Thursday, January 17, 2013

Toronto Lawyer Charged With First-Degree Murder In Connection To Death Of Husband Wants $2 Million Life Insurance Proceeds, Court In China Proposes Annulment Option For Women Who Wed Gay Men, Australian Scientist Develops Treatment That Prohibit HIV From Developing Into AIDS, Peaceful Protest For Transgender Rights Over Hideous Julie Burchill Column, California Synagogue States Opposition To “Damaging” Anti-Gay Boy Scouts Of America Policy, President Of U.S. Gay Journalist Association Michael Triplett Dies At 48, Nicholas Hoult Hot, One Direction Turns Japanese

In Ontario, a Toronto lawyer charged with first-degree murder in the death of his ex-husband is seeking the dead man’s $2-million life insurance proceeds. And even if he is convicted, Demitry Papasotiriou, charged in the slaying of Allan Lanteigne, does not want Lanteigne’s family getting the money. The Toronto Star reports that the unusual civil case stems from the death of Lanteigne, 49, a University of Toronto accounting clerk found at his Ossington Ave. home on March 3, 2011, after having suffered an apparent beating. Police arrested Papasotiriou last November and charged him in the slaying. Last week, a business associate of his, Mladen “Michael’’ Ivezic, 52, of Mississauga was also charged with murder. Det. Tam Bui of the Toronto homicide squad said Papasotiriou was in Switzerland studying for his doctorate in law at the time of the killing, and Ivezic was arrested in Greece and is to be extradited. Police are labelling the case a domestic homicide. Papasotiriou and Lanteigne married in 2004, just months after they met, but they became estranged, and had been so for at least a few years before the slaying, police said. After Lanteigne’s death, Papasotiriou — a suspect at the time — filed claims against the two firms that insured his spouse, seeking the $2 million, court records say. Papasotiriou is named as sole beneficiary in Lanteigne’s life insurance policy. He did not have a will. Meanwhile, Lanteigne’s mother and sister applied to intervene in Papasotiriou’s civil suit, arguing it affects them. His mother was granted leave to intervene. In court filings, Papasotiriou says even if he’s found guilty, Lanteigne’s family shouldn’t get the insurance money because they aren’t named in the policy. “The proceeds would never be paid to anyone, including Allan’s estate. As a result the insurers would simply keep the money,’’ Papasotiriou’s lawyers argued late last year, according to documents filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. If he is convicted, the insurance companies intend to pay the proceeds to a court and are seeking “a release from liability,’’ court records show. Jane Martin, the lawyer for Lanteigne’s mother, says someone found criminally responsible for a death may not profit from it, which would disqualify Papasotiriou if he’s found guilty. In the court filings, Lanteigne’s mother, Rosaline, says that in the event of Papasotiriou’s conviction, her son’s estate should pass to her as his only surviving parent. The court has put a hold on the civil matter pertaining to the insurance claim until after Papasotiriou’s criminal case is resolved. Gordon McGuire, his lawyer in the civil case, declined comment Wednesday evening.

In Australia, Queensland researchers believe they have hit upon a “light switch” protein within the HIV virus, which can be turned off to stop it developing into full-blown AIDS. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research believes it may be developed into the closest thing modern medicine will get to a cure. “This has the possibility - not to eliminate the virus - but hopefully to allow us to reconstitute a human immune system that is resistant to HIV,” Associate Professor David Harrich said. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said they experimented on a normal protein usually used by the HIV virus to replicate itself in human cells and mutated it to create the “Nullbasic” protein. “We now have a very potent protein that can stop HIV from growing in cells,” he said. “Instead of being an activator of HIV, it’s an inhibitor of HIV.” Associate Professor Harrich runs the only research lab in Queensland working on Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and hopes to proceed to animal trials later this year. “The reason we got so encouraged was because of just how well this protein worked in the cell culture, so we’re fairly convinced the animal model study will be successful,” he said. With animal then human trials predicted to take five to 10 years, Associate Professor Harrich said the ultimate goal would be to develop a gene therapy treatment – similar to therapies provided to people with cancer - that would replace current regimes of antiretroviral drugs. “With a single therapy that you would have long-lasting protection from the virus and could lead a drug-free life,” he said. For Associate Professor Harrich, the result comes after more than 20 years of working on the virus, including in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when he was resident at the University of California, which was heavily involved in its identification and early treatment. “So this whole project that I’m working on right now actually started in that same lab in UCLA,’’ he said. The findings have been published in the journal Human Gene Therapy. He said as exciting as this development was, it was no reason to ease up on public health such as practicing safe sex and not sharing needles. “Prevention is still the best cure,” he said. “Where we come in is when it’s too late.” Around the world, researchers are working on several approaches to improve the treatment of HIV and a global strategy to find a cure was unveiled in Washington last year. The Alfred hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit director, Professor Sharon Lewin, is pioneering one approach. Professor Lewin, who is also co-head of virology at Melbourne’s Burnet Institute, is testing the ability of an existing drug to ‘‘wake up’’ the virus in cells where it hides and lies dormant. The theory is the reawakened virus would kill the cell it inhabits, thereby self-destructing. Another potential cure under investigation internationally involves boosting the immune system to mimic a group of HIV patients who can control the virus naturally. This group of patients, known as ‘‘elite controllers’’, have low levels of the virus which don’t require drug treatment.

