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'Passion' gets Vatican approval

Vatican City -- Mel Gibson's film "The Passion" has won another Vatican endorsement, with a top cardinal rejecting suggestions the movie may offend Jewish sensibilities and promote anti-Semitism.

"Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the truth by putting an entire race in a bad light. This film does nothing of the kind," Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said in Thursday's La Stampa newspaper.

"The Passion" is scheduled for release in the spring. Gibson, who directed and co-wrote the film, has defended it as faithful to the Gospels and said it was intended to "inspire, not offend."

Skater welcomes first child

Los Angeles -- World champion figure skater Scott Hamilton has earned a new title: Dad.

His wife, Tracie, 33, gave birth to the couple's first child late Tuesday, six years after Hamilton was successfully treated for testicular cancer.

Aidan McIntosh Hamilton weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces, according to a statement released by Hamilton's publicist, Michael Sterling.

Hamilton, 45, is a four-time U.S. national champion, a four-time world champion and 1984 Olympic gold medalist.

Director criticizes superficiality

Redlands, Calif. -- Spike Lee, whose movies often have a political edge, says Americans need to think more about important issues and lay off the fluff.

"We as a people are more concerned with J.Lo and Ben Affleck than these so-called weapons of mass destruction," he told 750 people who gathered Tuesday night at the University of Redlands.

Lee also criticized the U.S. war with Iraq.

North Korea poses a greater threat to the United States "but they don't have resources" the country wants, he said. "We've got all the rice we need. We don't have oil."

Film festival opening in Spain

Madrid, Spain -- Isabelle Huppert, Sean Penn and Robert Duvall will be honored with lifetime achievement awards at the 51st San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Films scheduled for screening at the festival, opening Thursday in the seaside town of San Sebastian in Spain's northern Basque region, included Joel Schumacher's "Veronica Guerin," starring Cate Blanchett, and Jacques Rivette's "The Story of Marie and Julien," starring Emmanuelle Beart.

Winners will be announced Sept. 27.

Festival director Mikel Olarcegui said organizers had cast a wide net, searching for quality films that might be overlooked and for fresh talent.

"At San Sebastian, we want to discover high-profile emerging talents that later become cult directors," he said.

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