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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Elton, David planning a legal union

Entertainment - USATODAY.com
Elton, David planning a legal union

Tue Apr 26, 7:39 AM ET
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By César G. Soriano, USA TODAY

Elton John says he and longtime partner David Furnish will formalize their relationship in December when Britain legalizes same-sex unions.

"We definitely want to do it about the middle of December, probably in Windsor (England)," he told Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid in an interview published Monday. "But there will be no honeymoon. I'm on tour," the pop legend said.

His London-based publicist, Gary Farrow, had no details about when or where the union might occur. But he confirmed that John made the comments during an interview that touched on Britain's Civil Partnerships Act, which goes into effect Dec. 5. The act gives gay couples many of the same legal and tax benefits as married heterosexual couples.

John, 58, and Canadian film producer Furnish, 42, have been together for 11 years after being introduced by a friend. John has credited Furnish with helping him kick a drug and alcohol problem.

"Meeting David has been the greatest thing to happen to me," John told the Mirror. "Yes, we spend a lot of time apart and it's hard, but we make it work."

John was previously married to German music engineer Renate Blauel. She and John married in 1984 and divorced four years later.

Pairs register for New Zealand civil unions

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Pairs register for New Zealand civil unions

Tue Apr 26, 8:35 PM ET
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PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: In New Zealand, more than 600 people have been registered by the Department of Internal Affairs to have civil union ceremonies, the first of which will likely be held on Friday.

A new law took effect Wednesday in New Zealand that allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions that confer the same legal status as marriage.

More than 600 people have been registered by the Department of Internal Affairs to have civil union ceremonies, the first of which will likely be held on Friday. According to Australia's The Age newspaper, it takes three days for the government to process civil union licenses.

Couples must be at least 18 years of age to register for civil unions.

Tim Barnett, a gay politician who helped steer the new law through Parliament last year, told the newspaper that he had expected more couples to have signed up by now.

"I am surprised, but people know it's not going to disappear next week," he said. "It's now the law, and people don't have to rush into it."

Writing for GayNZ.com, commentator Craig Young also noted that the new law took effect without much protest from opponents.

"I think most of our fellow New Zealanders have realized that a pack of rabble-rousing fundamentalists were the only ones getting into hysterics about civil unions, and don't mind us having our day at the registry," he wrote.

Navajo Nation outlaws same-sex marriage

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Navajo Nation outlaws same-sex marriage

Tue Apr 26, 8:35 PM ET
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Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: The tribal council of the Navajo Nation outlawed same-sex marriages in a unanimous vote. The Dine Marriage Act also prevents plural marriages and marriages between close relatives.

The tribal council of the Navajo Nation outlawed same-sex marriages in a unanimous vote on Friday.

The Dine Marriage Act of 2005 restricts marriage to a man and a woman, and prevents plural marriages and marriages between close relatives. "Dine" is the Navajos' name for themselves.

The ban will affect the 255,543 members of the Navajo Nation, which extends into the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

"Men and women have been created in a sacred manner. We need to honor this," delegate Harriet Becenti told the Associated Press (AP). "Times have changed, and we are no longer really teaching our children. We want our people to realize that support is in existence for a man and woman."

Delegate Lorenzo Curley told the AP that Navajo leaders want to send a message to the tribe's young people. "We want to say to them, 'Hold on fast to your society, your roots, your values,'" he said. "We are here to defend the foundation of our society. That's what is at stake here."

But critics of the measure claim its sponsor, delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, Ariz., is rewriting Navajo cultural history.

The Navajo history actually honors men who take on the role of women. According to Bruce Pierini, author of "The Gendered Body: Sex and Gender Constructions in Navajo," the position was called "nadleeh," and it was one of the most highly venerated positions among Native Americans in North America.

While several Native-American cultures have a tradition honoring "two-spirit" people, who would marry members of the same sex, efforts to fight same-sex marriage on reservations have intensified.

In August the Cherokee National Tribal Council in Oklahoma voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman after two women successfully filed for a tribal marriage application.

