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Mary Tyler Moore dies at age 80

Emmy-winning actress Mary Tyler Moore, who brightened American television screens as the perky suburban housewife on The Dick Van Dyke Show and then as a fledgling feminist on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died on Wednesday at the age of 80.

Moore, who won seven Emmy Awards for her television work, died in the company of friends and her husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine, representative Mara Buxbaum said in a statement.

She had been seriously ill over the past two years, when she was in and out of hospitals and suffered from heart and kidney problems, close friends said. She was a diabetic, and in 2011 she had a benign brain tumor removed.

Moore also was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1981 film Ordinary People, playing a character very different from her TV roles — an icy woman coping with a suicide attempt by her 18-year-old son.

Moore’s eponymous show and The Dick Van Dyke Show were both among the most popular sitcoms of their time, with the former ranking seventh and the latter No. 20 on TV Guide’s 2013 list of best television shows.

Moore, asked by Reuters in 2012 when she was given the SAG lifetime achievement award how she wanted to be remembered, said: “As a good chum. As somebody who was happy most of the time and took great pride in making people laugh when I was able to pull that off.”

Ed Asner, who acted alongside Moore in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, mourned her death on Twitter, writing: “my heart goes out to you and your family. Know that I love you and believe in your strength.”

Longtime interviewer Larry King on Twitter called Moore “a dear friend and a truly great person. A fighter.”

Moore had emerged on television in the early 1960s when many of the women in leading roles were traditional, apron-wearing stay-at-home moms like June Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver.”

Moore’s bright-eyed Laura Petrie character was prone to moaning “Oh, Rob!” at her husband in moments of exasperation on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but she chipped away at that stereotype. For one thing, she wore stylish pants rather than house dresses and styled her hair like Jacqueline Kennedy’s.

Moore’s Mary Richards character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show went even farther. Mary Richards focused on her career as an assistant producer for the news show at television station WJM in Minneapolis and was determined to fulfill the lyrics of the show’s theme song – “You’re going to make it after all” – as she joyously flung her beret into the air in the show’s opening credits.

While she may have had conservative Midwestern values and been a bit naive and prim, 30-ish Mary Richards was, by 1970s television sitcom standards, a budding feminist. She lived on her own, was not hunting a husband and protested that she was not being paid as much as a male counterpart.

“YOU’VE GOT SPUNK”

Asner, playing Mary’s gruff boss, Lou Grant, summed up her character and their relationship in the show’s first episode.

“You know what?” he growled at her. “You’ve got spunk. I hate spunk!”

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, whose seven-year run ended in 1977, had a solid cast and great writers and won the Emmy for best comedy in each of its final three seasons. It was the cornerstone of MTM Enterprises, the company Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker used to launch three spin-offs — Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis — as well as other hit shows such as The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere.

One of New York-born Moore’s first entertainment jobs was appearing as Happy Hotpoint, a singing and dancing pixie in television commercials for Hotpoint appliances. In 1961 she was cast on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Moore won two supporting actress Emmys for that show and four best-actress Emmys for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

“I’m not an innately funny person,” she told The New York Times. “I find it an almost overbearing responsibility when I think about having to be funny. I like simply standing next to the funny person. Just being part of what caused the laughter is great fun for me.”

Moore won an Emmy in 1993 for the TV movie Stolen Babies, giving her a total of seven for her career, including one special Emmy in 1974 as actress of the year. She was nominated nine other times.

She was given a special Tony Award for her work in Whose Life Is It Anyway on Broadway.

OFF-SCREEN STRUGGLES

Moore’s life was not all awards and perky television characters. She grew up in New York and Los Angeles with an alcoholic mother, a demanding father and many self-doubts. When she became a mother herself, she felt guilty about not spending more time with her son, Richard, when he was young.

Shortly after Ordinary People came out in 1980, Richard, 24, was killed when a shotgun he was handling discharged — a death that was ruled accidental.

Moore’s 19-year marriage to Tinker ended in divorce in 1981 amid what she said was a lot of drinking and too little talking. She eventually went into rehab at the Betty Ford Center.

During her time on The Mary Tyler Moore show, Moore was diagnosed with diabetes, which affected her vision in later years.

After the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore tried two variety shows but neither caught on. Two other shows set in newsrooms – Mary, in which she played a newspaper columnist, and New York News, starring Moore as a newspaper publisher — also were short-lived.

