupted Taylor Swift the night before on the MTV Video Music Awards. The challenge will be holding on to viewers. Leno's variety show will air five nights a week at 10 p.m., a grand experiment for network television to see if NBC can build a profitable business competing with dramas on its network rivals. It's tough to gauge how much impact West's appearance had on the ratings. The show peaked in viewership during its second quarter-hour, during Jerry Seinfeld's appearance, Nielsen said. Only two other shows have drawn a larger prime-time audience since the summer months, NFL games that aired this past week, Nielsen said. During his last season hosting "The Tonight Show," Leno averaged 5.2 million viewers to claim the No.1 spot in late-night. But critics — never big fans of Leno — were harsh in their assessment of his new endeavor, finding it not much different from what he had been doing at 11:30 p.m. for 17 years. Robert Bianco of USA Today slammed it as a "cut-rate, snooze-inducing rehashed bore." The Associated Press' Frazier Moore identified "the biggest difference between Leno's new show and his old one: With his fade-out at 11 p.m., the local news began." (AP)

South African goverment lodges complaint over gender tests on runner, Caster Semenya

South Africa's minister for women and children has filed a complaint with the United Nations over how Caster Semenya's case was handled. Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya says the international athletics governing body failed to safeguard the confidentiality of the runner whose sex has been questioned. She says they showed "blatant disregard" for Semenya's "human dignity." The complaint made Monday asks the UN Division for the Advancement of Women to investigate the matter. The International Association of Athletics Federations has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports saying sex tests show that the women's 800-meter world champion has both male and female characteristics.

Weighing costs, benefits of HIV treatments

Prevention versus treatment? Cost versus efficacy? So go two of the dilemmas looming over Dartmouth's Paul E. Palumbo, M.D., and his fellow researchers in the race to fight HIV and other infectious diseases in the developing world — especially among women and their young children. We have this big quandary in resource-limited countries," says Palumbo, a Dartmouth Medical School professor of medicine and pediatrics. "We have a simple approach that is cost-effective, and reduces transmission [of HIV] by 50 percent. The Achilles heel of that approach is that in the mother and in any infant who does become infected, the virus learns to become drug-resistant." Read more at Science Daily.

Chinese gay men confront police

A recent standoff between gay men and police in China could indicate a burgeoning
movement for gay rights in the world's most populous country. A group of gay men in Guangzhou, China took an unprecedented step recently when they confronted police who attempted to sweep them from a public park. According to the Associated Press , about 50 men resisted five police officers that tried to force them to leave People’s Park on August 25. The park is a popular hangout for men, although the incidence of sex in the public restroom causes friction with the police and wider community. The spontaneous, nonviolent uprising could indicate a new chapter for gay rights in China, where sodomy was decriminalized in 1997 and homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001. “Though mostly ignored by state-run media,” reported the AP, “news of the incident in the southern city of Guangzhou -- also known as Canton -- spread quickly on the Internet and became a hot topic in gay chat forums nationwide. Some in China's gay community see it as a sign of a new sense of empowerment and a burgeoning awareness of their rights.”

Oscar winner, Michael Douglas to play Liberace

Michael Douglas is taking a sharp turn from his usual roles to tackle the lead in a film biography of the campy musical performer Liberace, and Matt Damon is playing his longtime lover, director Steven Soderbergh confirmed. "We've already done some costume and wardrobe tests on Michael, and they're very, very, very good." Soderbergh told a French newspaper at the Deauville Film Festival. "I swear to you, Michael amazed me. He crushed it." Damon, Soderbergh said, has agreed to portray Scott Thorsen, the assistant/boyfriend whose 1982 palimony suit for $110 million publically outed the entertainer. "Matt accepted the challenge," Soderbergh said. "But I have to say I'd already convinced him to gain 30 pounds for The Informant." Born Wladziu Valentino, the flamboyant, piano-playing Liberace, nicknamed "Mr. Showmanship" and "Glitter Man," was a staple of early 1950s television, and was an institution in Las Vegas until his death from AIDS in 1987. At his height, he made more money than Elvis and The Beatles.

U.S. Patriot Act to be extended

The Obama administration wants to extend three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, U.S. Justice Department officials said Tuesday in Washington. Lawmakers and civil rights groups had been pressing the Democratic administration to say whether it supports extending the post-Sept. 11, 2001, law's authority to access business records and monitor so-called lone wolf terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps. The provision on business records has long been criticized by rights groups as giving the government access to the library records of citizens. In a letter to lawmakers, Justice Department officials said they support extending those provisions of the law, although they are willing to consider additional privacy protections as long as they don't weaken the effectiveness of the law. In July 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend indefinitely most of the Patriot Act while limiting to 10 years two controversial provisions. Considered a key part of U.S. President George W. Bush's war on terror, the Patriot Act was introduced after the 9/11 attacks against the U.S. It gives the government unprecedented powers to investigate terror suspects, including greater access to educational, financial and medical records, without a judge's prior approval.

Nicole Kidman to play transgender person in new film

The Danish Girl, the Nicole Kidman–produced film in which she will star as a transgender person, has a new helmer, reports Variety. Tomas Alfredson, best known for last year’s acclaimed vampire drama Let the Right One In, will now direct. The film is adapted from David Ebershoff's best-selling novel, which is loosely based on the true story of Einar Wegener, the Danish painter who in 1931 became the first person to go through a sex-reassignment surgery to become a woman. Kidman will play Wegener. Charlize Theron, who’d been attached to play Wegener’s wife, Gerda, has departed the production and a replacement has not yet been announced. “We have been in talks for close to a year, and we are soon going into production,” Alfredson said to the daily trade paper

Uruguay law may not allow gay adoptions after all

(Montevideo, Uruguay) A closer reading of an adoptions law promoted by Uruguay’s gay rights groups suggests it might not enable adoptions by gay and lesbian couples after all. With the law awaiting President Tabare Vazquez’s signature, gay rights groups have been celebrating the prospect that Uruguay could become the first country in Latin America to give gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to adopt. But nowhere in the law does it specifically say that homosexual couples have a right to adopt. And in some places, it suggests otherwise — for example by specifying how the child should take a mother and father’s surnames. Lawyers, judges and even the law’s own authors now have doubts about how the law will be applied. Under Vazquez, Uruguay already legalized gay civil unions and ended a ban on homosexuals in the military, despite strong disapproval from the Roman Catholic Church. The new law would drop a requirement that children can only be adopted by legally married couples or single parents. Read more at

Golden Girl Betty White wins career honour

Betty White, the veteran American actress and six-time Emmy winner best known for Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is set to receive a prominent career honour. The Screen Actors Guild, the largest U.S. performers union, will present White with its lifetime achievement award in recognition of her lengthy career and her humanitarian efforts at its annual awards show in January. "Whether creating some of television’s most indelible characters, plunging into film roles with joyous gusto or perfecting the art of the quip as a television panellist and host, Betty White has entertained audiences with her impeccable comic timing and remarkable wit for more than sixty years," Alan Rosenberg, SAG's national president, said in a statement. White, 87, began her career in the 1940s and has worked in radio, television and film. The SAG honour is presented each year to an individual who embodies "the finest ideals of the acting profession." The 16th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards take place Jan. 23, 2010.