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Jackson mother gets custody of children

Michael Jackson’s family secured temporary custody of the superstar’s children Monday as the first salvos in the legal issues arising from the pop icon’s tragic death began to take shape.

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A day after a family lawyer said the Jackson clan would seek custody of the singer’s three children, a judge named the star’s mother Katherine as temporary guardian after approving a petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Jackson’s family was also reported to be filing a second petition seeking the right to be named temporary administrators of their son’s estate.

Court officials confirmed a petition relating to Jackson’s assets had been filed but would not go into details.

A lawyer for the family, Londell McMillan, said Sunday the family had not yet seen a copy of the star’s will.

McMillan was appointed amid clear signs the grief-stricken Jackson family was seeking to take control of their most famous member’s affairs.

Members of the musical clan were also expected to meet activist Reverend Al Sharpton at the family compound in Los Angeles on Monday to finalize plans for a fitting memorial for Jackson.

“I’m here to make sure Michael gets in death what he never got in life — he never got credit,” Sharpton said Sunday.

“He was not a freak, he’s a genius,” he said. “He was not somebody who was eccentric, he was innovative and that innovation smashed barriers and he should be given a lot more credit than he’s been given.”

A press conference with Sharpton and Jackson’s father Joe was scheduled for 11:30 am local time (1830 GMT).

Reports have said Jackson’s family is considering a series of simultaneous memorial services around the world for the singer, reflecting the huge global reach of an artist who sold more than 750 million records.

Family members attended an awards show Sunday dedicated to African-American entertainers which became a star-studded celebration of Jackson’s life, featuring an emotional tribute from his sister Janet.

“My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was just too painful so they elected me to speak with all of you,” Janet Jackson said.

“I’d just like to say that, to you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts.”

Meanwhile family attorney McMillan said the family was “closely watching” the progress of the official investigation into Jackson’s death.

The family already has hired a private pathologist who has carried out a second autopsy on Jackson.

Details from Friday’s preliminary examination of Jackson’s body were published in Britain’s The Sun newspaper on Monday after the daily said it had seen a copy of the autopsy report.

According to the paper, pathologists found Jackson’s stomach empty apart from partially-dissolved pills. Jackson’s body was also reported to have weighed only 50.8 kilograms (112 pounds) at the time of his death.

However the Los Angeles County coroner’s office strongly rejected the report, describing parts of it as “totally false.”

“The report that is being published did not come from our office,” said Assistant Chief Ed Winter. “I don’t know where that information came from, or who that information came from.”

Meanwhile lawyers for personal physician Conrad Murray — who was with Jackson in the hours before his death — went on the offensive, with attorney Edward Chernoff insisting his client was blameless.

“There’s nothing in his history, nothing that Dr Murray knew, that would lead him to believe he would go into sudden cardiac arrest or respiratory failure,” Chernoff told CNN Monday.

“There was no red flag available to Dr Murray, which led him to believe he would have died the way he did. It’s still a mystery how he died.”

Speculation has been rife that excessive use of powerful prescription pain killers may have played a role in Jackson’s death, but Chernoff insisted that contrary to news reports, Murray “never prescribed nor administered” two particular drugs — Demerol or Oxycontin — to Jackson.

He also defended how Murray responded to the immediate crisis after Jackson lost consciousness last week, recounting step-by-step the failed effort by the doctor to revive the singer.

Opposition on the attack over boat arrivals

The federal opposition has used the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers and the interception of five others in Malaysia to back their case against the abolition of detention debts.

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Some 194 asylum seekers are being taken to the Christmas Island detention facility for health and security checks after the navy picked up their vessel off the island yesterday.

On Monday Malaysian authorities said weekend operations had intercepted five boats, carrying more than 50 mostly Afghans and Pakistani nationals, bound for Australia via Indonesia.

The opposition says more than 1,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australian waters since the Rudd government softened Australia’s border protection polices in August last year.

Another 1,000 people had been intercepted by Indonesian authorities.

The opposition says that instead of talking tough on border protection, the government is pushing ahead with plans to abolish the long-established practice of charging asylum seekers for the cost of their detention.

“It was a principle that should have been retained,” opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said on Monday, adding that people smugglers were now responsible for 20 per cent of refugees coming to Australia.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans admitted the government was very concerned about the number of unauthorised arrivals.

