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Using star power to pursue war criminals

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Hollywood may be in a post-inaugural mood, but many of the industry's leading activists came back from Washington without a hangover. They're already moving into full swing on a number of nonpartisan human rights issues as varied as hunger in America and the ongoing war in Iraq.

Celebs will have a chance to add another cause to their rosters: the prosecution of Balkan war criminals.

Bosnian-born Diana Jenkins, now a Malibu-based businesswoman, is hoping to enlist a glittering set of stars for an Oscar week party to raise money for the Sanela Diana Jenkins International Justice Clinic at UCLA's law school. (Jenkins -- whose brother, Irnis Catic, was killed in Bosnia war ethnic cleansing -- founded the clinic to help bring war criminals to justice.) At the pre-Oscar event Feb. 17, Jenkins will also debut "Room 23," a coffee-table book featuring photographs of celebrities -- including Elton John, Cindy Crawford and George Clooney -- who donated their time for the cause.

It's easy to find allies in Hollywood, where concern over the situation in Darfur and memories of Rwanda remain raw. Although the guest list isn't final for the party -- which will be sponsored by Jenkins' nutritional drink company, Neurobrands, and held at the posh Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills -- expect big names.

For once, actors may outnumber agents at the bar.

Leary fights back at his detractors

Autism has become one of the most politicized American medical issues. Just ask Larry King, whose habitually amiable show has been turned into a battlefield on several occasions by activists and doctors at odds over the condition's causes and most effective treatments.

But while you can make fun of nearly anything in America (including -- if you are brave enough -- the president's race), you can't make jokes about other people's sick children and not expect to endure withering return fire.

That's what comedian Denis Leary has found after he dropped a gratuitous reference to autism's causes into his currently bestselling book, "Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid." Leary wrote: "There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their . . . kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks."

The reaction from parents of autistic children, namely Jenny McCarthy, was immediate and intense.

This week on E!'s "Daily 10," Leary went on the defensive, saying he refuses to be a "punching bag" for autism activists like McCarthy. The comedian-actor said that he wasn't making fun of autistic children and that he questions whether McCarthy even read his book. "I don't think [the book is] No. 4 on the New York bestsellers because people want to laugh at somebody who is making fun of autistic kids," said Leary.

"As a comedian, I've been accused of many things: controversial, yes; provocative, yes; stupid, no."

Ragging on Blagojevich

Speaking about real political humor, here's a sampling of the post-electoral talk shows. (See, there are jokes after Sarah Palin.) The hosts made mincemeat of ex-Illinois guv Rod Blagojevich.

From Seth Meyers on "Saturday Night Live": "The Illinois state Legislature on Thursday voted unanimously to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office and barred him from ever holding public office in the state again. When informed of his impeachment, Blagojevich was so stunned his hair stood on end, killing six people in the office above."

And from Jay Leno: "Happy TGIF. You know what TGIF stands for? The Governor Is Fired."

Blagojevich could, in fact, prove to be even funnier than Palin. Maybe there's a TV show in it: "America's Funniest Governors."

tina.daunt@latimes.com

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