Lindsay Lohan's Ex Boyfriend Selling Her Nude Pictures


Not only did he tell tabloids she was a sex addict, but Lindsay Lohan’s ex boyfriend is now selling very private photos of the young actress.

Trusting a partner with naughty photos is hard enough, but for celebrities, it could dramatically affect their public image if the photos are leaked.

Lindsay Lohan is the latest celebrity to be betrayed by an ex, scandalous photos of her making their way into the hands of strangers thanks to Riley Giles (in the gallery), the guy she hooked up in rehab.

“Lindsay’s definitely a nymphomaniac,” Giles told the tabloids. “She’s wild in bed. We’d have sex a couple of times in the day and then go to it through the night.

“We once did it four times in a row straight. That was crazy. Lindsay was insatiable. She’d demand sex again and again. We’d go at it for hours. She’d have worn out most guys.

“I couldn’t believe I was looking down at Lindsay Lohan naked. We’d barely gotten through the door when we just ripped each other’s clothes off. Lindsay is so hot. She has a great body. Her backside is fantastic, perfect, all plump and round. She has great curves but her belly is nice and flat and toned. We couldn’t get enough of each other.”

Lohan joins celebs like Paris Hilton, who had her famous sex tapes leaked by her ex, and teen Disney star, Vanessa Hudgens whose naked photos made it to the net thanks to her boyfriend.

Angelina Jolie, Best Humanitarian Celebrity Of 2007

From tattooed wild woman to humanitarian heroine - what a difference a few years has made for Angelina Jolie, who topped a Reuters poll, released yesterday, of the best celebrity humanitarians of 2007.

Hollywood star Jolie commanded the greatest public respect of all celebrity public do-gooders this year due to her work as a UN goodwill ambassador and her efforts to raise awareness of suffering in Africa.

But the poll by humanitarian website Reuters AlertNet found not all do-gooders fared so well, with fellow adoptive mother Madonna voted the least respected celebrity altruist of 2007, despite raising millions for orphans in Malawi. Bob Geldof also struggled for support.

Madonna's image was hit by claims she used her fame and wealth to circumvent Malawian adoption rules.

"People aren't stupid," said Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University.

"They can really sense when it's just an endorsement and when somebody really means it. Someone like Angelina Jolie comes across as having more integrity than some celebrities and a greater sense that she doesn't just do this for the publicity."

The online poll of 606 people conducted between December 7 and 19 put 32-year-old Jolie ahead of U2 singer Bono, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Microsoft founder Bill Gates - all of whom have helped put African suffering on the global agenda.

The result underlined how far Jolie has changed her image since shocking onlookers by French kissing her brother at an awards ceremony about seven years ago and wearing a vial of second husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck.

HUMANITARIAN HOBBY?

Since becoming an ambassador in 2001 for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, she has visited more than 20 humanitarian hot spots, most recently Iraq.

"She does this in a very low-key way," said UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler.

"She goes out to see for herself, to get up close and very personal. She doesn't travel with film crews, and I think that is real testimony to her dedication to the cause."

Jolie has three adopted children - from Ethiopia, Cambodia and Vietnam, and last year gave birth to a daughter, Shiloh, with her actor partner Brad Pitt.

But she has sparked little of the controversy that has dogged Madonna, who adopted a toddler from Malawi in 2006.

"Madonna seems to do philanthropy the way she's done Indian culture, sex, and just about everything - like a disposable fad," said one anonymous voter.

"Hope she doesn't get bored of her adopted African kid."

John McKie, who recruits celebrities for British relief agency Christian Aid, was less critical of Madonna.

"She has played Live8 and she's got her own charity in Malawi," he said.

"Many celebrities don't engage in Africa on any level, so we shouldn't be too hard on Madonna."

After Madonna, US socialite Paris Hilton gave the worst name to celebrity humanitarianism in 2007, the poll found, after announcing she planned to swap partying for philanthropy with a trip to Rwanda. The trip was later postponed.

Famous figures who scored highly for their humanitarian work included former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Jordan's Queen Rania and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Actors Mia Farrow, Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt won praise for their advocacy on behalf of Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

Bono showed he has both admirers and detractors, ranking second after Jolie in the "most respected" category but also attracting enough negative votes to put him in the top five celebrity do-gooders people love to hate - with Bob Geldof.

"This guy probably believes he's the new Messiah," said one anonymous voter.

The Girlchild Legally In Bondage To Sexual Slavery In Niger


Fifteen-year-old Hadjo Garbo's child-like features belie a history more tragic and life-altering than many adults four times her age will have experienced.

Two years ago this petite girl, who likes to fiddle with her elaborately braided hair and once dreamed of being a housewife, was married to one of the older men in her village in the Dosso region of southwest Niger. She was just 13 years old.

The marriage was consummated, and by 14 she was pregnant with her first child. But before her 15th birthday she had lost the baby - and her 42 years old husband.

Hadjo's anatomy proved unready for the task of delivering a baby and after an excruciating three-day labour, the unborn foetus was cut out of her, stillborn.

The horrific labour left the girl with what gynaecologists call an obstetric fistula, a tearing of the tissue that develops when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and bladder and/or rectum is cut off during prolonged obstructed labour. The condition mostly affects child victims of underage marriage.

Hadjo was ostracised by her husband and his family, and forced to secrete herself away from the prying eyes and laughter of her former school friends.

Not paedophilia

In many Western and Muslim countries what happened to Hadjo would be called paedophilia and the male attacker would be arrested and imprisoned.

In Niger that word is only applied to men who have sex with girls outside of marriage, said Idrissa Djibrilla, head of the Niger branch of Defence for Children International (DCI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

"Here we only talk about paedophilia when sex happens outside marriage," Djibrilla said.

"If we look at it from the biological, physiological point of view, it's clear that at nine, 10, 11 or 12 years old a girl simply is not ready for sex and child bearing. That's the reality, but it is hard to make our communities understand."

The effects can be long-lasting and extend beyond physical health, human rights workers and psychologists who have studied child brides say.

Forced sexual intercourse, denial of freedom and domestic violence are "frequently" found in child marriages, the long-term effects of which are poorly understood, according to a confidential NGO study shown to IRIN.

Eventually, the girls are likely to be abandoned when their polygamous husbands take another young bride. In Niger, women have little or no rights after a divorce.

Widespread problem

Hadjo's case is not an isolated one in Niger. The problem affects all the regions of the country, Djibrilla said. At least a third of girls are married by the age of 15, and 75 percent before the age of 18, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

In reality, activists say 13 is a common age for marriage, and some girls are married off as young as nine or 10. They will be forced to have sex even before their first period.

Negotiations over the Family Code (Code de la Personne et de la Famille) - a piece of domestic legislation which would have defined the legal relationship between husbands and wives and children and parents, and included a legal minimum age for marriage and sexual intercourse - collapsed in 2006.

According to Alice Kang, a University of Wisconsin researcher who studied the process, the Family Code was "vilified and abandoned" after mainstream Islamist associations lobbied against it.

"Women's NGOs [in Niger] sometimes compete with each other and therefore do not always get along together... the influence of religious leaders on politics is, more often than not, indirect... and the Family Code was an extremely contentious issue to the point of being a taboo subject in certain circles," she wrote in a report after conducting research in Niger in 2006.

Reticence

DiadiƩ Boureima, deputy representative of UNFPA in Niger, said the government is "a bit reticent" about tackling early marriage "because of the religious reaction" and said if things are going to change "the 'marabout' (religious leaders) will have to be involved."

"If there was a law against paedophilia it would be applied here," said Boureima. "But, instead, Islam has legalised it by saying the Prophet had a nine-year-old wife, even though that marriage was not consummated."

UNFPA wants the age of marriage to be changed to 18. It says that would give girls longer in school, give their bodies time to develop, and allow them to reach adulthood. It would also help curb Niger's runaway demographic growth by reducing a girl's reproductive lifespan.

Keeping girls in school has wider benefits, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). In a 2001 study, the agency found that women with seven or more years of education marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than those with no education.

In Niger, only 15 percent of adult women are literate, and less than one-third of girls enrol in primary school.

Compromise with religious leaders needed

There are also economic reasons behind early marriages, Boureima noted. "There is the chance that the girl will go to a better home or just that the marriage will be celebrated with a good party and food," he said.

University of Wisconsin's Kang noted in her report that it is not just men who will have to be convinced of the need for change.

"I was... surprised to learn that there were some women who opposed the Family Code and publicly demonstrated against it, and the legal experts with whom I spoke emphasised that I study this," she noted.

DCI's Djibrilla - like all the officials IRIN spoke with - insisted nonetheless that reaching a compromise with religious officials is the most important part of ending the practice. "We have advocated that religious officials can perform marriage ceremonies between adults and children, but that people should not consummate the marriage until the child reaches puberty," he said.

"The real problem is that at the national level the government is afraid to take certain measures," he added.

