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April 29, 2007

"Legally Blonde" Film Gets Transferred to Theatre

A Broadway version of the popular 2001 film "Legally Blonde" starring Reese Witherspoon opened recently in New York. In this review of the show, New York Times writer Ben Brantley raves about the dancing, sets, costumes, and athleticism of the cast, but subtly says that its not as good as the film version, that the main character lacks oomph, and that the message may be wrongly received.

Excerpts from Brantley's article: "This high-energy, empty-calories and expensive-looking hymn to the glories of girlishness, based on the 2001 film of the same title, approximates the experience of eating a jumbo box of Gummi Bears in one sitting. This may be common fare for the show’s apparent target audience — female ’tweens and teenagers who still believe in Barbie. But unless you’re used to such a diet, you wind up feeling jittery, glazed and determined to swear off sweets for at least a month.

“Legally Blonde,? the musical, has Laura Bell Bundy, the kind of young woman who summons instant parental pride in the middle-aged. In addition to her prom-queen prettiness, she sings and dances flawlessly, and she delivers silly lines as if she meant them.

But she lacks the quirkiness and irresistible watch-me egotism that a big, heroine-worshiping musical needs at its center. Imagine “Hello, Dolly!? with Shirley Jones instead of Carol Channing, and you’ll get the idea.

But Mr. Mitchell is also a passionate fan of vintage Broadway musicals. So every so often “Legally Blonde? rolls out another big number that pays tribute to its female star, à la “Hello, Dolly!? and “Mame.? Elle is allowed to be the center of not one, but two high-stepping parade numbers. Ms. Bundy responds to all this attention with a glossy graciousness, though what you’re hungering for is baby-diva fireworks.

You see, “Legally Blonde? lets a gal have it all. She can play the bimbo while admiring bimbos of the opposite sex. She can wear pink as if it were navy blue. And while she knows that appearance isn’t everything, she also knows that it counts for an awful lot. Hence a makeover sequence in which Mr. Borle is transformed from academic geek to corporate Greek god.

But what about those who don’t appreciate the value of a manicure or a leg wax? Among Elle’s Harvard classmates is a dowdy lesbian (played by Natalie Joy Johnson), who is routinely the object of the show’s most unsavory jokes. Which makes you wonder uneasily if the message of “Legally Blonde? isn’t just that it’s O.K. to be pretty, but that it’s not O.K. not to be."

Link to the full article

Ireland Announces Election in Light of Political Questioning

Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced that the country's next general election will be held on May 24. Ahern also vowed to continue his 10-year reign. Ahern and Ireland's symbolic head of state, Mary McAleese, signed a document on Sunday allowing parliament to dissolve for the four weeks that the campaigns will be running. McAleese said the newly elected parliament would convene on June 14 to elect a new government.

Ahern belongs to the Fianna Fail party of Irish politics. The party has dominated elections since the 1930s. Issues for debate will likely include the state of the economy in Ireland, as well as transportation and health care.

This election could be a major turning point in Ireland, as the Fianna Fail party has been challenged by more left-leaning parties such as Sinn Fein or the Green Party, both of which expect to gain seats in Dail Eireann, Ireland's key lower house of parliament.

This article came out of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. A "world briefs" version also appeared in the Star Tribune.

April 26, 2007

What Will Bush Say?

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have now officially passed the bill giving a deadline for pullout in Iraq, according to articles from the Washington Post (printed in the Pioneer Press) and the New York Times.

The bill, which would approve $124 billion dollars in military spending, also contains a demand for troops to be pulled out by October 1 of this year. According to the Washington Post article:

"The bill also establishes benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet:

# Create a program to disarm militias.

# Reduce sectarian violence.

# Ease rules that purged the government of all former Baath Party members.

# Approve a law on sharing oil revenue.

If the Bush administration does not determine by July 1 that those benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home immediately. The goal would be to complete those withdrawals by the end of the year.

If the benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home no later than Oct. 1, with a goal of completing the troop pullout by April 1, 2008."

Bush has vowed to veto the bill when it reaches his desk on Monday, only the second veto of his presidential career. The veto will also come almost exactly to the day that four years ago Bush proclaimed and end to major combat.