In China, a recent court proposal has brought new hope to women who have unwittingly married gay men, prompting vibrant discussions about how to protect the women while upholding gay rights. According to China Daily, in a report released last week, the First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing called for legislation to allow those who discover their spouses are homosexual to file for an annulment as an alternative to divorce. The report said the number of such cases has been increasing. Current marriage law does not provide an "out" for such marriages and many of the wives view divorce unfavorably. China has at least 10 million "gay wives," according to prominent sexologist Zhang Beichuan, adding that nearly 90 percent of gay men are already married to or will eventually marry heterosexual women, as same-sex marriage is banned in the country. After annulling their marriages, the legal marital status of the women in question would be restored to "single" instead of "divorced." Some plaintiffs believe the change will better protect their rights, the report said. The proposal will be advantageous for gay wives who do not wish to be labeled as divorcees, said "Tabitha," a volunteer with the Tongqi Association, an online support group for wives of gay men. "A divorced man in his 40s can still be sought-after and find a 20-something woman to marry. But when it comes to a divorced woman of the same age, that is absolutely not the case," said the 24-year-old Chinese woman, who has counseled scores of wives on the issue. "Zheyi," a former wife of a gay man, said she would rather spend the rest of her life alone. She ended her seven-year marriage a month ago. "I've lost faith in love and marriage," she said, adding that it is very difficult for a divorced 35-year-old woman to find an ideal husband, especially in smaller cities, where people are more conservative. The different circumstances of divorced men and women reflect the oppression imposed on females by society, said Liu Bohong, a professor of gender studies. "Men traditionally intend to choose a first-time bride, a virgin. Such preferences have led to a preference for being 'single' among women themselves," Liu said. The suggestion may serve as a warning to gay men preparing to marry straight women, according to Zhang. Although the proposed legislation is good news for the wives of gay men, it has caused a backlash from the gay community and provoked further debate over gay people's right to marry. "I think allowing the wives of gay men to annul their marriages without providing support to their same-sex partners accordingly will squeeze us out,” said "Xiao Xiao," a 24-year-old gay man. More than 10 years after realizing his sexuality, the postgraduate student in Shanghai has not come out to his family. "The time is not ripe," he said. The solution will rest in efforts to help end public discrimination against gay people as opposed to legislating the issue, said Hu Zhijun, executive director of PFLAG China, an organization dedicated to eliminating stigma surrounding sexual minorities. This opinion was echoed by Chen Wei, a professor at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. Chen said the court's suggestion deprives homosexuals of right to marry, adding that homosexuals' desire to have families and children should be protected by law. Another legal specialist, Liang Wenyong, expressed disagreement. "In my opinion, homosexuals are obliged to tell their would-be spouses about their sexual orientation or the marriage will inevitably inflict pain on the heterosexual partner," said Liang, a researcher at the China University of Political Science and Law, adding that he is in favor of legislation to help the unwitting heterosexual spouses. "Getting married is like signing a contract. Both sides have the right to know," Liang said. At the same time, he stressed that the law should not interfere if gay people reveal their sexual orientation before marrying straight partners. In China, gay men chose to marry women and have children mainly due to significant pressure from their parents and social traditions, as many Chinese believe that continuing a family's bloodline is an inescapable obligation for men. Despite this pressure, gay men have no right to harm those who are also vulnerable, Liu said. "It's unfair to save oneself by putting others at a disadvantage," she said. "I advocate for gay rights, but I'm also convinced that all people should be given equal rights," she said. Hu said gay men, particularly younger ones, should raise the courage to be themselves in the face of pressure and discrimination.