Hadjo's story

Hadjo's story does at least have a somewhat happy ending. She underwent two operations for the fistula and spent 12 months at a recovery centre in Niamey, and is ready to go home again.

Hadjo's husband abandoned her. Her father, a peasant farmer, insists that even if he were still around she would not be going back to him.

"No more husband," the father insisted. "I was ignorant before but now I know what we did was very wrong."

However, she will not be able to have any more children, a grave condition in a country where women's fertility is prized. Unlikely to be able to remarry and without having completed her education, her future might yet turn out to be just as difficult as her past.

Nicole Kidman Missing Her Co-Actor Brandon Walters Already

Staring into those big brown eyes for nine months, it is easy to see how Nicole Kidman had her heart stolen by 11-year-old Brandon Walters.

Brandon is a young actor from Broome who was plucked from obscurity to play what has been described as the most pivotal role in Baz Luhrmann's epic $100 million blockbuster Australia.

As filming entered its final stages at Fox Studios last week he told Luhrmann he would miss making movies. And it is no secret Kidman will miss Brandon, too.

Details of his character, Nullah, are scant, but PS understands Nullah lives on the outback cattle property of Kidman's character, Lady Sarah Ashley, and becomes a central figure in the relationship between Lady Ashley and a local drover (Hugh Jackman). Lady Ashley takes a maternal role in the boy's life.

Evidently Kidman and Brandon have established a relationship similar to the one on screen, with visitors to the set revealing the Oscar winner and the young actor have developed a sign language to communicate secret messages during the drawn-out shoot, which has taken them across Australia. On Thursday Kidman was peppering Brandon's brow with motherly kisses between takes.

Last Sunday Kidman invited Brandon and his extended family, including his mother, Janie Wright, to the red-carpet premiere of The Golden Compass. Surrounded by VIPs in the State Theatre, Wright beamed with pride when revealing to PS the family had been "specially invited" by Kidman, who had established a strong bond with her son.

"Nicole is a great woman … She has really looked after Brandon, and he thinks she's great," she said.

Kidman and Luhrmann are also acutely aware of the dangers of celebrity and have both been protective of the boy, with talk they intend to set up a scholarship for him to ensure he continues his education beyond the hype of movie-making.

No doubt Brandon helped to partially fill the void Kidman has felt having to be away from her children, Connor and Isabella, for so many months. They will not be joining her in Sydney for Christmas, instead spending the festive period with their father, Tom Cruise, in the United States.

Britney Spears Rush Out On K-Fed To Rush In On Sam Lufti?

It's a queer business, but showbiz circles are abuzz with rumours troubled pop star Britney Spears is planning to marry again.

The groom-to-be is reported by American celebrity magazine Staras Sam Lufti.

Lufti is variously described as her "personal assistant", "manager" and "close friend and confidant".

The tabloid-style magazine reports that Spears recently shouted: "I'm eloping with Sam" in a tete-a-tete with her ex-husband Kevin Federline.

The magazine reports a "source close to Britney' saying "Britney is completely under Sam's spell".

"It's not like she hasn't eloped before. She pays for his food, his bar and restaurant tabs and his clothing," the source reportedly said.

"They begged her to at least get a prenup, but she didn't seem to be listening."

There is a high degree of scepticism about the claims, however, even among the tabloids.

Website gaysocliates.com is claiming "high profile gays in LA 'confirm' Lutfi's sexual orientation as decidedly queer."

But elopement is never out of the question for Spears, who married childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander in a Las Vegas wedding that was annuled 55 hours later.

Federline is reported to be furious about his ex-wife's plans.

Federline will continue temporary custody of his children with Spears after a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner made no changes to the custody arrangement yesterday.

Spears has two children with Federline: two-year-old Sean Preston and 15-month-old Jayden James.

Commissioner Scott Gordon also moved back a scheduled hearing from January to February after the 90-minute closed-door hearing. Neither Federline nor Spears, 26, were in court while their lawyers argued the case.

The couple have been wrangling for months over the custody of their sons.

Federline lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan said the court considered a motion to continue various matters because Spears called in sick to her court-ordered deposition last week.

"Our main concern was that we not have to proceed in a time frame without that information that we could possibly glean from her deposition," Kaplan said.

Kate Hudson And Owen Wilson, Why They Parted


Kate Hudson has spoken about her ex-lover Owen Wilson for the first time.

The actress, who began dating Owen last year after they met on the set of You, Me and Dupree but split in June, said she will always love Owen and hopes he is happier following his failed suicide attempt.

She said: "Owen is such a lovely person, and I love him dearly. And I wish him beautiful things - health and everything that he desires in life."

Kate, 28, also revealed her marriage to rocker Chris Robinson began to falter after their three-year-old son Ryder was born.

The actress, who split from Chris in 2006 after six years, admitted her divorce was the most "painful" thing she has ever gone through.

She told Vogue magazine: "We had Ryder, and we both sort of looked at each other and went, 'Something's off.'

"The divorce was the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. The process of discovering with somebody that you love that you don't work is so painful."

Despite the heartbreaking split, Kate insists she is still close to her ex-husband and claims being a single mother has forced her to grow up quickly.

She said: "Thank goodness I did it with Chris. We helped each other through it. Now we're both single and since the day we separated, we talk multiple times.

"This year was just an extremely giant sort of leap. I definitely feel like I've grown up a lot."

Following her split from Owen in June, Kate has been romantically linked to Dax Shephard and Orlando Bloom.

Owen was rushed to hospital on August 26 after being found unconscious with slashed wrists, just days after Kate was first photographed with Dax.

The Wedding Crashers star has since reportedly dated Jessica Simpson, supermodel Le Call and Bionic Woman star Michelle Ryan.

Rihanna And Josh Harnett, Nothing Going On

Rihanna has denied she is dating Josh Hartnett, despite recently gushing about him.

The Umbrella singer has been seen partying with the handsome actor on several occasions, but insists they're just good friends.

She told Allure magazine: "This is what really happened. He and my management, they have each other's contact information. I went to the New York club Pink Elephant, and he came by. All of a sudden, the next day, I'm seeing that we were kissing and hugging up each other.

"You can't even go out with a friend who's a celebrity and have a good time without people making stuff up.

"Well, at least he's good-looking, right?"

It seems Rihanna has had a change of heart regarding her relationship with Josh.

She recently said: "I would be lying if I told you we were not more than just friends. I have so fallen for him, he is lovely. He is so hot and he is really sweet to me. When we hang out it feels right - even though it's still pretty new."

The 19-year-old star also denied she does not get along with Beyonce Knowles, whose lover Jay-Z is president of Rihanna's record label Def Jam.

She said: "She's Beyonce and I'm his new protege. When we see each other we say hi. We're not enemies, but we're not friends."

Britney Spears' 16-Year-Old Sister Jamie Lynn To Be A Mother


Britney Spears 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn is pregnant.

I've heard of keeping things in the family, but this is ridiculous.

In an interview with OK! magazine due out tomorrow, Jamie Lynn confirms she is pregnant.

If it wasn't so tragic, it would be hilarious.

A source tells TMZ that Jamie Lynn gave OK! an exclusive interview and goes on the record to state that she is indeed with child.

She also names the baby's father, who she has been dating and living with for some time, as Britney's former love, Casey Aldridge.

The teenager, who stars in Nickelodeon's Zoey 101 plans to keep the baby.

Nickelodeon issued the following statement: "We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well being."

Bang goes another Spears sister that's destined to dream her dreams through a sea of prams.

Domestic Violence Behind The Veils


Cormac Mac Ruairi
A woman in dark robes places a prayer mat on the floor and she begins to pray to Allah. She is surrendering to her God and Allah's wishes as expressed in the holy Koran.

When the camera moves closer, we see all is not as it first appears: her garments are transparent and her breasts are clearly visible. The Koran forbids all Muslims — men and women — to show themselves naked in public.

And though it is probably not strictly banned, we can only imagine the quotes from the Koran written in calligraphy on her body must also breach the spirit of Islamic religious law. The depicted texts from the Koran deal with the perscribed punishments for women who "misbehave".

As the film continues, we hear four tragic stories of women being forced into arranged marriages, being whipped, beaten and raped. We see images of backs marked by a whip and a woman's face reduced to a bloody pulp by her man's fists.

All the time these women, we are told, are meant to surrender themselves to Allah and accept their fate.

* Hirsi Ali denies Muslim film is plagiarism

The film has provoked a lot of controversy since it was shown on Sunday when its writer, Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was interviewed on the "Zomergasten", or Summer Guests, programme.

But the film Submission has little new to say that Hirsi Ali has not said before.

Since her election to the Dutch Parliament one and a half years ago, she has doggedly criticised the treatment of women under Islam, both in immigrant communities in the Netherlands and overseas.

She has made headlines for describing Islam as backward and its prophet Mohammed as a pervert because he married a 12-year-old girl.

Remarks like that have drawn the wrath of fundamentalists: her life has been threatened more than once and she is accompanied everywhere by armed security officers.

