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Friday, March 30, 2012

SAG and AFTRA Livestream Announcement of Merger Referendum Results - Part 1


86% of AFTRA 
82% of SAG voted to approve merger!

57% return on AFTRA side, or over 37,500 votes
53% return on SAG side, or over 55,000 votes

Screen Actors Guild, Inc.
5757 Wilshire Boulevard
7th Floor
Los Angeles, California 90036

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
5757 Wilshire Boulevard
9th Floor
Los Angeles, California 90036

SAG-AFTRA is born! This is the day we have decisively chosen a path of unity and Strength! 

-Ken Howard

'Titanic in 3D' may put the film back in number one. 'Hunger Games' to eat well! Liberty and Sirius at odds? Longer NFL Games Ahead. Hollywood tries to redescover its Glory Days.

The Skinny: You didn't think we could go more than two days without a photo of "The Hunger Games" did you? Friday's headlines include a preview of the weekend box office, which again will be dominated by that blockbuster; how Hollywood loves the '80s so much they want to relive them; and a potential civil war at satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news. 

King of the world again. James Cameron's "Titanic"  is being released in 3-D. It will no doubt attract everyone who loved it the first time and probably a lot of younger folks who didn't see it on the big screen. The real question is whether I can again avoid it.

Prepare to hear that famous line repeatedly as Titanic, the 1997 epic romance about the doomed luxury liner that made box-office history and tied the record for Oscar wins with 11, is relaunched into theaters on Wednesday — complete with a 3-D makeover.

And expect the second-highest-grossing film of all time, with $600.8 million domestic — runner-up to another title directed by James Cameron, 2009's Avatar ($760.5 million) — to make a valiant go at reclaiming the top spot. Go to USA Today on the re-release of Cameron's epic.

Treading Waters. The Wall Street Journal spends some quality time with director John Waters, the original provocateur whose early films included "Desperate Living" and "Female Trouble." Waters laments today's versions of "bad taste" for trying too hard, but also knows he's not a rebel anymore. Remind me sometime to share with you my story of how I first came to see "Pink Flamingos" as a ninth-grader. It was very amusing.

The Hunger Games will rule box office again
 Photo: "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close/Associated Press
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

Still Hungry. "The Hunger Games" is expected to dominate the box office for the second weekend in a row. Last weekend, it took in $152.5 million. This weekend, analysts expect it to gross another $60 million. Neither of the two new releases -- "Wrath of the Titans" and "Mirror, Mirror" -- is expected to come anywhere near that total. "Wrath of the Titans," a sequel to "Clash of the Titans," is projected to take in $40 million. While that's nothing to sneeze at, the movie cost more than $150 million. "Mirror, Mirror," which stars Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, is likely to make $25 million. That won't make it the fairest of them all. Also, opening in limited release is "Bully," the Weinstein Co. documentary. Box office projections from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Daily Dose: The NFL's new overtime rules for the regular season will have some repercussions for TV networks. Starting this season, a game that goes into overtime cannot be decided by a field goal during the first possession. In other words, if the team that wins the coin toss drives down the field and kicks a field goal, the opposing team will get the ball to try to match that or score a touchdown. That could make games longer and the NFL and networks will likely push the start time of late afternoon games, which will mean even later starts in prime time.

Everything old is new again. I loved the '80s, which is when I came of age. But that doesn't mean I want to see rehashes of every TV show I watched and every movie I sneaked into at Washington's Avalon Theater. Hollywood thinks that I do and that today's kids do as well. Sometimes it pays off, as was the case with the movie version of "21 Jump Street." But another "Vacation" movie from Chevy Chase? A new "Dirty Dancing?"  The New York Times looks at Hollywood's efforts to capture its glory days. If that's not enough, the Hollywood Reporter says Arnold Scharzenegger, Danny DeVito and Eddie Murphy are teaming up on a sequel to "Twins." Shoot me now.

Serious questions for Sirius XM. Is John Malone's Liberty Media, the biggest stakeholder in Sirius XM, trying to take over the satellite radio company? That is what Seeking Alpha suggests is behind some recent Federal Communications Commission filings by Liberty Media regarding control of Sirius XM's satellite licenses. Keep an eye on this one, it could get interesting.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Mark Olsen on "Wrath of the Titans." Mary McNamara on the new season of HBO's "Game of Thrones."
-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter. It's really all I have going for me right now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Earl Scruggs RIP at 88. Paying for the LA Times. FOX takes on ESPN and network sports dominance. Dodger Ball Shakes Hollywood and the West. IATSE entrenches for a fight. NYC poduction expands. Judge blocks Asner-Sheen-Harris union merger injucction request

 Photo: Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.

The Daily Dose: Los Angeles may be on the verge of cable sports overkill. The City of Angels already has two cable sports channels, News Corp.'s Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. Later this year Time Warner Cable is launching its English- and Spanish-language sports networks (which will have the Lakers). Also coming is a channel from the Pac-12 conference. If the Dodgers start their own channel (see below), that would be six sports networks. That might be the tipping point as far as consumers and lawmakers are concerned and could lead for renewed calls to offer sports networks on an a la carte basis so customers who aren't interested in sports don't have to pay big monthly fees.

Pay ball. The stunning $2.15 billion acquisition of the Los Angeles Dodgers by an investment group that includes former Lakers great Magic Johnson continues to be the talk of the town. The price tag, far more than most industry observers thought the team would get, has many wondering just how the team will make ends meet. Here's a hint: bigger TV deals. The new owners are counting on either getting big bucks from Fox Sports or Time Warner Cable or starting their own channel. Analysis of what the Dodger deal means for the TV industry and consumers from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Dodgers sale could mean increased cable bills.
Congratulations, Angelenos, you may have just bought a piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers!

While former Lakers great Magic Johnson may be leading the group shelling out a record $2 billion to buy the storied baseball franchise, in the end consumers may pick up much of the tab because their cable bills likely will be going up, up, up!

The $2 billion price tag tops by more than $1.1 billion what the Chicago Cubs were sold for three years ago and is $1.5 billion more than what Frank McCourt paid for the Dodgers in 2004. When the Dodgers, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, were first put up for sale, most baseball watchers thought McCourt would be hard pressed to get $1 billion, much less twice that.

Even Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team who's not shy about opening his wallet, thought that the Dodgers weren't worth $1 billion.

But Johnson's group, whose big backer is Mark Walter, chief executive of financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, which will be the Dodgers' controlling owner, was willing to pay so much because it figures it can make that money back in television revenue.