Moore still appeared frequently in one-off television roles and in plays. In 2003 she quit the Broadway play Rose’s Dilemma, however, after playwright Neil Simon sent her a letter shortly before curtain time saying, “Learn your lines or get out of my play.”

In 2013, she appeared on the TV show Hot in Cleveland for two episodes.

Moore, who became an activist for diabetes research and animal rights, wed for a third time in 1983, marrying Levine, a cardiologist who had treated her mother.

Tinker, who Moore described as her mentor, died in November.

(Reporting by Bill Trott; Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant and David Ingram; Editing by Leslie Adler)

George Michael dies at age 53

British singer George Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in England on Sunday. He was 53.

In the mid-1980s, Wham! was one of the most successful pop duos ever, with singles like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Whisper”, “Last Christmas” and “The Edge of Heaven.”

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” his publicist said in a statement.

“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” the statement said.

British police said Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious.”

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou June 25, 1963 in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents in a flat above a north London laundrette, Michael once played music on the London underground train system before finding fame with Wham!.

With a school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, he formed Wham! in 1981, a partnership that would produce some of the most memorable pop songs and dance-floor favorites of the 1980s.

“I am in deep shock,” said Elton John. “I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans. @GeorgeMichael #RIP.”

‘I WANT YOUR SEX’

The duo had their first hit with their second release “147;Young Guns (Go For It)” (1982) before their debut release “Wham Rap” became a hit the following year. The 1984 album “Make It Big” was a huge success in the United States.

“No way could I have done it without Andrew,” Michael once said. “I can’t think of anybody who would have been so perfect in allowing something which started out as a very naive, joint ambition, to become what was still a huge double act but what was really … mine.”

But Michael was keen to reach beyond Wham!’s teenage audience and to experiment with other genres. Wham! announced their split in 1986.

A pilot solo single “I Want Your Sex” was banned by daytime radio stations but was one of his biggest hits.

“I want your sex, I want you, I want your sex,” he sang. “So why don’t you just let me go, I’d really like to try, Oh I’d really love to know, When you tell me you’re gonna regret it, Then I tell you that I love you but you still say no!”

In the space of the next five years, Michael had six U.S. No. One hit singles including “Faith”, “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Praying For Time” and a duet with Aretha Franklin “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.”

Questions about his sexuality were raised when he was arrested in 1998 for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.

“I feel stupid and reckless and weak for letting my sexuality be exposed that way,” Michael told CNN at the time. “But I do not feel shame )about my sexual orientation”, neither do I think I should.”

“I can try to fathom why I did what I did,” he continued, “but at the end of the day, I have to admit that maybe part of the kick was that I might get found out,” he told CNN.

Though he had relationships with women and once told family members that he was bisexual, Michael, then 34, said he was gay.

“Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael,” said Star Trek actor and LGBT rights activist George Takei. “You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.”

While Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power, Michael voted for Britain’s opposition Labour Party but criticized Tony Blair’s support for George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Sad to hear that George Michael has died,” said current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. “He was an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers’ rights.”

Michael’s death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several music superstars, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68.

An unexpected life in sci-fi: An interview with Sigourney Weaver

A movie has a way of sitting up straight whenever Sigourney Weaver is in it. Whether the part is small or large, she reliably jolts any film alive with her intelligence and commanding presence. She usually means business.

That, of course, has been apparent since her breakthrough role as Ellen Ripley in “Alien.” But it’s no less true of Weaver at 67. She has an almost queen-like status on today’s movie landscape, particularly in science-fiction.

She has defined one mega franchise (“Alien,” with one more on the way) and been the MVP of another (“Avatar,” with four sequels coming). Just her voice is enough to lend sci-fi credibility, whether as the ship’s voice in “WALL-E” or as the all-powerful Director in “The Cabin in the Woods.”

Weaver has been particularly ubiquitous in 2016, gracing the year’s top box-office hit, “Finding Dory,” with its best gag (her aquatic center greeting), and popping in to reprise her original role in the contentious “Ghostbusters” reboot. She was even glimpsed in Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” as a young, rabid Beatlemaniac.

But she ends the year with “A Monster Calls,” a smaller film that uses fantasy to plumb deeper emotional depths. Directed by J.A. Bayona (who’s helming the next “Jurassic Park” film), the adaptation of Patrick Ness’ novel is about a boy coping with his mother’s terminal illness. Aside from approaching grief with uncommon seriousness, the film flips some genre tropes, including Weaver’s grandmother character.