Her criticism of Islam has been very heavy-handed and even some liberal thinkers have tended to dismiss her as an embittered crank. (She fled, aged 22, to the Netherlands when her father tried to force her into an arranged marriage in Kenya in 1991.)

But with Submission, part 1, Hirsi Ali is continuing her campaign, no matter how uncomfortable her message might be to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Her message remains as uncompromising as ever and the semi-nudity provides the necessary dose of shock value that always seem to accompany her public statements.

But this time round she has teamed up with Theo van Gogh, one of the most brilliant, if controversial, directors in the Netherlands to make her case through art.

One reviewer has described the movie as a monologue, but it is more in the tradition of the political pamphlets of the 17th and 18th centuries. The arguments are drawn with broad strokes and there is no room for equivocation or even-handedness. If the form veers towards the sensational or caricature, all the better to get attention and stimulate debate.

Van Gogh is not one to censure out a naked body when the script demands it — and Hirsi Ali says it does. The woman's nakedness strips away the cloak of the veil and reveals Muslim woman are just like everyone else; flesh and blood humans, she claims.

The Koran tells women to cover themselves up and submit to Allah in all things

At first glance, Hirsi Ali and director Van Gogh are a bit of an odd couple. She is slim and immaculately turned out, he is rotund, dresses "casually" with braces, and chain-smokes.

What they have in common is a drive to state their point of view forcibly, sometimes to the point of enraging their audiences and alienating people. And neither seems to care.

Hirsi Ali was a member of the Labour PvdA party, but she left spectacularly in 2002. Having had to flee to the US following death threats in the Netherlands, she claimed the social democrats in the PvdA were only paying lip-service to women's rights, particularly when it comes to rights for women in immigrant and Muslim communities.

She joined the right-wing Liberal VVD which welcomed her call for Muslims to integrate into Dutch society. But even there, some of her pointed condemnations of Islam have sent her party colleagues running for cover.

VVD leaders Gerrit Zalm and Jozias van Aartsen have come out this week to express support for the central message of the film, but Zalm spoke for many would-be supporters when he added: "That naked body, eh...".

Writer and director Van Gogh is used to stirring things up too and could be described as the Netherlands' Michael Moore.

He has been hired and fired many times as a columnist, he publishes his own internet page — entitled "De Gezonde Roker", or The Healthy Smoker — featuring his thoughts on Islam (negative), hypocrisy (negative) and a lot of other subjects (usually negative).

Van Gogh is an artist with a passion for commenting on current events. He has published a compilation of his columns in book form entitled Allah weet het beter, or Allah knows best.

'That naked body' from Submission © Theo van Gogh

His remarks can sometimes be very offensive and totally unfounded. Van Gogh once said "Muslims are goatf***ers", accuses Dutch-Moroocan website Maghreb.nl.

He is currently making a movie about Pim Fortuyn, the populist politician and critic of Islam who was murdered in Hilversum in May 2001. Earlier this month, cinema giant Pathe refused to show Van Gogh's movie Cool!, a story about a group of Moroccan criminals.

Van Gogh paid the EUR 18,000 price tag for Submission which was filmed in secret in a month. The dialogue is in English and Van Gogh says he wants to sell it everywhere.

"I am going to send it to Arabic news channel Aljazeera. They broadcast (Osama) bin Laden's little films so they won't have a problem with this," he quipped.

Given its subject matter though, Submission might never make top billing in cinemas in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan. He has been given bodyguards as a result of the controversy.

And "that naked body…".

Theo van Gogh: a joker with a serious message?

"That naked body" has created quite a stir in the media and on a multitude of internet forums, from a chat room on Dutch politics to one for gay Turkish men. A correspondent on the latter saying Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh will do anything for attention.

Mohammed Sini of the Dutch foundation Islam and Citizenship told the Dutch media that Submission had gone too far and insulted many Muslims.

At the same time, he said many Muslims in the Netherlands felt their identity was under siege and, as a result, clung too rigidly to the Koran. He said Muslims should not accept everything in the Koran too literally.

Other mainstream political parties have been broadly positive about the film, but the Christian Democrat CDA has so far stonewalled and refused to express an opinion.

The leader of the green-left GroenLinks party, Femke Halsema, said the film could have been slightly more refined and Hirsi Ali came across as a bit triumphant.

"I grew up with the film 'Turks Fruit' so I am fairly used (to the nudity)... but I really enjoyed the evening's viewing," she said.

Not everyone will react in the same way, but like the pamphleteers of old, Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh have certainly stoked up a lively debate.

World Dominence In The Guise Of Liberation Of Women


Soumaya Ghannoushi

It seems that Muslim women - particularly those living in western capitals- are destined to remain besieged by two debilitating discourses, which though different in appearance, are one in essence.

The first of these is conservative and exclusionist, sentencing Muslim women to a life of childbearing and rearing, lived out in the narrow confines of their homes at the mercy of fathers, brothers, and husbands. Revolving around notions of sexual purity and family honour, it appeals to religion for justification and legitimization.

The other is a "liberation" discourse that vows to break Muslim woman's bondage and free her of the oppressive yoke of an aggressive, patriarchal, and backward society. She is a mass of powerlessness and enslavement; the embodiment of seclusion, silence, and invisibility. Her only hope of deliverance from the cave of veiling and isolation lies in the benevolent intervention of this force of emancipation. It will save her from her hellishly miserable and bleak existence, to the promised heaven of enlightenment and progress.

It is a game of binaries that pits one stereotype against another: the wretched caged female Muslim victim and her ruthless jailer society against an idealized "west" that is the epitome of enlightenment, rationalism, and freedom. Those escapees who leave the herd are held up as living testimonies to the arduousness of transition from the twilights of tribe, religion and tradition, to the dawn of reason, individualism, and liberation.

There is no denying the manifold injustices that cripple the lives of many Muslim women and stunt their potential. But these appear in this condescending liberation narrative as representative of the condition of the millions of Muslim women around the world and exclusive to them. There are no colors, tones, or shades here. There are no living real women, urban or rural, educated or illiterate, affluent or poor, Turkish, Malaysian, or Egyptian - differences so crucial in defining women's life chances and shaping their situations.

All we know about this ghostly creature is her Muslim identity, as though she was entirely shaped and affected by religion and theology irrespective of social background, economic circumstances, political reality, or regional and local cultural traditions. Important as it is, legal and theological reform will on its own do little to improve the lot of impoverished, uneducated, or insecure women in Somalia, Iraq, or rural Bangladesh.

The narrative revolves around a dehistoricised, universal "Muslim woman"; a crushing model that oppresses flesh and blood Muslim women, denies them subjectivity and singularity, and claims to sum up their lives with all their vicissitudes and details from cradle to coffin. It reserves for itself the right to speak for them exclusively, whether they like it or not.

Representations of the Muslim woman serve a dual legitimizing function, at once confirming and justifying the west's narrative of itself, and of the Muslim other. The victimized Muslim woman is the lens through which Islam and Muslim society are seen. In medieval times she was cast as an intimidating powerful queen or termagant (like Bramimonde in the Chanson de Roland, or Belacane in Parzival) reflecting an intimidating powerful Muslim civilization. And when the power balance began to shift in Europe's favor in the 17th and 18th centuries, she was made to mirror her society's fallen fortunes. She turned into a harem slave, leading little more than a dumb animal existence, subjugated, inert, abject, powerless, and invisible. She is the quintessential embodiment of a despotic, deformed, and backward Islam.

It is Europe, later the west, that must penetrate her iron cage and break her shackles. It must save the victim and civilize her oppressors. The more victimized "the Muslim woman", the greater the need for the liberated west to liberate her. The noble intervention is for her and in her interest, not for the west, or its interests.

It was indeed no coincidence that a great many colonial officers and archivists devotedly recorded instances of barbarity among the colonized, practices like sati, the ban on widow marriage, or the practice of child marriage in India, or slavery and genital mutilation in Africa. Although these atrocities were not inventions, their chronicling had and still has a purpose: It provides the moral framework for intervention.

As a couplet by Torquato Tasso puts it,

And when her city and her state was lost,
Then her person lov'd and honor'd most.

But "love" and "honor" haven't exactly been the experience of Iraqi women when their cities fell under American occupation. Rights which took decades to secure have crumbled away in the space of months. From doctors, scientists, engineers or businesswomen, today they find themselves incarcerated in their homes unable to move around for fear of being kidnapped, raped, or assassinated. Those who escape the bombs and bullets of the occupying army, die at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and out of control extremist and sectarian militias which flourished since 2003, as Maggie O'Kane demonstrated in her moving piece on Cif yesterday. In the past three months 45 innocent women were murdered in cold blood in Basra.

The truth is that just as there is a military machine of hegemony, there is a discursive machine of hegemony. When armies move on the ground to conquer and subjugate, they need moral and ideological cover. It is this that gives the dominant narrative of the "Muslim woman" its raison d'etre.

