Tag Archives: award

Tunisian pro-democracy group accepts Nobel Peace Prize

A Tunisian pro-democracy group accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 and set the fight against terrorism and helping Palestinians to achieve self-determination as global priorities.

The National Dialogue Quartet, which won the Peace Prize for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, accepted the award at a ceremony in Oslo held under tight security following the armed attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.

“Today we are most in need of making the fight against terrorism an absolute priority, which means perseverance on coordination and cooperation between all nations to drain its resources,” Hussein Abassi, head of the Tunisian General Labour Union, one of the quartet honored, said in a speech.

“We need to accelerate the elimination of hot spots all over the world, particularly the resolution of the Palestinian issue and enable the Palestinian people the right to self-determination on their land and build their independent state,” he said.

Security precautions loomed large over the banquets and concerts for hundreds of political, intellectual and business leaders attending the lavish Nobel awards ceremonies held jointly in Oslo and Stockholm.

“Security is higher than it would otherwise have been because of the situation in Europe,” Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff for Oslo police told Reuters, referring to the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed.

Last year, a demonstrator carrying a Mexican flag disrupted the ceremony at Oslo City Hall when Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi received their Nobel Peace Prizes. He was not a guest but managed to get through the security checkpoints.

The quartet of the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers was formed in the summer of 2013. It won the award for the role it played in the peaceful transition of power in Tunisia in a region struggling with violence and upheaval.

With a new constitution, free elections and a compromise arrangement between Islamist and secular leaders, Tunisia has been held up as a model of how to make the transition to a democracy from dictatorship, said Kaci Kullman Five, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Last year Tunisia held successful legislative and presidential elections but the country has been hit by violence this year. In March, Islamist gunmen killed 21 tourists in an attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and 38 foreigners were killed in an assault on a Sousse beach hotel in June.

“In this time of terror, the threats against Tunisia and the Tunisian people are indistinguishable from the threats against other countries,” she said in her speech. “I came here to share this extraordinary moment with the whole of Tunisia. I am so proud,” said Haddad Fayssal, a 39-year-old Tunisian engineer from Paris, draped with the red-and-white flag of the North African nation over his shoulders.

“This prize is a powerful message against all types of extremism and terrorism. It is a message that we can all live together,” he told Reuters outside Oslo City Hall, the peace award ceremony’s venue.

In neighboring Sweden, the Nobel Prize winners in literature, chemistry, physics, medicine and economics gathered in Stockholm to receive their prizes from the King of Sweden later in the day.

Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich won the literature prize for her portrayal of the harshness of life in the Soviet Union

In Stockholm, the winners will collect their medals at a concert hall before attending a banquet at the city hall, which will include VIPs like European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Security around the festivities — which has hundreds of royals and prominent politicians as guests — has also been heightened this year after Sweden raised its terror threat level to the highest ever after the Paris attacks. Each of the prizes is worth 8 million Swedish crowns ($949,440).

Standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently selected the Wisconsin Gazette as recipient of the group’s Voices award. No honor we’ve received makes us prouder than this one, particularly now.

Despite the unrelenting campaigns of propaganda, PPWI’s 22 clinics provide quality, affordable reproductive health care, including honest sex education, birth control, adoption referrals, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment to 60,000 women and men. That’s even after being forced to shutter five clinics because Gov. Scott Walker cut off state funding for the organization.

But anti-choice activists have demonized Planned Parenthood in recent years, whipping up the level of hysteria that accompanied Joe McCarthy’s red scare of the 1950s. And conservative politicians are capitalizing on it, just as they did on McCarthyism. 

Although abortion represents only about 3 percent of PP’s services, that’s enough for anti-choice fanatics to put a bullseye on its doors.

Foes have whittled away at women’s reproductive freedom for decades, but abortion is still legal and its legality is supported by a majority of U.S. citizens. It’s also a deeply personal choice that can only be made by a woman whose body and future are involved. Women are not human incubators.

We fully respect the countless women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term under adverse circumstances, including conception through rape or incest. But it’s their right to make that choice, not the right of a bureaucrat. Individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot exist if strangers can force a woman to bear a child against her will.