The actress (who hasn’t lost a bit of her glamour) recently reflected on “A Monster Calls,” her re-entry to Pandora and her legacy of strong female protagonists.

AP: Your father, Sylvester ‘Pat’ Weaver was president of NBC and created the “Tonight Show.” Was it like you grew up in show business?

Weaver: At the time, I thought everyone’s father ran a network. I thought everyone got to go on the set of “Peter Pan” and meet Mary Martin. I always used to think I was going to go to school and then come home and be a different girl and go to a different house. It took me a while to realize I was stuck with me. Maybe that’s the early awareness of an actor that we’re all changeable. I remember thinking, “Gosh, I’m so amazed I’m in this body for so long.”

AP: You have such an impact on a film, regardless of how large your part is.

Weaver: I really love being part of a good story. I don’t need to be the center of the story. That’s why I really loved “A Monster Calls” because the grandmother was unlike anyone I’ve played before _ not completely unlike my mother, who was British. It’s a movie I hope families go to together.

AP: Was your small role in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” your first film?

Weaver: Woody offered me a bigger part but I turned it down because I was in a play. I played a multiple schizophrenic who kept a hedgehog in her vagina and I wasn’t going to give that part up.

AP: “Alien” was quite a follow-up.

Weaver: It didn’t feel like a big movie to me. It felt like a very small, dark, strange movie and I could relate to that because I was used to doing very strange things off-Broadway. I thought: This is fine. This is like a workshop movie.

AP: Ripley was one of the first strong female protagonists in an action film. Is that a legacy you’re proud of?

Weaver: I am. I’ve since read other scripts and I go, “Well that’s kind of an interesting part but I’d rather play this guy.” Because I always feel still, like in our world, there’s a lot of testosterone in some of these movies where really legitimately a woman would be involved.

AP: Do you think that’s changing?

Weaver: I think by the time your daughters are in the world, everything will be different.

AP: What did you think of the backlash to Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters”?

Weaver: I was very surprised by it. I enjoyed the movie. I love all those women. I think Feig is brilliant. I do think it has something to do with the misogyny Trump has unearthed. I thought it was very charming. Does it also make you remember how much you loved the first one? I think so, but not to the extent that I’m going to boycott it. We’re sitting at the table. You’ve got to make room for us. We’re not going to go away.

AP: Ang Lee’s “Ice Storm” must be a film you’re particularly proud of.

Weaver: I was discussing a character I might play with someone and they said, “This woman’s cold.” I said I find that a nonsensical adjective for a woman. I’m sure you could describe Janey in “Ice Storm” as cold but she wasn’t cold. She was so disconnected from her life and bored by it.

AP: You’re soon to head into one mammoth “Avatar” production.

Weaver: The scripts for “Avatar” are absolutely incredible. I have committed to a very interesting movie about a woman (“Second Saturn”) that I hope to do in May. It’s like: This is my wonderful meal before I go into Pandora.

 

 

John Glenn has died at age 95

Former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn died on Thursday, Dec. 8, at age 95 at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper reported.

In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Glenn. The White House’s tribute from that year reads: Medal of Freedom recipient John Glenn is a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, astronaut and U.S. senator. In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974. He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1987 until 1995. In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77. He retired from the Senate in 1999. Glenn is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Astronaut John Glenn.
Astronaut John Glenn.

 

Racist statements lead lawmakers to reject John Wayne Day

What a lawmaker intended as a benign resolution honoring John Wayne exploded into an emotional debate over decades-old racist comments.

The California Assembly defeated the official ode to John Wayne after several legislators described statements he made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society.

Known as “Duke,” a nickname he picked up as a boy in Glendale, California, Wayne grew into the star of movies including “The Alamo,” “The Green Berets” and “True Grit,” for which he won an Academy Award, while portraying the gruff, rugged cowboys and brave soldiers who were his stock in trade.

Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born.

“He had disturbing views towards race,” objected Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, leading off a 20-minute debate.

Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne talked disparagingly about blacks.

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people,” he told the magazine.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, who is black, said he found Wayne’s comments personally offensive.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, cited his comments defending white Europeans’ encroachment on American Indians who Wayne once said “were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Wayne is the latest deceased white icon to recently come under attack. Former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner and Indian fighter, is being removed from the face of the $20 bill. Princeton University recently announced that former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name will remain on its public policy school despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist.

