Thursday, September 24, 2009

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

How HIV cripples immune cells

In order to be able to ward off disease pathogens, immune cells must be mobile and be able to establish contact with each other. The working group around Professor Dr. Oliver Fackler in the Virology Department of the Hygiene Institute of the Heidelberg University Hospital has discovered a mechanism in an animal model revealing how HIV, the AIDS pathogen, cripples immune cells: Cell mobility is inhibited by the HIV Nef protein. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has developed numerous strategies for eluding the body's defenses and the medications administered. The prerequisite for efficient reproduction of the virus in the patient’s body is the virus’s own Nef protein. Without Nef, the development of AIDS is significantly slowed or even stopped completely. The underlying mechanism of this observation was a complete mystery up to now, however. Read more at Science Daily.

Former sitcom star, Kirk Cameron to distribute altered version of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species

Former sitcom star Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) recently posted a YouTube video explaining his plan to distribute a doctored version of Darwin’s The Origin of Species that contains an introduction promoting creationism. Cameron, a vocal Christian advocate, intends to distribute 50,000 copies to college campuses around the country on Nov. 19, two days before the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. (

Campaign to overturn Prop. 8 and legalize gay marriage begins today with ballot filing

Despite concerns from some gay-rights activists that it's too early to revisit the issue, one group today pushed forward with plans for a 2010 ballot measure that would repeal Prop. 8 and allow gay marriage in California. The group Love Honor Cherish filed ballot language with the state today for a measure to overturn the ban on gay marriage in the state. That is the first step in getting the question on the ballot. According to the group, if the state approves the language, they will begin the process of collecting the estimated 1 million signatures needed to get on the November 2010 ballot. Last month, Leaders of Equality California, one of the state’s largest gay rights groups, announced it will wait until 2012 to push for an amendment to the California Constitution to permit same-sex marriage. Read more at L.A. Times.

Michelle Phillips, the ex-wife of the late John Phillips, says her stepdaughter Mackenzie Phillips is lying about having an incestuous affair with her father.

“Mackenzie has a lot of mental illness. She’s had a needle stuck up her arm for 35 years. She was arrested for heroin and coke just recently. She did ‘Celebrity Rehab’ and now she writes a book. The whole thing is timed.” Michelle Phillips said it’s particularly ironic since her own daughter, Chynna, of Wilson Phillips fame, Mackenzie’s half sister, is releasing a new album this week. “Mackenzie is jealous of her siblings, who have accomplished a lot and did not become drug addicts.” Read more at ShowBiz411.

Massachusetts names Paul Kirk, as temporary replacement, for the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat

Paul Kirk, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and a close friend of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, was named on Thursday as a temporary replacement for the liberal champion in the U.S. Senate. Kirk, an attorney backed for the post by Kennedy's wife Victoria and his two sons, will fill the seat until voters in Massachusetts elect a permanent replacement on January 20. The appointment of Kirk, who said he would not run in the special election, will restore a 60-seat Senate majority for the Democrats that could help President Barack Obama's push to overhaul healthcare. Obama called Kirk "an excellent interim choice" to take over from Kennedy and give his state its full representation in the Senate as healthcare, financial reform and energy issues are debated in the coming months. Lawmakers in heavily Democratic Massachusetts passed legislation in the past few days allowing Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim senator, something Kennedy pushed for before he died in August from cancer so his party would not lose a key vote during the healthcare debate. "The issues before the Congress and the nation are too important for us to be one voice short," Patrick told reporters as he appointed Kirk after signing the legislation. Kirk was Kennedy's special assistant in the 1970s and remains close to his family. Read more at Reuters.

Promising Discovery: Water is present across the Moon's surface

In a discovery that promises to reinvigorate studies of the moon and potentially upend thinking of how it originated, scientists at several research institutions have found evidence of water molecules on the surface of the moon. Brown University, is the lead author of one paper this week in Science that reports evidence of water in the moon’s high latitudes — greatly expanding current thinking about where water in any form was presumed to be located. “We’ve made a very important step with this discovery, and now there are some very important steps to follow up on,” Pieters said. Read more at Science Daily.