No wonder then that the "Muslim woman" liberation warriors, the likes of Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, and Pascal Bruckner, were the same people who cheered American/ British troops as they blasted their way through Kabul and Baghdad, and who will no doubt cheer and dance once more should Iran or Syria be bombed next. Soldiers shoot with their guns; they with their pens. They are hegemony's apologists. Without them the emperor stands naked.

Who Is The Golden Compass's Eva Green?


Helen Barlow
Ever since her debut as a femme fatale in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, a film that had red-blooded men watching an art movie for the first time in their lives, Eva Green has been immortalised on the internet as one of the sexiest, shapeliest screen stars since Greta Garbo.

Yet for the 27-year-old French actor, whose actor mother was part of the French New Wave, the idea of being known for her hourglass figure was far from desirable.

"I'm not going on the internet any more," she protests in her posh-sounding British accent, a hangover of perfecting her English to appear in Casino Royale. "I went on the net two years ago, and I saw some very nasty things and it's scary. People warned me that this was going to happen, but even then seeing shots of me being completely naked or just parts of me was just horrible. So much of it's taken out of context."

Green is not the most forthcoming of interviewees and given her regal stature she could be seen as haughty. She is in fact shy, so shy that her mother tried to dissuade her from pursuing an acting career. She found her earlier travails on the stage therapeutic.

"Acting provides me with the ability to express myself. It's magic, it's in my blood," she says.

There are in fact three Eva Greens.

Firstly there's the actor, best known for her savvy Bond girl, Vesper Lynd, who wore luscious red lipstick and a slinky revealing dress to well and truly distract the bad guy at the gambling table.

"That dress was very glamorous, a bit booby," she recalls with a laugh. "It's not my style, but it was good for the character."

Secondly there's her gothic-style fashionista, a character she uses for ads (the latest is for the new Dior fragrance, Midnight Poison) and for interviews, where she usually opts for exotic black high-necked numbers. "Personally I like McQueen, Gaultier, something a bit weird," she says.

Thirdly, there's Green in real life, where one assumes she dispenses with the black Kohl eyeliner, looks quite normal and goes unrecognised - which is the desired effect.

"You know, every day I wear jeans and T-shirts and I look like I'm 15. I'm not very glamorous," acknowledges the naturally slim actor. "The clothes are just an image; I play another character. It's fun to go all girly, but I can't wear high heels."

Green lives in London's trendy Primrose Hill with her beloved border terrier, Griffin. "I love going for walks and to go to the movies," she offers as her distractions. She also admits to spending time with her beau, who apparently is 41-year-old New Zealand actor, Marton Csokas, who like herself, is guarded about their relationship. Clearly they share a love of the theatre as Csokas recently returned to Sydney (where he once lived) to appear in the Belvoir St Theatre production of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. He has just finished playing Hugo Weaving's bandmate in Andrew Upton's Sydney Theatre Company production, Riflemind. The pair met when Csokas played her intimidating husband in Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, Kingdom Of Heaven. Although Green's character only had eyes for the boyish Orlando Bloom on screen, in real life it seems she tends towards well-built guys like Csokas. So maybe it wasn't hard to feign love for Daniel "007" Craig? The hunky Brit actually suggested her for his sidekick.

"I think Daniel's masculine and he's sexy and a wonderful actor," she replies throwing me her signature sultry glare. "He's very instinctive. There's something animal about him."

I had first met Green four years ago during her initial press rounds when she was reluctantly and nervously promoting The Dreamers. She told me how she wanted to work in Hollywood. "This has been a dream of mine since childhood. In France we are all impregnated by American culture, music, cinema." Still, she was unimpressed by American double standards. "I don't understand why you can't see naked people on screen in America but you can see a baby being killed. They're too puritan, too uptight."

Perhaps it's no surprise then that this quintessential European found her niche working for Hollywood by basing herself in London. The only drawback is that all of her family are in Paris.

"Sometimes I feel a bit lonely and I want my mummy," she says in little girly speak. "But London's so close; it's a very cool city. And I feel like I'm in the countryside - there's so much greenery."

The daughter of Swedish dentist Walter Green, and actor Marlene Jobert - who worked with high-minded directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle in her heyday - Green, who also has a fraternal twin sister, Joy (she married an Italian count!) was always a bit of a dreamer. In her teens Eva imagined herself as a Hindu goddess and even seriously considered a career as an Egyptologist, which makes her exotic dancing in The Dreamers seem completely in character. Discovering she had acting in her genes, she studied in Paris, New York and London and started working on the French stage. For her first role in La Jalousie En Trois Fax she was nominated for a Moliere (the French Tony) and Bertolucci was greatly impressed.

Green still considers The Dreamers, an incestuous drama in which she was torn between her love for her twin brother, Louis Garrel, and her yearning for Michael Pitt, the best of the six movies she has made. Certainly she has no regrets for being the object of an older director's fantasy, while the blushingly beautiful Liv Tyler, an actor with whom Green is often compared, had been a similar Bertolucci find on Stealing Beauty.

That both actors ended up in fantasy blockbusters is interesting. Certainly Tyler was able to retain Stealing Beauty's sense of innocence in The Lord Of The Rings, while Green, fresh from her sexy triumph in Casino Royale, is now appearing in The Golden Compass. In this first part of a prospective fantasy blockbuster trilogy based on Philip Pullman's best-selling books, Green plays a 400-year-old witch queen called Serafina Pekkala.

"She looks very young, but she's very wise; she's been through a lot," Green muses. "Actually her story is heartbreaking. She used to be in love with a man called Farder Coram [Tom Courtenay] and in the movie he's 80 years old and she looks like she's 20. They had to separate at one point because she had to go back to the north and rule. In the movie they bump into one other and it's very painful for him because he's ashamed of his age."

Although Green has no scenes with Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman) nor Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) in The Golden Compass, she will in the future instalments, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, should filming go ahead. Her task here is to help Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl, to travel to the North Pole. In future instalments Lyra discovers her special powers and they travel to the other parallel worlds.

"Serafina's more like a fairy than a witch," says Green. "She doesn't use black magic, she's in tune with nature and she can heal with her palms. The film itself is a little dark, but it was a pleasure to portray somebody who is so nice. I've been offered so many roles as the femme fatale. Aghhhh."

Riding a broomstick proved a particular challenge. "I've always been afraid of even flying in planes so in the beginning I was worried about being suspended from wires for such a long time," she says. "I had vertigo and it wasn't a nice sensation but I got over it. I'm proud of myself because I'm not physical. I had to convince myself to do it."

A fan of Pullman's trilogy, Green was attracted to the story's multi-layered strands and while the film leaves out the book's controversial anti-organised religion angle - which she particularly likes - she is pleased with the end result. "Here it's more about oppressive government, rather than religion. The film is largely for children but there are very adult themes, like the idea of free will."

As if to keep the concept flowing, Green recently completed her sixth film, the futuristic thriller, Franklyn, where parallel worlds feature as well.

She co-stars with hot newcomer Sam Riley (Control) and Ryan Phillippe.

"It's a very unusual story about depression. I play an artist who puts herself on tape and tries to kill herself. I also play another character, who is the opposite, very full of life. It's very funny, dark and mad."

Although Green admits to being "very, very lucky" in her career - the huge success of Casino Royale came as a big surprise, she says - she still can't relax.

"It could all change tomorrow. We never know what we want to do in this business and it makes me very anxious.

"I'm sent French scripts but I never fall in love with any of them. I have more choices now, that's for sure. My agent reads all the shit so I don't read everything, but it's still very hard to find something really exciting. But I'm happy. I can't complain. Maybe now I have to do something like Charlize [Theron] or Nicole. Then people take you seriously."

Nicole Kidman Applauded At The Premiere Of 'The Golden Compass'


Jano Gibson and Andrew Hornery

After the loud claps of thunder and torrential rain came the screams.

"Nicole! Nicole! Nicole!" yelled photographers and fans lining the red carpet at last night's Australian premiere of the fantasy adventure film The Golden Compass at the State Theatre.

"It's nice to be able to show up and just say thank you to the fans, and also thank you to the country actually," said Nicole Kidman, who plays the glamorous but sinister scholar Marisa Coulter in the movie adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

Dressed in body-hugging, shiny silver pants and jacket, and holding an umbrella, Kidman signed autographs for some of the hundreds of fans who turned out in the rain with traffic closed on Market Street and Pitt Street.

Kidman revealed she was drawn to playing the role after receiving a personal appeal from Pullman.

"[He] wrote me an amazing letter telling me that when he was writing the novels he had me in mind. That's hard to turn down. He's such a good novelist."

The film, which opens on Boxing Day, has received mixed reviews overseas and not raked in as much money as expected.

For the past nine months, Kidman has been working on Baz Luhrmann's outback epic Australia, with many of the cast and crew joining the actor last night.

She said working on Australia had been one of the most enjoyable experiences of her life.