“We’re absolutely determined to put an end to that trade and we’ve committed an awful lot of resources recently to try and combat these arrivals,” he said.

Senator Evans said the new detention facility on Christmas Island would be able to cope with the new arrivals.

“But we also have contingency plans in place if we need more capacity,” he said.

Malaysian authorities have been cracking down on the growing number of people using the country as a gateway for illegal sea voyages to Australia, mostly via Indonesia.

On Saturday, authorities in central Selangor state stopped four small boats, ferrying 15 Afghans, six Pakistanis and 11 Indonesians, on a river.

They were apparently planning to transfer to a bigger boat, which was caught with 21 Afghans already on board, Marzuki Ismail, the state’s marine police chief, said on Monday.

It appears the ship was bound for Indonesia’s Sumatra island, and the Pakistani and Afghan passengers had paid $A1,600 each to agents in Malaysia for the trip.

Authorities also arrested three Indonesian boatmen, but two others managed to escape.

In recent months, more than 100 Afghans, Pakistanis and Iraqis who had entered Malaysia legally have been caught embarking on rickety and overcrowded boats for Indonesia en route to Australia.

Several boats have sunk, killing more than a dozen people. Just two weeks ago, Malaysian police detained a boat that was also trying to smuggle 17 Iraqis to Australia via Indonesia.

Seven Indonesians were arrested in that raid. So far this year, Australian authorities have intercepted 15 boats carrying asylum seekers in its waters.

GM drops stake in Toyota plant

General Motors has announced it will drop its ownership stake in the US assembly plant it operates jointly with Japanese rival Toyota, as it restructures its operations under bankruptcy protection.

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“After extensive analysis, GM and Toyota could not reach an agreement on a future product plan that made sense for all parties,” Troy Clarke, president of GM North America said in a statement.

“We have enjoyed a very positive and beneficial partnership with Toyota for the past 25 years, and we remain open to future opportunities of mutual interest.”

GM said its ownership stake in the plant would not be sold to the “New GM” that is expected to emerge from bankruptcy in the coming weeks but would instead remain behind as the ‘old GM’ is liquidated.

Production of GM vehicles at the New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated plant will cease in August.

Toyota said in a statement it was “sorry that General Motors has chosen to withdraw” and had hoped the venture would continue.

A spokesman for the Japanese automaker declined to disclose its plans for the plant.

“While we respect this decision by GM, the economic and business environment surrounding Toyota is also extremely severe, and so this decision by GM makes the situation even more difficult for Toyota,” the statement said.

“We will consider alternatives by taking into account various factors.”

The 5.3 million square foot facility in Fremont, California currently employs 5,440 people and produces approximately 250,000 cars and 170,000 trucks, according to the plant’s website.

Police brace as Iran election result upheld

Iranian police have been deployed en masse, bracing for a response to the decision to uphold official results of this month’s fiercely-disputed presidential election.

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Tehran continued to hold four locally-recruited British embassy staff for ‘inciting’ protests, while Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned that the Group of Eight major powers would consider sanctions against the nation at a summit next week.

State television announced that, after a “thorough and comprehensive investigation,” Iran’s official electoral watchdog had upheld the re-election of hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote denounced by his main challenger, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, as a “shameful fraud”.

The head of the Guardians Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, concluded that “the majority of the objections were not deemed infringements or fraud and were only minor irregularities that occur in each election,” the television reported.

Mousavi’s supporters had boycotted the partial recount of the vote carried out by the council in response to the complaints of the defeated candidates.

The opposition had demanded a complete rerun and has staged massive public demonstrations in a dispute that has shaken the foundations of the Islamic regime, with unprecedented criticism of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the official results, Ahmadinejad won by a thumping majority of 63 percent against just 34 percent for Mousavi, a gap of 11 million votes.

Witnesses said thousands of policemen and Basij militiamen brandishing sticks were deployed in Tehran’s main squares to prevent any recurrence of the opposition protests over the conduct of the election that have broken out since the June 12 poll.

They said security forces were also randomly checking the boots of cars and vehicles, and checking the identification cards of drivers.

Western governments meanwhile expressed outrage at Iran’s continued detention of the four British embassy staffers.

