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Monday, February 13, 2012

Your Tuition at CSN may be going to UNR

Putting the Squeeze on Community Colleges


While President Obama talks about ballooning tuition costs across the nation, the Nevada System of Higher Education is trying to resolve some problems of its own.

At issue is the school funding formula, which is based largely on enrollment. Southern Nevadans complain UNLV receives less money in the budget than it produces for the state. Northern Nevadans say that’s no reason to go changing things.

Chancellor Dan Klaich has proposed a new plan to solve these imbalances. His intention is good—to encourage a school’s excellence rather than its mere existence. But it appears the plan would leave community colleges, such as the one where I teach, scavenging for the big boys’ leftovers. This is a problem when the College of Southern Nevada has the highest enrollment in the state.

One step appealing to universities and community colleges alike is enabling institutions to keep the tuition and fees that usually go to the general fund. College students help subsidize other programs when the governor and Legislature take an ax to their schools.

Under the new system, the cost of courses would guide funding. This would benefit universities and courses with labs and expensive equipment as opposed to liberal arts courses that help students understand the political process and how to think. It means more money for upper-division classes and less for the lower-division classes where students prepare for more advanced studies and training.

Funding would also depend on graduation rates, as Klaich recently told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “Right now, we are an input-based model. We fund on enrollments … We should be an output-based model.”
Output means graduates. Schools will get more money when they graduate more students. But, as several professors and administrators warned, this model could cause grade inflation and a collegiate form of social promotion.

Under the new model, universities would likely raise admission standards and possibly cut lower-division offerings. Community colleges would, then, have to do more remediation for at-risk students. And—since many of those students wouldn’t graduate—they’d have to do it with less money.

Even the best students often take classes at a community college not to get their associate’s degree but to retool specific skill sets or to prepare to transfer to a four-year program. Why force them to obtain a degree they neither want nor need if they will get a more advanced degree later? If an outstanding student could move to a four-year university after one year at CSN (i.e., without graduating), this system would encourage me to discourage the student from moving up. That’s haywire.

Klaich’s approach admirably seeks to force Nevada, especially Las Vegas, to change its culture and truly support education. Our appallingly low high school and college graduation rates reduce wages and revenues. Unfortunately, this would try to solve the problem at the level of output rather than input. The real problem is how our children are raised, the K-12 system and how educational institutions operate at all levels. And changing funding models isn’t about to fix that.

Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. Follow his latest political observations at

Faces of Change: Emily's Health Care Story

Product placement gets the red carpet treatment

A scene from the 2011 action film "Fast Five" features a prominently placed Apple computer. Apple won website Brandchannel's award for Overall Product Placement at the Product Placement Awards.

Apple the best at placement, but they do not pay for it. Their product is used and sometimes provided free to the set for "use" behind the scenes and on-camera.

Kai Ryssdal: Watch any movie today, and you shouldn't be surprised to see the occasional brand pop up here and there. Some, of course, are worse than others. But imagine a movie without a recognizable car model, or a computer whose make you can't name. Come on. It ain't gonna happen. The web magazine Brandchannel tracks product placement and brand cameos in each of the year's top films. And their annual Product Placement Awards, which came out today at, lists the year's winners. Abe Sauer writes the awards for Brandchannel. And he joins us now. Hey Abe.

Abe Sauer: Good to be here.

Ryssdal: All right, so before we get to the big winners, tell me how you guys figure out who the winners are?

Sauer: For the last decade we've been watching each one of the No. 1 films at the box office each weekend and tracking all of the identifiable brands and product placements in each one of those films and then adding to a searchable database by brand, film, year, and everything.

Ryssdal: Do you actually have to like go to the movie theater and sit there with a pad and a pencil?
Sauer: Absolutely. It's sometimes awkward because people wonder what you're writing about and you're by yourself. This last week I went and saw "The Vow" by myself with a notebook. That's kind of creepy.

Ryssdal: It's a fun date, man. All right, so who are the winners? Roll it out for us.

Sauer: The No. 1 product that appeared in more of the U.S. top films last year than any other was Apple.

Ryssdal: Shocking. Shocking.

Sauer: Yeah, Apple appeared in almost twice as many No. 1 films as did the nearest brand.

Ryssdal: Now let me ask you this: Other than tapping into the, 'Oh my gosh, everybody loves Apple' zeitgeist, why do producers want Apple or Ford or whatever it is in their movie?

Sauer: Well there's a number of reasons. First, Apple has a very good... They don't pay for product placement, but they have a very good system.

Ryssdal: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. I thought the whole thing about product placement was that companies paid movie producers to use their stuff?