Jay Smith Brown, senior communications manager for the Human Rights Campaign condemned the Navajo vote, saying, "Discrimination is wrong in every culture."
If you'd like to know more, you can find stories related to Navajo Nation outlaws same-sex marriage.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Today Sponge Birth Control Is Back

Top Stories - Los Angeles Times
Sponge Birth Control Is Back

Sat Apr 23, 7:55 AM ET

By Thomas H. Maugh II Times Staff Writer

The Today Sponge, once the most popular female over-the-counter contraceptive in the country, is coming back on the U.S. market after 10 years in limbo.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved sale of the contraceptive and it will be available soon on the website of its manufacturer, Allendale Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Company president Gene Detroyer said Friday that the Today Sponge should be in stores this summer.

"Anytime the FDA approves a contraceptive method it is important," said Lawrence B. Finer of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research group that focuses on reproductive health. "The more methods there are, the better the chances that someone is going to find one that is a good fit for him or her. Anecdotally, we certainly hear that there is a demand."

The new version of the sponge has been on sale in Canada for two years, but its sale in the United States has been delayed by the company's difficulties in obtaining FDA approval for its manufacturing plant in Norwich, N.Y.

Similar problems led to the withdrawal of the Today Sponge in 1995. The safety of the device was not an issue.

An estimated 250 million Today Sponges were sold from 1983 to 1995. The contraceptive was popular among women because of its ease of use and the fact that it did not contain hormones. Data collected in 1995 indicated that 12% of American women 15 to 44 and 19% of those 30 to 34 had used the Today Sponge at some point.

In 1993, the FDA found that the Hammonton, N.J., plant used by American Home Products to manufacture the sponge and other products was using water contaminated with bacteria. The agency also questioned techniques for sterilizing equipment in the facility and laboratory methods used to test for contamination.

Rather than spend the money required to upgrade the facility, the company stopped selling the Today Sponge.

The decision was a blow to many women, depicted in an episode of the television show "Seinfeld" in which Elaine Benes scoured pharmacies to stock up on remaining supplies of the sponge. She then rationed her supply by putting prospective partners through a series of tests to determine whether they were "spongeworthy."

"I can tell you that many women are looking forward to the return of the sponge," said Dr. Anne Davis, an obstetrics- gynecology specialist at Columbia University. "It's important to have a variety of contraceptive options available to all women."

Allendale Pharmaceuticals was formed in the late 1990s to bring the Today Sponge back to the market and has been working to improve its manufacturing techniques. By nature, the device is more difficult to produce than a pill or liquid.

As the name implies, the product is a polyurethane sponge, but it contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9. The sponge gradually releases the spermicide while providing a physical barrier to block the passage of sperm, which are absorbed into its many crevices.

The product has shown an efficacy rate of 89% to 91%.

The product does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

Saudi religious police detain Star Academy winner for causing indecent stir

Entertainment - Canadian Press
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Saudi religious police detain Star Academy winner for causing indecent stir

Sat Apr 23, 1:48 PM ET
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Star or not, Saudi Arabia's enforcers of virtue make no exceptions: handshakes and congratulatory kisses in mixed company do not belong in a public mall.

Religious authorities briefly detained Saudi singer Hisham Abdel Rahman, made famous in the Arab World by winning this year's Star Academy reality TV show for causing an indecent scene, a Riyadh police official said Saturday. Star Academy is based on a French show of the same name and as wildly popular in the Arab world as the like-minded U.S. show, American Idol.

Male and female fans had spotted Abdel Rahman, 24, strolling through Kingdom Tower Mall on Wednesday and rushed to him to shake his hand and bestow congratulatory kisses.

Members of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the formal name for Saudi' Arabia's religious police, doing their regular mall patrol were upset by the scene, which they deemed "improper," the police official said on condition of anonymity.

The religious police tried to disperse the crowd and told Abdel Rahman to leave the mall, however, the young star reportedly refused and started squabbling with the clerics.

Abdel Rahman was forcibly escorted out and taken to the religious police offices for questioning. He was briefly held before a senior official intervened to secure his release, the police official said.