"Camping out in Kununurra, I mean I would never have gotten to do that. Going to Kakadu. You sort of talk about it but you rarely do that stuff. Riding scooters in Darwin, eating fish and chips in Bowen."

She told the audience inside the State Theatre that she does not normally like giving speeches, but on this occasion she wanted to say thank you to Australia.

She intends to spend next year on tour with her husband, Keith Urban.

"You have to have a sort of gypsy experience, or life, when you are married to a musician. So I'll be traipsing around on a tour bus next year," she said.

At Caesars Palace In LAs Vegas, With Celine Dion


Celine Dion called it a wrap at Caesars Palace, acknowledging in her final show that pregnancy and poor early reviews almost sank her titanic five-year engagement.

As adoring fans cheered, stood and clapped through last night's performance, Dion interspersed her usual numbers with emotion-filled monologues.

"At one point, it was like feeling like the Titanic was about to sink again," she said. "But we believed and we went on with it. Even though the vibe was not that positive for us."

While the show was still in development in 2000, Dion, 39, became pregnant and told husband-manager Rene Angelil she did not want to continue.

"I had a life for the first time," the French-Canadian chanteuse said in a video before her 717th show. "I knew then that I wanted to have more success as a mother than a singer."

But Angelil told her that too much money and too many people were involved. Not only would the Colosseum theatre where the show was planned cost $US95 million ($A108.8 million) to build, her initial three-year, $US100 million ($A114.5 million) contract broke records for a live entertainer.

So she pushed on, fighting through initial bad reviews to make it five years of filling a 4,100-seat arena.

After her last number, Dion invited husband Angelil and her son, Rene-Charles, now 7, on stage with her. Rene-Charles repeatedly reached down to grab rose petals that rained down on the final bow, giving them to her.

"Most of us have left our families behind to give ourselves every night," she said. "I can assure you it was worth it."

Since opening in March 2003, Dion's show A New Day has grossed more than $US400 million ($A458 million) and was seen by nearly three million fans. Dion said one fan had seen her Las Vegas show more than 100 times. Tickets for the final show were for sale on eBay for as much as $US1,899 ($A2,174).

Last month, Dion released Taking Chances, her first English-language album in four years, and she sang the title song on the album during the extra-long finale. The album was most recently the 12th best-selling in the US, according to Billboard magazine.

Dion will start touring, with a first concert date set for Valentine's Day in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Taking Dion's place at Caesars Palace will be Bette Midler's The Showgirl Must Go On, which is set to open February 20.

"Tomorrow morning, it will be back to reality and back to (being) mummy," Dion told reporters after the show.

Kylie Minogue Wants Her Own Family, Not Adopting


Pop princess Kylie Minogue has denied reports she plans to adopt an Aboriginal child, but says she would like to have a family of her own "some day".

Minogue, 39, who has successfully resumed her pop career after beating breast cancer, told Madison magazine's January edition she believed the incorrect reports of her adoption plans originated with the United Kingdom's News of the World.

"There's so much noise and waffle about me and my future family," she told the magazine, which is on sale tomorrow.

"But if asked if I'd like to have a family I say, yes, I would love to some day.

"We'll see if and how that might happen."

Minogue, who recently released her first new studio album in four years and the 10th album of her career, X, said some of the songs on it reflected her recent health battle, but mostly it was more light-hearted.

"I just want to sing about the disco, which might seem flippant, but it would have been wrong to have an album that was too far one way or the other," she told the magazine.

"I wanted to deliver something that was, in a sense, what people would expect.

"Something you can listen to when you're getting ready to go out, or when you're out.

"But I also have songs like Cosmic or No More Rain, where it acknowledges my past two years, but that's not something I wanted to dwell on."

Minogue said she still did not "have a nice set of words to describe" what her battle was like, but she was determined to no longer be a passenger in life.

"I work very hard and I'm very driven," she said.

"But I do also feel that our destinies are pre-written.

"I've come to the realisation that this (being a performer) is what I do and that's why I want to embrace it even more now, to not let it just carry me along as a passenger on this ride.

"This is my life."

Cate Blanchett , Denzel Washington,... In Line For Golden Globe Awards



Cate Blanchett will get two shots at an award and Russell Crowe stars in a movie in line for best film when the Golden Globes are handed out next month.

Blanchett has been nominated for best actress for her reprisal role as England's virgin queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and is in line for a best supporting actress award for playing Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There.

American Gangster, co-starring Crowe, is in the running for best film and a Golden Globe best actor award for star Denzel Washington.

Two movies set against different wars, Atonement and Charlie Wilson's War, dominate the nominations, with Atonement earning seven nods including best drama.

Experts said the Golden Globe nominations did little to define leaders in the Oscar race.

Still, there were clear winners such as drama Atonement, comedy Charlie Wilson's War and musical Sweeney Todd, and one chief loser, Into the Wild.

David Poland of website Movie City News was pointed when asked what the Golden Globe nods did to narrow the list of serious Oscar candidates. "Nothing. Of the 15 or so contenders, they got 14. The only one left out was Into the Wild, but given the recent history of the Golden Globes with Crash or Munich, that doesn't mean anything."

Princess Diana And Dodi Fayed Were To Be Engaged Weeks Before Their Deaths

A top jeweler says Dodi Fayed told him he and Diana, Princess of Wales, were getting engaged weeks before their deaths.

Alberto Repossi also says American spies would have known about the imminent announcement because they were bugging Dodi's calls.

Repossi, who has a shop opposite the Ritz Hotel in Paris owned by Dodi's father Mohamed Al Fayed, says Dodi made the revelation in a telephone call to discuss resizing a ring he had ordered.

He says he received a call from Dodi who told him he needed this ring for the end of August because their engagement would be announced at the beginning of September.

Repossi claims to have subsequently met the couple secretly in a hotel in St Tropez in the south of France to show them the ring and other jewellery which he thought the princess might be interested in.

But in evidence to Diana's inquest by video link from Paris, Repossi said he could not remember which hotel it was.

He says he didn't tell Scotland Yard investigators about the meeting because he had vowed not to speak about it, because he could not prove it had taken place and because a journalist was mean to him.

Liberia In The Middle Of A Sexual Violence Spotlight

Cindy Shiner

Preliminary findings of a new study by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Columbia University may have given relief workers the evidence they say they need to focus greater attention on the problem of sexual violence in Liberia.

Violence against women and girls, they say, has potentially far-reaching consequences on education, health and development in Liberia as it struggles to recover from 14 years of civil war.

"One of the biggest or more common excuses that we hear [from governments and donors] when we try to bring up the issue of violence against women and girls is 'Show us the numbers if you say this is such a big problem,'" said Heidi Lehmann, senior technical advisor on gender-based violence for the IRC.

Now, she said, the agency has the figures to back up what it has known through its work in Liberia for several years. The study, which surveyed 600 women and girls in eastern Nimba and central Montserrado counties, revealed communities rife with gender-based violence. Nimba and Montserrado are among counties where the IRC works in Liberia.

Abuse entrenched

The study was conducted last June through early August by IRC and Columbia University's Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. The research is being prepared for submission in a peer-reviewed journal, so all findings are considered preliminary.

The Liberia study used the "neighborhood method" of inquiry, which asks respondents not only about their own experiences, but also those faced by their four closest neighbors.

"Experience to date suggests that commonly used methods to identify protection concerns in complex emergencies are insufficient," according to a descriptive document from the Program on Forced Migration and Health. "The international community's data on protection concerns tend to reflect reported cases," it said, noting that over reporting or under reporting often leads to problems with implementing assistance programs.

The research focused on three types of physical violence: non-sexual domestic abuse, marital rape and rape outside of marriage. Domestic violence affected about 55 percent of women in both counties. This violence included non-sexual acts of physical violence perpetrated by family or other household members.

Outside of marriage, one-fifth of the sample population in Montserrado County and more than one-quarter of those surveyed in Nimba County had been raped or otherwise sexually abused. Among women who declared themselves married or separated, more than 72 percent in both counties reported that their husbands had forced them to have sex in the last 18 months.

The study also said that more than one in 10 girls under the age of 17 had been sexually abused in the previous 18 months in both counties.

Long-term consequences

Although the study examines sexual violence in only two of Liberia's 15 counties, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that violence against women is a major public health problem in Africa and elsewhere, with "profound" health implications that are often ignored.

Gender-based violence typically soars during and after conflict. At least 50,000 internally displaced women in Sierra Leone were sexually abused at the hands of armed combatants during that country's civil war, according to Physicians for Human Rights. More than 250,000 Rwandan women were raped during the 1994 genocide, the United Nations says.

"During the [Liberian] conflict, girls and women were subjected to multiple forms of sexual violence, including gang rape, sexual slavery, 'survival' sex in exchange for food, and unwanted pregnancies due to rape," said Angela Walker, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports programs to educate and empower women in Liberia.

Lehmann says that because conflict-related sexual violence is often seen in the context of emergencies, vision tends to be short-sighted when looking at consequences.