Eric Dane and wife, file $1 million suit over tape: Couple takes action against for distributing nude video

Eric Dane and wife Rebecca Gayheart are still steamed about their non-sex tape being leaked. The couple has filed a suit against, the Web site which first posted the racy 12-minute video from 2007 of the couple with former beauty queen-turned-“Celebrity Rehab” patient Kari Ann Peniche on According to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday and obtained by Access Hollywood, the couple claims the Web site refused to comply with a cease and desist request after first posting the video and then “went on to maliciously distribute an uncensored copy of the video, gratuitously including nude shots” of the “Grey’s Anatomy” star, his wife and Peniche. The suit claims the video has gone viral and is now available for viewing on numerous adult Web sites. (MSNBC)

Change coming to HIV immigration ban

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service has issued a memo directing its officers to put a hold on any decisions on green card applications that are based solely on HIV status, pending a rule change to eliminate the HIV restriction that Health and Human Services is scheduled to issue later this year.“It’s very good news for people who have pending green card applications,” said Steve Ralls, communications director at Immigration Equality, a group that advocates to equalize immigration policy for LGBT people. “It’s a strong indication that U.S. CIS expects this to move forward soon and it’s a very good indicator that the administration is moving forward on repeal.” Read more at

Arizona drops domestic-partner benefits

Domestic partners are being eliminated from state employee benefits just a year after they were added to the benefits plan. A bill signed by Governor. Jan Brewer (pictured) redefined a "dependent," canceling the rule change made by Governor. Janet Napolitano that allowed domestic partners to receive benefits. Liz Sawyer, a University of Arizona staff member, said the exclusion is "deplorable and it's tragic." Sawyer is a spokeswoman for OUTReach, a staff group that lobbies for domestic-partner benefits at UA. Last year 170 UA employees signed up for domestic-partner benefits, she said. Forty were same-sex couples and the remainder were unmarried, opposite-sex couples, she said. Shelton's support for finding alternative coverage when benefits are taken away has been "tremendous," Sawyer said. "It's a real step backwards for this university in terms of being able to compete for the best people," Shelton said. "I don't know of any other of our competitive universities that are put in this situation. It's extremely worrisome." Read more at Arizona Daily Star.

Homosexuality 'not in your DNA,' says Mormon leader

People who are attracted to members of their own sex can change, an LDS general authority said Saturday, so they shouldn't let Satan persuade them they can't. Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the 19th annual conference of Evergreen International, a nonprofit group that helps Mormons "overcome homosexual behavior" and "diminish same-sex attraction." The event was held at the LDS Church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Hafen promised attendees, "If you are faithful, on resurrection morning -- and maybe even before then -- you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex." Last month, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution advising mental health professionals against telling their clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. No solid evidence exists that such efforts work, the APA concluded, and some studies suggest the potential for harm, including depression and suicidal tendencies. A task force reviewed 83 studies on sexual-orientation change conducted since 1960. The "long-standing consensus" of the behavioral and social sciences, the APA noted, is that homosexuality is a "normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation." Read more at Salt Lake City Tribune.

Record companies sue 'Ellen' show over copyrights

Some of the world's largest recording companies are suing "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," claiming producers violated their copyrights by playing more than 1,000 songs without permission. Many of the songs were played during the "dance over" segment of the show, when DeGeneres dances from the stage to the interview area, often through the audience. Scott Rowe, spokesman for the show's Telepictures Productions, wrote in an e-mailed statement that the company has been working with the record labels for months to resolve the issue and remains willing to resolve it on "amicable and reasonable terms." Rowe said the issue does not involve DeGeneres. The suit claims the daytime talk show has used copyrighted music without permission since its inception, including "recordings by virtually every major current artist of popular music." It claims the show routinely used some of the most popular songs of the day, which the record labels don't license for daytime television at any price. Plaintiffs include Arista Music, Atlantic Recording Corp., Capitol Records, Motown Record Company, Sony Music Entertainment, Virgin Records America and Warner Bros. Records. The suit does not specify the dollar amount it seeks in damages. (AP)