The NewsFuror

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spears is allowed to see children

Pop star Britney Spears has been granted temporary visitation rights to see her sons, her lawyer has confirmed.

"Yes, she has visitation with the children," said Anne Kiley in an e-mail to the Associated Press news agency.

Last week a Los Angeles judge ruled the singer could not see Sean Preston, aged two, and one-year-old Jayden James until she complied with court orders.

Earlier this month Ms Spears' ex-husband Kevin Federline was granted full custody of the two boys.

Last month, the same judge said Ms Spears showed "a habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol".

She was then ordered to complete random drug and alcohol tests twice a week, as well as meeting a "parenting coach" weekly, according to court documents.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Harry Potter tops children awards

Harry Potter and The Simpsons have picked up two gongs each at the UK's first Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.

Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Grainger in the Potter series, won best movie actress and The Deathly Hallows took best book.

The Simpsons, which was created by Matt Groening, won best cartoon as well as best movie.

The show, which took place at London's ExCel on Saturday will be broadcast on Nickelodeon on 27 and 28 October.

The awards are voted for by children and over three million votes were cast.

High School Musical stars Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale picked up the awards for best TV actors and footballer David Beckham was voted best sportsman.

ITV's X Factor won the best reality show category and its former winner Shayne Ward was there to collect the award.

Pop group McFly did not go home empty-handed either after beating Fall Out Boy, Girls Aloud and Sugababes to the best band gong.

Pop star Avril Lavigne won best female singer.

JK Rowling outs Dumbledore as gay

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has revealed that one of her characters, Hogwarts school headmaster Albus Dumbledore, is gay.

She made her revelation to a packed house in New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday, as part of her US book tour.

She took audience questions and was asked if Dumbledore found "true love".

"Dumbledore is gay," she said, adding he was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, who he beat in a battle between good and bad wizards long ago.

The audience gasped, then applauded. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy," she said.

"Falling in love can blind us to an extent," she added, saying Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down" and his love for Grindelwald was his "great tragedy".

"Oh, my god," Rowling, 42, concluded with a laugh, "the fan fiction".

Fan sites have long speculated on Dumbledore's sexuality as he was known for having a mysterious, troubled past.

Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she saw the script carried a reference to a girl who was once of interest to Dumbledore.

She said she ensured director David Yates was made aware of the truth about her character.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the news about Dumbledore and said: "It's good that children's literature includes the reality of gay people, since we exist in every society.

"But I am disappointed that she did not make Dumbledore's sexuality explicit in the Harry Potter book. Making it obvious would have sent a much more powerful message of understanding and acceptance."

And a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall added: "It's great that JK has said this. It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster."

Rowling also did a brief reading from the seventh book in her best-selling series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as part of her Open Book Tour of the US - her first there for seven years.

She said she regarded her novels as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority".

But she added that not everyone likes her work. Christian groups have alleged the books promote witchcraft. The author said her revelation about Dumbledore would give them one more reason.

The seventh Potter book broke sales records on both sides of the Atlantic when it was published in July, selling 11 million copies in 24 hours.

The fifth film adaptation of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released this summer. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is due for release late next year.

Malibu celebrities feel the heat

Firefighters expect the wildfire to last a couple of days

A large wildfire is raging in the Californian Pacific town of Malibu, causing devastation and threatening the homes of several wealthy celebrities.

A number of buildings were destroyed and thousands of local residents evacuated as the flames swept across the hills overlooking the ocean.

The homes of Mel Gibson and Barbra Streisand are in the threatened area.

The wildfire is thought to have been caused by a power cable which ignited after being blown over in heavy wind.

The ground beneath is also tinder dry after one of the driest and hottest summers on record, officials said.

During a long heatwave in July, wildfires scorched thousands of acres across California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

'0% contained'

Fanned by high winds of up to 80 mph (130km/h), the wildfire around Malibu had burnt about 1,250 acres (505 hectares) by mid-afternoon on Sunday, officials said.

Among the buildings destroyed in the town, which has 13,000 residents, were the famous Castle Kashan and a Presbyterian church. No-one was reported injured.

"This fire is 0% contained, which means we are at the mercy of the winds," Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich said.

The chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Michael Freeman, said the blaze was expected to last a couple of days and that until it was extinguished, "literally thousands of homes are going to be threatened".

The coastal area is home to many celebrities, including Mel Gibson, Barbara Streisand, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, Dick Van Dyke, Ted Danson and David Geffen.

Hundreds of firefighters are currently battling the blaze and helicopters are being used to dump water on the flames.

The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he was receiving regular updates on their progress and would send more rescuers if necessary.

Polish opposition set for big win

The centre-right opposition Civic Platform party is heading for a landslide victory in the Polish general election, partial results suggest.

With a third of ballots counted, Donald Tusk's party is on track to win 40% of the vote, or 194 seats in parliament.

The Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose Law and Justice Party is second with 32%, has already admitted defeat.

Sunday's election was called two years early after Mr Kaczynski's coalition collapsed over a corruption probe.

