Jude Law is People magazine’s new “sexiest man alive.” Ho-hum. Like it could be anybody else.

What’s really got the chattering classes a-twitter is news that Karl Rove, oft compared to Machiavelli and sometimes called “Bush’s brain,” is the leading contender for Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

The White House adviser President Bush calls “the architect” is credited with engineering Bush’s re-election through clever use of gay marriage ballot initiatives, appeals to evangelicals, and taping John Kerry’s every public utterance to capture those inevitable foot-in-mouth moments.

A panel assembled to choose the POY, “who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill” this year, said others in the running include filmmakers Mel Gibson and Michael Moore, the deity God, the prophet Mohammed, and the categories bloggers and terrorists.

President Bush was the pick in 2000. Others have ranged from Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler to last year’s entity, the American Soldier. The chosen person will be unveiled on the magazine’s Dec. 20 cover.

FUNNY FOLKS

The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival will bestow its Freedom of Speech award on Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau at a ceremony in February, the festival announced Wednesday. The award is given annually to artists who speak out on social issues despite challenges. Comedian Jim Carrey, director Christopher Guest and writers of the Harvard Lampoon will be honored for being amusing.

REMOTE JUSTICE

Filmmaker and Paris resident Roman Polanski, 71, is hot to sue Vanity Fair magazine for libel – but he’s not at all keen to set foot in a British courtroom, where he might risk being extradited to the United States for child sex offenses.

Wednesday, the “Rosemary’s Baby” director asked Britain’s highest court to let him make his case via video link, a request lower courts there have turned down. Polanski says the magazine defamed him when it said he seduced a woman in New York on his way to the 1969 funeral of his murdered pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.

The director, who won an Oscar in absentia last year for “The Pianist,” has been a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978, the year after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in California. He skipped out before sentencing and hasn’t been back since.

Polanski chose not to file the civil suit in France apparently because British libel laws are more advantageous to plaintiffs.

JURY’S STILL OUT

There are a lot of questions but no conclusions on the set of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Everybody’s wondering what in the world is wrong with Vincent D’Onofrio. The star fainted on the set last week and has since fainted three more times and was hospitalized for two days. He was supposed to return to work at 7 a.m. Tuesday after an MRI scan came up empty, but was sent back to the hospital after another fainting spell late Monday. A rep for the show says the actor is “in good spirits and producers are optimistic he’ll be released soon.”

NATIONAL KUDOS

Choreographer Twyla Tharp, author Ray Bradbury and the late poet Anthony Hecht are among recipients of the 2004 National Medal of the Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government.

Others honored at a ceremony Wednesday in the Oval Office of the White House were architectural historian Vincent Scully, wildlife artist John Ruthven, the late sculptor Frederick “Rick” Hart and opera composer Carlisle Floyd. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was cited for its arts patronage.

National Endowment for the Humanities awards were also announced, for authors Gertrude Himmelfarb and Madeleine L’Engle, educator Marva Collins, author and art critic Hilton Kramer, philosopher John Searle, racial scholar Shelby Steele, professor of government Harvey Mansfield and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

SAVING FARMS

Willie Nelson, founder and president of Farm Aid, received the Environmental Media Association’s Missions in Music Award on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Nelson, along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness of the dramatic loss of family farms and the impact on the environment, food quality, and rural communities.


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