It's not a crazy bet. Sports rights fees have skyrocketed lately. Last year, the Los Angeles Angels and Fox Sports struck a 17-year deal worth about $2.5 billion and Time Warner Cable spent even more to land the Lakers in a 20-year deal valued at $3 billion.

Currently, Fox's regional cable network Prime Ticket carries the bulk of Dodger games at a price tag of roughly $38 million per season. Fox tried to cut a new deal with the Dodgers similar to the one it has with the Angels, but Major League Baseball rejected it, concerned that McCourt would use some of the money for his divorce settlement.

Fox's contract with the Dodgers runs through the 2013 season and the network has exclusive rights to renegotiate a new agreement through November of this year. After that, Time Warner Cable, which is launching a regional sports channel here later this year, can jump in the fray and try to grab TV rights to the Dodgers.

But while Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports will likely be willing to pay more than double and perhaps even triple what the Dodgers are currently getting, that still may not be enough given the price tag. Another scenario is that the Dodgers will look to create their own cable sports channel, as the Yankees have with YES. That way the team can keep not only subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies, but also advertising revenue.

Sports channels are some of the most expensive on the cable dial. ESPN goes for north of $5 per month per subscriber. Local channels also come at a steep price. According to SNL Kagan, an industry consulting firm, Fox Sports West costs more than $2.60 per month per subscriber, and Prime Sports runs more than $2.50. Time Warner Cable is said to be seeking more than $3.50 for its new channel, although the company would only say that its plans are not yet finalized.

Those costs, of course, eventually get passed on to subscribers. Currently, cable and satellite TV subscribers pay for Fox's two regional sports channels. Time Warner Cable is adding both an English and Spanish sports network to the mix. Later this year, the Pac-12 conference will launch its own channel (at a cost of about 80 cents per subscriber). If the Dodgers launch their own network, consumers could find themselves paying for six regional sports outlets.

Typically, these channels are offered on all packages, meaning folks who don't watch a lot of sports end up paying too. Networks and local teams have resisted efforts to put such channels on specialty tiers, although both may be pushing their luck if Angelenos end up with six different local sports channels.

The Dodgers also have a broadcast deal wth CBS' KCAL-TV, which carries 50 games. Those will likely go away because the team can get more money from cable than broadcast. KCAL is also going to lose the Lakers when Time Warner Cable's deal kicks in next season.

Peter Guber
Photo: Peter Guber at a Golden State Warriors basketball game in Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Credit: Getty Images

From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest industry news.

Peter Guber is bringing some Hollywood flash, and drama, to the Dodgers.

A longtime player in film and television, Guber, who is part of the Magic Johnson-led group that is buying the team for a record $2 billion, is a largely unknown commodity in sports circles. But he is a much more visible, and complicated, figure in the entertainment world.

Guber and Magic Johnson have joined forces before, including on the Dayton, Ohio, single-A minor-league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, which they continue to own. Guber also once owned the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate when it was located in Las Vegas.

In Hollywood, Guber, 70, has had a hand in some of the best-known movies of the last four decades -- including “Batman,” “Rain Man” and “Midnight Express” -- but also has a checkered record, stemming primarily from his troubled tenure as head of Sony Pictures.

Beginning his career as a film and record producer, Guber came to run Sony in 1989. On his watch, the studio launched such TV shows as “Mad About You” and films including “Terminator 2” and “City Slickers.” But Guber also drew criticism from established Hollywood figures including director Michael Apted and producer Rob Cohen, who said Guber deceived him in negotiations.

Guber, who left Sony in 1994, later became the subject of a book, “Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood,”  which painted a largely unflattering portrait of Guber and his former partner.

Guber has also drawn supporters in the industry. Bradley Fuller, a producer who is working with Guber’s current company, Mandalay Entertainment, on a new version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,”  said in an interview on Thursday that he admired Guber's people and deal-making skills.
“He’s a very compelling personality,” Fuller said. “When you come out of a meeting with him you find yourself saying, ‘Let’s do things the way Peter wants to do them.’” Guber could not be reached for comment.

In recent years, Guber has been expanding into sports via his subsidiary, Mandalay Sports Entertainment.  He is a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors and also is an owner of a host of minor-league baseball teams -- including the New York Yankees’ triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Guber will not have to divest his minor-league teams as a result of a Dodgers deal.

Although  Guber’s involvement brings an element of Hollywood know-how, fans could be forgiven for being wary of an owner who has an entertainment pedigree. It was less than a decade ago that the team was owned by 20th Century Fox parent News Corp. and run by former Warner Bros. honcho Bob Daly -- who later admitted that selling the team to Frank McCourt was a mistake.

Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office in Studio City in 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

IATSE fights to protect Pension and Health. In a sign that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees may be headed for a showdown with the major studios, union leaders told members that they would "hold the line" on their health and pension benefits.

Matt Loeb, president of IATSE, and members of the union's West Coast bargaining committee sought to assure the rank and file that they were standing their ground in contract negotiations with the producers that ended on Monday without a deal.

"IATSE is continuing to hold the line on issues that are of importance to the membership -- health benefits, pension benefits and working conditions,'' Loeb and his colleagues said in an email to members distributed this week.

"We anticipate resuming negotiations prior to the expiration of the current agreement,'' the email continued. (The current contract expires July 31 of this year). "We remain committed to a new agreement that protects the needs of the membership and we'll continue to keep you apprised of any developments."

IATSE represents more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers, including camera operators, set decorators, grips and others who work behind the scenes on movies and TV shows.

People close to the negotiations say the sides remain divided over how to close a large deficit in the union's health and pension plans -- projected to be at least $300 million over the next three years -- because of investment losses and rising medical costs. The health and pension plans are funded by residual payments and employer contributions.

From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest industry news.

Hulu thinks different. Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar chose the advertising agency's conference in Los Angeles to do his own riff on Apple Inc.'s "Think Different" campaign.

Instead of saluting "The Crazy Ones" from the memorable TBWA/Chiat/Day ad campaign from 1997 that heralded the rebirth of Apple -- and featured some seminal figures of the 20th century, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Einstein -- Kilar offered his own pantheon of innovators.

Kilar saluted those who strove to do better -- including Walt Disney, who conceived of the idea for Disneyland while sitting on a park bench in Griffith Park, watching his daughters ride a merry-go-round; James Dyson, who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner (and brought a sense of industrial design to the bland household appliance), and Steve Jobs, whose iPhone relegated the rotary dial phones to museum pieces.