"The long-term consequences of women and girls being raped, whether it's becoming pregnant, contracting an STI [sexually transmitted infection], the social stigmatization that comes with it - that can last a lifetime," she said. "It's not addressed and it has a huge impact on the woman but we also know it has trickle down effects on her children and the overall community."

Striking back

Liberia is among fewer than 20 African countries that have adopted laws against rape, doing so in January 2006. Ghana last February passed a law against rape after parliament had debated it for five years. In both countries, the law passed only after agreement that provisions making marital rape a crime would not be included.

The passage of legislation against rape is a positive step, Lehmann said, but what follows is equally important. She said the law needs to be applied and survivors must be able to have confidence in the justice system so they are willing to report violations.

"At this point in time, overwhelmingly, incidents of violence are being reported to people in the family or to the immediate social circle and far, far less to the police or court system or even community leaders," said Ann Warner, a graduate student of New York's Columbia University who led the study in Liberia.

"Rape outside of marriage was the type of incident most frequently reported to police and still that was less than 10 percent of the time. "

To help call attention to sexual violence, the IRC on 25 November kicked off "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence," which features blog entries from West Africa focusing on the issue. Part of the aim is to give women an opportunity to document their own lives with digital cameras and make their voices heard.

"Right now [sexual violence] is seen as an add-on issue, kind of a soft issue," said Lehmann. "Until policymakers and governments start to see what a huge impact this has on women's health, on education, on every aspect of women's and girls' lives it's going to continue."

Australian Actress Nicole Kidman Unveils Her Wax Work


Nicole Kidman has taken another step up the celebrity ladder with the unveiling of her very own wax work at Madame Tussauds.

Draped in a glamorous floor-length red gown, Kidman's wax work has taken its place at the world-famous museum alongside models of fellow Hollywood A-list celebrities including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Despite her long career as an actress, it is the first time the museum has created a Kidman wax work.

Designers spent about three months creating the figure, unveiled overnight in London, based on thousands of photographs of the Australian actress.

"Nicole is wearing a stunning floor-length red dress which really emphasises her flawless beauty and grace, idolised by so many women around the world," Madame Tussauds spokesman Ben Lovett said.

"There's no mistaking that she is a hugely popular global celebrity and we are delighted to be unveiling her."

Kidman's latest film, The Golden Compass, opens in Australia on December 26.

On less rosy note, Kidman says she is filing suit against London's Daily Telegraph for its claim that she prefers wearing Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint scent to Chanel No 5, which she's paid to spruik.

Kidman's lawyers say the allegations are "entirely untrue" and "grossly defamatory" and have demanded "an immediate retraction."

Brad Pitt And Angelina Jolie, Increasing Their Family



Hollywood star Brad Pitt has told American television he wants more children with his partner Angelina Jolie.

"We're just getting started," he said in an interview on CNN's Larry King Live that aired last night in the US.

The 43-year-old star of such movies as Babel and Ocean's Eleven described Jolie as "a fantastic mother" to their four children - Maddox, six; Pax, four; Zahara, two; and Shiloh, one, adding that while parenthood is "the hardest job in the world", "it is everything" to him.

Pitt said in the interview that acting was becoming less important to him and that he would like to spend his time on other pursuits.

"It's become less and less a focus as I get older," he said.

"I think it's really more of a younger man, younger woman's game."

He said he didn't intend to give up acting - "I'd like to drop in if I'm still invited every few years or so" - but added, "It takes so much time. There's just other things I'd rather be doing."

Among those interests is a project he announced Monday to build 150 eco-friendly homes in one of the New Orleans neighbourhoods most devastated in 2005's Hurricane Katrina with hopes to expand the project across the city.

He also made it clear in the interview that his family is also a priority.

He and Jolie adopted three children and had their own daughter last year.

"They're as much my blood as I am theirs, and they are brothers and sisters," he said.

"And I look at this: One of them came from Ethiopia and one from Vietnam, one from Cambodia and one was born in Namibia, and they are brothers and sisters. And they have fun, and they squabble and they fight, just like any other family."

Victoria Beckham Goes To Bed Naked



Victoria Beckham goes to bed naked. And she's got a very good reason - her husband.

"You don't sleep with David Beckham," the 33-year-old Posh Spice tells Elle magazine in its January issue, on newsstands on Tuesday.

"I'm going to be naked if I'm getting in bed with him every night!"

The Beckhams and their three young sons moved to Los Angeles this summer when her soccer-superstar husband signed to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I'm very proud to be British, but here it's a lot more relaxed," she says.

"It's the happiest as a family that we've ever been. I just love America."

She is now on tour with the newly reunited Spice Girls.

"I wanted my children to see that Mummy was a pop star," she says.

"It was the last opportunity for them to stand in a crowd full of people screaming for the Spice Girls."

Beckham says she was never a "natural".

"It became very obvious from the start that I was never going to be the best singer or the best dancer or the best actress," she says.

"You know, I've never been that good at anything, to be completely honest."

Still, she's a natural when it comes to keeping herself in the media spotlight, from her cutting-edge haircut to her high-profile marriage.

"I'm so camp! I'm such a gay man trying to get out," she says. "I don't give a (bleep) what anybody thinks."

Kylie Minogue In the Centre Of A Photo-Controversy



A Kylie Minogue fan has outed herself as the spy who dobbed in a Wellington strip club using Minogue's image to the pop star's management team.

Melanie Wise, 29, said she took a photograph of a promotional poster, featuring Minogue in a saturated white T-shirt four years before the star had a partial mastectomy, in the window of Santa Fe Dreamgirls strip club in February.

Her husband said Miss Wise went "apoplectic" when they saw the poster, immediately recognising the sultry shot as a promotional image from 2001's Fever album.

Miss Wise, a devout Minogue fan since the 1980s, sent the photograph to record company executives acting for the star in Auckland.

"It was just so offensive to me," she said, acknowledging she was protective of the star who battled breast cancer throughout 2005 and 2006. "It was just so obvious and so blatant."

It took nine months, but this week Santa Fe Dreamgirls owner Garth Rosson received a letter from Minogue's lawyers, Sheridans Solicitors in London, demanding the strip joint take the poster down and never again use Minogue's image.

Mr Rosson said the poster was not currently being used.

If Sheridans could prove it was Minogue, 39, he would stop using the image on posters and sandwich boards for wet T-shirt competitions.

However, saucy, good-quality, high-resolution shots were rare and, if Sheridans could not prove the image was Minogue, he would continue using it.

He remained unconvinced it was the diminutive Aussie pop star.

"As for Mel," he said, "I would have thought she'd have better things to do with her time."

Irish Model And Celebrity Katy French Died Of Cocaine .....?


One of Ireland's leading models has died days after collapsing at a party, sparking claims the country is in the grip of a growing drug crisis.

Police have confirmed they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of model and celebrity Katy French, 24, who failed to emerge from a coma after falling ill at a friend's house party at the weekend.

Ms French's collapse led to widespread claims she had been taking cocaine at the party.

Despite huge media interest this week in Ms French's condition, family, friends and health officials refused to discuss the cause of her sudden illness.

The model had admitted in media interviews to taking cocaine in the past but had since given up the drug and had warned others of its dangers.

Irish police confirmed officers were making preliminary inquiries into the circumstances around Ms French's illness.

In a statement. Ms French's family said: "We have been overwhelmed by the letters, blessings, gifts and prayers from people all over the country. It gave us strength and helped Katy so much."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Mother, Andree: Bump And Grind, My Son


The mother of newly divorced French President Nicolas Sarkozy has advised him to enjoy his pick of available women — but not to marry any of them.

Speaking to a celebrity magazine, Andree Sarkozy, 82, said that her son should enjoy freedom in his personal life.

She said: "You know, in his job he will be spoilt for choice. But I hope that no one will get married again. I've had enough of brides."

Mr Sarkozy announced his divorce from his second wife, Cecilia, in October, just six months after he was elected. Since then he has been linked with a number of glamorous women, most recently television presenter Laurence Ferrari.

"Daudou", as Mr Sarkozy calls his mother, raised him and his two brothers after her husband walked out.

Of her former daughter-in-law, Mrs Sarkozy said: "We had a good relationship without being close. She is cold but she doesn't do it on purpose and she has always been nice to me." Mrs Sarkozy also said that she was not close to Cecilia's daughters from a previous marriage, Judith and Jeanne-Marie, saying: "They are distant. Very cold, a little like their mother."

Louis, the 11-year-old son of Cecilia and Nicolas, lives with his mother in Paris. Jean, 20, and Pierre, 22, Mr Sarkozy's sons by his first marriage, are students in Paris.

Speaking to Point de Vue magazine, after an official trip to China with the President, Mrs Sarkozy said she was delighted with the success of her "brilliant" son.

She said she also loved "the girls" her son had appointed to the Government.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was a "knock-out", she said, while singling out for praise the 42-year-old Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 34, the junior Ecology Minister.

