- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

Change of heart

Esther may become just plain Madonna again if — as a published report suggests — she renounces her belief in Kabbalah, the esoteric Jewish tradition she has championed.

Agence France-Presse, citing accounts published Sunday in the Independent, quotes close friends of Madonna as saying that the star has talked of loosening her red Kabbalah wristband (used to ward off the “evil eye”) and is growing weary of the mystical Jewish belief system.

Esther — the adopted Hebrew name by which she is known to fellow believers — has tired of the financial burden and the impact her strong beliefs have had on her relationship with husband Guy Ritchie, the newspaper said. She’s also said to be concerned that following Kabbalah separates her children from more conventional customs such as Christmas, which they do not celebrate.

A spokesman for Madonna disputed the claim saying, “As far as I am aware, it is completely untrue,” the Independent reported.

Madonna’s brand of Kabbalah has upset traditionalists, with religious scholars saying the version practiced by the 47-year-old entertainer — with its focus on “inner peace, financial prosperity, power and pleasure” — is a far cry from the Orthodox spirituality prescribed by the sages of old. The origins of Kabbalah, an esoteric offshoot of Judaism, can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries when its central text, the Zohar, was written.

Lane’s name remains

Penny Lane will keep its name.

Officials in Liverpool, England, said Saturday that they would modify a proposal to rename streets linked to the slave trade when they realized the road made famous by the 1967 Beatles song was one of them.

The unassuming suburban avenue was named for James Penny, an 18th-century slave ship owner. Liverpool, the Beatles’ hometown, was once a major hub for the slave trade.

“I don’t think anyone would seriously consider renaming Penny Lane,” said city council member Barbara Mace, who has been pressing to get rid of names linked to slavery.

According to Associated Press, the council will meet tomorrow to discuss a plan to rename several Liverpool streets named for slave traders. Some want to honor Anthony Walker, a black teenager murdered in a July 2005 racial attack, while others suggest renaming streets for abolitionists.

No ‘Pirates’ in China

Scenes of cannibalism in the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” film were too much for China’s censors, who are keeping the box-office hit out of mainland cinemas, state media said yesterday.

Censors rendered the final verdict on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” the second installment with Johnny Depp as a swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow, after watching footage of people eating human flesh, the Shanghai Daily reported.

“The movie didn’t get the approval from the state authority,” an official from Shanghai United Cinema Lines, a chain of movie theaters, told the newspaper. According to AFP, China does not have a movie-rating system, but often the government will suggest that producers cut violence or sex scenes before it allows the movie to be screened.

“Dead Man’s Chest” made box-office history, earning a record-breaking $132 million in its opening weekend, according to preliminary figures released Sunday.

The first installment of the series, 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” chalked up $3.4 million in China, the Shanghai Daily reports.

Fallen ‘Idol’ rocks on

Chris Daughtry, voted off Fox’s “American Idol” in an elimination round, has signed with music mogul Clive Davis in conjunction with 19 Recordings Unlimited, the label managed by “Idol” creator Simon Fuller, RCA Records announced yesterday.

The 26-year-old North Carolina native will form a band “and has already begun to work with A-list collaborators” to write and record material for an album, expected to be released later this year, AP reports.

Last month, Mr. Daughtry turned down an offer to be lead singer for the band Fuel.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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