"I can think of no bigger inspirations for looking at the world around you and looking for a better way," said Kilar, speaking Wednesday at the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies conference at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

Hulu, said Kilar, strives to bring the same relentless innovation to television. "If we're really on our game people will look back on it and will say, "Wow, I can't believe TV was like that in 2007."
The online television service, which is jointly owned by media giants News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, as well as Providence Equity Partners, brought in $420 million in revenue last year. The site, which features television shows from the current season, attracted some 37.7 million viewers last month.

Kilar articulated his oft-repeated vision for the future of television, saying it will become more personalized (the way Internet radio service Pandora delivers music tailored to a listener's taste) and social.

"TV is one of the most social mediums.... The things people talk about most are the weather and television," Kilar said. "With digital, we should be able to encourage social to the core. It's going to be a big, big deal."

Kilar also highlighted some of Hulu's attempts to re-imagine advertising, including allowing the viewer to choose which ad they'd like to watch, or to skip commercials they don't find relevant. Such efforts increase the viewer's ability to remember the promotions they've watched, Kilar said. "The recall goes through the roof because they're mentally engaged with the ad."

Ed Asner SAG AFTRA merger
Judge tosses out effort to stop SAG-AFTRA merger vote, but leaves open other parts of the lawsuit. A federal judge has a blocked a request for a temporary injunction that would have scuttled a vote on merging the Screen Actors Guild with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Ed Asner, Martin Sheen and Ed Harris were among a group of actors who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last month seeking an injunction to stop SAG from calling for a vote on the proposed merger with AFTRA.

But, as was widely expected, a federal judge denied the request, clearing the way for the unions to count ballots this Friday. The merger would be ratified only if at least 60% of those who vote approve the plan.

“Voting in favor of merger may or may not be in the best interest of the majority of union members,'' wrote Judge James Otero. "But the decision, for better or worse, belongs to the members –- not to plaintiffs, and certainly not to the court.”

The lawsuit alleged that the SAG board breached its fiduciary duties to conduct an actuarial impact study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on health and pension benefits for SAG members. SAG's board overwhelmingly approved a plan to merge with the smaller actors union, arguing that doing so would give them more leverage in negotiations with the studios and end years of turf wars between the two labor groups.

“We are pleased with the court’s action denying the requested injunction and dismissing one of the plaintiff’s major claims in this matter,'' SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said. "We are also gratified that the court has indicated that the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail on their other claims. It has been our position all along that these complaints were completely without merit and that the members will ultimately decide the future of their unions.”

Glenn Close on set in Brooklyn

Photo: Glenn Close on the set of FX's "Damages" in Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y. 
Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / Los Angeles Times

From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest industry news. 

New York Mayor touts NYC production and film incentives. In a bid to further expand film and television production in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with the city’s film commissioner Katherine Oliver are touting the opening of five new soundstages at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The additional stages will add 45,000-square-feet to the studio, which has been home to such movies as New Line Cinema's “Sex and the City” and Universal Pictures' “The Adjustment Bureau,” as well as television series including HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and FX’s “Damages.”

Bloomberg this week also announced the launch of new initiatives to support production growth in New York, including providing $500,000 in grants for digital training programs and a new entertainment component to the city’s partnership with NYU’s Stern School of Business.

"A little over a decade ago, New York City struggled to attract the lucrative production industry to film here," Bloomberg said. "Now the city is such a popular and prosperous home to hundreds of films and television shows, [and] we have to work hard to keep up with the demand for stages and production facilities.”

New York City has enjoyed an increase in production activity in recent years thanks to an expanded film incentive program that provides a 30% tax credit on production expenditures. New York allocates about $400 million a year in funding for the program, four times the level in California.

Last year, 188 films and 140 television series filmed on location in New York City while at least 13 television pilots are expected to shoot there this spring.

“These new soundstages at Steiner Studios will create jobs, and expanding our workforce development programs with new grants will help the next generation of production professionals start their careers on the right track,” Bloomberg said.

Fox Sports is again toying with a national channel
 Photo: The Bengals battle the Texans. NFL football is among the sports that Fox broadcasts nationally. Credit: Al Behrman/Associated Press

Just what we need. News Corp., parent of Fox Sports, is again mulling over a national cable sports channel that could rival Walt Disney Co.'s dominant ESPN. NBC already is trying to battle ESPN with its NBC Sports Network and CBS also has its own sports channel. While Bloomberg said the new service could start as early as late 2012, Fox insiders were downplaying the idea as just something that is being kicked around and may end up going nowhere. Additional coverage from the Los Angeles Times.News Corp.'s Fox is again weighing starting a national cable sports channel to rival Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN juggernaut but there is no guarantee that such an effort will get off the ground.

Fox has toyed with the idea of creating a national sports network for more than a decade. It already owns 20 regional sports networks, including Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles. Its Fox Broadcasting Company has long-term deals for professional and college football as well as baseball and NASCAR.

A Fox Sports spokesman declined to comment on the renewed speculation about a national sports channel, but people familiar with the matter said there are no immediate plans and dismissed a report in Bloomberg that said the new channel could be launched as soon as late 2012. Given how lucrative its regional channels are, Fox and News Corp. executives have for the most part viewed a national network as a luxury item, not a necessity.

Though Fox Sports is an established brand, going after ESPN would not be cheap. ESPN and its various spinoff channels have dominated the cable sports space and spend heavily to lock up rights. For example, ESPN is paying an average of almost $2 billion a season for "Monday Night Football."
NBC's new parent company Comcast Corp. is also looking to compete more aggressively against ESPN with its NBC Sports Network. NBC has the rights to the Summer Olympics in London and will use the games to boost awareness for its channel.

Sports teams and leagues would no doubt welcome another competitor to ESPN because it would mean one more bidder for rights, which could lead to even higher prices.

Consumers, however, may not have the same reaction. Cable sports channels are already among the most expensive sources of programming. ESPN, for example, costs cable and satellite operators more than $5 a month per subscriber, according to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan. (USA Network, for comparison, costs just over 60 cents per month per subscriber.) Much of that cost is passed on to the consumer. If another channel emerges and drives bills even higher, there could be renewed calls that high-priced sports channels should be sold as separate packages instead of being bundled into basic cable service.

"At some point there may be a real move for a la carte programming," warned David Carter, executive director of USC's Sports Business Institute.

