Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup: Valerie plays Tallulah, Health bill passes, Brittany Murphy, God Hates Lady Gaga, Feds release Jackson molestation report and more!

10 of the Hottest Stars of the Decade

A guest spot on Will & Grace reminding us just how handsome a man could look in a turtleneck sweater put Dempsey back on our radar in 2001. Following 2002's Sweet Home Alabama, the 2003 ABC Family original Lucky 7, and guest arcs on Once and Again and The Practice, he took up residency as Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Derek Shepherd in 2005, and the nickname McDreamy was born. Read more from Entertainment Weekly Picks the Sexiest Stars of the Past 10 Years here.

U.S. Senate Passes Sweeping Health Bill

The US Senate passed a sweeping health care reform bill early Thursday to extend coverage to 31 million Americans, landing President Barack Obama a major political victory. Senators voted 60-39 in favor of the legislation to remake the US health care system. Attention now turns to negotiations to forge a compromise between the Senate bill and the and House of Representatives version, approved on November 7, 2009. (AFP)

Obama Hails 'Historic' Passage of U.S. Senate Health Bill
US President Barack Obama hailed the "historic" passage through the Senate of a sweeping health care bill, saying it ended a "century-long struggle" to reform the flawed system. "In an historic vote that took place this morning, members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package," Obama said. He called it "legislation that brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America's health care system." (AFP)

Wales to Give Aid to Uganda Despite Pending Gay Death Penalty Bill
The Welsh Assembly Government says it will still give aid to Uganda despite opposition to the African nation's plan for a "gay death penalty". A new bill proposed by a Ugandan MP calls for gay people to be jailed for life or sentenced to death. But the assembly government said its £75,000 is to help people in the region of Mbale, not the Ugandan government. Western leaders, including Gordon Brown, are reported to have urged President Yoweri Museveni to consider the dangers the proposals could pose to Uganda's rights record. Sweden has said it would withdraw the £31m of aid it gives to Uganda each year if the proposal becomes law. (BBC)

Late Brittany Murphy Named Mother Sole Heir of Her Estate; Murphy's Husband Excluded
Late actress Brittany Murphy left a will at the time she passed away on Sunday, December 20, in which she appointed her mother Sharon as the sole heir of her estate. It is reported that the 32-year-old film star created the will several years ago and it is not known if she amended it or not. "Brittany's mother was very involved in her life," a source tells E! News. "She really pushed Brittany into the entertainment industry." The source then adds, "I bet changing her will didn't even cross [Brittany's] mind. Sharon was the closest person in Brittany's life, and her mom made sure it was always that way. It seemed like they both relied on each other." Murphy's screenwriter husband Simon Monjack, meanwhile, was excluded from the will. Monjack himself has not yet issued a single comment on the report. (AceShowBiz)

Mexico City Cardinal Criticizes City's Legalization of Gay Marriage
Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera criticized the city's legalization of gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. "On the eve of the holy celebrations of Christmas, one time more we have watched with impotence, pain and consternation as the Mexico City Assembly has approved an immoral law that tears at the most intimate of structures, the Mexican family," Cardinal Rivera said after the assembly approved the bill Dec. 21. "This law ... has opened the door to a perverse possibility that these (same-sex) couples can adopt innocent children," the cardinal added. "This, of course, is absolutely inadmissible and condemnable." The Democratic Revolution Party advanced the law through the local assembly. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a member of the party, was expected to sign the bill into law. The legislation expands on a 2006 same-sex civil partnership measure that gives homosexual couples extended legal benefits. It changes the definition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman to "the free uniting of two people." (CNS)

HP Laptop Camera 'Can't See' Black Faces
A YouTube video suggesting that face recognition cameras installed in HP laptops cannot detect black faces has had over one million views. The short movie, uploaded earlier this month, features "Black Desi" and his colleague "White Wanda". When Wanda, a white woman, is in front of the screen, the camera zooms to her face and moves as she moves. But when Desi, a black man, does the same, the camera does not respond by tracking him. The clip is light-hearted in tone but is titled "HP computers are racist". "HP has been informed of a potential issue with the facial-tracking software included on some of its systems, which appears to occur when insufficient foreground lighting is available," an HP spokesman told BBC News. "We take this seriously and are looking into it with our partners." (BBC)

Westboro Baptist Church: God Hates Lady Gaga

The St Louis based church plans to picket the controversial pop star’s gig at the Fox Theatre on Thursday, January 7, 2010. They claim that Gaga is a ‘god hater’ and is leading her millions of teenage fans astray with her provocative songs, performances and support of gay rights. Church attorney and member Shirley Phelps told Radar “She is headed straight to hell if she doesn’t change her ways. “Lady Gaga is promoting a rebellion against God - she needs to get a Bible and change her way of life. We will be going to her concert with placards reading: God Hates Lady Gaga – to inform people that they will be going to hell too if they listen to her messages. According to the Bible homosexuality is an abomination and she has to shut her filthy mouth and stop promoting it.” (Radaronline)

Female Polygamy Article Sparks Controversy in Egypt

A member of the Egyptian parliament has filed a lawsuit over an article questioning why polygamy is allowed for men in Islam but not for women. The article in the newspaper Al Masry Al Youm was written by a female Saudi journalist, Nadine al-Bedair. It has been denounced by some Muslim clerics as inflammatory and anti-Islamic. But others have said it serves the purpose of highlighting how badly some husbands treat their wives. The article was clearly meant to cause a big stir and it has. Published in the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, the article by Nadine al-Bedair suggests that polygamy should either be allowed for both men and women - or else there should be a new concept of marriage where men are not allowed to take a new wife just because they are bored with the old one. Read more at BBC.