Nicole Richie Didn't Believe She Is pregnant.


Nicole Richie didn't believe the news when she found out she was pregnant.

She told US TV show Access Hollywood: "I didn't believe it. I was in shock. I took about 5 different tests!"

The Simple Life star is due to give birth to her first child with fiance Joel Madden on New Year's Eve, but she isn't planning on slowing down until the very last minute.

"I remember walking into the office and telling my managers, 'I think at around five or six months I'm probably going to be really tired and I'm not going to want to do a lot.' But I've been totally fine. I've been up and at them every single day and I've been ready to go.

"You just have to listen to what your body tells you. But so far I've been great. I haven't slowed down yet!"

Richie revealed she and Madden are waiting until the birth to find out the sex of their baby.

The 26-year-old mother-to-be also explained her reasons behind setting up the Richie Madden Children's Foundation and raising US$25,000 for young mothers in need.

She said: "This obviously came as a function of being pregnant. On the poster it says 'In honour of baby Madden.' There is a natural feeling that comes with being pregnant. You just want to protect your baby."

Kylie Minogue Bringing Her Tour To Australia


Christine Sams

Kylie Minogue will definitely bring her new concert tour to Australia, says a source close to the singer.

Minogue, who announced some of her European tour dates during the week, will include Australian dates on the roster.

When asked whether Minogue would be playing concerts here too, the well-placed insider answered with an emphatic "yes".

It will be good news for Minogue fans, who were left in doubt about Minogue's touring intentions after reports surfaced from Britain that the singer had initially cancelled tour plans because of continuing health concerns.

Her management responded by saying it couldn't cancel a tour it hadn't announced (fair enough).

The first official details of Minogue's touring plans were revealed last week. The KylieX 2008 tour will begin in Paris on May 6 and will take in European cities including Prague, Berlin and Budapest, before finishing in Britain throughout July.

The singer will perform songs from her new album X, which topped the charts in Australia, in a show that is being described as "totally different" to extravaganzas staged by Minogue in the past.

Minogue, 39, has been discussing suitable dates for the Australian tour with her long-time promoter, Michael Gudinski. At this stage, it is likely the singer will visit Australia at the conclusion of her European shows but the Aussie shows are said to be a key priority.

First 20 Most Talked-About Celebs For 2007.


There are three things guaranteed to sell a story in the world of celebrity gossip: birth, death and incarceration. This year's hot list of limelight hogs queued up to face arrest ( Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Amy Winehouse), get knocked up or adopt ( Brangelina, Cate Blanchett) encounter the Grim Reaper (Anna Nicole Smith) or bounce back from a close brush ( Kylie Minogue).

One thing that rarely sets tongues wagging are high achievers - with the exception of Blanchett, who reprised her queenly role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and is now on the throne of the Sydney Theatre Company, and Big Brother reject Krystal Forscutt, now queen of the lads' mags.

Any media studies textbook will tell you that tragedy sells, says University of Sydney media and communications lecturer Marc Brennan. "Additionally, it is often when tragedies impact on celebrities that they are perceived as being all the more human - more like us," he says.

Measuring the hot air expended on celebrities is an entirely scientific process involving the tallying of trash mag headlines, TV segments, Google pages, fan sites and fan clubs. In sorting Spears's encounters with the law from the Kyle Sandilands hate spiels and Posh's latest singing outrage, we also waded through Facebook groups, YouTube uploads and MySpace hits.

Notable debutantes in 2007's hot list include the singing stick insect Winehouse, lads' mag favourite Jessica Alba and our pint-sized high achiever, Bindi Irwin.

In contrast, other stars simply make us snore, namely Dannii Minogue, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Mischa Barton, Jennifer Aniston and Keira Knightley.

With our finger firmly on the pop culture pulse, we celebrate the end of yet another star-soaked year with our list of the 20 most talked-about celebs for 2007.

1= Paris Hilton

It was a mammoth year for the hotel heiress, who pencilled prison into her social calendar in June. Hilton's release had the whole world hanging off her every word as she revealed that God had touched her behind bars. However, you can't keep a bad girl down. A bathtime sex tape popped up on the internet, she blazed the party trail with Britney Spears and Hollywood insiders claimed Hilton was the culprit behind Nicole Richie's leaked baby shower photographs. Oh, and her mercy mission to help Rwanda's youth has been indefinitely "postponed".

1= Britney Spears

Spears went from strength to strength in 2007, starting the year with a short stint in rehab, followed by a close encounter with a pair of clippers that left her with the most famous chrome dome since Kojak. Since then she's dazzled us with more rehab and suss behaviour, temporarily lost custody of her two kids to K-Fed and been charged with driving offences. Brits also found time to release a new album, Blackout, and waddle around the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. That performance inspired teenage fan Chris Crocker to post his emotional "leave Britney alone" rant on YouTube. Sorry Chris, we're addicted and, let's face it, she makes us feel smug and superior.

3 The Beckhams

Will we ever tire of the Beckhams? Not if the frenzy surrounding last week's visit to Sydney is any guide. We bitch about the manipulative Mrs Beckham, her lack of talent and shameless self-promotion, even though he's the one who cheated while she's raised their three sons. Becks's move to LA Galaxy means he will get more lustful glances from the woman he should care most about - Oprah Winfrey.

4 Christina Aguilera

There's no stopping this buxom blonde. Brat behaviour surrounding her pregnancy, including outrageous demands for high-end designer baby booty and a semi-nude magazine spread, won Xtina more attention than ever before. Despite her hubby's desperate pleas for a quieter lifestyle, she refuses to slow down. Aguilera is textbook diva, gossip gold and remains the queen of every red carpet.

5 Amy Winehouse

They tried to make her go to rehab but W(h)inehouse made headlines after a string of drug-taking escapades and a bloody public brawl with her husband. There's a great set of pipes buried beneath all that controversy and despite a troubled private life, there's no denying Winehouse's success. Often pap-snapped in torn, barely there clothing, this girl is a lot like a car wreck - ghastly but we can't peel our eyes off her.

6 Lindsay Lohan

Everyone loves a fallen child star and few have hit the ground harder than this former toddler model. After admitting herself to rehab in February, Lohan had to drop out of the film A Woman Of No Importance. Then she was arrested for drink-driving and bagged out by studio executives. "Her career was over long before she had these troubles ... Right now, she'd have to pay a studio [to be cast]," reported Entertainment Weekly.

7 Jessica Alba

Alba might not set the tongues of female gossip mag writers wagging but she causes blokes' jaws to hit the ground, especially after playing an exotic dancer in Sin City. Alba was voted FHM's Sexiest Woman in the World in 2007 after topping last year's AskMen.com's list of 99 most desirable women. Alba says she wants to be taken seriously as an actor but her fans apparently prefer her to be a bikini filler.

8 Brangelina

The Brangelina juggernaut gathers strength as Angelina Jolie combines a successful, even respectable, acting career with her global adoption habit. This year it was a three-year-old boy from Vietnam. Brad Pitt made the list of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World, and continues to star in so-so movies like The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. The next Clintons?

9 Anna Nicole Smith

High on everyone's list of celebrities most likely to die, Smith obliged in February thanks to an overdose of prescription drugs. She immediately became a Facebook star, with hundreds of groups formed to preserve her memory, including "If 100,000 people join this group, Anna Nicole Smith will come back to life". Smith's death also prompted The Washington Post to label her "a postmodern pin-up for a tabloid age". We prefer to remember her as the self-aware gal who declared: "My whole life revolves around my breasts. Everything I have is because of them."

10 Kate Moss

Wiping the slate clean was high on Moss's to-do list this year and so out came sexy new bangs, a new bloke and clothing line. Her 2007 Christmas clothing collection for TopShop is set to spark department-store havoc across the nation. Moss was also included in British Vogue's 50 most glamorous women this year. And there are not too many women who can pull off Glastonbury mud, no make-up and chain-smoking with her flair.

11 Nicole Kidman

Lensmen watch Kidman like a hawk, whether she's on horseback for Baz Luhrmann's film Australia or accompanying her better half to this year's ARIAs. Some would quite literally kill for a shot of the actress going about her daily life and when it comes to women's magazines, she's Australia's hottest property. Marriage tiffs and a creepy receding hairline - there's always something mysterious going down with our Nic.

12 George Clooney

Clooney's unpredictable love life never fails to spark discussion and those persistent gay rumours aren't letting up either. Often described as a modern-day Cary Grant, Clooney is silver-screen royalty and it helps that his multimillion-dollar grin could melt butter. Often spotted with a young Hollywood beauty draped over his arm, he is never short of female admirers. Georgie is man candy and a timeless perving pleasure.

13 Nicole Richie

Richie ricocheted into our consciousness in 2003 when she appeared in The Simple Life with Paris Hilton. Since then, she's maintained her position by writing a novel, seeking treatment for "an inability to put on weight", falling out then reconciling with Hilton and getting arrested for drug and driving offences. She's still on our radar, thanks to a celebrity coupling with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, and a bun in the oven.

