Musicians Pay Tribute To John Williams On The Composer’s Lawn

It’s hard to underestimate just how important composer John Williams’s music has been to the history of cinema. His iconic film scores for E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, Superman, Schindler’s List and the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter film franchises are some of the most recognizable compositions of the past century. To pay homage to this musical genius, 13 year-old-trumpeter, Bryce Hayashi, and flugelhorn player Michael Miller stood in front of Williams’s Los Angeles-area home and played the main theme from Star Wars for him.

While some celebrities might have a big problem with being disturbed in their own home, Williams graciously came out to greet the two musicians for a chat. It was a wonderful gesture by Williams because the 84-year-old composer has a lot of work on his plate. In addition to recently completing the scores for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Steven Spielberg’s recently-released The BFG, Williams has signed on to do the eighth and ninth installments of the Star Wars franchise as well as the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film.

Update: This article originally appeared on ​July 18, 2016.

Gateway Grizzlies player hits grand slam, smashes his own truck

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SAUGET, IL (KTVI) – You might call it the grand slam heard by many but felt by the fellow who dealt the crushing blow.

Sunday night at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Illinois, Brandon Thomas hit a homerun that broke the window of this 2008 Toyota Tundra parked in the parking lot.

He also happens to own that truck.

‘When I hit it I knew I got it,’ says Brandon Thomas, Center Fielder. ‘I just wasn`t sure it was going to be fair long enough. But it stay fair long enough.’

That`s right, the glass shattering smash to this truck owned by Brandon Thomas came at the hands of, none other than the truck`s owner, Brandon Thomas.

Sam Levitt/Gateway Grizzlies: ‘I mean, the things that have to line up for that to happen,’ says Sam Levitt, Gateway Grizzlies Broadcaster. ‘He has to hit the ball to that spot. He has to be turned around the right way.’

In a playoff hunt against a Joliet team that`s leading their Frontier League division, the Gateway Grizzlies were down 3-0 in the second inning when Thomas took matters into his own hands, hitting the grand slam and leading the team to an eventual 17-6 win.

‘I didn`t really realize it at the time,’ adds Thomas. ‘But the chances of something like this happening in that situation it can`t be too high.’

Soon the blast that shattered the windshield of the man who hit the blast that shattered the windshield began to break its way into it becoming a social media sensation.

Call it kismet or cruel sandlot luck that landed Brandon Thomas` home-run ball back at his own truck.

‘You know it wasn`t a little crack like down here, ` says Thomas. ‘You know, that`s some pretty good damage. So at least I know I hit it pretty good.’

Well, he`ll always have the windshield repair bill to remind him.

Republicans are using an obscure bill to quietly erode the separation of church and state

With media attention focused on the national debate raging over health care, it would be easy to ignore the spending bill quietly making its way through the House of Representatives. Such proposals often dwell in the largely mundane machinations of the federal government, and technical disputes over its complicated provisions can fly under the radar.

But if you care about the separation of church and state, this year’s bill might be worth paying attention to.

Tucked deep inside more than 200 pages of text is a tiny provision, recently added by the House Appropriations Committee, designed to defang the so-called Johnson Amendment — a section of the tax code that bars churches (a broad legal term that includes most faith groups) and other tax-exempt nonprofits from explicitly endorsing political candidates.

In its current form, the bill would effectively defund attempts by the IRS to take action against churches who violate the amendment by engaging in explicit political action. Any movement on the issue would necessitate a 90-day waiting period and require agents to notify two congressional committees and get sign-off from the head of the IRS. Nonprofits that lack a faith affiliation, meanwhile, would still be beholden to the amendment.

This isn’t the first attempt to hobble the statute. President Donald Trump has promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, and weakened its enforcement in an executive order he signed back in May. The move, in turn, was celebrated by Religious Right leaders who have long championed repealing the provision as part of their “religious liberty” agenda, arguing it inhibits their free speech.

But experts say the GOP-led effort may be about something else, as the law is almost never enforced to begin with. Instead, the impetus for repealing the Johnson Amendment — especially quietly — may have less to do with ‘religious liberty’ and more to do with using religion as a means to create a new form of political power.

Repealing the Johnson Amendment is a solution in search of a problem
The debate over Johnson Amendment is relatively new, but the law has been around for more than half a century. Inserted into a 1954 tax bill by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson, the provision prohibits nonprofits — both faith-based and others — from endorsing candidates or being explicitly partisan in their work. Groups that violate the ban risk losing their tax-exempt status.