Michael Jackson: Feds to Release Report on Molestation Cases

TMZ is reporting that the FBI will release hundreds of pages of Michael Jackson’s formerly-classified file on Monday. The file relates to his 1993 and 2004 child-molestation cases. The file also reportedly has details pertaining to any case in which the pop singer was an alleged victim, including threats and extortion attempts. Nothing about Dr. Conrad Murray or Michael’s death will be in the files. (

Australia Defends Controversial Web Filter

Australia on Wednesday dismissed as "baseless" claims it was proposing a China-style plan for mandatory filtering of the internet and denied the system could be abused to silence free speech. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hit back at criticism of his plan to block access to sites featuring material such as rape, drug use, bestiality and child sex abuse. "The claims that the Australian government plans to implement a censorship regime similar to China or Iran are baseless," Conroy told AFP. "The government is only interested in blocking the absolute worst content such as child sexual abuse material, bestiality, sexual violence including rape and detailed instruction in crime and drug use," he added. (AFP)

Valerie Harper Returns to Broadway, Playing Tallulah Bankhead, in 'Looped'
Valerie Harper (from the classic sitcoms "Rhoda" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") will return to Broadway this spring in the new comedy Looped. Penned by Matthew Lombardo, the Rob Ruggiero-directed play will open at the Lyceum Theatre on March 14. Looped follows actress Tallulah Bankhead (Harper) as she is called into a sound studio in 1965 to re-record a line of dialogue for what would ultimately be her last film. (Entertainment Weekly)

Sixty Headless Skeletons -- 3,000 Years Old -- Discovered in Pacific Ocean Archipelago Vanuatu

When a team of archaeologists began excavating an old coral reef in Vanuatu in 2008 and 2009, they soon discovered it had served as a cemetery in ancient times. So far, 71 buried individuals have been recorded, giving new information on the islands' inhabitants and their funeral rites. "This is a groundbreaking discovery, as it is the oldest and biggest skeleton find ever in the Pacific Ocean; bigger cemeteries found further east are much younger," says Mads Ravn, head of research at the University of Stavanger's Museum of Archaeology in Norway. Relatives did not treat their dead gently. Besides being headless, some of them had had their arms and legs broken, in order to fit into the coral reef cavities. Ravn suggests they may have been left to rot first, and buried later as skeletons.(Science Daily)

Trans Activist Pleads Guilty to DNC Vandalism

A transgender political activist in Colorado pleaded guilty on Monday to a second-degree misdemeanor for smashing the windows of the state Democratic Party's offices in August. Ariel Attack (pictured), who identifies as a transgender anarchist, is part of the organization Bash Back! Denver. The group raised $5,000 to bail her out of jail after she and an unidentified accomplice shattered 11 plate-glass windows at the party headquarters. (Advocate)

AP Members Say Gay Marriage Tops 2009 Iowa News

Gay marriage is Iowa's top news story of 2009 as voted by members of The Associated Press. In April, a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruled a ban on same-sex unions violated the state Constitution, leading to hundreds of gays and lesbians getting married. Iowa's economy and the budget problems tied for second. The shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas is fourth. Swine flu is fifth, followed by the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville and the scandal surrounding the film tax credit program. In eighth is the removal of 21 mentally disabled men from a rundown home in Atalissa, followed by the struggles of Iowa's pork producers. The Top Ten ends with a tie - Iowa's huge but slow harvest and the winning football seasons at Iowa and Iowa State. (

Nearsightedness in Americans on the Rise

The number of nearsighted Americans is increasing dramatically. The National Eye Institute reports the percentage of nearsightedness in Americans is now at 41 percent, compared to 25 percent in the 1970s. The Eye Institute compared data from more than people tested in 1971 and 1972 with data collected from people tested in 1994 to 2004. While the study didn’t examine the causes for the increase in nearsightedness, eye experts are speculating the reasons. Experts told “Good Morning America” that the increase could be attributed to genetics, poor lighting and our “near work”-like reading (things like reading, surfing the Web and texting). Vitale also said the best thing to counter-act the rise of nearsightedness is to be sure to participate in outdoor activities where you stimulate your far vision. In addition, she reminded everyone to get recommended eye care exams and treatment as necessary. (

  • Michelle Obama's Inaugural Gown
  • In a Downturn, High-End Denim
  • Gaga for Lady Gaga
  • Shortsgate
  • It's the '80s Again, Ladies
  • Mad Men's Off-Air Influence
  • Respect for the Hat
  • Madge's Party Attire
  • Sanity Returns to Shoes