Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything (2014)
AUDIENCE SCORE 83% liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 19,161

 'Theory' of attraction: Hawking movie a test of art house films' staying power

Eddie Redmayne is shown in this Nov. 19, 2014 photo.
The Explorer Society of New York
Eddie Redmayne is shown in this Nov. 19, 2014 photo.
Hollywood is being overtaken by mutants and meta-humans, making it hard for a garden-variety astrophysicist to catch a break in the movies.
With that in mind, even producing a vehicle about one of the world's most recognizable scholars was certainly no easy feat. That assessment comes directly from the man who wrote the script of author and scholar Stephen Hawking's biopic, "The Theory of Everything," which has been showing in theaters for nearly a month.
"It took 10 years to get this film off the ground," Anthony McCarten told CNBC in a response to emailed questions.
The difficulties of moving "Theory" from script to screen underscore the challenges facing art house movies, which are colliding with certain economic realities, he said. For scripts that don't feature well-known characters or A-list actors, the road to a green light can be even tougher, as big budget super heroes crowd out independent flicks.
"This was partly to do with the assumption that, no matter how compelling the central characters or how unprecedented their journey, physics and the travails of [Hawking's] disease…were almost certainly not going to be a recipe for big box office numbers," McCarten said.
Read MoreArtificial intelligence could end mankind: Hawking

The Explorer Society of New York
The screenplay charts Hawking's development as a young physics student at the University Cambridge—where he is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and given an initial prognosis of two years to live—to his marriage and the penning of his definitive tome, "A Brief History of Time."
When it debuted early this month, "Theory" arrived at an inauspicious time at the U.S. box office. The Thanksgiving to Christmas stretch normally gets swallowed by large budget, special effects heavy "popcorn" movies that serve as tentpoles for the major studios.
"Theory" was forced to share its premiere weekend with two movie juggernauts, "Interstellar" and animated film "Big Hero Six," which combined for a debut of more than $100 million.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of indie movies, even those with cultural icons like Steve Jobs at their core, are becoming prohibitively daunting as Tinseltown promotes a blitz of tentpoles. The 10 top-grossing independent movies of 2013 combined to earn more than $230 million, according to figures from
Read MoreSony Pictures drops Steve Jobs film
Still, that amount is barely a tenth of the $2.3 billion this year's box-office behemoths have reaped—all of which were science fiction, cartoon and comic adaptation spectacles like "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Captain America," and "Maleficent."
Conversely, independent movie makers are burdened with the task of challenging "the myth that audiences seek only spectacle," McCarten told CNBC.
"What they want, and have always wanted, is an immersive, emotional experience that surprises, delights and educates. How seldom these experiences involve airborne men in tights with special powers," he quipped.

Hawking his own super hero?

Hawking—a theoretical physicist and globally renowned author—is certainly no ordinary mortal. Given a wealth of accomplishments and a life story that personifies overcoming long odds, one could easily make a case for Hawking being a superhero himself.
The emotional plot of "Theory" illustrates how a physically slight, brilliant academic who's self-confident enough to delve into the universe's deepest mysteries—not unlike Reed Richards of the "Fantastic Four" (also coming to a theater near you in 2015).
Simultaneously, Hawking conquers the ravages of a debilitating disease (Wolverine's healing factor, anyone?) while capturing the affections of his own version of Superman's Lois Lane. In the movie, Jane Hawking, played by Felicity Jones, seems to be one of the most comely women on Cambridge's campus.
"He's continually defied expectation, and there are many heroic qualities to him for sure," Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in "Theory", told CNBC in a brief interview in New York last week. "It was a real treat to get to enter his orbit."
But in an environment where even the story of Margaret Thatcher, the world bestriding former U.K. prime minister, can barely crack $100 million in movie ticket receipts, does a Cambridge scholar stand a reasonable chance to earn both accolades and ticket sales?
Read MoreEven 'Big Heroes' need big hearts: Disney

Although "Theory" has pulled in a scant $4 million in sales domestically, McCarten insists indie films can still carve their own niche—and stand alongside the computer generated images of their big-budget counterparts.
"Of course there is a market, and every year the point is made again and again, in people's hearts and at the Oscars and at the box-office, that people want inspiring true stories," he said.
"My job, and the job of everyone interested in grown-up film-making, is to make sure we get it to them: certified fresh, dazzling, remarkable and…true," McCarten added.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Los Angeles Schools Win Teacher Sex Suit By Blaming 14-Year-Old Girl

The LAUSD school board members are pretending that they were clueless as to how a lawyer would defend the school district in a teacher-sex-with-a-14-year-old lawsuit. No, it's worse than that. They're acting as if they're morally superior: they removed the lawyer for doing exactly what he understood he was hired to do. The Council of School Attorneys has very uniform standards about how to conduct litigation. Education attorneys understand that schools hire them to keep secrets and to disregard the basic rules of decency in their efforts to win cases.

The board itself should have resigned en masse.

The board's decision to remove the lawyer was purely political. It wouldn't have happened except for public criticism. Usually school boards get rid of lawyers who are too decent during court cases.

Los Angeles Schools Win Teacher Sex Suit By Blaming 14-Year-Old Girl
Huff Post

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles school district on Friday removed a lawyer who successfully defended it in a sexual abuse lawsuit in which he told jurors that a 14-year-old girl who had sex with a male teacher shared responsibility despite her age.
The trial victory spared the cash-strapped district a potentially pricey verdict, but news of the trial strategy and remarks by attorney W. Keith Wyatt that it was a more dangerous decision to cross the street than to have sex with a teacher drew criticism.
"Mr. Wyatt's comments yesterday were completely inappropriate, and they undermine the spirit of the environment we strive to offer our students every day," Dave Holmquist, general counsel for the school district, said in a statement. "Our deepest apologies go out to the young woman and her family, who were hurt by the insensitive remarks of Mr. Wyatt."
Wyatt, who had worked with the district through an outside firm for 27 years and had 18 cases pending, would not comment.
The girl who lost the case is appealing because the judge allowed evidence of her sexual history to be presented and because Wyatt blamed her for consenting to the sex even though she was too young to do so.
"She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher," Wyatt had told KPCC, which first reported the story. "She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn't she be responsible for that?
The teacher in the case, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child.
The Los Angeles Unified School District claimed it was unaware of the relationship between the teacher and student and was cleared last year of wrongdoing by a civil jury in Los Angeles Superior Court. The girl was not awarded damages for the emotional trauma she said she suffered during a five-month relationship with the teacher.
The case exposed an apparent inconsistency in the standard for sexual consent in California criminal and civil cases.
In criminal cases, a 14-year-old girl is too young to consent to sex with an adult. Wyatt, however, cited a federal court decision that said a minor could consent to sex in some circumstances.
The federal case cited by Wyatt relies on a California Supreme Court decision about jury instructions in an incest case, said Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington. The creative application of the language was probably never envisioned by the state's high court.
"Some language plucked out of the original case has grown to monstrous proportions," Fan said. "Pretty soon it looks like a viable argument. When a court accepts it, it just grows into its own beast."
Lawyers and advocates for sexual abuse victims said the legal tactic was surprising.
"I was shocked. I've done sexual abuse cases against school districts before and I've never seen the persistence of this argument," said Holly Boyer, who filed the appeal for the girl. "I've never seen this at all that the victim willingly participated in this and that they should bear some responsibility in their injuries."
While Wyatt had argued that the teacher and girl went to extreme lengths to hide their relationship, Boyer said there were enough warning signs that the school should have been aware of the teacher's conduct.
He was seen hugging other girls and began to groom the victim at age 13 through texting, phone calls and exchanging photos, Boyer said, adding the sexual abuse began when the girl was 14 and some of it occurred in the classroom.
Boyer also plans to argue that the girl's sexual past should not have been allowed into evidence. Typically, such evidence is barred in criminal cases by rape shield laws, but not always in civil actions.
"It's terrible, but not unusual that a school would try to muddy the waters" by presenting such evidence, said Fatima Goss Graves, a vice president at the National Women's Law Center. "The law on whether and when that sort of evidence is permitted is sort of murky and one of the reasons why Congress is looking at additional law ... that looks more like a criminal rape shield law."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Teachers grade Common Core: C+ and room for improvement

Teachers grade Common Core: C+ and room for improvement
A survey of teachers on Common Core education standards showed mixed results. Half of teachers surveyed think Common Core standards help students with critical thinking, but their enthusiasm has waned.
By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo
CS Monitor
OCTOBER 3, 2014

"Teachers feel more prepared to teach the Common Core State Standards and are already starting to see students improve their critical thinking skills. But the enthusiasm has dipped since last year, and only half say the new standards will be positive for most students.

Those are some key findings in a survey of 1,676 K-12 teachers in the 43 states that have adopted Common Core, released by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation...

The survey found clear progress on implementation of the standards. Twenty-five percent of teachers said implementation is complete in their schools, and another 39 percent said it is mostly complete (up from 13 and 33 percent last year).

In schools where implementation was fully complete in 2013-14, most teachers agreed somewhat (62 percent) or strongly (24 percent) that implementation was going well.

Seventy-nine percent of teachers said they feel somewhat or very prepared to teach the new standards, up from 71 percent a year ago.

In schools where implementation is under way or complete, 53 percent of teachers said students have already improved their ability to think critically, use reasoning skills, and present their ideas based on evidence; 50 percent said students are better able to comprehend informational texts; and 46 percent said students are working more collaboratively with peers.

However, the percentage who said they are enthusiastic about the standards declined from 73 percent to 68 percent. And the percentage who said implementation is or will be challenging has climbed from 73 percent to 81 percent.

Teachers are split on the impact on students: 48 percent said Common Core will be positive for most students, 17 percent said they will be negative, and the remainder said they won’t make much difference. Last year, 57 percent said the standards would be positive and only 8 percent said they would be negative.

Teachers are concerned with what will happen to students who have the longest road to travel to meet the standards and how student scores on new assessments will affect teacher evaluations.

But “the teachers who were more negative were also less involved with implementing the Common Core,” and tended to get information more from the media than from their own districts, says Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education. The survey findings suggest that when it comes to Common Core implementation, “the more you do it, the more you love it,” she says.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Drop the Assault Charges Against Bullied Teen, Eric Martin

Drop the Assault Charges Against Bullied Teen, Eric Martin
Petition by Lindsay Ryan
Kingston, United States

Early this fall, Eric Martin was a ninth grader about to begin the next chapter in his life, high school.  Before the school year had begun, Eric's parents visited with school staff to discuss concerns over years of documented bullying Eric had endured since first grade.  Highland Spring High school administration assured the Martins the school had active and effective zero tolerance bullying prevention policies, and not to worry about their son's safety.
Described by his family as a "soft-spoken, creative 'still waters run deep' personality," his transition into high school was not safe and made difficult when he became a target for bullying and harassment from fellow students.  On September 4th, after repeated bullying, including gay slurs and inaction from school staff, a fellow student called Eric an abusive word, then moved closer to him to continue to harass him.  Eric asked him to leave him alone, but the bully continued to verbally harass him and then threateningly postured near him.  Eric felt intimiated and that he needed to protect himself.  Eric admitted to lunging first, but only because he could sense that the bully and his friends were going to physically attack him.
What followed was not a fight, but a horrible beating that left Eric in the hospital for nine days and his assailants with little injury. Eric's attackers viciously beat him, causing him to have a broken hand and a traumatic brain injury (TBI), leaving him unconscious by the end. This brain injury will permanently impact Eric's life. He continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries seven weeks later.
Most surprising is Highland Springs High School, because of their Zero-Tolerance Bullying Policy, has decided to file assault charges against Eric for his behavior, twelve days after the incident occured. Also, they allege that he has made threats against the school and will not permit him back on school grounds without him signing a student threat document. His mom, Mary Martin refused to allow Eric to sign the document. Recently, Eric has been allowed to attend another high school in the district. The Martin family has hired a lawyer to fight against the charges brought against Eric. His first court appearance was earlier this month with his trial date set for November 21st. They have also started a GoFundMe campaign account to help pay for the medical, legal, and education fees. 
The Martin family, Tammy Motola, their family advocate, myself and many others do not think the school has chosen the right path. We demand justice for Eric Martin!  We are asking the school to drop the charges against Eric and discuss another course of action for addressing the situation.

See petition.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Results for Nov. 4, 2014 election CVESD and Sweetwater Union High School District

SWEETWATER UNION High School Trustee Area No. 1
Vote for: 1
ARTURO SOLIS 3060 45.42% [winner]
 BURT GROSSMAN 2628 39.01%
JEROME O. TORRES 1049 15.57%

SWEETWATER UNION High School Trustee Area No. 2
Vote for: 1
 KEVIN J. PIKE 3587 27.32% [winner]
KEVIN O'NEILL 2257 17.19%
DANA TOOGOOD 2095 15.95%
BERTHA J. LOPEZ 2071 15.77%

SWEETWATER UNION High School Trustee Area No. 3
Vote for: 1
FRANK A. TARANTINO 3124 35.05% [winner]
RICHARD F. ARROYO 2017 22.63%

SWEETWATER UNION High School Trustee Area No. 4
Vote for: 1
 NICHOLAS SEGURA 36.50% [winner]

 SWEETWATER UNION High School Trustee Area No. 5
Vote for: 1
 PAULA HALL 40.88%  [winner]

Precincts: 171
Counted: 171
Percentage: 100.0%

Vote for: 1













Precincts: 171
Counted: 171
Percentage: 100.0%

Vote for: 1







Precincts: 171
Counted: 171
Percentage: 100.0%

Vote for: 1










from San Diego Registrar of Voters

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage

Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage.

Nov. 2, 2014
Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage.

National Public Radio just made the baffling decision to drastically reduce its staff dedicated to covering climate change and the environment, leaving just one part-time reporter on the beat.1

It’s unacceptable for one of our major sources of journalism in the public interest to essentially abandon it’s coverage of climate and the environment by reducing the staff covering it from four full-time journalists to one part-time reporter...
NPR’s decision is part of a disturbing anti-science trend within the news media. According to a study released last year, the number of newspapers that included a weekly science sections has shrunk from 85 to just 19 in the past 25 years.3 That’s why it is so crucial for NPR to provide meaningful coverage of climate change that is honest with the American people about the scope of the problem and what must be done to address it.

Tell NPR: One part-time reporter is not enough. Reverse the decision to slash your team of reporters covering climate change and the environment...

"One part-time reporter covering climate and the environment is not enough! Reverse your decision to radically reduce your coverage of climate change and the environment."

NBC News
Nov. 2, 2014

Pollution and climate change due to human influence is “clear,” and the observed effects are “unprecedented,” according to a report released Sunday by a United Nations panel.
The 116-page report is the fifth since 1990 prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The latest installment synthesizes the findings of the previous four reports and presents new conclusions that environmental scientists arrived at since the fourth report was released in 2007.
Economic and population growth have contributed to greenhouse emissions, which are “higher than ever,” and caused the earth to warm, the report concludes.
“The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen,” the report said, adding that this has caused extreme weather all over the world. “It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions.” The risks that these extreme weather conditions present affect a wide range of people but are most devastating to disadvantaged populations, the report said.
The report recommends allocating finances to encourage people and governments to come up with new ideas to tackle climate change. IPCC vice chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele wrote on Twitter that “ordinary people” can make choices that reduce climate change, “but policymakers have responsibility to facilitate.”
Still, the report warns that “even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.”
“We can't prevent a large scale disaster if we don't heed this kind of hard science,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday in response to the report. “The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow and grow.”