The current frenzy against abortion is the result of years of brilliant propaganda by anti-choice leaders. Their heart-tugging campaigns of deception featuring fully formed thimble-sized fetuses and bloody, disembodied parts of infants are complete fabrications. Recently it was revealed that activists were using the picture of a stillborn baby in their propaganda and claiming it was an aborted fetus.

A recent “sting” operation added fuel to PP’s critics. Selectively edited tapes that were secretly recorded by activists made it appear as if PP was doing a booming business in selling fetal tissue to medical researchers. But investigations launched by conservatives in several states have yielded no evidence of wrongdoing.

Fetal tissue, which can be donated by women to science just as people can donate their organs, has yielded medical advances that have saved lives — including those, undoubtedly, of anti-choice activists. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., under Walker’s direction, made a $750,000 loan and gave $2 million in tax credits to Flu-Gen, a Madison biotech firm that’s using kidney cells derived from fetal tissue to create a more effective flu vaccine. Biotech companies like Flu-Gen not only save lives, but also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. 

But now, capitalizing on the fury over PP, state Republican leaders want to criminalize the sale of fetal tissue.

Activists have turned the debate about abortion from a women’s issue into one over the “personhood” of fertilized eggs and fetuses. That’s not a scientific view, but rather a religious belief that has no place in the secular world. 

When a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay got pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, the government there ruled for the rights of her fetus over hers, forcing her to carry the baby to term at great risk to her health. The baby was delivered through C-section, because a natural delivery would have killed her. Mike Huckabee praised the decision. He and most of the other Republican candidates, including Walker, want to criminalize abortions under any circumstances, including those in which the mother’s life is in danger. Bizarrely, Walker denies that such situations exist.

More than ever, we need organizations that cherish women’s lives over embryonic cells. PP is at the forefront of such organizations. Its doctors and staffers work under constant harassment, including death threats that have led to at least nine murders in recent years. They refuse to yield to fanatics who believe that women’s bodies are public property. 

We are proud to stand with them and the essential health services they provide. Unlike Walker, they are truly unintimidated.

Pulitzer-winning music a tribute to Pennsylvania coal miners

Julia Wolfe descended hundreds of feet underground, into a dank, dark cavern with gleaming black walls: a Pennsylvania coal mine.

“You can’t believe people spent all day there,” Wolfe recalled. “It was spooky, a little bit, but so fascinating, a strange kind of beauty.”

Wolfe’s visit helped inspire “Anthracite Fields,” a choral tribute to the state’s mining heritage — and, now, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music. The judges described her work as a “powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century.”

“I’m a little stunned,” Wolfe, a music professor at New York University, said a day after her win. “I’m enjoying it, having a good time.”

Commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, a choral group, “Anthracite Fields” recalls the hard work and sacrifice of generations of anthracite coal miners, whose toil yielded fuel for the industrial revolution and heat for cities and towns up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

“I wanted to show the life and understand it from different angles,” Wolfe said.

That life was anything but easy: Tens of thousands of miners perished underground, and those who survived often developed black lung disease and other chronic conditions. The first movement of “Anthracite Fields” is a haunting litany of names _ all with the first name of John _ of those who died in mining accidents. An ode to the “breaker boys” follows, young boys hired to pick rock from coal inside gigantic processing facilities called breakers.

Wolfe, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomeryville who has lived in New York City for more than 30 years, was only vaguely aware of this history when she began her research.

She pored over books about anthracite mining. She became obsessed with ghostly, century-old photos of the breaker boys. She visited defunct coal mines in Scranton and Lansford — both of which now operate as tourist attractions — and spoke with former miners and their families.

One of her conversations, with Barbara Powell, the daughter and granddaughter of miners, led to a movement called “Flowers,” a tribute to the women of the coal fields.

“We were poor, so our homes were just basic,” Powell, who works at Scranton’s Anthracite Heritage Museum, told The Associated Press. “We did our yards up with flowers, and it made everything look so warm and inviting.”

Powell and her husband attended the April 2014 premiere of “Anthracite Fields,” performed by the Mendelssohn Club and the Bang on a Can All-Stars in Philadelphia, and came away moved. She said Wolfe _ and the performers and production designers who helped bring “Anthracite Fields” to life — got it exactly right.