Sauer: I think that's what everybody thinks. But the vast majority of product placement, actually, there's no money changing hands really I would say. Apple has a good infrastructure for getting products to sets so that people can use it for free, so I guess Apple does pay in the sense that they supply free product. But the truth is a lot of products are used as shorthand in development for characters on-screen in ways that audiences don't always see. When you put a man in a 911 Porsche in a movie, it usually means he's a jerk.

Ryssdal: Remind me never to buy a 911.

Sauer: Look at "Bridesmaids." In "Bridesmaids" this last year, he drove a Porsche and he was a jerk. And usually you will find that. Screenwriters and filmmakers use product as short-hand for character development very often.

Ryssdal: Is there a way to figure out, then, how much this is worth to Apple or whoever else it is?
Sauer: Valuation is still a hard thing to do in the industry, and there are different systems to do it. We worked this year for the first time with a group called Front Row Marketing and they came up with some big numbers. "Mission Impossible" for example, the value of the Apple product placement in that film was over $23 million.

Ryssdal: Wow.

Sauer: And it spent more than five minutes on the screen all put together throughout the film.

Ryssdal: And of course, it's not like Apple needs another $23 million.

Sauer: Well, I mean that's the thing. Here they're getting free placement and they don't have to advertise. That's $23 million of, kind of, advertising value that they get.

Ryssdal: Abe Sauer, he writes the Product Placement Awards for the website Abe, thanks a lot.

Sauer: Thank you very much.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy. Follow Kai on Twitter @kairyssda

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'

Twentieth Century Fox’s film follows the 16th president as he battles undead villains.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Poster Art - P 2012
Honest Abe has some cold, hard truth to share with a whole bunch of vampires in the first trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Century Fox released the first official trailer for the film based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s book by the same name.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and produced by Tim Burton, the film follows Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), who is not only dealing with all the true-life problems of the Civil War, but also an increasing number of blood-hungry vampires.

The trailer starts out with a silhouette of a top-hat clad Lincoln standing in a forest. But then things get crazy. There’s fire, fighting and some sort of chase on top of a speeding train – which is rolling along on a burning bridge. Young Lincoln also seems to be quite handy with an axe, as emphasized by the last shot in the one minute, 20 second trailer.

A shot of a tombstone seems to emphasize the emotional tie that the 16th president has to the undead foe. The monsters are responsible for the death of his family members.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - Official Trailer (HD)

Mark your Calendars to attend the Dam Short Film Festival 2013

2013 Festival Dates

Feb 13, 2012
2013 Festival Dates
Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2012 Dam Short Film Festival awesome!

We try to move fast around here, and so we’re already announcing the dates for next year. The 2013 Dam Short Film Festival will take place February 6th through February 9th, 2013, in historic Boulder City, Nevada. The dates for submissions will be announced soon.

We can’t wait to see you all again!

Apple First Tech Company to Join Fair Labor Association...Almost all US electronics are made in Chinese Factories including Foxconn

Apple: Fair Labor Association To Audit Foxconn, Other Suppliers

Responding to recent concerns about the labor practices at its suppliers, Apple this morning said the non-profit Fair Labor Association will conduct “special voluntary audits” of the company’s final assembly providers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu. The audits are at Apple’s request.

Apple said a team of labor rights experts including Fair Labor Association President Auret van Heerden began the inspections this morning at Foxonn’s facility in Shenzhen.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,”Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”
Apple said the FLA “will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management.” FLA will “inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.”

Apple said its supplier “have pledged full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations.” The group will post their findings on its website in early March. Apple said that similar inspectations will take place at Quanta and Pegatron facilities this spring.

From Forbes (click here).

Have we sunk this low?

littlegreenfootballs.comI don't even know what to say about this any more. There's a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston's death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism: Singer Whitney ...
"When even one American, who has done nothing wrong, is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril." ~ Harry Truman.

Building "Windows 8" - Video #1

Time to start thinking about what you need to learn for speeches and exams...

Grammy News You May Not Have Seen. Taking The Vow. More Headaches for Fox's Murdock and News Corp. BAFTA backs The Artist.

The Skinny: This Morning Fix is being done on the road as my WiFi is down. I have faith that the good people at Time Warner Cable will get to the bottom of this soon enough. In the meantime, just admire the lengths I go to get you your headlines. Monday's news includes recaps of Adele's big night at the Grammys, a look at the weekend box office and more headaches at News Corp.'s British tabloids.

Adele cleaned up at the Grammys
Photo: Adele cleaned up at the Grammys. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press.

