Still happy together

London -- For those wondering whether trouble lurks in the marriage of soccer star David Beckham and his pop star wife, Victoria, the couple says not to worry.

"Contrary to newspaper reports, our marriage is not in crisis," they said Sunday in a statement issued by their management company. "Since we first met, our careers have always meant we have spent time apart. This is not a reflection on the strength of our marriage, and we are very much enjoying our new life in Spain."

The News of the World newspaper said Beckham's transfer to Real Madrid from Manchester United had strained the relationship, because his wife doesn't want to live in Spain full time.

Victoria Beckham, a former Spice Girl, has remained based in Britain and travels frequently to New York to work on a new album.

Etheridge exchanges vows

Malibu, Calif. -- Grammy-winning singer Melissa Etheridge exchanged vows with her girlfriend, actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, in a weekend ceremony, the singer's publicist said.

"We are so grateful for the blessings from our friends and family as we commence our vows, and begin the rest of our lives together," the couple said in a statement Sunday.

Etheridge, 42, and Michaels, the 28-year-old star of TV's "Popular," met two years ago. They live in Southern California with Etheridge's daughter and son.

Etheridge shares custody of the children with Julie Cypher, who had the children through artificial insemination using a sperm donation from rocker David Crosby.

Cultural identity crisis

Washington -- Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis says there's a quiet foe undermining America.

When it comes to the nation's cultural identity, "apathy is the enemy," he said Monday.

Marsalis said it's more important than ever to invest in arts education. "I'm increasingly worried about what I see around our country. ... I've seen an entire generation of Americans who are culturally ignorant," he said during an appearance at the National Press Club.

He said arts funding amounts to only $1 per child per year, and he called on the federal government to double that.

No home in the country

Berlin -- The Dixie Chicks say they don't want to be a country music band anymore.

"We don't feel part of the country scene any longer," violinist Martie Maguire told Spiegel magazine. "It can't be our home any more."

Maguire said she was disappointed other country singers didn't back up the Chicks in their criticism of President Bush's politics on Iraq. "A few weeks ago, Merle Haggard said a couple of nice words about us, but that was it," she said. "The support we got came from others, like Bruce Springsteen."

Going home empty-handed from the Country Music Awards also made them decide to break with the scene, Maguire said.

"Instead, we won three Grammys against much stronger competition. So we now consider ourselves part of the big rock 'n' roll family."


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