According to the New York Times article on the Thursday Senate approval of the bill: Overall in the congressional vote over the last two days, "On the final vote, 216 Democrats and 2 Republicans supported the bill; 195 Republicans and 13 Democrats opposed it. The legislation provides more than $95 billion for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30, with the money conditioned on the administration’s willingness to accept a timetable for withdrawal and new benchmarks to assess the progress of the Iraqi government."

The Senate vote was 51-46, quite short of the 2/3 majority benchmark that would be needed for them to override a presidential veto.

On a final note, I thought both papers covered the events very thoroughly, which I appreciated. Along with some analysis of what will likely happen in the future, they are doing the best they can to provide this information to curious Americans.

New Twins Ballpark Approved

The Hennepin County Board has officially approved the building of a new Twins ballpark along with the possibility for a 30-year lease on the property, a huge step for the franchise. Construction is slated to begin this summer and finish up for opening in 2010.

According to an Associated Press article that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (surprisingly, not a full scale hyperlocal story): "Under the agreement, the Twins get to keep all revenue from ticket sales, advertising, naming rights, tours and concessions during baseball games. They must share 10 percent of net revenue from non-baseball events with the authority."

According to a short mid-day posted story on their website, the Star Tribune reports this: " “This is another huge milestone," said Dave St. Peter, president of the Twins. "Symbolically, it means a 30-year lease, which is a huge deal for this franchise. What this mean is the new ballpark is fast becoming a reality. We persevered for this and now we can see it. ?

The ballpark authority will meet later today to formally approve the agreement."

I found it very interesting that the Pioneer Press, widely known for its hyperlocalism and commitment to stories that directly affect Twin Cities citizens, that they relied on an AP wire story, while the Star Tribune, a more (inter)national newspaper, sent out a reporter to get the story, and posting it mid-day on the website. I appreciated the promptness by the Star Tribune, and I hope to see a longer expose on the ballpark soon in the Pioneer Press.

April 25, 2007

Minneapolis/St. Paul Catholic Archdiocese gets a New Conservative Bishop

Roman Catholic Bishop John Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minn., was named Tuesday to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn for Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Known to have very conservative viewpoints when it comes to enforcing Catholic rule, Nienstedt has "prohibited cohabitating couples from being married in Catholic churches. He barred female pastoral administrators from leading prayers at a semiannual leadership event. He once disciplined a priest for holding joint ecumenical services with a Lutheran congregation after the Catholic church had been destroyed by a tornado," according to the article in the Pioneer Press.

According to the Star Tribune: "He has pushed for an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and has taken conservative stances on issues ranging from Terri Schiavo to the causes of homosexuality. But he skirted questions about whether he will be liberal or conservative, calling such labels "too political" and saying that "the Holy Spirit, not I" will mediate disagreements among Catholics.

"The church is like a football field with goalposts and boundaries, but a good many things can be accomplished within the structure of the game," he said. "Jesus has given us instructions, and we have to be faithful to them, so if someone is out of bounds, they may be whistled down. But yes, we can always talk about issues.""

The political and social views of this priest may or may not affect the attitudes of his public, but only time will tell.

April 22, 2007

Preventative Programs a Good Idea?

Area universities Macalester and St. Thomas have programs to potentially prevent emotional outbursts like the one at Virginia Tech this past week.

Programs in which various professors, administrators and residence hall advisors get together once every few weeks and monitor student behavior is drawing alot of attention as a possible way to help deal with potential mental problems in students.

According to the article in the Star Tribune: "Macalester started its "case management" group after a much-publicized series of student suicides at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The family of one student who killed herself in 2000 sued MIT for almost $28 million. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

At Macalester, people from almost every department, including residence halls, student life, international programs and athletics, take part in the biweekly discussions, which are confidential. The idea is that staffers scattered across campus know different things about Macalester's 1,800 students and can create a fuller picture when they come together. Someone from the residence halls, for instance, might know that a student had been fighting with a roommate, while someone from counseling might know that she had problems at home.

Depending on the problem, the student might get academic help, Hamre said, or be asked to go to counseling.

The University of St. Thomas has a similar group called FLAG, which usually meets once a month. Even on a campus with 5,600 undergraduates, it's surprising how often staff members know about individuals' struggles, said Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs."