Abdel Rahman was flown to his hometown of Jiddah, the official said.

Arab News quoted Bander al-Mutairy, an official at the religious police office that detained Abdel Rahman as saying he had "violated a rule and created chaos in the (Kingdom) Tower Mall and that had to be stopped."

Conservative clerics in the kingdom have criticized the Star Academy show since its start.

Grand Mufti Adul-Aziz al-Sheik, the kingdom's highest religious authority, issued an edict last year calling the show an open invitation to sin, saying Muslims should avoid it. Al-Sheik condemned Star Academy for showing unmarried men and women mixing in a house, saying it "killed modesty." In the conservative Middle East, society dictates that unrelated, single men and women must not live together. Saudi Arabia forbids any such public interaction. Women must be covered head to toe, except for their faces and hands, when outside their homes.

Islamic fundamentalists writing on Internet forums also have denounced the show as immoral. Other reality TV shows were also condemned by clerics in Bahrain and Kuwait.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Virginity Pledgers More Likely to Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior

Virginity Pledgers More Likely to Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior

3/18/2005 10:25:00 AM

To: National Desk

Contact: Adrienne Verrilli of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., 212-819-9770; Web: http://www.siecus.org

NEW YORK, March 18 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A study released in the March 18, issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health by Hannah Bruckner of Yale University and Peter Bearman of Columbia University shows that young people who took "virginity pledges," public promises to remain virgins until marriage, are nonetheless at risk of engaging in unsafe sexual practices.

The research found that "pledgers" have the same rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as their peers who had not pledged. Not only were pledgers less likely to use condoms to prevent STDs, they were less likely to seek medical testing and treatment, increasing possibility of transmission.

Furthermore researchers concluded that some pledgers engaged in alternative sexual behaviors in order to preserve their virginity. In fact, among those who had not had vaginal intercourse, pledgers are more likely to have engaged in both oral and anal sex than their non-pledging peers. The research shows that among virgins, male and female pledgers are six time more likely to have had oral sex than non-pledgers, and male pledgers are four times more likely to have had anal sex than those who had not pledged.

"This research confirms what we have known for a long time," said Bill Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS). "Teens, regardless of whether they have a taken a virginity pledge, are engaging in behaviors that put them at risk for STDs and unintended pregnancy. It is vitally important that we provide all teens with the information and skills they need to protect themselves," Smith continued.

Virginity pledges are the cornerstone of many federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Since 1982, the U.S. government has spent over a billion dollars on unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Of that billion, $620 million dollars has been spent in just the last seven years. Under the leadership of President Bush there has been a continued expansion of investment in these programs with $168 million allocated in Fiscal Year 2005 alone. Now the President is seeking an all-time high of $206 million in his proposed Fiscal Year 2006 budget. These programs are prohibited from discussing contraceptives except in the context of failure rates and have never been proven effective.

"Not only do virginity pledges not work to keep our young people safe, they are causing harm by undermining condom use, contraception, and medical treatment," said Smith. "Enough is enough. It is time for lawmakers to stop pushing their ideological agenda at the expense of young people and fund comprehensive and medically accurate sexuality education programs that work," Smith continued.


To view the report, go to: http://www.jahonline.org/ or http://www.iserp.Columbia.edu



/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Trekkies Unite to Save "Enterprise"

Trekkies Unite to Save "Enterprise"

Fri Feb 25, 5:50 PM ET
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By Sarah Hall

Loyal Trekkies--er, make that Trekkers--beamed across the globe Friday to express their discontent over UPN's decision to axe Star Trek: Enterprise.

Earlier this month, the network announced the show's impending demise at the end of its fourth season, leaving Enterprise devotees facing the prospect of network television devoid of a Star Trek series for the first time in almost 20 years.

Aghast at the realization that the show had reached its final frontier, viewers galvanized a plan to keep Enterprise alive by attempting to raise $32 million dollars to fund the cost of a fifth season and alerting the powers that be to the show's committed fan base.