Harper’s resolution fell on a 35-20 vote to what Harper called “the orthodoxy of political correctness.”

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!” he said later in a written statement.

Harper said he sought the resolution, ACR137, to keep up with a Texas resolution commemorating Wayne’s birthday a year ago.

He represents the legislative district that includes John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The airport, among the largest in California, was renamed after Wayne’s death in 1979 and hosts a nine-foot-tall statue of the actor.

“I think the assemblyman would know if there was a cross word about having the airport named after him,” said Harper’s spokeswoman, Madeleine Cooper.

Several lawmakers supported the resolution, recalling Wayne as an American hero whose family created a namesake cancer foundation after his death.

“He stood for those big American values that we know and we love,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach.

Lawmakers have honored others despite controversies that eventually clouded their legacies, said Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine. Wagner cited President Franklin Roosevelt, who has been honored despite his internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Every one of us is imperfect,” Wagner said.

 

Iconic filmmaker John Waters to receive honorary degree

When the Rhode Island School of Design offered iconic filmmaker John Waters an honorary degree, he was surprised. After all, he got thrown out of every school he ever went to.

Known for quirky films that push the boundaries of good taste, including 1972’s outrageous cult classic “Pink Flamingos,” Waters is the keynote speaker at the prestigious art school’s commencement this next weekend.

Waters will also receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree; recipients are chosen by the RISD community, and nominations are reviewed by a committee of students, faculty and staff.

“I don’t even know if I got a high school diploma. It’s very peculiar. I feel very flattered,” said Waters, who attended New York University briefly in the 1960s before getting kicked out for smoking marijuana on campus. “I feel like the scarecrow in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when they give him a brain.”

RISD’s 2015 Honorary Degree Committee cited Waters’ body of films as an “enduring inspiration for RISD students seeking to break boundaries, challenge conventions, and define an expressive style,” said RISD President Rosanne Somerson.

“In the words of one nominator, he ‘embodies the RISD ‘tude galore’,” Somerson said.

Waters will share a stage with three members of the band Talking Heads — two are RISD alumni — and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik.

Waters has written and directed more than a dozen films over his decades-long career, many of them low-budget movies featuring a cadre of unconventional characters, including drag queen Divine, Waters’ longtime friend and muse. Waters saw mainstream success with 1988’s “Hairspray,” another cult classic that was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2002. He is also a published author and photographer.

“I shouldn’t have been in school. You go to school to figure out what you wanted to do. I knew what I wanted to do,” Waters said. “I wish I had gone to RISD. They would have encouraged my ideas. I could have made ‘Pink Flamingos.””

Waters does more writing these days than filmmaking: The paperback of his 2014 memoir “Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America” debuts this month. Waters said he was inspired to hitchhike from his native Baltimore to San Francisco because his life is so scheduled and controlled.

“My inspiration has always been the same, which is human behavior I can’t understand, which is always my interest, always has been,” Waters said.

The filmmaker is looking forward to accepting his honorary degree, “Without irony, for one of the few times in my life.”

Mark Hamill: ‘Drafted’ for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Mark Hamill knew he had to say yes when George Lucas told him about the plans to move forward with a new “Star Wars” trilogy.

“It’s not like a choice. It’s like I was drafted,” Hamill told a massive crowd over the weekend at Star Wars Celebration of his decision to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“Could you imagine if for some reason I said ‘I don’t think I want to do it?’ I would have all of you surrounding my house like villagers, angry villagers with lightsabers instead of torches,” joked the 63-year-old “Star Wars” veteran.

Hamill admitted he was caught off guard when Lucas invited him to lunch. When Hamill’s wife surmised that perhaps there was a new film in the works, Hamill laughed. Lucas had told him specifically that he was done making “Star Wars” movies after the prequels.

He assumed Lucas was going to announce a 3-D release or roll out another box set of the films, laughing about the number of versions that have been made available.

Still, his interest was piqued when Lucas disinvited Hamill’s daughter. He knew that meant it must be big.

When things started coming together, Hamill said he was cautiously optimistic about J.J. Abrams, the chosen director for “The Force Awakens.”

“I was a little suspicious because he was a ‘Star Trek’ guy,” said Hamill, laughing.

The actor quickly clarified that he likes “Star Trek.”

“It just seems odd,” he said. 

He went on to compliment Abrams for his inclusiveness. Abrams, Hamill noted, is also the first “Star Wars” director to be borne out of true fandom of the original films.

“He feels the way you feel in terms of wanting practical effects. Real sets,” he said.

Keeping in line with the secrecy surrounding “The Force Awakens,” which opens on Dec. 18, Hamill said he is always worried about leaking information. He claims he even learned the subtitle of the seventh film on the Internet.

“They’re so secretive these days,” said Hamill. “When we did the first one no one cared.”

Hamill was “cleared” to tell the packed house that he did record a voiceover specifically for the new teaser trailer, which debuted last week during the Celebration kick-off panel.

In the teaser, we hear Luke’s voice saying a familiar, but slightly altered line from “Return of the Jedi”: “The force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”

He laughed and said that he kept messing up and saying: “My father had it.”

The end result is a combination of the original recording and Hamill’s new session, the actor said.

After playing the trailer once more in the large arena, Hamill marveled that there is “so much information there for you to speculate about” embedded in the footage.

“It implies so much that’s gone on from ‘Jedi’ till now,” he said.

“They don’t call it a teaser for nothing. They want to tease you.”

On the Web…

Online: http://www.starwars.com

Music Review: Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart’ is lovely

Madonna’s 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart,” beats with romance and rebellion.

At 19 tracks, it’s an overstuffed triptych through the iconic performer’s life, careening between uplifting dance tracks, like the percolating “Living for Love” — her 44th No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart — and corrosively bitter tunes such as the Avicii-produced “HeartBreakCity.”

Songs such as the largely acoustic “Devil Pray,” which will stylistically remind many of “Don’t Tell Me”; the achingly vulnerable “Joan of Arc”; and the deceptively double entendre-filled, lilting “Body Shop” course with vitality and showcase some of Madonna’s best singing in years.

While the majority of the material falls solidly in the positive, some of the tunes undoubtedly meant to sound fierce and liberating just feel tired, like the electro-clash braggadocio of “Bitch I’m Madonna,” featuring Nicki Minaj, and the tedious X-rated bump-and-grind of the Kanye West-produced “Holy Water.”

In perhaps her most complex album, Madonna seems determined to plant a flag for her 30-plus year career, even giving a crash course in Madonna-ology on the self-referential “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” featuring Nas, during which she playfully incorporate phrases and titles from past hits. At its best, “Rebel Heart” pulsates with a vibrancy that reveals both the sour and the sweet in Madonna’s extremely complicated life and leaves no doubt that she still has a lot more to share.

Chopin’s heart exhumed in secret, like a relic

As Frederic Chopin gasped for air on his deathbed in Paris in 1849, he whispered a request that became the stuff of musical legend: Remove my heart after I die and entomb it in Poland. He wanted the symbol of his soul to rest in the native land he pined for from self-imposed exile in France.

Ever since, the composer’s body has rested in peace at the famed Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris — while his heart has endured a wild journey of intrigue and adulation.

First it was sealed in a jar of liquor believed to be cognac. Then it was smuggled into Warsaw past Russian border guards. Once in his hometown, Chopin’s heart passed through the hands of several relatives before being enshrined within a pillar in Holy Cross Church. During World War II, it briefly fell into the clutches of the Nazis. The organ has been exhumed several times, most recently in a secret operation to check whether the tissue remains well preserved.

Chopin’s heart inspires a deep fascination in Poland normally reserved for the relics of saints. For Poles, Chopin’s nostalgic compositions capture the national spirit — and the heart’s fate is seen as intertwined with Poland’s greatest agonies and triumphs over nearly two centuries of foreign occupation, warfare and liberation.

“This is a very emotional object for Poles,” said Michal Witt, a geneticist involved in the inspection. Chopin is “extremely special for the Polish soul.” 

Chopin experts have wanted to carry out genetic testing to establish whether the sickly genius died at 39 of tuberculosis, as is generally believed, or of some other illness. But they remain frustrated. The Polish church and government, the custodians of the heart, have for years refused requests for any invasive tests, partly because of the opposition of a distant living relative of the composer.

This year, however, they finally consented to a superficial inspection after a forensic scientist raised alarm that after so many years the alcohol could have evaporated, leaving the heart to dry up and darken.

Close to midnight on April 14, after the last worshippers had left the Holy Cross Church, 13 people sworn to secrecy gathered in the dark sanctuary.

They included the archbishop of Warsaw, the culture minister, two scientists and other officials. With a feeling of mystery hanging in the air, they worked in total concentration, mostly whispering, as they removed the heart from its resting place and carried out the inspection — taking more than 1,000 photos and adding hot wax to the jar’s seal to prevent evaporation. Warsaw’s archbishop recited prayers over the heart and it was returned to its rightful place. By morning, visitors to the church saw no trace of the exhumation.

“The spirit of this night was very sublime,” said Tadeusz Dobosz, the forensic scientist on the team.

Polish officials kept all details of the inspection secret for five months before going public about it in September, giving no reason for the delay. They are also not releasing photographs of the heart, mindful of ethical considerations surrounding the display of human remains, said Artur Szklener, director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw, a state body that helps preserve the composer’s legacy.

“We don’t want this to be a media sensation, with photos of the heart in the newspapers,” Szklener said. However, to prove that the heart is in good shape, he showed The Associated Press photographs of the organ, an enlarged white lump submerged in an amber-colored fluid in a crystal jar.

Some Chopin experts are critical of what they consider a lack of transparency.

Steven Lagerberg — the American author of “Chopin’s Heart: The Quest to Identify the Mysterious Illness of the World’s Most Beloved Composer” — believes international experts should have also been involved in the inspection. He said he wishes that the exhumation had involved genetic tests on a small sample of tissue to determine the cause of Chopin’s death.

Though Lagerberg and others believe that Chopin probably died of tuberculosis — the official cause of death — the matter isn’t fully settled. Some scientists suspect cystic fibrosis, a disease still unknown in Chopin’s time, or even some other illnesses.

“The mystery of this man’s illness lingers on — how he could survive for so long with such a chronic illness and how he could write pieces of such extraordinary beauty,” Lagerberg said. “It’s an intellectual puzzle, it’s a medical mystery and it’s an issue of great scientific curiosity.”

Chopin was born near Warsaw in 1810 to a Polish mother and French emigre father. He lived in Warsaw until 1830, when he made his way to Paris — where he chose a life of exile because of the brutal repressions imposed by Imperial Russia after a failed uprising.

Fulfilling Chopin’s deathbed wish, which was also inspired by the composer’s fear of being buried alive, his sister Ludwika smuggled the heart to Warsaw, probably beneath her skirts. After being kept in the family home for several years it was eventually buried in the Baroque Holy Cross Church, in central Warsaw.

It remained there until World War II, when the Nazi occupiers removed it for safekeeping during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Even as they slaughtered Poles block-by-block, killing 200,000 people in retribution for the revolt, they took pains to preserve the relic of a composer that the Germans have sometimes claimed as their own, because of the influence great German composers had on him. After the fighting was over, they returned it to the Polish church in a ceremony meant to show their respect for culture.

Bogdan Zdrojewski, the culture minister who took part in the April inspection, defended his refusal to allow invasive testing of the heart.

“We in Poland often say that Chopin died longing for his homeland,” said Zdrojewski, who has since left the culture ministry to be a lawmaker at the European Parliament. “Additional information which could possibly be gained about his death would not be enough of a reason to disturb Chopin’s heart.”

Nonetheless officials have already announced plans for another inspection — 50 years from now.

IPhone statue removed in Russia after Apple CEO writes about being gay

Shortly after Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote about being a proud gay man, a statue of an iPhone was dismantled at a university in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The statue, which was about 6 feet tall, stood on an IT university campus.

A statement from a company that removed the statue, ZEFS —Western European Financial Union, which deals on construction, advertising and finance — said Cook’s writing was “a public call to sodomy,” according to reports from The AP and Washington Post.

The statement also referred to Russia’s law banning minors from “homosexual propaganda” and said the statue, which was a tribute to Steve Jobs, violated the statute.

“Russian legislation prohibits propaganda of homosexuality and other sexual perversions among minors,” ZEFS wrote in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the monument was dismantled pursuant to Russian federal law on the protection of children from information that promotes the denial of traditional family values.”

Some Russian news sources have said that there were plans to remove the statue before Cook’s essay was published in Bloomberg Businessweek in October.

Cook’s sexual orientation was not a secret when he took the helm of Apple and the statue was installed after Jobs’ death. However, the Bloomberg interview was the first in which Cook wrote about his homosexuality.

Cook wrote, “I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”