According to clinical research, depression is on the rise on college campuses. "In spring 2006, nearly 44 percent of college students reported that in the last school year, they had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, according to a survey by the American College Health Association. Nine percent said they had "seriously considered" suicide.

By 2005 at the University of Minnesota, antidepressants were the second-most prescribed medication at the student health center pharmacy."

Legalities can sometimes be a difficult line to walk, however. "The students are adults, and you can't force them into counseling," said Cecilia Konchar Farr, an English professor at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul.

"I can say, 'I'm concerned about you and I want you to get help,' " she said. But "even that is dangerous territory."To say to someone, 'I'm concerned about your mental health'... there may be a potential lawsuit there."

Although this approach seems to work and be helpful at smaller private campuses like Macalester and St. Thomas, programs like this would likely only work within departments rather than with the entire campus at a big state school like the University of Minnesota, or Virginia Tech, for instance.

Nevertheless, this sort of idea could prove to be helpful in the future

Heres a link to the Star Tribune article.

Orphanage Fire Kills Five

According to an article in the New York Times, a fire at an orphanage in downtown Sarajevo, the capitol city of Bosnia, early Sunday morning has taken the lives of three baby boys and two baby girls by smoke inhalation. Nineteen other children and workers are currently being treated for injuries, mostly smoke inhalation, and are not thought to be in critical condition.

According to the article: "The fire broke out in a third floor room of the Ljubica Izevic children’s home shortly before 6 a.m., said Dubravko Champara of the prosecutor’s office."

"A nurse who had tried to save some of the babies was also injured, with burns to the arms and face, Mr. Champara said in a telephone interview."

April 18, 2007

Supreme Court upholds Abortion Dispute

According to an AP Wire story that appeared in the New York Times and the Star Tribune, as well as many others, the US Supreme Court has ruled to uphold 2003's Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, a small victory for conservatives.

According to the article: "It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how -- not whether -- to perform an abortion."

"The outcome is likely to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions."

The story is a big one for those involved in women's rights as well as those on the religious fronts.

The ruling was voted at 5-4.

I was a little surprised that I didn't see anything related to the vote in the Pioneer Press, but I was glad that one of the two papers had printed the article.

West Point Cadet found to have Drowned in Goose Lake

Nicholas Rossini disappeared on December 17th, and the West Point Academy student's body was just found in Goose Lake in northern Ramsey County. According to the autopsy, he drowned.

According to the Pioneer Press:

"He left his parents' home before dawn, giving no hint of where he was going.

The Rossinis and their five daughters expressed optimism that a lesser evil had befallen Nick until the very end. They theorized he had suffered a head injury in the accident that left him dazed, perhaps unaware of his own identity." [on the day of the disappearance].

Investigators believe that he had been on a jog when he met his fate. He was wearing running sweats and the time of his disappearance corresponded with his West Point training schedule. They say he might have fallen through the thin ice on Goose Lake, thinking that it was frozen over completely.

According to the Star Tribune: ""There's absolutely nothing to indicate that Nick took his own life," [White Bear Lake Police Chief Lynne] Bankes said. "There was no trauma to the body nor any reason to believe this was anything but a tragic accident.""

Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press wrote long exposes on this discovery, including many interviews with family members and friends.

Double Homicide in North Minneapolis

This is the extent of the story that the Pioneer Press had on its website as of 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday:

"Minneapolis police are investigating the discovery of two bodies late Tuesday in North Minneapolis.

Two men were found shot to death about 11 p.m. Tuesday in an alley in the 4700 block of Sixth Street North. Their names are not available.

No one is in custody. Anyone with information is asked to call 612-673-3781 or 612-673-2733.

The two deaths mark the 17th and 18th Minneapolis homicides since Jan. 1. On this date last year, there had been 16 homicides reported."

As of the same time on the Star Tribune, their story had been updated to include a full story instead of just a brief. It is suspected that a robbery was involved in the double homicide discovered in an alley in North Minneapolis late Tuesday night. The article said that these killings are the 17th and 18th that have occurred in Minneapolis this year.

Police have talked to witnesses who heard the gunshots: Peggy Ryan and Roslyn Richmond, the latter who called herself the "eyes and the ears of the neighborhood" and regrets not calling the police sooner.

Names of the victims have not been released and the suspect is likely still at large as the investigation continues.