14 Kylie Minogue

The gay icon continues to attract attention without resorting to drugs, death or crime. Her diagnosis with breast cancer in 2005 won our sympathy, while we feel her pain about her on-off relationship with Olivier Martinez. Admittedly, Kyles's limited singing ability, evident yet again on new album X, tests our patience but no amount of caterwauling will dim the affection of legions of gay men. Just don't let her in front of a film camera.

15 Daniel Johns

Silverchair's lead singer waded into federal politics in July when he told Triple J listeners that he had shared a bed and spliff with U2's Bono and Peter Garrett. A few hours later, he was backpedalling faster than a politician and claimed it was "a stupid joke". Johns also topped Zoo Weekly's 50 People We Hate list, beating Russell Crowe: "Wanky orchestral pretensions ... it's simply a shame Johns's talent isn't as big as his ego."

16 Cate Blanchett

Blanchett could join the Taliban and Aussies would still love her. So what hope did actor Colin Moody have of besmirching the next boss of the Sydney Theatre Company when he suggested she should be playing one of the witches in Macbeth? Blanchett is the queen of highbrow gossip, whether she's playing Hollywood royalty, a muse for Italian fashion designers, theatrical heavyweight or climate change campaigner.

17 Jennifer Hawkins

Hawko and her hot handbag Jake Wall are Australia's very own Barbie and Ken. Bus shelters and store windows overflowed with Hawkins's mug this year. The former cheerleader signed a $4 million deal with Myer in January, becoming the department store's "face" and popped up in Guy Sebastian's Elevator Love music clip. Her lingerie-clad appearances helped her Google numbers soar past 1.5 million.

18 Bindi Irwin

It's hard to avoid the Bindi phenomenon. Mini-Irwin skyrocketed to fame in a matter of days after mourning her late father, Steve, in front of 300 million TV viewers. The following 12 months saw her launch a kid's fitness DVD and a 26-part wildlife doco called Bindi the Jungle Girl. Loud, proud and squeaky-clean, Irwin's speedy rise to the top prompts concern over the amount of responsibility the tyke has taken on.

19 Kyle Sandilands

Love him or loathe him, we can't help but take notice of this pudgy shock-jock. As Australian Idol winds down for another year, he is picking up hosting duties on next year's Big Brotherand don't forget his breakfast radio show. An interview on ABC-TV's Enough Rope shed new light on him: "I'm out to be real and blunt with people." So too is comedian Dave Hughes, who called Sandilands "a massive dickhead" at the Logies.

20 Krystal Forscutt

Her airbags may look as they're about to burst but lads' mags can't print enough of this ex-Big Brother contestant. Forscutt files a Zoo Weekly sex column and has appeared in next to nothing on the pages of FHM and Ralph to boot. She also put her highly sought-after set of lungs to use on reality singing series, It Takes Two. A guaranteed starter for any social event.

Skye Bortoli Bent On Saving Those Whales


Shelly Horton

At 14 years of age, Skye Bortoli is already a seasoned anti-whaling campaigner. So much so she's writing a book about her life to inspire other young 'uns to take up the cause.

In May, Skye headed a delegation of three Australian schoolgirls who flew to Alaska to speak at the International Whaling Commission.

They even won an audience with IWC chairman William Hogarth.

"It's a diary scrapbook format aimed at eight- to 13-year-olds," she says. "It's not just about whales - the book will also look at her life.

"Mum raised me as a single parent. My father is Aboriginal - I still haven't met him but there's just some things you don't need in life.

"Mum and I are really close. I've had to get through a few illnesses but it's all made me who I am today. And I love being the person I am today."

She says going whale watching made her realise she needed to come to terms with her heritage.

"I've met Aboriginal elders and the connection they have with the environment is amazing and it made me realise my connection to the whales might be to do with my Aboriginality."

The book will be released by ABC Books in March.

"I want to show people it doesn't matter where you come from or how you were raised, you can always make your dreams come true," she says. Her drive and passion both thrill and terrify me.

Kylie Minogue Still Going On Tour To Promote Her Album, 'X'


Speculation that Kylie Minogue may have cancelled a planned tour because of health concerns has been put to rest with the poppette announcing a European tour next year. The tour, to promote her new album, X, was described by Minogue on her website as "a new and exciting experience for both the audience and myself … After two celebratory tours, X will be a look to the future but will definitely include favourites alongside the new." Starting in Paris on May 6, three weeks before Minogue's 40th birthday, the tour will travel across continental Europe, Scandinavia and Northern Ireland before finishing in London on July 27. The former Neighbours star had to suspend her Showgirl tour in 2005 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but returned last November with the Showgirl Homecoming Tour.
RED CARPET
She may not be getting an award, but our tip is that an Armani-clad Cate Blanchett will be the star attraction at the Australian Film Institute Awards in Melbourne next Thursday. Blanchett has built up a healthy stock of Armani gowns since the designer became a patron of the Sydney Theatre Company. She will be joined on the red carpet by a swag of homegrown celebrities who have hit the big time overseas, such as Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Eric Bana, and some who are trying their best, such as Sophie Monk.
TOUGH ART
His paintings of dismembered bodies and friendship with Mark "Chopper" Read have given Adam Cullen a reputation as Australia's angriest young artist. He is now in his 40s, but this week the aging enfant terrible proved he still has that bad boy spark. Stay in Touch had organised an interview with Cullen to get some gossip about his new exhibition, I Am The Cheese, but when we arrived at his Blue Mountains home he was nowhere to be seen. Cullen was, in fact, lying unconscious in the bush after a motorcycle accident somewhere between Katoomba and Wentworth Falls. After about two hours he came to and rode back home on the bike without so much as a stopover at the local doctor's surgery. At the opening of his show at Paddington's Kaliman Gallery last night he was sporting a nasty bruise on his head. We know artists are supposed to suffer, but is Cullen taking it to extremes?

SONGS WITH JAY
He has just finished filming Daybreakers , due for release next year, with Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Ethan Hawke, and is also working on a television series with Kerry Amstrong. Today Jay Laga'aia goes back to his bread-and-butter job of entertaining the ankle-biters. The actor best known from his work with Play School and Water Rats, has a new show, Jay's Place, opening today at Sydney Theatre, a stage version of his debut CD, Come Dance & Sing, for which he did all the writing, singing and backing vocals as well as playing instruments from guitar to saxophone, kazoo, ukulele, harmonica and percussion. "I always gauge it on what would my children like to watch, most importantly to play," the father of seven told Stay in Touch.

"But it is very much a theatrical show, so it is also for adults. Like Playschool, the songs are for children but they are written from an adult's point of view." The show plays until December 19.
MORE PROFANE THAN PROFOUND
In further evidence that Sydney's artists appear to have moved from their usual state of charming eccentricity to full-blown insanity, last night the Chalkhorse Gallery in Surry Hills hosted a communal sauna party where visitors were encouraged to get steamy with Renny Kodgers, the camp parody of the country singer Kenny Rogers. The performer behind Kodgers, Mark Shorter, cooked sausages inside the sauna, wearing nothing but a giant prosthetic penis. According to Shorter, the performance was "one of the most generous artistic displays in the history of Australian performance". Naturally. Things are no saner at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where last week there was a dead body on the floor. Or at least a performance artist masquerading as a dead body. The artist was Fiona McGregor, draped in black and tagged like a morgue corpse (pictured). McGregor said her stunt was a protest about the absence of live performance art at the MCA. With offerings like these, who could blame the MCA for steering clear?

ENDNOTES
■ The V Festival, the idea of that middle-aged hipster Richard Branson, will be back next year with a line-up that includes something for every generation. For generation Y the music festival promises the operatic pop sensation Mika and the Sydney electronic duo the Presets. For generation X there is the Smashing Pumpkins, Air and Queens of the Stone Age, and for those nearing a mid-life crisis there is Duran Duran and the recently reformed the Jesus and Mary Chain. The festival begins in Centennial Park on March 29. Tickets go on sale next Thursday.

■ Human Nature better watch their backs. One of the original boybands, the Backstreet Boys, are coming back to Australia as part of a world tour, playing stadium shows in Brisbane and Melbourne and Sydney on February 22. Tickets go on sale on December 11.
THREE QUESTIONS Lara Bingle
Strangest place you've been recognised?

"India. Some people recognised me there and they actually tried to do a version of 'So, where the bloody hell are you?' I don't hear that so much any more. I used to drive around in my car and people would be screaming it at me."

Plans for Christmas?

"I just want to spend as much time with my friends and family as I can … My boyfriend, Michael [Clarke], has a boatshed and I've been working on it for a few months, painting it and turning it into a five-star boatshed. By the time we're finished it will be the best boatshed on the bay."

Star sign?

"Cancer. I do read my stars in the magazines, but my birthday's on the cusp. Some say I'm a Cancer and some say Gemini. But my mum says I'm a Cancer, so that's the one I take."