On Friday, Trekkies held "Save Enterprise" rallies at the Paramount lot in Los Angeles, the offices of CBS and the Sci-Fi channel in New York, the Fox affiliate in Washington, D.C., the offices of the BBC and Channel 4 in London and at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Tim Brazeal, a systems administrator from Knoxville, Tennessee who is spearheading the project, said that three people have pledged $3 million toward salvaging the show, while fan site TrekUnited.com had raised $49,410 by Friday afternoon.

According to chatter in fan forums such as TrekUnited.com and SaveEnterprise.com, the L.A. rally drew the most participants, with an estimated 200 to 400 Trek enthusiasts voicing their support for the show.

Rather than channeling their inner Mr. Spock, participants were urged to come dressed in normal attire, as a statement on SaveEnterprise.com advised, "Although we think that coming in dress would be great, we also think this would stereotype us all as 'Hardcore' Trekkers and would hurt more than help. Please wear your daily wear."

Most of the rally attendees complied with the dress code, though some could not resist donning Vulcan ears for the cause.

Enterprise, a prequel to the original 1960s Star Trek series, currently draws about 3 million viewers a week, about half the number who watched its first season, and way down from the 12.5 million who tuned in for its 2001 premiere.

As of now, its final episode is slated to air on May 13.

Efforts to save shows headed for cancellation typically fail, though dedicated fans managed to breathe life into past struggling shows such as the WB's Felicity and Roswell and ABC's Once and Again through Internet campaigns.

If the Trekkers fail in their mission to keep Enterprise on the airwaves, money will either be refunded to donors or donated to tsunami relief, Brazeal said.

However, even if Enterprise bites the dust, there's still a bright spot on the horizon for Star Trek fans.

Earlier this week, Variety reported that scribe Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers) has been hired to pen the script for Star Trek XI, the latest installment in the long-running sci-fi franchise.

The project was reportedly shelved in January, but production is apparently back in motion, though Paramount has not yet set a release date for the film, which is rumored to focus on the Romulan War, which took place before the original series.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

ACLU: Health center 'smears' lesbian pair

Community - Planet Out
Planet Out
ACLU: Health center 'smears' lesbian pair

Fri Mar 4, 8:33 PM ET

Ann Rostow, PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: The ACLU has accused a health center of retaliating against a lesbian couple because the two women are suing the center for discrimination.

Representatives of the Charles T. Sitrin Health Care Center in Utica, N.Y., are allegedly accusing two lesbians of "inappropriate behavior" at their facility. The charges, widely reported on local radio and television, were made in response to a discrimination lawsuit filed by the ACLU on Feb. 24 after the couple was "dismissed" from the center's swimming program, apparently on account of their sexual orientation.

The ACLU fired off an angry press release on Friday, lambasting the center for making "wild accusations" in a "ham-fisted attempt to distract the public from the Sitrin Center's own disgraceful behavior."

Louise Bizzari and Barbara Hackett are life partners in their 50s and 60s, respectively. Not only was there no inappropriate behavior at poolside, ACLU spokespeople say, but many of the friends they made at the center never even knew the women were lesbians until they were summarily told not to return.

The dispute began after Bizzari called Sitrin's director of clinical rehabilitative services, Jackie Warmuth, in order to arrange to use the center's therapeutic pools. Bizzari, who had been misdiagnosed with cancer and severely disabled by nine years of cancer treatment, was under doctor's orders to get into shape for future surgery. When Warmuth learned Bizzari planned to use her domestic partner insurance policy to pay for therapy, Warmuth told her the insurance was unacceptable. She also declined Bizzari's offer to pay her own way.

Subsequently, Bizzari and Hackett signed up for an inexpensive wellness program that included use of the pools. But when Warmuth later learned the women were using the facility, she had them "dismissed" from the center in January, calling Bizzari and her partner "faggots" as a parting gesture.

Now, according to the ACLU, local radio shows are disparaging the women. Their friends have called them dozens of times to report hearing slanderous accusations. After appearing on the local news, Barbara Hackett was called "pervert" as she walked down the street in this small upstate town.