“It was just so captivating,” Powell said. “It did a lot for our heritage here in northeastern Pennsylvania.”

On the Web …

http://www.anthracitefields.com/wp/

Nobel Peace Prize winners: Education for all

Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have stressed the importance of uniting people across borders and religions by educating children and freeing them from poverty.

The 17-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head two years ago for insisting that girls have as much right to education as boys, says it is “not only the right but the duty of children” to be educated.

Sitting side-by-side with Malala, the 60-year-old Satyarthi said that even if a single child is denied education “we cannot say we are enlightened.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winners were speaking to reporters in the Norwegian capital a day before being presented their awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize winner, said said she had been concentrating on her difficult school exams in recent weeks – she is pleased to have gotten As and Bs -and has only focused on writing her Nobel speech in the last week.

To spotlight her crusade, Malala invited four girls and a young woman who have fought for education rights in Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan to join her delegation.

“I’m really happy my friends are coming,” she said. “I feel I am speaking on their behalf. It is important they are able to join me. This is a very big platform.”

Diversity wins big at the Oscars

Diversity was perhaps the biggest winner at the 86th annual Academy Awards.

For the first time, a film directed by a black filmmaker – Steve McQueen of “12 Years a Slave” – won best picture and a Latino – Alfonso Cuaron of “Gravity” – took home best director in a ceremony presided over by a lesbian host and overseen by the academy’s first black president.

McQueen’s grimly historical drama “12 Years a Slave” took best picture, leading the usually sedate filmmaker to jump up and down in celebration after his acceptance speech.

The British director dedicated his award to “all of the people who endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

Cuaron’s lost-in-space thriller “Gravity” led the Oscars with seven awards, including cinematography, editing, score, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing. Some in his native Mexico have been critical that since the attention came for a Hollywood release and not a Mexican-themed film, his win didn’t have the same kind of importance.

“I’m Mexican so I hope some Mexicans were rooting for me,” he told reporters backstage.

The entire Oscar ceremony had the feel of a make-over for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – an institution that has sometimes seemed stuck in the past. After a Los Angeles Times report revealed the academy was overwhelming older white men, new president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has pushed for a more varied membership.

The movie industry that the Oscars reflect has also been reluctant to tell a wider range of stories.

“Dallas Buyers Club,” the best picture-nominated drama about AIDS in 1980s Texas, took two decades to get made after countless executives balked at financing such a tale. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won best actor and best supporting actor for their roles in the film as a heterosexual rodeo rat (McConaughey) and a transgender drug addict (Leto) united by HIV.

“Thirty-six million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you,” said Leto is his acceptance speech.

Cate Blanchett, best-actress winner for her bitter, ruined socialite in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” used her acceptance speech to trumpet the need to make films with female leads – films like her own and like “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock. A study by analyst Kevin B. Lee found that last year’s lead actors averaged 100 minutes on screen, but lead actresses averaged only 49 minutes.

“To the audiences who went to see the film and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences, they are not,” said Blanchett. “Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money.”

“12 Years a Slave” also won awards in the writing and acting categories. John Ridley picked up the trophy for best adapted screenplay, which was based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. The screenwriter is only the second black writer (Geoffrey Fletcher won for “Precious” in 2009) to win in the category. Backstage, the “12 Years” team mentioned their efforts to include Solomon Northup’s memoir as part of high school study. The National School Boards Association announced in February that the book is now mandatory reading.

“It’s important that we understand our history so we can understand who we were and who we are now and most importantly who we’re going to be,” said Brad Pitt, who produced “12 Years.” “We hope that this film remains a gentle reminder that we’re all equal. We all want the same: Dignity and opportunity.”

Lupita Nyong’o was a first-time Oscar winner for her supporting role as field slave Patsey in “12 Years.” “I’m a little dazed,” said Nyong’o backstage of winning the Oscar. “I can’t believe this is real life.”

Nyong’o is the sixth black actress to win in the supporting actress category, following Hattie McDaniel (“Gone with the Wind”), Whoopi Goldberg (“Ghost”), Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”), Mo’Nique (“Precious”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Help”).