This type of story is difficult to write when there is such limited information at the time of printing, which is likely the problem that the Pioneer Press ran into. It is appreciated however, that the Star Tribune takes the time to constantly update their website throughout the day when new information comes up.

April 15, 2007

Grand Forks is "Still Afloat" and Still Recovering

A decade after the worst flood in Red River Valley history, people are still recovering, but are celebrating the comeback that Grand Forks has seen.

For the Pioneer Press, two reporters followed the stories of Grand Forks natives Tom and Jean Dunham and Craig Kalenze, as well as talking to mayors from both Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, an economics professor at the University of North Dakota, and a local artist who has her commemoration work up currently at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

"A decade after a record Red River flood destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, sparked a devastating downtown fire and drove thousands of people from the city, Grand Forks still seems undecided about the defining moment in its history.

Whole sections of the community have been abandoned and residents suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage. But the flood might be the best thing that ever happened to the Red River Valley.

Since the water receded, Grand Forks' population has rebounded - adding approximately 3,000 more residents from
its preflood numbers. There's a new SuperTarget, a Lowe's and a Menards on the edge of town and a domed football stadium out by Interstate 29. When Cher played the arena in 2002, it was the biggest crowd not just of her farewell 'Living Proof' tour, but of her entire career.

"I think a lot of people thought we'd just been washed away," said Mayor Michael Brown, who was elected in 2000. "But here we are, stronger and better than ever." "

Continuing: ""We lost good residents, who lived in these low-lying areas. Most of them were on fixed incomes," said Mayor Lynn Stauss, who was in office in 1997. "There was no way with the money we gave them. ... We gave them a fair price for their homes, but inflation pushed the price of rebuilding up too much ... they just had to move away."

Even today, hundreds of families are still paying that price. The federal Small Business Administration made more than $155 million in long-term home loans to more than 7,600 area residents in the year following the flood, according to a University of North Dakota study.

"There's story after story of people that have drained their life savings, their retirement, just to rebuild here," said Al Grasser, Grand Forks city engineer. "That's not apparent from the outside, when you kind of go down the street. You see the nice house put back together, 10 years later, you get an almost surreal image of it. Time has disconnected us from that." "

Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman also did an expose on the Grand Forks flood anniversary, highlighting his talk with one of the Catholic priests in the area.

Taken from his piece: ""North Dakota is mean country," says the Rev. William Sherman, a retired Catholic priest who has lived through it. "It's harsh and it can be cruel. But the people here are tough, and they are survivors. They are used to difficult times. So they could take it.

"But it left scars."

Anyone who lives in the Red River Valley, from Wahpeton to Winnipeg, knows what Sherman means when he talks about "it": The devastating flood of 1997, which cascaded down the valley (moving south to north, with the north-running river), sweeping across towns and farms, causing $4 billion in damage.

The apocalypse came with ice and fire. I was among the many journalists who covered the disaster and I will never forget the sensation of standing in freezing water in hip boots while ashes fell on my head from the sky. All we needed was Charlton Heston to send Egyptian chariots into the water and I would've sworn we were all extras in a remake of "The Ten Commandments."

Ten years later, it still seems like something biblical happened."

The whole event is very emotional for me, as well. I lived near Fargo at the time of the flood, and we were hurt from the flood as well. I was only ten at the time, but I helped with sandbagging after school and was up one night helping my family haul water out of the basement of our newly built home. I remember seeing pictures and hearing stories on the news, and it's only now that I really understand the devastation of it all. My parents, I think, must have been very affected. Both of them graduated from the University of North Dakota (and I spent my freshman year of college there), so for them to see their college town being washed away by flood waters must have been hard. I remember going on college tours at UND and they were constantly making comments like, "That's new, that's been renovated in the last eight or nine years, after the flood."

I decided to do my "notable" entry on this event this week, because its something that I can directly relate to, and that my family (the bulk of which live in North Dakota's River Valley) has dealt with in the past.

Thanks to all the reporters who are commemorating this anniversary, and I wish I could be in Grand Forks this weekend to help them all celebrate and remember what was lost and what was gained in the aftermath of the '97 flood.

Taliban is Getting Support ... from Flowers?