Utica's Channel 10 news ran the text of a quote from Rosemary Bonacci, Sitrin's director of communications, who said Bizzari was kicked out "solely based on her inappropriate conduct in the facility and her sexual orientation was not a factor." According to the ACLU, Sitrin has also suggested the women were kissing at the pool, a "ludicrous" statement that "only proves the Sitrin Center's discrimination against the gay community."

"We know that there are people out there who support Barbara and Louise and are outraged at the way they've been treated ... and we urge those members of the community to speak out publicly against the Sitrin Center's behavior," wrote the civil libertarians. "Our plaintiffs have been through enough without the Sitrin Center adding insult to injury through such base, incendiary tactics."

The ACLU's lawsuit was brought in state court, under New York's sexual orientation nondiscrimination act. That law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, housing and in public accommodations like the Sitrin Center. A hearing on the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled later this month.

School district cancels gay author event

Community - Planet Out
Planet Out
School district cancels gay author event

Fri Mar 4, 8:33 PM ET
Larry Buhl, PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: Officials in a Virginia school system cancelled the appearance of a gay fiction writer after some parents charged that he would not be a suitable guest for high school students.

Officials at the Chesterfield school system near Richmond, Va., cancelled the appearance of a gay fiction writer after an e-mail message from a conservative group convinced some parents that he would not be a suitable guest for high school students.

Greg Herren, primarily known for mystery novels featuring gay heroes, was invited to speak about his work and his career on March 11 at Manchester High School. But when an anonymous e-mail from the American Family Association was circulated to Manchester High parents and others, plans unraveled in only two days. Herren's lecture series was quickly rescheduled to after-school hours, then finally cancelled.

In a statement released by the Chesterfield school district, Herren's appearance would be "inappropriate for high school students."

A Chesterfield resident who protested Herren's visit after receiving the e-mail said, "There are plenty of avenues for folks with this particular opinion or position to express their First Amendment rights, but I don't believe a public school is the proper avenue without input from parents."

But Eric Russell, faculty adviser for Manchester's gay-straight alliance (GSA), said the e-mail's suggestion that Herron would indoctrinate students in "gay pride activist" issues is ludicrous.

"Greg did not intend to speak about anything inappropriate or controversial. He was going to talk about his experience at writing and being a journalist, things any writer would discuss as a guest speaker," Russell said.

"The whole controversy was started from some very vocal people, some from outside the district. All they think is, 'Gay man coming to talk to gay students -- how dare he?'" said Russell, who invited Herren to speak.

A longtime fan of Herren's work, Russell was miffed by other inaccuracies in the e-mail, such as the suggestion that Herren would sell autographed copies of pornographic novels to students.

"I sent out an e-mail to faculty members inviting them to hear him speak, and inviting them to buy signed copies of Greg's books. The signed books were only for faculty to buy, not students, and his novels aren't pornographic anyway."

Herren, who admits he has written short stories containing gay erotica for anthologies, refuted the e-mail's contention that his novels are pornographic.

"Despite the stupidity of the circulating e-mail and its inaccuracies, the thing that bothers me the most about this situation is that I was never given an opportunity by the school board or the superintendent to express my opinions, nor was I asked what I was planning to talk about," Herren said.

"What was further insulting to me was the insinuation that, as a gay man, I am either too stupid or too perverted to know what is appropriate or inappropriate to talk to high school students about. If the superintendent and the 'concerned parents' had read my work and then decided I was not an appropriate speaker, I would gladly let the matter drop. But I am terribly resentful that the entire reason I was dropped was because a group of homophobes -- without reading anything I've ever written, based on a bio that does not remotely come close to covering everything I've written -- concluded that I was a 'danger.'"

Russell said that, although the district caved in, Manchester school administrators have been supportive of Herren, the GSA and gay and lesbian issues in general. And he pointed to others in the community who have stepped forward to offer a counterprotest of the district's actions. The local MCC invited Herren to speak on the same date at their church, and a local businessman offered to pay for Herren to fly from New Orleans to Richmond.

