- - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Betty White is headed to Washington to see the wildlife — not the donkeys and elephants on Capitol Hill, but the animals in the National Zoo.

She will stop at the Smithsonian on Thursday and then visit the zoo on Friday to indulge her passion: animal watching. She’s looking forward to viewing the zoo’s fertility-challenged pandas and a harmonica-playing elephant, among other animals.

“My interest in animals started in the womb,” the 90-year-old actress told the Associated Press. “I think my mother’s and father’s started in the same place. They were animal nuts long before I came along.”

In the District, Miss White will visit a sold-out crowd Thursday at the Smithsonian Associates, an educational division of the museum complex. And she will sign copies of her book, “Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo.”

It’s a mostly picture book compiled over the years with facts about animals. Since 1974, Miss White has served as a trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. So she gives readers a tour of animals at the Los Angeles Zoo and many other leading zoos across the country.

When Miss White has a chance to visit a zoo, she said she likes to stay for a long time and watch the animals relax. She wrote her book to let people know about all the good zoos do.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I hate zoos. I want all the animals to be back in their natural habitat,’ ” she said. “Well, you know what we’ve done to their natural habitat.

“Without zoos, we would have lost already so many species.”

On Friday, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will roll out the red carpet to give Miss White a look at its research efforts behind the scenes. She will also sign copies of her book.

Zookeepers plan to show her the Asian elephants up close, including Shanthi who plays harmonica with her trunk, as well as the popular pandas, the great apes and the Panamanian golden frog. The zoo is leading an effort to fight a fast-spreading fungus blamed for wiping out dozens of amphibian species.

Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ opens 65th Cannes festival

The sunbaked Cannes Film Festival got under way with Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” whose carefully composed whimsy stood in stark contrast to the zoolike atmosphere at the annual French Riviera extravaganza.

Mr. Anderson’s film, which was shown to the press before its official premiere Wednesday evening, opened the 65th edition of Cannes. While that anniversary — marked by festival posters of Marilyn Monroe — suggests maturity, “Moonrise Kingdom” began things on a childlike note.

The film is about two preteens (newcomers Jared Gilman and Kaya Heyward) in love and running away together on a remote New England island in a 1965, Norman Rockwell-esque America. Stamped with Mr. Anderson’s trademark visual style to almost the degree of his animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the movie is seen mostly from the point of view of the kids.

Earlier in the day, farther down the Croisette, the city’s famous promenade, the zoo of Cannes took on a literal sense.

Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Admiral General Aladeen, brought in a camel in his latest stunt to promote his upcoming comedy, “The Dictator.” The comedian held a news conference outside his hotel, then mounted the animal with some trouble and rode down the row of boutique stores to apparently take in some shopping.

As he slowly made his way down the street, Mr. Baron Cohen was mobbed by dozens of photographers, bringing traffic to a halt and drawing the curiosity of police. After a short stroll, he turned around and returned to the hotel.

Such a stunt, while certainly unique, isn’t uncommon at Cannes, where movies often go to extremes to catch the world media’s attention. Billboards of films due out this year are plastered around town and many others are being screened out of competition.

Over the next 11 days, the Cannes Film Festival will run through 21 more films in competition, including eagerly anticipated ones from Walter Salles (“On the Road”), David Cronenberg (“Cosmopolis”) and Michael Haneke (“Amour”).

A jury of nine will sift through the entries to decide the festival’s top award, the prestigious Palme d’Or. This year’s jury is presided over by Nanni Moretti, who won the festival’s top prize in 2006 for “The Son’s Room,” and includes actors Ewan McGregor and Diane Kruger, directors Alexander Payne and Raoul Peck, and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gauthier.

John Lennon’s killer transferred from Attica

John Lennon’s killer has been transferred to another maximum-security state prison in western New York after spending more than 30 years in Attica Correctional Facility.

The Buffalo News reports that 57-year-old Mark David Chapman was transferred Tuesday from Attica to the nearby Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, 20 miles east of Buffalo.

A spokesman for the state prison system said the agency doesn’t disclose why inmates are transferred to a new facility.

Chapman fatally shot Lennon in December 1980 outside the Manhattan apartment building where the former Beatle lived. Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in 1981 to 20 years to life in prison. He was denied parole for the sixth time in September 2010. He’s eligible again for parole in August.

Compiled by Web and wire reports

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