Katie Couric will return to morning TV for a week
Photo: Katie Couric with friends. Credit: Philippe Cheng/Sesame Workshop.

Set the alarm clock. Katie Couric will make a brief return to morning television next week when she fills in for Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America." Couric, who was the longtime anchor of NBC's morning news show "Today" before becoming anchor of CBS' evening newscast, is launching an afternoon talk show for ABC's parent Walt Disney Co. this fall. For Couric, the brief return to the morning slot is a chance for her to promote herself and the new show. Wonder what "Good Morning America" would do if the show beat "Today" next week. I know -- highly unlikely. More on Couric's stint from TV Newser.

Welcome back. Katie Couric's not the only big news anchor making a comeback. San Diego's own legendary anchor Ron Burgundy is also returning. Will Ferrell went on Conan O'Brien's TBS show Wednesday as one of his most famous characters to announce a sequel to the 2004 hit. Details from USA Today.

Welcome to Hollywood. Ron Tutor has a big house, a big boat and a big construction business. He also has Miramax, which needs so me construction. The Hollywood Reporter looks at Tutor's Hollywood learning curve.

Who's the fairest of them all? Relativity Media's "Mirror, Mirror" is something of a change of pace for the production company, which is more known for action films than family comedies. Variety looks at Relativity's big bet with its retelling of the "Snow White" story.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Banjo legend Earl Scruggs died at 88.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. It's free entertainment.

Apple Steve Jobs The Crazy Ones - NEVER BEFORE AIRED 1997

Author Reading and Q&A Next Friday

Award winning Las Vegas author H Lee Barnes will read from his most recent book, Car Tag, at 7pm on Friday April 06 in Room K 101 on the West Charleston campus of the College of Southern Nevada.
Barnes is the lead faculty for Creative Writing at the College of Southern Nevada. His short fiction has been awarded the Willamette Fiction Award and the Arizona Authors Association Fiction Award. His novel Gunning for Ho was a finalist for The Texas Institute of Letters First Fiction Award, and The Lucky was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Fiction Award. He was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2009.

CDC: Autism more common than once thought, affects 1 in 88 children

1 in 54 boys have some form of autism.

Statistics from 
the Center for Disease Control 
released this morning.
By Ryan Jaslow
stock, 4x3, daycare, preschool, child care, school, children, youth, toddlers, kindergarten, class 
(CBS News) One out of 88 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the latest estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Complete Coverage of Developments in Autism

Previously the CDC estimated autism's prevalence at about an average of 1 in 110 U.S. children. The new estimate suggests autism is more common than previously thought - about 25 percent more common - and may affect more than one million children and teens in the U.S.

"One thing the data tells us with certainty - there are many children and families who need help," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a written statement. "We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children."

For the CDC's study, researchers looked at autism prevalence estimates from 14 areas in the country. Since every state is not included, the CDC warned the rate "should not be generalized to the United States as a whole." But the data do show that autism diagnoses continue to increase. It's published in the March 29 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Boys are still about five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism in the U.S. than girls, according to the CDC report. It estimated one in 54 boys have autism, while one in 252 girls do. The number of children identified with ASDs ranged from 1 in 210 children in Alabama to 1 in 47 children in Utah. The largest increases were among Hispanic and black children.

Some of this increase may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors is unknown, the CDC said.

Study results from the 2008 surveillance year show more than 11 out of 1,000 8-year-old kids have been identified as having an ASD, about a 23 percent increase since the last CDC report in 2009. Some of this increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors is unknown.

"To understand more, we need to keep accelerating our research into risk factors and causes of autism spectrum disorders," said Dr. Coleen Boyle, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

The study also shows more children are being diagnosed by age 3, an increase from 12 percent for children born in 1994 to 18 percent for children born in 2000. "Unfortunately, 40 percent of the children in this study aren't getting a diagnosis until after age 4," said Boyle. "We are working hard to change that."

The CDC has a "Learn the Signs. Act Early" campaign that provides checklists for parents of developmental milestones. If a child does not reach these milestones, a parent should check with their child's doctor.

"This information paints a picture of the magnitude of the condition across our country and helps us understand how communities identify children with autism," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said in the CDC statement. "That is why HHS and our entire administration has been working hard to improve the lives of people living with autism spectrum disorders and their families by improving research, support, and services."

For 2012, the National Institutes of Health invested $169 million in autism research to improve screening and diagnosis, develop effective services and resources for families, identify potential risk factors in the environment that may cause the disorder, and for testing potential treatments.
The CDC has more on autism.

Complete Coverage of Developments in Autism at

My wife walked into an event wearing a hoodie, with the hood up. Show your pride and support for victims, wear your hoodies up with pride! Profiling has to stop!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Research Links: The Library

Radio Shack and Bad Customer Service

I went to the Radio Shack where I bought a micro cassette and tapes just two week ago. The clerk tries to sell me digital video cassettes. Once I got them to understand I meant audio the clerk tells me "we have not carried that for years." There were full racks at the Boulder City Radio shack when I purchased it to document my PhD interviews.

No I do not need a cell phone.

I went to CVS and Walgreen's. Both had micro cassette players but no tapes on display. No one around to ask for help at either store.

What happened to customer service?

There were additional items I intended to buy, but I walked out in all three cases buying nothing.

Maybe retails should look at their own staff and inventory before they cry about customers going on-line to purchase items.

I did.

It will delay things a few days, but with free shipping...

Five Ways Our Need to Fit in Controls Us

As a society, we Westerners exalt individualism and self-reliance, and yet our biology moves us in other directions. Humans evolved as social animals, and we posses a number of behaviors that motivate us towards group conformity.

The feeling of wanting friends, of desiring a peer group and of needing to feel like we are valuable members of that group is something we all can directly relate to, and we usually experience those feelings as a positive thing. Yet there is a bit of a dark side to our social nature that we might not notice, particularly because so much of its action goes on underneath the level of conscious awareness.

Our biological wiring for group cohesion is so strong that we will do almost anything to fit in, and feel anxiety if we don't belong or if our sense of social standing is low. Here are five proven ways that we bend over backwards to be part of the group, even when we don't want to:

1. We sway to group pressure.
Nobody likes being the odd one out. That's why many of us will agree with the group rather than stand apart, even when we know that the group is wrong. Take the Asch conformity experiments, in which 1950s students were subjected to a mock vision test. The students were placed in a group of fake "participants" and asked to match up images of lines according to their length. These planted participants stated that certain lines matched when they blatantly didn't. When the real participant was asked to match the lines later in the mock test, he or she would mimic the rest of the group, giving an obviously wrong answer in response to peer pressure.

