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CULTURE DIGEST: VeggieTales sold to DreamWorks Animation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Fans can expect new VeggieTales adventures, as animation giant DreamWorks has purchased the parent company of Big Idea Entertainment, the faith-based cartoon’s owner.

DreamWorks Animation will pay Boomerang Media Holdings $155 million to buy Classic Media and the Nashville-based Big Idea, which launched VeggieTales in 1993. Classic Media in 2003 rescued Big Idea from bankruptcy, buying the company and retaining the name.

VeggieTales has thrilled parents and preschoolers with a top-rated television series on NBC Saturday morning, Telemundo and ION TV, and faith-based releases such as “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie” and “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie.”

Big Idea expressed optimism at the transition.

“As we approach celebrating Big Idea’s 20th anniversary [in 2013], we couldn’t be more pleased to join the DreamWorks Animation team,” Big Idea general manager Leslie Ferrell told media representatives. “DreamWorks Animation respects and supports Big Idea’s successful history in producing faith-based, family friendly entertainment and is committed to supporting our growth. We expect many wonderful things to come of this partnership.”

DreamWorks Animation SKG is known for such favorites as “Shrek” and “Madagascar,” and also gains via the acquisition Classic Media sensations “Lassie,” “The Lone Ranger” and “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” among others.

Classic Media “brings a large and diverse collection of characters and branded assets that is extremely complementary to DreamWorks Animation’s franchise business,” DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said after the deal. “We plan to leverage it across our motion picture, television, home entertainment, consumer products, digital, theme park and live entertainment channels.”

MO. TO VOTE ON PRAYER AMENDMENT — Voters in Missouri will consider Aug. 7 an amendment to the state constitution aimed at protecting the right to pray in public. Supporters say it better defines First Amendment rights, but opponents say it will lead to all sorts of taxpayer-funded lawsuits.

About 80 percent of Missouri’s population identifies as Christian, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said July 30, and when the newspaper polled 625 registered voters, 82 percent said they would vote in favor of Amendment 2.

Terry Hodges, pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, Mo., and a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board, said, “For the first 150 years in this country, Christianity enjoyed home-field advantage. That’s changed and now there’s a hostility toward Christians.”

Rep. Mike McGhee, R.-Odessa, is a member of FBC Odessa, a Southern Baptist congregation, and he sponsored the legislation that led to Amendment 2. He said the amendment would send a message that it’s OK to read a Bible in study hall or to pray briefly before a city council meeting.

A section of the amendment says students will not be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate their religious beliefs.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are concerned that one person’s right to pray could intrude on another’s right to abstain from prayer, the Post-Dispatch said. Opponents say the amendment is redundant because the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom.

An editorial by John Yeats, executive director of the MBC, was quoted in the Post-Dispatch.

“The courts have muddied the water; therefore, the state legislature believed that a state Constitutional amendment was the best way to clear things,” Yeats wrote in The Pathway, the state convention’s newsjournal.

“In this great state of Missouri with this Constitutional amendment, people will have the freedom to pray or express their faith, and the government or its agents are obliged to not interfere or restrain by decree or coercion,” Yeats wrote.

APPEALS COURT APPROVES S.D. INFORMED CONSENT LAW — South Dakota’s 2005 pro-life informed consent law has gained its final victory at the federal appeals court level.

The full Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled July 24 the state could require abortion doctors to tell pregnant women the procedure might increase their risk of suicide. The 7-4 decision means the Eighth Circuit has upheld all portions of the law after four separate considerations of the measure, according to the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader.

The appeals court previously affirmed provisions requiring doctors to:

— Tell women of the health risks of abortion.

— Inform them the procedure will end a human life.

— Tell them their relationship with their unborn child is legally protected.

Leslee Unruh, president of a pregnancy help center in Sioux Falls, applauded the ruling.

“Any decision that a pregnant mother makes in the context of her considering an abortion that will deprive her of the joy and fulfillment of a lifelong relationship with her child must be totally voluntary and well-informed,” said Unruh, president of the Alpha Center, before adding that the opinion “is a step towards achieving that goal for the women of South Dakota.”

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota had challenged the law. The case is Planned Parenthood v. Rounds.

“A woman’s right to make a fully informed choice is more important than Planned Parenthood’s bottom line,” said Steven Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of some pro-life organizations.

FIRST BOY TO RECEIVE STEM CELL TRACHEA MAKING PROGRESS — A British boy has made great advances since receiving a trachea produced by his own stem cells two years ago, establishing a record for such a transplant.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch, now 13, became the first child to undergo a stem cell trachea transplant in March 2010 after a normal transplant procedure failed, ABC News said in a report based on a paper published July 25 in the journal The Lancet. He is breathing normally and is no longer taking anti-rejection drugs. The trachea has grown 11 centimeters since the transplant, researchers said.

At birth, Finn-Lynch had a rare condition — Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis — that consists of a small windpipe that does not grow. Researchers took cells from a donor trachea and used Finn-Lynch’s bone marrow stem cells to reconstruct the airway, according to ABC News.

While this technique has worked with a few people, it remains to be seen if it will have wider success, experts said.

“You never know what to do or how to interpret a success when it’s one success,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the University of California-San Diego’s stem cell program, ABC reported. “The question you grapple with is whether this treatment is going to be good with a larger number of people with this disease.”

The news appears to be another gain for stem cell treatments that are not ethically flawed. While many scientists have touted embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) for more than a decade, it has failed to produce the therapeutic results of non-embryonic stem cells — as in this case — or induced pluripotent stem cells. ESCR is extremely controversial, primarily because extraction of such cells results in the destruction of days-old human embryos.

BODIES OF NEARLY 250 UNBORN BABIES DISCOVERED IN RUSSIA — The bodies of nearly 250 unborn children have been found in Russia with no explanation for their origin.

The discovery of 248 dead babies at 12 to 16 weeks’ gestation prompted officials to guess they may have resulted from illegal abortions or illegal stem cell research, according to a July 24 report on the website of RT, an English-language news channel that reports on Russia. The bodies were discovered near Nevyansk, a town in the Ural Mountains of western Russia.

The babies appear to be from at least four medical institutions, officials say. A company that disposes of biological waste may be at fault, police reported, according to RT. A nearby hospital is doing forensic tests on the bodies, which might include some that are more than 10 years old.

Medical and government authorities have proposed different ideas about the discovery. Elena Mizulina, head of the State Duma committee on Family, Women and Children, said pharmacologists and cosmetologists highly value the stem cells from unborn babies at 12 to 16 weeks.

“It’s possible there was some kind of medical or law enforcement inspection coming up, so someone wanted to get rid of incriminating evidence,” she told the newspaper Izvestia, according to RT. “The demand for such ‘material’ is huge.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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