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Sweating to the oldies with Hugo Chávez

A tracksuit-clad Hugo Chávez is seen doing leg lifts, neck rolls, and some other mild exercises in a video recently released by the Venezuelan government. "Healthy government, healthy body, healthy mind," Chávez says between routines. Other members of his cabinet appear in the workout video as well, though from the snippet we've seen no one really seems to be working up much of a sweat. At one point, the group walks slowly around a circle at a snail's pace, following Chávez. P90X, this is not (in fact, it doesn’t even look as vigorous as Jane Fonda's routine), though, given Chávez's cancer fight, the 57-year-old Venezuelan leader probably needs to take things slowly.

 


Chávez stars in exercise video (by Reuters)

 

Chávez, who celebrated his birthday on July 28, said he completed his first round of chemotherapy last month and will soon begin a second round. He is undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba, where he had a tumor removed on June 20 -- though he has yet to say what kind of cancer he has.

In televised remarks last week, Chávez said: "I'm in the best mood possible.… My mood is unbeatable." Chávez has said he plans on running again for president in 2012. His approval remains at about 50 percent, according to a recent opinion poll -- meaning there has been little negative reaction so far to his cancer. Analysts had said his initially cagey explanations for what he was doing in Cuba were because he feared looking weak and sick -- which may be one reason for the recent exercise video. Chávez also said he had lost 30 pounds recently.

"I was too fat. I'm doing exercise, rehabilitation," he said.

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Lesbian newlyweds flee honor killing threats in India

On July 22, Savita and Beena stood before a court in Gurgaon, India, and became the first lesbian couple to be legally married, defying their disapproving families and strict laws banning same-sex marriage. Now, the newlyweds seek police protection following death threats from 14 of their family members and local villagers.

Savita, 25, and Beena, 20, met 15 years ago as children in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Savita had been forced into an arranged marriage last year with a man from her village, but she ran away five months later. She was granted a divorce by a court near New Delhi, which also approved her wish to marry Beena. Savita was deemed the husband, and Beena, her wife. Though India bans same-sex marriage, the Gurgaon court recognized their union after the couple signed an affidavit asserting that they meet all of the requirements of a legal marriage.

But following the ceremony, the young couple soon returned asking for asylum after an open declaration was made in their village to kill the women. Now, the judges in the Gurgaon court are granting the couple police protection, upholding a 2009 ruling from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to "ensure help and [give] assistance to runaway couples."

Details on their current situation are cloudy. Some reports claim that the two women attempted suicide by jumping in front of a moving train. But Dr. Abhe Singh, the Gurgaon deputy commissioner of police, told the Daily Telegraph that the young women are currently safe under 24-hour protection. 

In the past year alone, two lesbian couples have committed suicide in India. Others have fallen victim to honor killings at the hands of disapproving family members. Homosexuality is still widely frowned upon in India, with the health minister recently speaking out at a national HIV/AIDS convention against the "MSM disease" -- men who have sex with men. But beneath a traditional blanket of conservatism, an outspoken LGBT community is emerging, and not just in India.

Neighboring Nepal, the first South Asian country to decriminalize homosexuality, has been called the next potential gay wedding destination for foreigners.  Same-sex marriage was recently approved by the Nepalese Supreme Court, which is also pushing for the new constitution to include gay rights. Third gender ID cards are now issued to Nepali citizens who do not identify as male or female. And, in 2010, operation Pink Mountain was launched, the nation's first travel agency for gay tourists. Sharad Pradhan, the Nepal Tourism Board spokesman, stresses that Nepal is "more liberal than other countries" and that "all the tourist sites are open for everyone, including gays and lesbians." An American lesbian couple recently took advantage of Nepal's gay-friendly stance on tourism, becoming the first same-sex couple to publicly marry there.

Following Nepal's lead, India decriminalized homosexuality in 2009, and since then, a ripple of change has pulsed through the country. Once taboo, Bollywood now no longer shies away from films with homosexual characters. In 2008, the first large-scale gay pride parade hit New Delhi, with some protesters calling it a national coming-out party. Now, India's annual parade celebrating gay rights attract thousands -- complete with drums, masks, and rainbow flags.

Meanwhile Savita and Beena are putting on their own show of strength. "If they want to take any steps against us, they should not hesitate to do so," said the couple. "Don't fear anything, just follow your heart."

MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images