This bending to conform doesn't just happen in experimental settings; everything from teenage trends to political movements utilizes the power of direct peer pressure. Active policing of behavior seen as disruptive to the group has even been observed in chimpanzees. With such strong proscriptions against social upheaval coded in our genes, conformity comes naturally to us. Demonstrating solidarity, whether it's with a particular group or with society at large, marks us as cooperative and predictable group members: an asset rather than a liability.

2. We obsess over broadcasting our status.
When you see somebody decked head-to-toe in designer labels and bling, do you immediately think he has something to prove? Whether its a fast car, an immaculate lawn or a pair of the latest Louboutins, we use these symbols to signal our group status. It's no surprise, then, that studies have shown that when we're reminded of our low place in the social hierarchy and our status feels threatened, we are more likely to buy expensive luxury goods or even to consume higher-calorie foods. The irony is that these unconscious compensatory actions can often indirectly lower our social status by putting us in debt or making us fat.

Among evolutionary biologists, this boasting behavior is known as signalling and is part of selling oneself to potential mates. When the ability to pass on your genes hinges on your place in the hierarchy, status displays become about more than just an ego stroke. Though our ancestors may have been able to show their social status by taking physical risks during a big mammoth hunt, we are left with Ferraris, Hermès and lobster dinners to prove our worth to potential partners.

3. Groups make us stupid.
By their nature, groups can reinforce the roles we have written for ourselves in our heads. Group dynamics can make the shy person withdraw even further and the extroverted person even more outgoing and effervescent. And though many of us consciously dumb ourselves down in social situations for an eventual gain, groups can also insidiously undercut our intellects without our knowledge. For some people, the social cues they receive in group settings can alter the expression of IQ, making them functionally less intelligent. In studies, this was found to be particularly true among women, possibly due to pressure to conform to traditional, weaker gender roles.

A 1996 study subjected Asian-American women to a mathematics test. The researchers found that when the women were first reminded of their ethnic identity by answering a few questions pertaining to being Asian-American before taking the test, they performed better, in accordance with positive stereotypes about Asian-Americans and math. When instead they were reminded of their gender identity beforehand using the same methods, they performed worse, corresponding to negative stereotypes of women and math.

4. We engage in groupthink.
Peer pressure can consciously entice you to change your behavior, but what about those things lying deeper in the psyche? The social milieu in which you exist can also unconsciously shape how you perceive reality itself. A classic example of groupthink in action was how the U.S. military rationalized away any concerns prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Despite ample evidence that the Japanese military was prepping for an offensive attack, the U.S. simply couldn't conceive of the attack being on the United States. The dominant social perception of the invulnerability of the United States colored how its military interpreted information.

Political scientists sometimes talk about groupthink as a spiral of silence, the idea that individuals are unlikely to voice opinions on issues if they feel their opinion is in the minority. As mass media popularizes a certain dominant viewpoint, those who hold contrary opinions will suppress them due to an unconscious fear of becoming isolated as a result of their difference. Groupthink begins to shape not only how these people see the world and those around them, but it can make or break social issues thanks to the sway media has over group opinion.

5. Groups can make you temporarily insane.
So you buy some extra flashy gear, or act a little dumber around cute potential mates. Big deal. You may think that all this social behavior is a bit boring and obvious, but on the far end of group conformity we find a slew of human behaviors that are downright scary, dangerous or even deadly. Consider the mercurial whims of the stock market, and the inevitable pandemonium once a bubble bursts and we scramble to save ourselves. Human "herd behavior" can sometimes veer into extreme, sudden violence like riots and massacres. It may even devolve into genocides like those we saw over the course of the 20th century in Nazi Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda.

If a group feels threatened, it takes frighteningly little to convince its members to turn on its supposed persecutors. In these circumstances, the drive to fit in reaches a point where individual identity itself is almost lost.

If you grew up in the Western world, raised to believe in individuality and free will, these insights may be a little unsettling. It's not so comfortable to realize that we are often compelled to follow social norms subconsciously, despite our best efforts to go our own way. This doesn't mean that we're somehow doomed to strict obedience to a herd mentality, but it does help us to understand why we so often feel anxiety about wanting to fit in and to be an asset to the group. And the good news is that the urge to cooperate, properly directed, can help make society function more effectively.

For more by Michael Taft, click here.
For more on emotional intelligence, click here.
From the Huffington Post (click here)

Magic Johnson Consortium pays Two billion for the Dodgers. Lucky not so lucky for working LA Crews and Background. Modern Family cast makes bank. Lionsgate banks on two hit franchises. Cable networks lose audience and revenue.

The Skinny: I've developed a new drinking game. Take a shot every time someone says "Marilyn" on NBC's "Smash." You'll be hammered by the end of the show. Wednesday's headlines include the sale of the Dodgers to a Magic Johnson-led group, a new deal to bring back CBS's "Two and a Half Men" for a 10th season, and the cast of ABC's "Modern Family" wanting a bigger paycheck. Also, meet Vito Vincent, an actor who's trying to claw his way to the top.

Magic Johnson got the Dodgers
Photo: Magic Johnson. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times. 

From the LA Times and the LA Times Company Town Blog.

He'll have to sell a lot of Dodge Dogs! A group led by Lakers legend Magic Johnson emerged Tuesday night as the new owners of the Dodgers, ending months of uncertainty for the storied but troubled baseball franchise.

Johnson, who guided the Lakers to five NBA championships during the "Showtime" era of the 1980s, is a partner in the group along with longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten and movie executive Peter Guber. The controlling owner would be Mark Walter, chief executive officer of Guggenheim Partners, a Chicago-based financial services company.

Walter and McCourt met privately in New York on Tuesday, coming to an agreement only hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three final bidders.

The winning group paid $2 billion for the team -- a record for a sports franchise -- according to an announcement issued jointly with previous owner Frank McCourt.

"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise," Johnson said in the statement, adding the new owners "intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section."

After taking the team into bankruptcy last year, McCourt had sought to retain control of the parking lots surrounding the ballpark. It was announced he and "certain affiliates" of the new ownership will be "forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million."

Johnson's group will control the parking lots for Dodgers games and work with McCourt on any future development.

In the statement, McCourt said the sale "reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community."

The announcement Tuesday ended three years of turmoil during which the team's performance on the field deteriorated and the front office struggled financially.

