- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brad Pitt has agreed to donate $100,000 to help the Human Rights Campaign raise money for its efforts to support same-sex marriage initiatives in several states.

The nation’s largest gay rights group announced Wednesday that Mr. Pitt agreed to match contributions from the group’s members up to $100,000.

In an email to members of the Human Rights Campaign, Mr. Pitt wrote that it’s “unbelievable” that people’s relationships will be put to a vote on Election Day.

Same-sex marriage will be on the ballot in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state.

The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign says it has spent $8 million to push for marriage equality for gays and lesbians over the past two years, including $5 million in the four ballot measures this year. In previous votes in more than 30 states, no such measure has ever passed.

Swift’s ‘Red’ sells 1.2 million copies in debut

Taylor Swift’s new album is called “Red,” but its true color is a brilliant platinum. The 22-year-old sold 1.2 million copies of her latest album in its first week — the largest sales week for any album in a decade.

Nielsen SoundScan confirmed the blockbuster sales on Tuesday night. “Red” marks Miss Swift’s second straight album to sell more than 1 million copies in its first week; “Speak Now,” her third album, sold a little more than 1 million copies when it was released in 2010. She is the only woman to have two albums sell more than 1 million copies in their respective first weeks.

“They just told me ‘Red’ sold 1.2 million albums first week. How is this real life?! You are UNREAL. I love you so much. Thanks a million,” Miss Swift tweeted Tuesday night.

The only other act to sell more than 1 million copies of an album in its debut week twice was ‘N Sync.

Miss Swift isn’t a boy band, but she’s certainly got the appeal of one: The country crossover has a huge following, particularly among teens who have followed her since she was a teen herself, releasing her first album. But she’s also a critic’s darling: The Grammy-winner’s “Red” garnered plenty of acclaim when it was released last week.

Miss Swift was omnipresent in the week of the album’s release, appearing on such shows as “Good Morning America” and “Katie.” She also joined with two untraditional partners — Papa John’s and Walgreens, which offered the album for sale. And she announced her upcoming tour.

The last album to sell more than 1 million copies in its debut week was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which sold 1.1 million copies last year. However, that album was deeply discounted on Amazon.com in its first week.

Miss Swift has the opportunity to celebrate for a second time this week: As the reigning “Entertainer of the Year” at the Country Music Association Awards, she has the chance to capture the trophy again when the gala is held Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.

N.M. police: Hackman slapped homeless man

Police in New Mexico say Gene Hackman was acting in self-defense when he slapped a homeless man who had become aggressive toward the Oscar-winning actor and his wife.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the incident occurred Tuesday afternoon in downtown Santa Fe.

Police didn’t immediately provide any additional details. A message seeking comment was left for Mr. Hackman’s publicists at Guttman Associates in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Mr. Hackman and his wife have a home in Santa Fe.

The 82-year-old actor has won two Academy Awards and been nominated for three others over a career that has spanned five decades.

Mr. Hackman took the best actor trophy for his portrayal of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in “The French Connection” in 1971, and the best supporting actor award for “Unforgiven” in 1992.

Author Khaled Hosseini’s new book set for May release

Khaled Hosseini’s next novel will be a journey across time and space.

The author of the million-sellers “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” has finished his third book, “And the Mountains Echoed.” Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) and publisher of his first two novels, announced Monday that “And the Mountains Echoed” will be published May 21, The Associated Press reports.

“I am forever drawn to family as a recurring, central theme of my writing,” Mr. Hosseini, the Afghan-born author and physician, said in a statement. “My earlier novels were at heart tales of fatherhood and motherhood. My new novel is a multigenerational family story as well, this time revolving around brothers and sisters, and the ways in which they love, wound, betray, honor and sacrifice for each other. I am thrilled at the chance to share this book with my readers.”

Penguin President Susan Petersen Kennedy is one of the few people to have read the novel. She said during an interview Monday that “And the Mountains Echoed” would take place “in different parts of the world” and, as with his previous books, offers “such a clear experience and characters you can identify with even if their lives are very different from your own.”

“He really opens you up to what it means to be human,” she said.

Mr. Hosseini, 47, is one of the world’s most popular authors, with his first two books selling more than 38 million copies. “The Kite Runner,” his debut, came out in 2003 and became a word-of-mouth sensation and book-club favorite in paperback, spending two years on The New York Times’ best-seller list. He suffered no second-novel jinx: “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” a 2007 release, received strong reviews and topped the Times’ hardcover list.

Both stories were set, at least in part, in Mr. Hosseini’s native country.

Financial terms for his new book were not disclosed.

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