- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AMBASSADOR GOES GAGA

The U.S. ambassador to Italy is all aflutter over the expected arrival of Lady Gaga , who accepted his invitation to join a gay-pride parade Saturday in Rome’s Circus Maximus, where ancient Romans watched chariot races and gladiators fight to the death.

“I am delighted to hear that Lady Gaga has agreed to participate in EuroPride Roma 2011,” AmbassadorDavid H. Thorne said of the 15-day festival in the Italian capital.

“Lady Gaga has been a public advocate for LGBT issues, which are very important to us,” he added, referring to initials for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Mr. Thorne added that Secretary of StateHillary Rodham Clinton“says regularly: ‘Human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights,’ ” according to a statement earlier this week from the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

He issued the invitation jointly with EuroPride organizers, who hold annual gay-pride festivals in European cities.

Mr. Thorne, who spent much of his childhood in Rome, praised Lady Gaga’s Italian-American heritage and appeared to hint that she might perform at the Circus Maximus.

“I am proud to have an Italian-American artist of her stature visit Rome, and we look forward to the concert,” he said.

The 25-year-old superstar was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in New York City. Noted for gothlike makeup and vampish, revealing costumes, Lady Gaga burst on the pop-music scene in 2008. Her latest CD, “Born That Way,” sold a million copies in its first week. She also has legions of gay fans.

Mr. Thorne, born in New York City in 1944, grew up with early rock ‘n’ roll. He graduated from Yale University in 1966, about two years after the Beatles stormed America.

A political appointee with strong Democratic Party ties, Mr. Thorne also has an intriguing background. He attended Yale with Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Both served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and Mr. Thorne later joined Mr. Kerry’s anti-war activities.

Mr. Kerry’s first wife was Mr. Thorne’s twin sister, who died in 2006. Mr. Kerry and Julia Thorne divorced in 1988, but Mr. Thorne remained a close friend and political supporter. He was Mr. Kerry’s campaign treasurer in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Mr. Thorne, a wealthy entrepreneur and investor, lived in Rome in the 1950s, where his father, Republican Landon Thorne Jr., administered the Marshall Plan for Italy. Mr. Thorne, who speaks fluent Italian, is married with two children.

REMEMBERING SHAHZAD

Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani knows the fear that Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad must have felt moments before he was killed.

Mr. Haqqani, a former journalist who covered the Afghan war in the 1980s, said he was once “kidnapped, blindfolded, and a hood was put on my face.”

The ambassador shared his stories of the perils of war correspondence at a memorial service this week for Mr. Shahzad, whose body was discovered in a ditch in Islamabad on May 31.

Suspicion immediately fell on Pakistan’s intelligence service, but others have blamed Taliban terrorists. Mr. Haqqani, addressing fellow mourners at the National Press Club, promised that his government will fully investigate the murder and warned against “finger-pointing.”

He noted Mr. Shahzad’s close associations with al Qaeda and Taliban militants. Mr. Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online, developed strong sources within both terrorist groups.

“He had sympathy for the Taliban, which I didn’t share,” Mr. Haqqani said, “but he did not deserve to die.”

The memorial service was organized by the Pakistan-American Media Forum.

*Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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