McCourt chose Johnson's group over St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and a partnership of hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988, their sixth championship in half a century of O'Malley family ownership. The Johnson group would become the Dodgers' third owner since the O'Malleys sold the team in 1998, following News Corp. and McCourt.

The sale must be confirmed by the court in a hearing April 13. The transaction is set to close by April 30, the same day McCourt must pay his ex-wife $131 million in a divorce settlement.

If the deal closes as expected, the Dodgers would be owned by an entity called Guggenheim Baseball Partners. Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, would run the team.

"Stan Kasten is my man," Johnson told The Times in announcing his bid last December. "He's a winner. He's built two incredible organizations, and he's well-respected. That is what was important to me. I had to get with a winner, a guy who understands baseball inside and out."

The sales price was nearly three times the previous record price for a baseball franchise, $845 million for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

The bulk of the funding to buy the Dodgers came from Guggenheim. Walter is not expected to play a significant role in the day-to-day operation of the Dodgers.

Guggenheim President Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton were also listed as partners.

Johnson, who has built a reputation for community involvement since his playing days ended, would own a small stake in the Dodgers, as would Guber, who is co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Johnson and Guber are partners in the Dayton Dragons, a minor league baseball team that has sold out 844 consecutive games, an ongoing record in U.S. professional sports.

Johnson brought five championships to Los Angeles, marrying sports and entertainment as leader of the "Showtime" Lakers in the 1980s. The three-time NBA most valuable player was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, by which time he had launched a business empire that has included movie theaters, banks, restaurants and film production.

The Daily Dose: Thanks to reality shows such as "Basketball Wives" and "T.I. & Tiny," cable channel VH1 has made gains among African American viewers. However, that's bad news for BET, which like VH1 is owned by Viacom. While BET is still dominant among black viewers, so far this year it has seen its ratings among its key demographic decline as VH1 has made gains. Cable television networks, which enjoyed record growth, are facing a period of declining or divided audiences and far more difficult revenues.

Tough town. Like many struggling actors, he came here in search of stardom. But after some success in New York doing commercials and even a bit part on "30 Rock," Vito Vincent, an orange tabby cat, is finding it's a lot tougher in Tinseltown. The competition is stiffer and even a weight loss program hasn't paid off yet. The Los Angeles Times looks at Vito's struggles to make it big. Hey, Hollywood, I have two tuxedo cats -- one long hair and one short -- available for auditions.

Modern family, old story. The cast of ABC's hit comedy "Modern Family" wants bigger paychecks. The Hollywood Reporter says the majority of the cast makes about $65,000 per episode (Ed O'Neill makes more) and wants $200,000 in their next deal. Of course, their current deals still have a few years to go but the cast sees that 20th Century Fox Television, which makes the show for ABC, has already sold reruns to USA Networks. Typically, studios will renegotiate early in return for the cast agreeing to extend their deals for a few more seasons.

Winning! While the cast of "Modern Family" figures out how to get more money, CBS is getting closer to a new agreement with Warner Bros. to bring back the comedy "Two and a Half Men" next season. There are lots of complications having to do with Warner Bros.' rerun deals, as well as a new contract for Ashton Kutcher, who wisely signed only a one-year deal when he agreed to replace Charlie Sheen. Details from TV Guide and Variety.

All in the family. Cable operator Cablevision Systems Inc., which primarily services the New York City area, has gone through a lot of turmoil over the past several months. While many key executives have left, including Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge, one executive has risen up -- Kristin Dolan, wife of Chief Executive James Dolan. The Wall Street Journal looks at the drama at Cablevision and how Wall Street is reacting.

Rumble at the bike rack after school. Fans of "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" should be able to find common ground, but instead they bicker over who's the bigger dork. I mean, they argue over which is the better franchise. It's all good for Lionsgate, the studio behind "The Hunger Games" and the new owner of Summit Entertainment, which makes the "Twilight" movies. More on the battling fan bases from USA Today.

Stage used for filming HBO's 'Luck'

Photo: Workers rebuild part of a stage at GMT Studios in Culver City as the set of the HBO show "Luck" is dismantled. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

HBO Canceling "Luck" Deals a Big and Very Personal Blow to Production Community. Some uprooted their families to relocate to Los Angeles. Others recently bought houses or signed long-term leases and were banking on at least 10 months of steady work to pay down their debts. Many had turned down higher paying jobs to work for two of the top creative forces in the business -- Michael Mann and David Milch, executive producers of the HBO TV series "Luck."

Two weeks after HBO announced its sudden decision to shut down production of "Luck" in the wake of three horse fatalities, those who worked behind the scenes on the weekly TV series were grappling with the harsh realities of suddenly being out of work in a tough job market. "Luck" employed about 180 crew members, 23 actors with regular and recurring roles, 20 weekly or day player actors, in addition to dozens of extras.

Many local prop houses and vendors that had supplied services and equipment to the HBO series also lamented the demise of one of the higher-profile shows filming in Los Angeles at a time when fewer dramas are shooting locally because of competition from New York and other states.

Although TV shows are often canceled, it’s rare for one to be scrapped in the middle of production, especially after it has been ordered for a full season, as was the case with "Luck." When HBO halted production, it was filming just the second episode of the second season for “Luck,” the low-rated racetrack drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.

“This is the only time in our history that we've done this and we don't take this decision lightly,'' said Michael Lombardo, president of programming at HBO. "It has some real costs in terms of dollars and in terms of the emotional costs. The fact that people made life decisions based on their expectation of employment for a 10-month period was not insignificant to us.”

Lombardo declined to say how big a financial toll this took on the network, cast and crew. To help cushion the blow, the Time Warner Inc.-owned cable network is setting up a fund to assist affected crew members, Lombardo said. “We have asked producers to put together a list of people on the crew who are in a challenging life circumstance because of this decision so we can figure out a way to make the landing a little bit more comfortable.”

Mann said he feels responsible for many of the crew members, several of whom had worked with him on other films and TV shows.

“We've got folks who relocated from New York to L.A. and committed themselves to one-year leases and now don't have a job,’’ Mann said. “You're talking about hard working men and women who are carpenters, assistant camera operators, sound editors, location managers, in a community where there is not a lot of production."

The shutdown was especially difficult because of the strong bonds formed on the set, Mann said.
“There was a unified spirit," said the director of such movies as “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Public Enemies.” “Every time you walked on the set you couldn't help feeling that everyone wanted to be there. A lot of folks had given up higher paying jobs to work for 'Luck.'”