Poppies, the flower that makes heroin possible, is taking over the farming market in Afghanistan, and the selling of the drug is funding the Taliban, according to an AP Wire story that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Also according to the story: "When the Taliban ordered Afghanistan's fields cleared of opium poppies seven years ago because of Islam's ban on drugs, fearful farmers complied en masse.

Today, officials say the militia nets tens of millions of dollars by forcing farmers to plant poppies and taxing the harvest, driving the country's skyrocketing opium production to fund the fight against what they consider an even greater evil - U.S. and NATO troops.

Corrupt government officials, both low-level police and high-level leaders, also protect the drug trade in exchange for bribes, a recent U.N. report found. Warlords and major landowners welcome the instability the Taliban brings to the country's southern regions, causing poppy eradication efforts to fail.

The Taliban denies it supports poppies."

In a combination of government corruption and a whole lot of money, "out of an opium economy of about $3.5 billion, you get a significant amount of money which could be potentially seen as the funding of terrorism," Costa said last month. (Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

"Afghanistan's opium crop grew 59 percent in 2006 to 407,000 acres, yielding a record crop of 6,100 tons, enough to make 610 tons of heroin - 90 percent of the world's supply, according to the United Nations. Western and Afghan officials say they expect a similar crop this year.

No one knows the Taliban's exact take from poppy cultivation, and guesses range from the low tens of millions of dollars to an estimate of $140 million by Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan's deputy minister for counter-narcotics. His figure was based on various Taliban taxes that could add up to 20 percent of the farmers' $700 million.

The Taliban uses the money to buy weapons and pay soldiers, and as one Western official put it: "You can buy quite a bit of insurgency for $10 million."

The biggest challenge for this reporter was probably to show all sides of this story fairly, due to the attitude against the Taliban in this country, and in many European countries. Sometimes it was hard to follow, with many names and numbers being thrown around, but the overall point came through.

Five Children Die in Illinois House Fire

According to an AP Wire story that ran in both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, "a house fire killed five children and injured four people early Sunday in western Illinois, police said."

The fire occured in Quincy, Ill., about 90 miles west of Springfield and was reported at about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. The dead bodies of the children, four boys and one girl aged about 8 to 10 years old, were found on the second floor of the house. Three others were injured and one firefighter suffered burns to the face. The children were likely family members.

State and local police are investigating the fire, and did not release names, ages, or any preliminary cause of deaths of the children or the other victims.

I wish there could have been more information and more specifics on this story, but I realize that it was very last minute to get the story online or even in print. The time crunch on this was probably the biggest challenge that faced the reporter.

Five Students to Travel to Arctic for Global Warming

Five students and their teacher from the School for the Environmental Studies in Apple Valley have teamed up to go on a trip to the Arctic with world renowned explorer Will Steger.

All five students that were selected are seniors at the "zoo school" (because of its proximity to the Minnesota Zoo), and have made sacrifices to save the $3500 to make the trip.

According to the Pioneer Press: "The group departs today for a two-week expedition that includes stops in Ottawa to talk to students in Canada's capital city about everything from how humans contribute to global warming by burning fossil fuels to the impact on animals. They also will attend an Earth Day summit in the Clyde River community of Baffin Island and even deliver additional sleeping bags, coats and communications equipment to the Steger team."

The students and the professional expeditioners will be blogging on the experience continually so that other metro area schools, and others that are interested, can keep up with their progress and learn more about the effects of global warming through them.

Many of the students described the "field experience" as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" and a "great learning experience."

Organizers of the trip hope that the event will help to publicize global warming and make more people aware of it.

"Lost" Toddler was a Hoax

The toddler that was reported found on a Frogtown corner on Thursday actually was in the care of the man who reported the finding to police. Chue Xiong, 44, is apparently the stepfather of the little boy, and was supposed to care for the boy while his mother was in jail under forgery charges. Xiong "evidently got tired of the job and instead reported him abandoned." (Pioneer Press)

Also according to the Pioneer Press: "Police received a report Thursday of a mysterious, shoeless boy who appeared out of nowhere on a puzzled couple's doorstep. The neighborhood was searched; news outlets ran the story in full."

"But police spokesman Tom Walsh said Chue Xiong called police early Saturday morning and confessed to the hoax, after being pressured by relatives who saw news reports of the incident. Walsh said an officer went out in person to take Chue Xiong's updated story."

