News, Sept. 17: Olsen Twins Promote McDonald’s Happy Meals, Drugs, Heart Attack Contributed to Rick James’ Death, Jackson Appears in Court, More…

Olsen twins promote McDonald’s Happy Meals abroad

The Olsen twins’ latest endorsement deal may leave a bad taste in your mouth. The Associated Press reports Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are promoting McDonald’s Happy Meals in France, where the fast-food goliath has more than 1,000 outlets. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s French division told the AP yesterday the Olsen Happy Meal campaign began Sept. 8. The meals come with the choice of a denim bag, a crayon box or a photo album, which bears the 18-year-old twins’ photo. The promotion comes just two months after the Milk Processor Education Program pulled its “Got milk?” ads featuring the twins sporting trademark milk moustaches out of sensitivity to Mary-Kate, who was released from a treatment facility in July for an eating disorder. At the time the milk campaign was announced, Mary-Kate said in a statement, “We wanted to appear in this ad because we love the campaign and we want to help make sure our fans are healthy like us.”

Drugs, heart attack contributed to Rick James’ death

Funk musician Rick James, who died in his sleep Aug. 6 in his Los Angeles home, had nine drugs in his system including cocaine, methamphetamine, valium and vicodin, Retuers reports. The 56-year-old singer, who suffered from diabetes and had a pacemaker, had been in fragile health after a stroke in 1998. His family attributed his death to natural causes, but the L.A. County coroner took over the case because James had not seen a doctor in recent weeks. Toxicology tests were ordered when an autopsy failed to establish the cause of death. The report said although the drugs or drug combinations found in James’ system were not at life-threatening levels, they likely contributed to his heart’s failure. It gave the cause of death as a heart attack and ruled the death accidental.

Jackson appears in court today

Michael Jackson appeared in court today as his attorney questioned the mother of the teenage boy accusing the pop star of child molestation, Reuters reports. This was the first time Jackson has faced the woman since the accusations became public last November. The singer’s attorneys called the accuser’s mother, identified in court only as “Jane Doe,” to testify in order to exclude from the trial evidence seized from the offices of private investigator Brad Miller. Jackson‘s defense say Miller had been hired by the singer’s then-lawyer Mark Geragos, which violated the rights of attorneys and their clients to privileged information. Jackson‘s defense team wants Jane Doe to confirm she knew Miller was hired by Geragos and informed authorities. The 45-year-old singer is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 31 on a 10-count indictment that charges him with child molestation and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.

Anderson denies any wrongdoing in sexual assault suit

Anthony Anderson, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman on the set of his TV show last year and is facing rape charges in Tennessee, released a statement Thursday denying any wrongdoing. A woman identified only as “Jane Doe” filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Anderson and Warner Bros. Television, producers of the now-defunct series All About the Andersons. The woman alleged she visited Anderson on the set of the comedy when she was assaulted Sept. 18, 2003. “Clearly, this is an attempt to exploit Anthony’s perceived vulnerability because of the ridiculous rape charges pending against him in Memphis,” said the statement released by Anderson‘s publicist. The 33-year-old comedian was charged in July with raping a Memphis woman who was an extra in the film Hustle and Flow, which is still in production. He is free on $20,000 bail.

CBS investigates fake documents

CBS News is fighting for its credibility after a week of questions about a report it aired on President Bush’s National Guard service–which may or may not have come from fake documents, the AP reports. CBS News anchorman Dan Rather reported last week he had memos allegedly written by Bush’s late squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, indicating he had been pressured to sugar coat Bush’s performance and that the future president ignored an order to take a physical. The news division has acknowledged for the first time questions about the authenticity of documents used to support the story, and has promised a stepped-up effort to get at the truth. CBS has always maintained, however–with Rather repeating on 60 Minutes Wednesday–that no one has disputed the substance of the story.

Carrey to get AFI honor

Jim Carrey will receive the American Film Institute’s Star Award at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in February, the AP reports. “Jim Carrey is the rarest kind of actor,” Jean Picker Firstenberg, chief executive officer of the American Film Institute, said in a statement. “Jim has proven he can do comedy or drama in films that are both creatively brilliant and reach audiences of all ages.” The comedy festival will be held Feb. 9-13 in Aspen, Colo. Previous winners include Albert Brooks, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, the Monty Python troupe, Steve Martin, Mike Myers and Diane Keaton.

French director defends film against critics

In the wake of bad reviews for his latest film Les Parisiens, director Claude Lelouch will offer free screenings “to allow the public to judge for themselves.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Parisiens, which is about the ephemeral nature of love in the face of fame, was slammed in the press after it opened the Deauville American Film Festival Sept. 3. “Faced with an unprecedented outcry in the press against my film, and to allow the public to form their own opinion, I offer a free screening of the film in the 400 theaters where the film opened Wednesday,” Lelouch said in a statement Thursday.

Twain leases land in New Zealand

Shania Twain and her husband, music producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, won approval to lease 61,000 acres of farmland on New Zealand’s South Island for 33 years with automatic renewal rights for the cost of $14.1 million, the AP reports. The terms of the lease were strict, since the country is tightening controls on land sales to overseas buyers amid fears foreigners are snapping up some of the nation’s prime real estate. The musical couple, who will be living there “some months” each year, agreed to create a hiking track with huts and other facilities that will cross their land and is expected to form part of a nationwide trail. They will also invest $1 million in farm development over three years and farm their own merino sheep on 24,700 acres of the lower-lying land.

Kit Bowen contributed to this report.