In her second time hosting, openly gay Ellen DeGeneres sought to make celebrities more like plain folk. She passed out slices of pizza to the front rows at the Dolby Theatre, then passed the hat to pay for it. She also tweeted a “selfie” with such stars as Meryl Streep, Julie Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Pitt and Nyong’o. The shot “made history,” DeGeneres told the audience later. It’s since been retweeted more than 2 million times.

Career of Hollywood’s ‘normal girl’ is catching fire

It’s not always easy being an Oscar-winner.

When Jennifer Lawrence returned to the set of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire after winning the best-actress Academy Award for last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, she was treated to a round of applause.

Then the teasing began.

“I kind of wish just the Hunger Games’ group didn’t know about (the award) because anytime I mess up my lines, Woody (Harrelson) is like, ‘Ya better give that Oscar back!’” said Lawrence.

“But when I got back, I told everybody that things were going to be very, very different,” the actress said, puffing out her chest before bursting into a bout of laughter. “The applause was sweet, but really it was like, ‘Let’s move on.’”

And move on she did, back in theaters as heroine Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Although the role isn’t traditional Oscar material, playing a bow and arrow-bearing fighter in the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy also isn’t hurting Lawrence’s established Oscar track.

“I don’t really look for something (like Oscar potential) when I sit down to read a script,” Lawrence said in a recent interview at a Catching Fire media event. “There is not really a lot of thought. It’s a bizarre instinctual and emotional thing that just hits me.”

Able to tackle dramatic and comedy roles with ease — both in studio blockbusters and smaller independent films — Lawrence says her continued universal success wasn’t by design.

“It just sort of happened and everybody complimented me on it,” said the actress. “I started out in indies and I always imagined myself being in smaller movies for the rest of my career. Then Hunger Games came along and I was in a big pickle. I would have done it in a heartbeat if it were an indie, but it was giant! I had to take a few days to think about it.”

Lawrence accepted the role largely because of her fondness for the strong-spirited lead character. “The stakes are high for her,” said the actress. “It’s exciting to have a female hero like this. It says a lot about our society.”

Though she was already on Hollywood’s radar after starring in the acclaimed 2010 drama Winter’s Bone, which gained her an Oscar nomination, Lawrence said Hunger Games raised the bar. “It took everything to a different place that I could have never imagined. And the (Oscar) did wonderful things for my career. I’m just rolling with it.”

Deemed Hollywood’s “normal” girl, Lawrence’s accessible personality contributes to her demand. She endearingly stumbled while accepting her Oscar in February. She refuses to starve to fit the entertainment industry’s ideals of beauty. And at the Nov. 11 premiere of Catching Fire in London, Lawrence averted from the red carpet to embrace a teary-eyed fan in a wheelchair.

“It’s refreshing,” said Lawrence’s Hunger Games co-star Liam Hemsworth of the actress’ disposition. “She’s not trying to be anything she’s not and she’s got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met.”

Adds Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence (no relation): “Jen is such a down-to-earth goofball that she sets the bar for everybody. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s able to do an intense scene. Then she’ll stop and joke. It’s pretty rare to be able to do it to the level that she can.”

Does she take pride in being so relatable? “Not really because I never really meant to,” said Lawrence, who’s ditched her skirt and heels and has changed into a pair of sweats for her late afternoon interview. “A girl can only take so much!” she sighed.

Returning to theaters Dec. 18, Lawrence will share the screen with veteran actors Robert De Niro and Christian Bale in David O. Russell’s 1970s corruption tale American Hustle.

She admits working with the seasoned cast made her nervous. “But Christian is the nicest and made me feel so normal and welcome,” said Lawrence. The film was also a chance to again work with Russell, her Silver Linings director. “He’s like creative epinephrine,” she said.

Next up for Lawrence will be appearances in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dumb and Dumber To.

And as if she wasn’t busy enough, Lawrence will soon go behind the camera as producer of the adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ 2005 bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle. “I don’t know if I will be any good,” Lawrence said, “but I’m trying it.”