In the United Kingdom, a peaceful protest took place on Thursday afternoon outside the Guardian Media Group offices in London over Julie Burchill's column in last Sunday's Observer. Organizers of the gathering of more than 100 transgender people and supporters said the column – for which he Observer has apologized and which has been removed from its website – was "transphobic hate speech" and a "deliberate baiting" of a community that is already the subject of widespread social abuse and ridicule. "The Burchill piece was a deliberate baiting," said Martha Dunkley, a member of TransLondon. "It was straightforward, transphobic hate speech for which, had she been targeting another group, she would have been arrested. It threw us back into the days when we could be the objects of violence and ridicule with impunity." The protest was the culmination of a row sparked by Suzanne Moore, who wrote in an article that women were, among other things, angry about "not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.” Moore subsequently became involved in an increasingly heated row on Twitter with members of the transgender community, which concluded in her leaving the social media site. Burchill's column was in defence of Moore, her close friend. The protesters said they are seeking a full apology from the Observer and reassurance that they will take steps to ensure that the Guardian Media Group's publications "will never again be used as a platform for hate speech.” Sarah Savage, an organizer of the protest, wrote in an open letter to the paper that, "We are aware of the Observer's withdrawal of Burchill's article from their website, but feel that this response does not give adequate reassurance that the paper will not publish transphobic content in future. Furthermore, we do not feel that the paper has adequately acknowledged the role of transphobia in the media in perpetuating and erasing the day-to-day discrimination and violence which we as a community face as a consequence of such attitudes as those expressed in Burchill's article,” adding, “Instead, the paper has opted for an erasure of the incident without addressing its cause.” According to a 2012 study by the Scottish Transgender Alliance, 84-percent of the 1,054 transgender participants in the survey said they had thought about ending their lives at some point. At least 35-percent had attempted suicide at least once and 25-percent had attempted to end their lives more than once. Over 80-percent said they avoided certain situations, such as clothing shops, clubs and social groups, because of fear of abuse and violence. Almost 40-percent had experienced sexual harassment, over 37-percent had experienced physical threats or intimidation and 25-percent had to move away from family or friends. A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said, "We respect the reasons behind today's peaceful vigil by members and supporters of the trans community. The Observer withdrew Julie Burchill's comment piece earlier this week, acknowledging that on this occasion we got it wrong. The Observer readers' editor will respond to this issue at greater length in due course. We have spoken with representatives from the gathering with a view to continuing this dialogue once we have considered and reflected on the letter they have delivered to us today."

In California, the board of directors of Temple Isaiah voted unanimously this week to oppose the Boy Scouts of America's decision to disqualify boys because they admit to being gay. A Thursday news release referred specifically to Ryan Andresen of Moraga, a candidate for his Eagle Award last year until he public affirmed he was gay. Andresen was denied his Eagle rank and dismissed from Scouting altogether. "Though we cannot change the Scouts' national policy, we can work hard within and outside Temple Isaiah's walls to create an awareness of the damaging consequences of such policies on all our youth and on our communities," Rabbi Roberto Graetz said in the statement. The Temple Isaiah board supports a policy of not writing Eagle Scout recommendations or signing off on religious awards for the Boy Scouts until the Boy Scouts of America membership policy is changed.

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association announced Thursday that President Michael Triplett passed away January 17, 2013 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 48. The organization reports that while Michael only served as president for a few short months, he had been a member of the leadership team for several years, first as a Washington, D.C. chapter board member and president and then as a national board member and vice president for print. His quiet demeanor masked a steely resolve and an uncanny ability to push the organization forward. Michael quickly became someone who could be relied on both to provide sage advice as well as the time and energy to help the organization accomplish their goals. He was the assistant managing editor at Bloomberg-BNA, where he used his legal background to develop and lead reports on tax and labor policy, as well as grooming journalists around the world. NLGJA members often called on Michael to provide a legal perspective to policy issues and governance, and he frequently sat on panels covering legal issues at NLGJA conventions. Michael played an enormous role in NLGJA joining UNITY: Journalists for Diversity in 2011 and was one of the first representatives to the UNITY board. There, he worked with members of partner groups to fully incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into UNITY’s mission, as well as helping the organization connect with members as a principle contributor to the NLGJA RE:ACT blog. He leaves a partner, Jack.

Super sexy Nicholas Hoult spotted in Rome, attending the Italian premiere of his new film Warm Bodies.

One Direction spotted arriving in Tokyo, donning traditional Japanese kimonos.

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