Herren, 43, has published novels including "Murder in the Rue Dauphine," "Bourbon Street Blues" and "Jackson Square Jazz." He has also written for the Lambda Book Report and the Washington Blade.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Man pleads guilty in lesbian's death

Community - Planet Out
Planet Out
Man pleads guilty in lesbian's death

Fri Mar 4, 8:33 PM ET

Associated Press

SUMMARY: A man pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter for fatally stabbing a 15-year-old lesbian in a fight at a bus stop.

NEWARK, N.J. -- A man pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter for fatally stabbing a 15-year-old lesbian in a fight at a bus stop.

Richard McCullough is likely to receive a prison sentence of 25 years or less for the May 2003 attack.

Sakia Gunn and four other girls were waiting at a bus stop at 3:30 a.m. when McCollough and another man drove up and asked if they wanted to go to a party.

The girls responded that they were lesbians and were not interested. Authorities said the men began making homophobic insults, and a fight began, during which Gunn was stabbed.

McCullough, 30, had been charged under the state's bias crime statute, which gives stiffer penalties for crimes motivated by a victim's race, sexual orientation or nationality.

That charge was dropped in exchange for Thursday's plea. McCullough could have been sentenced to 118 years if found guilty on all charges.

The judge set sentencing for April 21.

R. Kelly's New Sex Song Heats Things Up

Entertainment - AP Music
Mon, Mar 07, 2005

R. Kelly's New Sex Song Heats Things Up

NEW YORK - The subject was never brought up during home economics class, but I'm pretty sure my teacher would have told me that sex in the kitchen was a no-no. Think of the potential for cuts and burns in all the wrong places.

Yet R. Kelly makes it sound all so darned appealing in his new song titled — you guessed it — "Sex In the Kitchen," which has got radio cooking these days. Sample lyrics: "Sex in the kitchen, over by the stove, put you on the counter, by the buttered rolls. Hands on the table, on your tippy-toes, we'll be making love like the restaurant was closed."

Which begs the question — is this going on in your local diner? And more importantly, how much freakier can R. Kelly get on record?

After all, this is the guy who's already given us "Bump N' Grind," "Feelin' On Yo Booty," "Your Body's Callin'," and "Sex Me" — and that's just the beginning of his raunchy repertoire. He's made an art of making the crassest acts sound divine. And who else could mention tomatoes and potatoes on a pillow-talk groove and get away with it?

(The criminal charges against Kelly raise a whole 'nother set of issues. But that's another story.)

Though it's due to be the first song off of his upcoming album, "Sex In the Kitchen" isn't all that new, at least to devoted Kelly fans. Those who caught him on tour two years ago will recall him teasing the audience with snippets of the ditty then — much to the delight of the women in the audience.

Kidman to Star in Arbus Biopic

Movies - Reuters
Kidman to Star in Arbus Biopic

Mon Mar 7, 1:33 AM ET
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By Liza Foreman

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Nicole Kidman is in negotiations to play photographer Diane Arbus in the upcoming biopic "Fur." Robert Downey Jr. (news - web sites) also is in negotiations to join the project.

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Steven Shainberg is set to direct "Fur," which would mark his first feature since the quirky 2002 hit, "Secretary." "Secretary" scribe Erin Cressida Wilson is writing the "Fur" script, adapting Patricia Bosworth's book "Diane Arbus: A Biography."

Arbus, considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, is known for her strange, often disturbing images. She committed suicide in 1971.

At one point last year, Samantha Morton was in negotiations for the role in the film, previously known as the untitled Diane Arbus project,

Kidman was set to co-star with Russell Crowe (news) in the Australian feature film adaptation of the book "Eucalyptus." But Fox Searchlight recently shut down the project amid script woes.

Kidman next will be seen in Columbia Pictures' "Bewitched," a feature film based on the popular 1960s sitcom of the same name. The Oscar-winning actress most recently was nominated for a Golden Globe this year for her work in "Birth."

Downey's recent credits include "Gothika," "Eros" and "The Singing Detective."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter