Serb gay pride parade off on lack of security assurances

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Gay and human rights activists in Serbia have called off their September 20 Pride Parade after being urged to move venues for safety reasons, organizers said on Saturday.

The announcement followed a meeting with Prime Minister Mirko Cvektovic, who said the police had recommended the move after threats from ultranationalists and others.

A previous event ended with running battles on the streets of Belgrade.

"We were told in the meeting with Prime Minister Cvetkovic that the gathering is impossible for security reasons and that we should choose another location," said Dragana Vuckovic, member of the Pride Parade organizing team.

"Taking the Pride Parade to another location is simply not acceptable," Vuckovic said. "Pride parades are traditionally organized in the main streets of big cities and the message is that groups kept on the fringes of a society need to be integrated."

Serbian President Boris Tadic had promised on Friday to protect marchers.

A government source, who did not wish to be identified, said the decision to move the march to a venue usually used for music gigs was prompted by concerns police might not be able to contain violence toward marchers.

The Yugoslav Committee for Human Rights, an organization of lawyers, accused the authorities of having capitulated.

"The prosecutor's office has openly acknowledged that they are incapable of finding the legal grounds to prosecute the hooligans who openly call on murder, violence and human rights violation," YUCOM said in a statement.

The only public event staged by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Serbia was in 2001 and ended in clashes, with dozens of gay activists and policemen injured by nationalists, neo-Nazis and soccer hooligans.

In February 2008, a government-backed rally to protest the independence of Kosovo, turned into scenes of vandalism, with attackers setting the U.S. Embassy on fire, stoning other diplomatic missions and foreign businesses, storming shops in central Belgrade and clashing with police.

(Reporting by Gordana Filipovic; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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Disney's studio chief Dick Cook resigns

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook stepped down on Friday from his post to pursue "new adventures" after privately telling staff he felt he no longer fits in at the No. 1 U.S. entertainment company.

Cook, who fondly described his 38-year rise from Disneyland ride operator to head the Hollywood studio in 2002, said in a statement that he had been contemplating his departure "for some time now" and felt it was the right time to move on.

Cook, 59, told his staff on Friday that he felt like "a square peg in a round hole," according to a source familiar with Cook's statement. The source did not elaborate.

His departure was not the result of a conflict with Chief Executive Bob Iger or the company's corporate side, the source said. A Disney Studios spokeswoman said the division was not ready to announce a successor.

The studios division struggled in recent quarters with a slide in DVD sales due to the recession and changing technology and a spate of unprofitable films.

After taking over as CEO in 2005, Iger cut the studios' staff by 20 percent and refocused the division on a smaller slate of high-concept family-oriented franchises.

The strategy worked for a couple of years -- producing megahits like "Pirates of the Caribbean," "National Treasure" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" -- but the studio has been slow to cut costs and leverage hits from other divisions.


The respected industry figure left days after he said at a glittering Disney exposition in Anaheim, California that the studios' upcoming slate of films was "the best in our history."

Cook presided over the integration of Pixar Animation Studio, the "Pirates" franchise that went on to gross more than $2 billion at worldwide box offices, and a roster of "big event" films and technological innovations.

Under his watch, Disney became the first studio to push digital 3D technology with "Chicken Little" and got top directors to make 3D to revitalize an industry that was losing ground to video games, piracy and digital home entertainment systems.

In a statement, Iger praised Cook's "outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship."

His departure coincides with Disney's efforts to absorb Marvel Entertainment, whose creative and production staff likely will function independently from Disney as has Pixar's team.

Larry Gerbrandt, a principal at consultancy Media Valuation Partners, said Cook's resignation could be tied to Disney's $4 billion acquisition last month of the comic book publisher and movie studio, and Disney's reliance on its Pixar division.

"If Disney is not going to develop a significant slate of completely original films, but relies primarily on Pixar and Marvel, then Dick's role becomes far less important," he said.

(Reporting by Gina Keating and Alex Dobuzinskis, Editing by Ron Popeski)

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South America: Brazil beats Argentina to reach World Cup

ROSARIO, Argentina (AP) -- Brazil qualified for its 19th consecutive World Cup, outplaying Argentina 3-1 Saturday night in a match that left its South American rival in a precarious position.

Luisao put the five-time World Cup champions ahead in the 24th minute, and Luis Fabiano scored in the 30th and 67th. Jesus Datolo got Argentina's goal in the 65th.

Brazil (8-1-6) leads South American qualifying with 30 points, while Argentina (6-5-4) is fourth with 22 points with three matches remaining. The top four teams advance to next year's tournament, while the No. 5 nation goes to a playoff against the No. 4 nation in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Brazil became the seventh nation to join host South Africa in next year's 32-nation field, following Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, North Korea and South Korea and the Netherlands

The defeat could cost Argentina coach Diego Maradona his job. The Albiceleste play at Paraguay on Wednesday, then close South American qualifying at home against Peru on Oct. 10 and at Uruguay three or four days later.

Argentina benefited from Colombia's 2-0 victory over Ecuador on Saturday. Had Ecuador won, it would have moved ahead of Argentina.

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