The timing couldn’t be worse for Peter Clarke, prop master on “Luck,” whose wife is about to give birth any day.

“I’m concerned about how I’m going to make rent in four weeks,’’ said Clarke, a veteran prop master. “The job market is pretty lean right now. I can’t pick up and move to Louisiana because we’re about to have a baby.”

Production designer Tim Grimes moved from New York to Los Angeles last year to work on “Luck.”  Grimes, who rents an apartment in Hollywood, was making good money -- about $3,600 a week -- on the show, but most of that was going to pay off debts. After the first season ended, he had to collect unemployment benefits because work in L.A. was so sporadic.

“We were thinking we would be paid until December and having the carpet pulled from underneath us was the biggest blow,’’ he said.

James Kent, set decorator on "Luck," moved from western Massachusetts to Los Angeles last year to join "Luck." He said the shock of the show’s cancellation was compounded by anger over how crew members have been depicted. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "wanted to make us look like villains,’’ he said. “We were all very proud of the show and protective of the animals.”

"Luck’s" closure was felt far and wide in Los Angeles because the series filmed and spent heavily throughout the region, mainly at Santa Anita Park, but also at such locations as the Beverly Hilton, Hustler Casino in Gardena, Rod’s Grill in Arcadia and Marina del Rey.

HBO executives would not disclose the budget for “Luck,” but people who worked on the show said it was among the more expensive local TV dramas, spending about $140,000 per episode on prop rentals and purchases and set construction alone.

Among the beneficiaries was GMT Studios in Culver City, which rented three soundstages for “Luck.”
“The entire production community is hurting because filming is going out of state and this was one big show that was pretty substantial,’’ said Frank DiPasquale, president of GMT Studios. “They had a contract to be here till the end of October. It was definitely a setback for us.”

"Luck" was also a boon to the Santa Anita racetrack, which generated $10,000 to $20,000 a day in site fees from the series. About 75 people who work at the track earned extra income working as riders, gate guards and extras.

“It’s a big blow to us and something I don’t think we’ll be able to replace any time soon,’’ said Peter Siberell, director of special projects for Santa Anita Park.

 Inside the Los Angeles Times: The Dodgers have been bought for $2 billion by a group led by former Laker great Magic Johnson, the Times looks at the story form many points of view. Two Billion seems like a lot of money until the team strikes a new TV deal. The abrupt cancellation of HBO's "Luck" is a big blow to the Los Angeles production community. Production company Legendary Entertainment ("The Dark Knight") has raised nearly $250 million in new financing.

-- Joe Flint and friends.

Follow me on Twitter. You'll learn something.
From the LA Times and the LA Times Company Town Blog.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Believe me...College Courses Can Change Your LIfe

You were prophetic three years ago. Your class was the changing point in my life.

-Gordon Greco
Casino Executive
Think Thank Participant

'October Baby' Tells A Story Hollywood Wouldn't

First-year college student Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) goes on a road trip in search of her birth mother after she learns she was adopted following a failed attempt at an abortion.
Lovell/Fairchild Communications First-year college student Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) goes on a road trip in search of her birth mother after she learns she was adopted following a failed attempt at an abortion.

October Baby tells the story of 19-year-old Hannah, a first-year college student, who leaves home on a search for her birth mother. In many ways, it's a Hollywood-style road trip movie dealing with questions of identity, but at the movie's core is also a vigorous message about abortion.

In one scene, Hannah tracks down a nurse who worked at the health clinic where her birth mother had sought an abortion — one that failed when Hannah was born prematurely.

The aggregate product coming out of Hollywood is something that can be deeply offensive to people like myself, and I think Christians have sat back. ... Now we're realizing instead we need to engage, and we need to make quality work.

Voice trembling, the woman tearfully tells Hannah, "When you hear something enough times, somehow you start to believe it. It was tissue, that's what they told us. It was tissue that couldn't survive. Nonviable tissue."

October Baby has been endorsed by conservative groups including Focus on the Family, and it's just the latest addition to a genre of movies with Christian themes that has exploded recently.

One film, Courageous, dealt with fatherhood, and it became the top-selling DVD earlier this year.

Director Jon Erwin helped with that film, and he also co-directed October Baby with his brother Andrew. He tells Morning Edition's David Greene why he thinks Christian films are resonating.

"No. 1," Erwin says, "I think that the values that we hold dear as Christians are immensely appealing — things like sacrifice and virtue and honor and destiny and things like that. ... I think when they're presented correctly, they're appealing to everybody."

Erwin says another reason is that Christians are again engaging with the arts as a faith community.
"If you think about art and faith, there was a time that Michelangelo worked for the church," Erwin says. "And there's been this bond and this link between art and faith, and somehow, I believe that in the past few decades, we've lost that."

Erwin sees re-engaging with the arts as a way Christians can reach people and — because he believes the values being presented are good — as an effort that can only benefit people's lives.

An Alternative To Hollywood
Erwin hasn't found much success working with Hollywood. When he recently spoke at an October Baby screening at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Erwin said so a little more bluntly, arguing that Christians didn't feel very welcome in Hollywood's movie community.

October Baby co-director Jon Erwin speaks to lead actress Rachel Hendrix.
Lovell/Fairchild Communications October Baby co-director Jon Erwin speaks to lead actress Rachel Hendrix.

Erwin says October Baby is an entertaining film, but also one that makes you think — and he thinks pretty much everyone who rejected October Baby did so out of fear.

"I think a lot of the Hollywood studios were simply afraid to engage this issue and afraid that there wasn't an audience or whatever," Erwin says. "What we've seen with October Baby is there's a massive audience for this issue. There [are] a lot of people passionate about the sanctity-of-life issue."
The film is being marketed in some cases directly to churches that hold screenings around the country.

While the timing of October Baby's release may suggest that the film is trying to raise social issues in an election year, Erwin says it wasn't intentional.

"We made the movie to be released last year," Erwin says, "but unfortunately we could not find distribution. ... I certainly didn't plan it that way, but if it works for a higher purpose, I guess that's great."

Having found an audience that Hollywood didn't expect the film could have — October Baby grossed $1.7 million in its opening weekend — Erwin says there could be a sort of culture war developing in moviemaking now, between those who feel welcome in Hollywood and those who have been drawn to movies like October Baby in the past few years.