The Daily Dose: I caught the Grammy Awards on a flight from New York to Los Angeles last night (thank you, Jet Blue). As has become habit, I played my favorite game of count-the-network-promos. The flight landed just before the final moments, so my tally is not official. That said, CBS must be doing very well financially to give up so much inventory for promos. There were at least 26 plugs for its shows on a night when the commercials were going for well over a half-million dollars for a 30-second spot.

Rumor has it. Adele was the big winner at Sunday night's Grammy Awards, taking home six trophies. The British singer also knocked the crowd out with her performance of "Rolling in the Deep." Other winners included the Foo Fighters and Kanye West. The show was bittersweet as it came just a day after the death of troubled singer Whitney Houston, who was memorialized several times during the telecast. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Billboard.

Keeping the Grammy's Safe. At the Grammy Awards Sunday night, performers including alternative-country duo Civil Wars, jazz artist Diana Krall and British singer Adele will take to the stage, along with the reunited Beach Boys and more than a dozen other musical acts.

Working behind the scenes to make sure that nothing goes wrong is Paul Holehouse, entertainment risk consultant for Fireman's Fund Insurance Company.

Paul Holehouse Fireman's Fund Grammys
Holehouse, a former safety executive at Universal Studios, visits sets of movie and TV shows as well as big events like the Grammys to identify potential risks and avoid accidents that can cause injury, losses and delays.

"My job is to coordinate with them [the producers] and make them comfortable that any liability issues are addressed ahead of time so they can do their show without any concerns,'' said Holehouse, 63.

This week he was busy meeting with representatives of John Cossette Productions Inc., which is producing the Grammys, and with rigging crews and fire department officials, to review plans for the two-hour show to be held at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles and telecast on CBS.

"There's a whole spectrum of things we look for, from slip and fall hazards, to stunt effects, evacuation plans and the rigging on stages," Holehouse said.

At the 2010 Grammys, Holehouse was responsible for ensuring that Pink's high wire act, in which she twirled in the air wrapped in silk scarves while fastened to a harness, went off without a hitch.

In addition to the Grammys, Holehouse also worked on the halftime show at the Super Bowl, the popular music festival Lollapalooza and scores of TV shows and movies. In fact, Fireman's says it insures 80% of all films in the U.S., and 60% of all reality shows, providing coverage for everything from props and sets to actors who don't show up on set because of a death or illness. The company also issues so-called film completion bonds, which are guarantees that a film will be completed on schedule and on budget.

The Vow was the No 1 film at the box office this weekendTaking the vow. Looks like the girls were controlling the box office, as the romance movie "The Vow" beat expectations and took in $41.7 million on what was basically Valentine's Day weekend. Coming in a close second was "Safe House," which made $39.3 million in its premiere. Overall, box office was up 30% compared with the same weekend a year ago. No word yet on whether chocolate sales also spiked. Box-office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News. Moviegoers fell head over heels for "The Vow" this weekend, as the romantic drama posted the biggest opening of the year.
It was a record-breaking non-holiday weekend at the box office, as four films each debuted with well over $20 million in domestic ticket sales. "The Vow," starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, collected an impressive $41.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. The action thriller "Safe House" also beat expectations, starting off with a strong $39.3 million. The sequel "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" also far exceeded industry projections, grossing $27.6 million, while a 3-D re-release of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" took in a respectable $23 million.

As a result of the robust ticket sales, weekend receipts were up 30% compared to the same period in 2011.

"The Vow" opened well above Tatum's last romantic picture, "Dear John," a movie based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks that debuted with $30.5 million around Valentine's Day in 2010. That picture, also from Screen Gems, was previously the film label's biggest opening ever -- a record "The Vow" shattered this weekend.

Financed by Spyglass Entertainment and Screen Gems for about $30 million, "The Vow" is about a woman trying to fall in love with her husband again after suffering amnesia due to a car crash. Audiences liked it, giving it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. (Moviegoers responded more positively to "Safe House" and the 3-D "Journey 2," which each earned an  A-.)

The movie appealed mostly to women, as an overwhelming 72% of the audience was female.  It helps that one of the film's stars is a heartthrob;  young women have been buzzing about Tatum online for weeks.

"Safe House" marks the second-highest opening ever for star Denzel Washington, behind his 2007 hit "American Gangster," which launched with $43.6 million. In the 57-year-old's latest film, which also stars Ryan Reynolds, Washington plays a rebellious CIA agent who heads to South Africa on a mission. The movie attracted a slightly older crowd, 62% of whom were over the age of 30. Also, 38% of those who saw it were black and 31% were white.

Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent around $85 million to produce "Safe House," and they could rake in even more overseas than in the U.S and Canada. Internationally, "Safe House"  debuted with $10.2 million from 25 foreign countries this weekend. It has yet to open in a number of major markets abroad, including France, Germany and Japan.