Iran freed five of their colleagues earlier in the day, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown slammed the arrests as “unacceptable” and demanded the immediate release of the other four.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Iran’s treatment of the British embassy staff as “deplorable” and said Washington was following the situation “with great concern.”

Speaking after talks with Brown in London, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his “full solidarity” with Britain over the arrests.

“Intimidation and harassment are unacceptable and they will be met with a strong collective European response,” he warned.

And the Italian prime minister who will chair the G8 summit from July 8 to 10, said: “Iran will be the first topic that we will deal with.

“According to the telephone conversations I have had with other leaders, I think that we will go in the direction you indicated, namely sanctions.”

Iran has repeatedly accused the West particularly Britain and the United States of “meddling” as its Islamic rulers struggle to contain the most serious upheaval since the revolution 30 years ago.

In the face of a massive crackdown on protesters, the opposition has scaled down its public demonstrations over the election results.

At least 17 people have been killed and many more wounded in clashes with security forces, according to state media.

Ahmadinejad on Monday called for a probe into the death of Neda Agah-Soltan, a woman whose apparent killing by the Islamic militia during a protest rally in Tehran generated an international outcry.

Neda became an icon for the opposition after an Internet video showing her final moments was seen around the world.

On Sunday, riot police in Tehran dispersed about 3,000 Mousavi supporters who had defied a ban on public gatherings, witnesses said, with one reporting a “minor confrontation.”

The information could not be independently verified as foreign media are banned from the streets under tough new restrictions imposed by the authorities.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said on Sunday that more than 2,000 people are still in custody and hundreds more missing across Iran as a result of the government crackdown on the opposition.

London-based watchdog Amnesty International said it was gravely concerned that several opposition leaders may be facing torture, possibly to force them to make televised ‘confessions’ as a prelude to unfair trials in which they could face the death penalty.

It expressed particular concern for the well-being of three former officials in the government of Mohammad Khatami, whose 1997-2005 presidency saw a thaw in relations with the West — Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh. end of 2011. (AP

Bruno stops Sydney traffic

The gay Austrian fashionista stopped traffic and caused mob scenes in Sydney’s CBD, dressed as a knight in shining armour leading a white horse dressed in bondage gear.

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“Vassup Sydney! Do you like my helmet?” he asked the hundreds of screaming fans who packed into Market Street.

Bruno, played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, has spruiked his movie in seven countries over the past 18 days – “more than any Austrian since 1941”.

Sydney was the last stop on his world tour, and he was going out with a party.

“Ich really hope my movie realises its full global potential and doesn’t peter out after a promising start like swine flu,” said Bruno, posing with silver-painted models in red bikinis.

“Let’s hope, like herpes, this film continues to infect audiences for the next 1,000 years.”

Bruno added that of all the places he’d visited “Sydney is the best”, but there was no sign of the man who had won his heart on his trip Down Under: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

At a press conference on Monday morning, he raved about the man he called Ruddy.

“The reason I’m late is I just had breakfast in bed with Kevin Rudd. That guy is like, uber cute,” Bruno said.

“I thought Obama was like the hottest guy in the world until I met Kevin.

“I did to him last night what Malcolm Turnbull has been trying to do to him for the last couple of weeks.”

Bruno is the latest mockumentary by Baron Cohen, who brought the world Borat in 2006.

In the movie, the gay fashion journalist is on a mission to become the biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler.

As he did with Borat in the past, Baron Cohen conducted the Sydney press conference entirely in character as Bruno.

Media were instructed not to ask questions about Baron Cohen’s fiancee Isla Fisher, or pop star Michael Jackson’s death, which has prompted a scene involving La Toya Jackson to be cut from the film.

Bruno was much more interested in talking about something closer to his heart: himself.

“I want to be the gay stereotype, I want to be the gay role model,” he said.

“My first words to my mother were: `I’m gay, get over it’.”

He was also keen to discuss his “fashion philosophy”.

“Fashion can solve most of the world’s problems,” Bruno said.

“Israel and Palestine, the whole of the middle earth, the fact is not one suicide bomber has even blown themselves up while wearing Marc Jacobs. That’s a fact.

“If you go the middle earth you see when those guys open their wardrobe all they’ve got is like a black smock and sandals. I’d blow myself up too.”

Bruno opens in Australia on July 8.