"Certainly, a lot of the values that are portrayed in entertainment are not values that I was raised in," Erwin says. "I was raised in the South in a Christian home and family, and I can't speak to the whole Hollywood community. ... I do think as a rule, the aggregate product coming out of Hollywood is something that can be deeply offensive to people like myself, and I think Christians have sat back and we've complained a bit. And I think now we're realizing instead we need to engage, and we need to make quality work."

Another Perspective — From Inside Hollywood
Paul Bond covers the intersection of religion and film for The Hollywood Reporter. He says a new crop of Christian filmmakers is revisiting themes that captured audiences long ago.

More and more, Hollywood is not shutting the door down on these Christian films because they see that the profit margin is there.
"The popularity has always been there," Bond says. "If you recall back to The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, The Sound of Music — back in the '50s and '60s — these are some of the most profitable of all time, if you adjust for inflation, so the market has always been there."

Bond says Hollywood might have forgotten about that for a while, at least until 2004's The Passion of the Christ. The budget of that Mel Gibson-directed movie was $45 million, and it earned over $600 million.

Bond says that Hollywood is currently in a state of tension about representing Christianity.

"Some people in Hollywood think that they represent the mainstream," Bond says, "and there [are] other people in Hollywood who know that they don't represent the mainstream. It's not a monolithic community."

Bond acknowledges Hollywood's reputation as being very liberal.

"If you dissect the political messages in most Hollywood films where there is a political message," Bond says, "it's a left-leaning political message. Look at all the children's films, for example, where the rich guy is always the bad guy, where the environment is always being despoiled by the American military or the American rich guy, and audiences aren't stupid — they see these messages in there."

So, on one hand, many Hollywood moviemakers prefer left-leaning messages. But Bond says Hollywood hasn't missed what's happening with Christian films — and executives are seeing dollar signs. Both Fox and Sony have already set up separate divisions to produce Christian films.

"More and more, Hollywood is not shutting the door down on these Christian films, because they see that the profit margin is there," Bond says. "And push comes to shove, they're still making a lot more money on Hunger Games and Twilight — but they do recognize there's a great profit margin on these small Christian films where you can make them for a couple million and they bring in $20 million. That example right there is 10 times your production budget — and that's almost unheard of in Hollywood."

As Bond puts it, Hollywood doesn't like to leave money on the table, so he says to expect a lot more Christian films coming to theaters soon.

From NPRs Morning Edition (click here).

Romney changes his rhetoric on mandatory health care

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week on, among other things, whether the 2010 health law can require most Americans to have health insurance starting in 2014.

The so-called individual mandate is the centerpiece of the law, and the conventional wisdom says the rest of the law will crumble if it is found to be unconstitutional.

The idea behind the mandate is to ensure that enough healthy people buy insurance to allow the government to require something much more popular — that insurance companies sell policies to people who have pre-existing health conditions.

Perhaps it's ironic that one of the most articulate spokesmen for the individual mandate is someone who is currently campaigning for the repeal of the federal health law — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While he wants the federal law overturned, he does still back the mandate in the law he signed as governor of Massachusetts.

"If someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care," Romney said in a debate in Jacksonville, Fla., in January. "So we said no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached."

So it is that Romney, currently campaigning to repeal the health care law, openly supported mandatory payment for government backed insurance as recently as two months ago.

Source: NPR and AP

Don McMillan: Life After Death by PowerPoint

Facts and observations on health care and what Americans want

When people shout "we" and "Americans" are they aware of whom they are actually representing?

The numbers are clear and consistent.

So why is political rhetoric and political reporting ignoring established American ethics, beliefs and preferences, as supported by numerous valid scientifically done surveys over time?

73% of Americans feel that the government should be involved in our health care.

53 % of Americans are for the Health Care Reform Act (Obamacare) according to numerous surveys by competing firms, including political pollsters and such companies as Pew Trust, Gallop and AP.

37% of Americans oppose the Health Care Reform Act passed two years ago under President Obama.

10% of American still say they prefer a single payer mandate where the government is the insurance broker over mandating individuals to buy from insurance companies.

67% of Americans say that ending pr-existing conditions as a reason to be denied health care or to charge beyond an individuals ability should remain a part of the law, as it is in the National Health Care Act (Obamacare).

27% of Americans say that the government should not be involved in health insurance or health care.

Emergency rooms are mandated to care for patients who come in regardless of insurance or cost.

Doctors are mandated by their oath and law to care for patients, although they are not mandated to take care of elective surgery or non-immediate needs.

Taxpayer dollars, increased insurance premiums and 

Despite strong rhetoric by political parties, preferences have remained stable and a true reflection appears to be favorable for mandate health care. The disagreement is how and to what extent. Should insurance companies be the only providers of health care insurance? Is it unconstitutional for a government to mandate you have health insurance? Who covers the cost of the uninsured? Have we shifted to the side of those who applauded and shouted wild support when a presidential candidate was asked if we should just let the uninsured die? Are we our brothers keepers? Or are is is every man and woman for themselves?

Among the false claims or diversion balloons floating by both sides in the health care debate are:

Obama is the reason health care cost are going up so quickly.
The government is driving up heath care cost to force us to become a socialist society.
There will be no health care cost increases if we have a single payer system.
The government will pay all of my health care costs.
Doctors will be forced to not treat you if under the Health Care Reform Act.
Insurance companies will have to do what the government tells them to do.
The Health Care Reform Act has "death panels."
Medicare will end if we overturn the Health Care Reform Act.
I pay for my medicare and social security.

Again, these are false claims now widely believed to be true by those of a certain political leaning.

So many half truths, slogans, and so much emotion is behind the issue on both sides that it is hard to look at things through a clear lens.

There will be increases in costs for doctors, but with them come gains such as fast access to patient records, faster payment by insurance companies, greater choice for patients of which insurance to buy (doctors are free to provide advice in this area).

It will cost insurance companies money to meet the mandate, but over time profits will remain high and no investor will suffer.

There are programs to help those who cannot afford health care to purchase insurance.

Most of the provisions of Obamacare have yet to take effect. This was written into the bill by congress and in many cases because transition time is needed for private enterprise to function and continue to profit in the health care fields.

There are Americans denied health care insurance due to pre-existing conditions beyond their control (birth, accidents, genetics, and so on) or who can get insurance by paying many times more than other Americans despite limits their potential earning through their conditions, age or other forms of discrimination.

Many employers have dropped health care or greatly reduced what is covered by insurance due to the skyrocketing cost of insurance which began over three decades ago, long before Obama took office.

Feel free to add to this, rebut it or contribute links.

Thank you in advance.