Feeling “very satisfied” with the course of her career thus far, Lawrence said she’s yet to reach her professional sweet spot. “I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a place where I am like ‘Oh, yes!’” said the actress. “But I’ve always just had, fortunately, a very relaxed way about all of it.”

Lesbian romance wins top honor at Cannes Film Festival

The tender, sensual lesbian romance “Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele” won the hearts of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, taking its top honor, the Palme d’Or.

The jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the Palme not just to Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to the film’s two stars: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The three clutched each other as they accepted the award, one of cinema’s greatest honors.

“The film had a beautiful French youth that I discovered during the long time filming the movie,” said Kechiche at the festival closing ceremony Sunday. “It taught me a lot about the spirit of freedom.”

Exarchopoulos stars in the French film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festivalgoers with its heartbreaking coming of age story.

“Life of Adele,” which premiered at Cannes just days after France legalized gay marriage, was hailed as a landmark film for its intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.

“The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning,” said Spielberg. “The director didn’t put any constraints on the narrative, on the storytelling. He let the scenes play as long as scenes play in real life.”

Spielberg called Kechiche (“Games of Love and Chance,” `’The Secret of the Gran”) a “sensitive, observant filmmaker.”

Cannes’ feting of “Life of Adele” came the same day tens of thousands of protesters marched against the new law Sunday in Paris, and police clashed with some demonstrators. Seydoux called the film “a witness to our time.”

“If it can show everyone tolerance, then it’s gratifying,” said Exarchopoulos.

But jury member Cristian Mungiu, the Romanian director, said current events had no bearing on the decision.

“We were giving awards to cinema,” said Mungiu. “Not for political statements.”

“Gay marriage is something that many brave states in America are resolving,” said Spielberg. “This film actually carries a wry, strong message, a very positive message.”

The Palme d’Or, which the jury selected from the 20 films in competition at Cannes, had been viewed as a relatively wide-open race ahead of Sunday’s awards. The festival audience embraced the jury’s choice, giving Kechiche and his two stars a standing ovation. “Life of Adele” had ranked highest in critics polls at the French Riviera festival.

The jury otherwise spread the awards around.

The Coen brothers’ 1960s folk revival “Inside Llewyn Davis” earned the Grand Prix, Cannes’ second most prestigious award. The film’s breakout star, Oscar Isaac, accepted the award for the Coens, who won the Palme in 1991 for “Barton Fink.”

Best actor went to 76-year-old Bruce Dern for Alexander Payne’s father-son road trip “Nebraska.” Berenice Bejo, the “Artist” star, won best actress for her performance as a single mother balancing a visiting ex-husband and a new fiancé in Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past.”

The jury prize, Cannes’ third top award, went to Kore-eda Hirokazu’s gentle switched-at-birth drama “Like Father, Like Son.” Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante took best director for his brutal drug war drama “Heli.” Best screenplay went to Zhangke Jia’s “A Touch Of Sin,” a four-part depiction of the violence wrought by China’s economic boom.

Singaporean director Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or, the award for best first feature, for his “Ilo Ilo.” Set during the Asia financial crisis in 1997, the film is about a Singaporean family and its new maid.

Spielberg, whose jury also included Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, said the group bonded immediately, joking: “I wanted to take them all home with me.”

The Palme d’Or can catapult a filmmaker to international renown, and significantly raise the profile of a film. “Life of Adele” was picked up for U.S. distribution during Cannes by IFC’s Sundance Selects. Last year’s winner, Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” went on to win best foreign language film at the Oscars, as well as land the rare best picture nomination for a foreign film. In 2011, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” topped Cannes.

Sunday’s awards encompassed films from France, Japan, the United States, Mexico, China and Singapore.

Said Spielberg: “We crossed the world through these films.”

Gay man wrongfully convicted of murder wins civil rights suit

A gay Ohio man who was exonerated after spending 13 years in prison for murder cried as a federal jury found that two Cleveland police detectives violated his civil rights by coercing and falsifying testimony and withholding evidence that pointed to his innocence.

The jury’s verdict, which included awarding $13.2 million to David Ayers of Cleveland for his pain and suffering, brings an end to the legal battle he’s been fighting since his arrest in the 1999 killing of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown.

Ayers, 56, was released from prison in 2011 after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed his conviction and the state decided not to seek another trial.

Ayers, who was a security guard for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, had been found guilty of killing Brown at her CMHA apartment in Cleveland. She was found bludgeoned to death, covered in defensive wounds and naked from the waist down; she also had been robbed. DNA testing later proved that a pubic hair found in her mouth did not come from Ayers.

“This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the jury’s verdict. “My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”

Ayers filed his civil rights lawsuit in March 2012 against six Cleveland police officers, the city and the county housing authority. Allegations against three of the officers, the city and the housing authority were dismissed by a judge who found that their roles did not violate Ayers’ rights.

One of the remaining officers settled out of court with Ayers for an undisclosed amount. The verdict was against Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, who were the lead investigators in the case.

Kovach and Cipo could not be reached for comment. They have denied misconduct.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that attorney Rachel Steinback of Chicago, who represented Ayers, said the city is self-insured so the award will come from taxpayer money, not an insurance company.

Among the most serious allegations by Ayers against Kovach and Cipo were that the two detectives conspired with each other to fabricate a confession that he never made, coerced a friend of Ayers to lie by saying that Ayers had told him of the murder before Brown’s body was discovered, and gave key information about the crime to Ayers’ prison cellmate so he could later testify against Ayers about an admission he didn’t make.

In an August filing, Cipo and Kovach argued to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying that they acted in good faith and with probable cause, and that Ayers was responsible for any alleged injuries that he incurred.

Federal Judge James Gwin denied their request late last month shortly before the trial, ruling that Ayers had produced sufficient evidence that the detectives had violated his rights.

Tammy Baldwin wins international human rights award

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is the recipient of special recognition honors from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The organization’s Celebration of Courage program honoring those “making a significant, lasting, and heroic impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people worldwide” takes place July 16 in New York City.

The announcement of Baldwin’s special recognition award praises the lawmaker for devoting her “life to fighting for Wisconsin families,” her vote against the war in Iraq, her push to end the war in Afghanistan, her work for workplace rights and her vote against repealing the Glass-Stegall Act, which “would have prevented Wall Street and the big banks from making the kinds of risky investments that led to our financial collapse.”

Baldwin, in 1999, became the first woman from Wisconsin to be elected to Congress. She also was the first open lesbian in Congress and the first openly gay challenger elected at a federal level.

She is now running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

The organization’s Felipa De Souza Award will be presented to Judge Karen Atala, who lost custody of her three daughters, when, during a divorce hearing, the Supreme Court of Chile stripped her of her rights as a mother solely due to her sexual orientation.

IGLHRC’s award announcement says, “An eight-year court battle ensued, during which time Ms. Atala co-founded Las Otras Familias, the first Chilean organization focused on families formed by lesbians…. For almost 10 years, spurred on by the injustice of the court’s ruling, Ms. Atala has bravely shared her story at forums and seminars, breaking down myths and stereotypes about gay people and their families.”

In August 2011, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights heard Atala’s case against Chile.

In February, the court ruled it is a violation of international human rights law to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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‘Once’ completes its Cinderella story with a Tony

Once upon a time, a quirky film made on a shoestring turned into an unlikely Oscar-winner and, even more improbably, a Broadway show.

Now, “Once” has completed its Cinderella story, winning the coveted best-musical Tony award on June 10 for its bittersweet love story that has captured the hearts of theatergoers, just as it did with movie audiences in 2006.

“Once” won eight awards in all, including for its lead actor, Steve Kazee, who brought movie-star looks and a soulful singing voice to the part of Guy, a street musician in Dublin who falls for a Czech immigrant flower-seller.

Kazee gave one of the most poignant speeches of a night that had many of them, paying tearful tribute to his mother, who passed away on Easter Sunday. He also thanked his cast mates, especially co-star Cristin Milioti, for helping him cope: “They carried me around and made me feel alive.”

“Once” triumphed over the more obviously commercial “Newsies” for the top prize, and that was a theme of the night – many of the top-honored shows were neither big-budget nor star-driven, and a number had started off-Broadway in small theaters.

And the show with the biggest price tag of all, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” was shut out in the two technical categories in which it was nominated, sets and costume design in a musical. The evening’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, made fun of that $75 million show’s early troubles when he started one bit hanging from the ceiling, Spidey-like; he then proceeded to get stuck in the air, or rather pretended to.

The Tony for best play went to Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park,” which had already won the Pulitzer Prize for its clever exploration of race in America, via a piece of real estate.

To no one’s surprise, Audra McDonald was named best lead actress in a musical for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” which was named best musical revival. It was her fifth Tony Award, at only age 41, tying the competitive record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.

“I was a little girl with a potbelly and afro puffs, hyperactive and overdramatic. And I found the theater, and I found my home,” McDonald said, tearfully.

McDonald is an established name on Broadway, but the best-actress winner in a play, Nina Arianda of “Venus in Fur,” came out of nowhere to stun audiences, first off Broadway and then on, with her smoldering portrayal of a mysterious young actress auditioning for a play. In a very competitive category, she beat out veterans like Linda Lavin and Stockard Channing for the Tony.

Handed her award by actor Christopher Plummer, 82, Arianda, who is in her 20s, revealed that he’d been her first crush. “When that whistle was blown in ‘Sound of Music,’ you made my day,” she told the actor.

Later, at the packed post-Tony gala at the Plaza Hotel, where guests munched on everything from oysters and lobster to tiny little pastries, Arianda clutched her Tony and said she was feeling dazed. “I still don’t know where I am,” she exclaimed. Asked her plans after the show closed in a week, she said: “Vacation.”

Standing amidst a bevy of admirers in the Plaza’s Palm Court restaurant was James Corden, the British comic actor who won best actor in a play for the farcical “One Man, Two Guvnors,” an upset over Philip Seymour Hoffman for his Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.”

“I’m shocked, and I’m thrilled,” Corden said. “No one could have imagined a better reception here for our play.” Asked if he had worried whether the show’s very British humor would appeal to American audiences, he said: “You hope, but you never know.”

Arthur Miller’s 63-year-old masterpiece “Death of a Salesman” won the Tony for best play revival and Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony for directing it. He said the play has a special meaning for many in the audience.

“There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman – to be out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” he said. “As we know, a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory.”

In the featured actor category in a play, Christian Borle, who hilariously plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who will later become Captain Hook in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” took home the trophy. Borle is on a roll: He also stars in the NBC series “Smash.”

In something of a vindication, the reworked version of the Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess” managed to come home with more – and more prestigious – awards than a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.”

Diane Paulus, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater, condensed and adapted it for Broadway with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Obie Award-winning composer Diedre Murray. Purists including Sondheim complained that a musical treasure was being corrupted.

Theater audiences disagreed, with fans cheering the new work, which features songs such as “Summertime” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” Norm Lewis, who plays Porgy, said the controversy was actually a good thing. “It started a dialogue,” he said at the post-Tony gala. “And that dialogue was about theater, not the latest shoes or something. It brought us attention.”

In featured roles, Judy Kaye won for the musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” in which she plays a temperance worker who likes to drink and hangs from a chandelier at one point.

Judith Light, who plays an acerbic alcoholic in “Other Desert Cities,” won for best featured actress in a play. Michael McGrath won for best actor in a featured musical role from “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

In one bit of good news for “Newsies,” composer Alan Menken, who has more Oscars than any other living person, captured his first Tony for the score.

The show at the Beacon Theatre was packed with musical performances designed to show a TV audience what’s available on Broadway. The numbers were highly entertaining, as was the banter – and song and dance – from Harris, whom the Tony audience adores.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the “Modern Family” star, made a cameo appearance as Harris’s understudy in a comic number, and said later at the gala that he loved the show. He also said he had been pulling for “Once,” and that Kazee was a friend.

“Wasn’t that speech about his mother amazing?” he said.

Kazee choked up as he told the crowd about his Mom.

“My mother … always told me before shows to stand up there and show them whose little boy you are,” he said. “And I’m showing you today that I am the son of Kathy Withrow Kazee who lost the fight with cancer on Easter Sunday this year, and I think about her every day,” Kazee said.

Online: http://www.TonyAwards.com

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