A sequel to 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," the second "Journey" film was financed by Warner Bros.' New Line division for about $79 million. The original debuted with $21 million and ultimately brought in about $100 domestically and $140 million overseas.

In "Journey 2," Dwayne Johnson replaced actor Brendan Fraser as the franchise's lead star. (Fraser dropped out of the sequel in 2010 because it was not being directed by the filmmaker behind the original, Eric Brevig.) Apparently, that was good for New Line, as 45% of those who saw the film this weekend said Johnson was the No. 1 reason they chose to attend.

The movie -- about a stepfather (Johnson) who goes on an adventure to try to find a secret island with his son ("The Hunger Games" star Josh Hutcherson) -- did well on 3-D screens. Of those who saw the picture, 74% opted to do so in 3-D.

It was a good weekend for 3-D films, as audiences proved they're still willing to shell out a few extra bucks to see movies in the pricier format. 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's updated version of "Star Wars: Episode I" is the latest 3-D re-release to fare well at the box office, following the success Walt Disney Studios had recently reissuing two of its classic animated titles in 3-D.

Filmmaker George Lucas has converted six "Star Wars" films in 3-D and hopes to release them in chronological order, though Fox said on Sunday that no release plans for the next installment were official yet.

Of the four films that debuted this weekend domestically, "Journey 2" is doing the most robust business overseas. The film has been playing internationally for about a month, and this weekend collected $25.5 million, bringing its tally abroad to $74.7 million. This weekend, the film opened in China and performed well there, grossing an estimated $9.5 million.

Meanwhile, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" this weekend surpassed the original film's ultimate international gross. The original brought in $315 million overseas, while the sequel has now raked in $320 million abroad. The film has yet to conclude its international run, as it still has to open in Japan.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office this weekend, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and 
1. "The Vow" (Sony/Spyglass): Opened to $41.7 million. $9.7 million overseas in 20 foreign markets.
2. "Safe House" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $39.3 million. $10.2 million overseas in 25 foreign markets.
3. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" (Warner Bros.): Opened to $27.6 million. $25.5 million overseas in 29 foreign markets. International total: $74.7 million.
4. "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" (Fox/Lucasfilm): Opened to $23 million. $20.5 million overseas in 87 foreign markets.
5. "Chronicle" (Fox): $12.3 million on its second weekend, down 44%. $6.1 million overseas in 35 foreign markets. Domestic total: $40.2 million. International total: $23.4 million.
6. "The Woman in Black" (CBS Films): $10.3 million on its second weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $35.5 million.
7. "The Grey" (Open Road): $5.1 million on its third weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $42.8 million.
8. "Big Miracle" (Universal): $3.9 million on its second weekend, down, 50%. $400,000 overseas in four foreign markets. Domestic total: $13.2 million. International total: $750,000.
9. "The Descendants" (Fox Searchlight): $3.5 million on its 13th weekend, down 23%. $7.8 million overseas in 43 foreign markets. Domestic total: $70.7 million. International total: $57.1 million.
10. "Underworld: Awakening" (Sony/Lakeshore): $2.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 55%. $8.7 million overseas in 52 foreign markets. Domestic total: $58.9 million. International total: $71.1 million.]

Going for the gold. Lots of athletes take home medals during the Olympics, but its been tougher lately for NBC, the home of the Games, to have a lot to celebrate after the torch goes out. While the Games can still get ratings, profits are another story. NBC lost over $200 million on the 2010 Winter Olympics and is now hoping to avoid a repeat performance with the Summer Games in London. The New York Times checks in on how ad sales are going for the network.

More headaches. Anyone who thought the ethics scandal at News Corp.'s British newspaper unit was starting to die down might want to think again. Over the weekend, more reporters and editors from News Corp.'s tabloid the Sun were arrested. It's not just hacking into phones anymore either. The latest busts have to do with paying off cops for information. Couldn't they just schmooze them with a beer like the rest of us? The latest on the arrests from the Guardian. Also, the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal asks whether the new developments will once again lead to calls for the company to unload its newspaper business, which is low on profits and high on headaches. Finally, if you missed it, here's Sunday's New York Times story about how a 2008 email could play a huge part in determining how high within News Corp.'s executive ranks the scandal will reach.

You don't say. "The Artist" continued its steady march to a big Oscar night by cleaning up at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards. The silent movie won awards for best film, director and screenplay. Yes, silent movies have screenplays too. A recap of the BAFTAs and what the show means for the Oscars from Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: An appreciation of the late great Whitney Houston. And Jennifer Aniston dug for some loose change under her couch and bought a new home in Bel-Air that was listed at almost $25 million.

— Joe Flint

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