The prime minister's twin brother, Lech Kaczynski, is Poland's president.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS) has pursued former communists and adopted a sceptical approach to the European Union, while Civic Platform (PO) has promised a more business-friendly administration with closer ties to Europe, correspondents say.

'Restoring hope'

Voting in Sunday's election was extended for three hours in some parts of the country as officials struggled to cope with the sharply increased turnout of 55% - the highest since the fall of communism in 1989.

Shortly afterwards, exit polls for the TVP state television network suggested Mr Kaczynski's party had received 30.4% of the vote, some 13% less Donald Tusk's Civic Platform.

I wish Donald Tusk every success and I congratulate him
Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Another exit poll by the private TVN24 channel predicted the Civic Platform would win 44.2%, leaving the Law and Justice Party on 31.3%.

If correct, the Civic Platform and its preferred coalition partner, the Polish Peasants' Party, will win a majority in the 460-seat lower house of parliament, the Sejm.

The Civic Platform's leader, Donald Tusk, was showered with confetti as he appeared in front of cheering supporters at its campaign headquarters after the polls were announced.

"We went into this election in order to make everyone, without exception, feel good in their country, in their home," he said.

"I thank everyone who, in an impartial way, has helped restore hope among Poles."

Later, Mr Kaczynski admitted defeat and congratulated his rival leader at a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters.

"We have failed against a wide front," he said. "I wish Donald Tusk every success and I congratulate him."

Mr Kaczynski blamed the election result on a coalition of newspapers and political parties, who he said had stopped at nothing in their campaign to oust him.

He said the high turnout was a sign of the strength of Polish democracy and that his party should be proud of the five million votes he said it had won, almost two million more than two years ago.

In conclusion, Mr Kaczynski promised the Law and Justice Party would be a "decisive, tough opposition" in parliament and that future elections would be happier for the party.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Warsaw says the prime minister's speech set the tone for his party - a mix of defiance and despondency.

Only two years after they came to power, one of Europe's most colourful and controversial governments has been voted out of office, our correspondent says.

Democratic disillusion

Earlier, Mr Kaczynski chatted with voters as he queued at a polling station in Warsaw.

I didn't like being talked down to for the last two years
Jan Zawisz
Warsaw voter

"We have to accept the will of the voters, that's obvious," he said after voting, according to Reuters news agency.

"We won't get angry at the people and lessons from this campaign will be learned."

His rival, Mr Tusk, also cast his vote in the capital city.

"Of course I expect to win, but I also know perfectly well that it will not be easy and the battle goes on until the last minute," he was quoted as saying.

Poles have become disillusioned with democracy following a succession of unhappy coalition governments,.

The country is polarised over the figure of the 58-year-old prime minister, who commands both strong support and deep opposition, says our correspondent.

He has given extra power to anti-corruption agencies and purged former communists, while promoting an assertive foreign policy and traditional Catholic values.

Among his supporters, Andrzej Sulkowski said he voted for Law and Justice "because this party is telling the truth and doing something".

"In their two years of government they did what they could," he told the Associated Press news agency.

But one of Mr Tusk's supporters, Jan Zawisz, said he "didn't like being talked down to for the last two years".

Chinese party unveils new leaders

China's Communist Party has unveiled the leadership line-up that will steer the country for the next five years.

President Hu Jintao won a second term as party and army chief, while four new faces joined the party's top body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

They included two men seen as potential successors to Mr Hu in 2012 - Shanghai party chief Xi Jinping and Liaoning province's Li Keqiang.

The changes were announced at the end of the party's five-yearly congress.

The powerful nine-member Standing Committee was elected by the party's 204-member Central Committee.

Hu Jintao
Wu Bangguo
Wen Jiabao
Jia Qinglin
Li Changchun
Xi Jinping *
Li Keqiang*
He Guoqiang*
Zhou Yongkang *
* denotes new member

Premier Wen Jiabao was reappointed to the committee, indicating another term in office for him.

He Guoqiang, the party's organisation chief, and Zhou Yongkang, the minister for public security, were the other two new additions to the committee.

The four new members replace three of the country's most senior leaders - Vice President Zeng Qinghong and lawmakers Luo Gan and Wu Guanzheng - who are stepping down.

A fourth committee member, Huang Ju, died in the summer.

Heir apparent

The new line-up appeared together in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, all wearing black suits and red ties.

They walked out onto the stage in order of rank, with Xi Jinping at the head of the new appointees.

Chinese Communist tradition dictates that the first new face of the new generation becomes the heir apparent.

So as things stand right now, Xi Jinping can expect to take over from Hu Jintao in 2012, our correspondent says.

Mr Xi, 54, the son of a high-ranked party elder, has held top party positions in several provinces, most recently in Shanghai after the party leader there, Chen Liangyu, was sacked for corruption.

But the man who followed him onto the stage, 52-year-old Li Keqiang, is also seen as contender for the presidency.

A law graduate of Peking University, he won plaudits for his work to revitalise the economy in the north-eastern province of Liaoning.