According to the Star Tribune: "On Saturday afternoon, however, Xiong denied that he knows the boy's mother and that he was supposed to take care of the toddler, said his stepdaughter Judy Vue, who was translating for Xiong when the family was reached by phone. He maintains that he found the child, she said."

This was likely a difficult story to cover merely because of the ethnic differences and a language barrier, needing things to be translated, etc.

I felt that the Pioneer Press did a better job on details, but the Star Tribune put in other context at the end of the story about other child-finding-hoax stories that had occured in the past, which was interesting.

April 8, 2007

Pregnant Convenience Store Clerk Justified in Shooting Robbery Suspect

On Saturday evening, a woman entered a Super USA convenience store in St. Paul and attempted to rob it, pretending she had a gun underneath her bag. The store clerk at the time (the wife of the owner who doesn't normally work there, and 8 1/2 months pregnant) grabbed a gun from behind the counter and shot the suspect. The couple's 2 year old daughter was also present, along with other customers in the store.

It was legal for the couple to keep a gun behind the counter, and the clerk will not be charged for any crime, because the shooting was in self-defense. The robbery suspect, however, will likely face charges after her release from the hospital.

According to the Star Tribune: "Khalil [Joe Khalil, owner of the store] said his wife suffered minor injuries to her finger and is home recovering. The couple's daughter was uninjured and is a little "scared" but OK, Khalil said. "My wife, she's doing OK," he said Sunday afternoon. "She's just a little shaken up."

He said his wife did not want to comment. It was the first attempted robbery in the year he has owned the store, Khalil said. "It's not a bad area," he said."

The Pioneer Press' story on the event was very brief and didn't provide much information, but the Star Tribune's was very informative, and was put in a very chronological format, which was interesting because it still kept my attention.

Three Gopher Football Players in Jail after Accusations of Rape

Alex Daniels, Keith Massey, both 20, and E.J. Jones, 19, were arrested Friday night after an 18-year-old woman called police and claimed she was assaulted at the University Village apartments where the men live. All three men are players on the University of Minnesota's Gopher Football team, who just hired a new coach.

The men were each given a $100,000 bail on Saturday, and were expected to be released, pending charges, on Sunday.

According to the Pioneer Press: "Meanwhile, as friends and relatives expressed surprise at the arrests, university athletics officials tried not to let news infiltrate Saturday's annual spring scrimmage, which attracted several thousand alumni and other fans to the Metrodome.

Communications staff told players not to discuss the situation, and reporters were told that if they raised the issue, interviews would be cut short. "

According to the Star Tribune: "On Sunday, Jeff DeGree, the attorney for Jones, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that charges won't be filed."

The Pioneer Press' article was extremely long, almost like a feature piece, full with interviews from family members, old high school friends, and all the extra personal information they could dig up on the arrested men. Although it was very informative, I felt that such a touchy topic should have been treated with slightly more respect and dignity. The Star Tribune, however, was on the other end other end of the spectrum. Their article was the length of a brief, and didn't provide nearly enough sufficient information compared to that of the Pioneer Press article.

Knowing when to draw the line on issues like these is definitely a challenge, but both local papers missed the mark.

April 1, 2007

Chocolate Jesus Sculpture Creates Religious Diversity Angst

After artist Cosimo Cavallaro created a milk chocolate sculpture of a naked Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. The sculpture, which was set to be debuted in an NYC gallery on Monday, and be on display until Easter Sunday, has now been cancelled, due to angst from the Catholic community.

According to CBS News: "“This is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever,? said Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League. “It's not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing — to choose Holy Week is astounding.?

He called for an economic boycott of the hotel, which he described as “already morally bankrupt.?"

In an Anderson Cooper interview between Donohue and Cavallaro on CNN, Donohue also attacked Cavallaro's religious beliefs and referenced the Taliban, as well as Judaism and the presence of swastikas. Cavallaro said his only purpose was to share the "sweetness of Christ."

Donohue continually told Cavallaro that his art should be placed in a "dump in SoHo so that no one will pay attention."

The religious diversity and displaying of beliefs and stereotypes displayed in the interview was astounding and disturbing. The CBS News article was able to remain very objective and not editorialize at all, but it definitely speaks to the remaining religious persecution and diversity in this country.

The CBS News article
The CNN Anderson Cooper interview