The law went largely unchallenged for decades. In recent years, however, conservative (especially evangelical Christian) leaders have drummed up opposition to it, arguing it detrimentally impacts faith-based institutions. Since 2008, the right-wing group Alliance Defending Freedom has organized “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” in which more than 1,000 pastors deliver political sermons and mail recordings of their remarks to the IRS, daring them to take action. The effort appeared to crescendo earlier this year: In February, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act in the House, which would strike down amendment.

But while the IRS has sent sternly worded letters to churches that preach partisan politics from the pulpit, experts say only one church — Church at Pierce Creek in Conklin, New York — is known to have lost its tax-exempt status for violating the provision over the past three decades. After a lengthy legal battle, the church was punished for taking out a full-page ad against Bill Clinton in USA Today during his 1992 campaign for president. (In a twist, the church was represented by one Jay Sekulow — who now serves as one of President Trump’s many lawyers.)

“There have been very few organizations that have lost their exemption…The typical answer was to slap people on the wrist. There’s a real problem when the answer is ‘you lose exemption’ — the IRS would look for any way it could get around making that choice.”

“There have been very few organizations that have lost their exemption,” Philip Hackney, a LSU law school professor and the former IRS attorney, told ThinkProgress. “The typical answer was to slap people on the wrist. There’s a real problem when the answer is ‘you lose exemption’ — the IRS would look for any way it could get around making that choice.”

Hackney listed several possible reasons why the IRS doesn’t expend more energy cracking down on violations. The agency likely doesn’t have enough staff and resources to prioritize the issue, for example, and generally considers such violations to be a small problem. The bar for enforcing the rule is also unusually high: Investigating a church requires approval from high-level IRS officials, which Hackney said makes the process “very costly.”

Another equally important factor, however, is the threat of political blowback.

Most religious Americans don’t want more politics in their pulpit

Not a single major U.S. religious denomination supports it.

“There is a real danger to enforcing a provision on churches, particularly one that is such a salient issue on so many people,” Hackney said. “It’s politically problematic [for the IRS commissioner]…there is a natural tendency, because of the danger of touching this, to not do a ton of enforcing.”

Indeed, the IRS has faced political strife over similar disputes in the past. In 2013, the agency was accused of unfairly targeting conservative Tea Party groups for audit during the 2012 election.

“It’s politically problematic [for the IRS commissioner]…there is a natural tendency because of the danger of touching this to not do a ton of enforcing.”

Meanwhile, the exact number of churches investigated by the IRS remains a well-kept secret. When ThinkProgress asked IRS officials for data on churches or faith-based nonprofits who have been audited or had their tax-exempt status revoked for violations of the Johnson Amendment, they demurred. Spokespeople argued revealing such information would violate various tax laws. (Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, for example, prohibits the IRS from disclosing returns or return information.)

The IRS seems to have been less concerned about such laws in 2008, however, when the agency released a report on the “Political Activities Compliance Initiative” conducted under the George W. Bush administration. An alleged copy of the report, pointed out to ThinkProgress by Loyola University Chicago school of Law professor and issue expert Sam Brunson, reported that the IRS investigated 44 churches (in addition to other nonprofits) for violations of political action in the 2006 campaign season, but only sent four “written advisories” for “political intervention.” None appear to have been audited or stripped of their tax-exempt status.

The report appears to have been posted on the IRS website in 2008 and has since been referenced in several academic articles on the subject, but links to the document were seemingly scrubbed from around 2014 — shortly after the Tea Party targeting scandal.

The IRS has yet to respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the veracity of the report or why it has gone missing from their website.

Allowing churches to endorse candidates is really, really unpopular
Although Trump and a few conservatives have championed repealing the Johnson Amendment as something of a legislative Holy Grail, you’d be hard pressed to find many Americans who would say the same.

Why? Because the idea is wildly unpopular, including among faith groups.

A 2016 PRRI poll found that not only do 71 percent of Americans oppose allowing churches to openly back politicians while maintaining their tax-exempt status, but majorities of every major American faith community also feel the same way. White mainline Protestants, Catholics, and black Protestants all reject the idea in sizable numbers, as does the group whose leadership keeps pushing it anyway: 56 percent white evangelical Protestants oppose further politicizing their pulpits, according to the poll.

Some faith groups are even actively lobbying against a Johnson Amendment repeal. In April, 99 faith groups — including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Episcopal Church — sent a letter to Congress speaking out against “any effort to weaken or eliminate protections that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.”

“They’re doing this through a budget bill because they don’t think people notice budget bills. As a supporter of democracy … something this important deserves to be debated in public.”

The Los Angeles Times also published an editorial statement on Tuesday accusing Republicans of “engaging in stealth tactics” to gut the provision, which they say “could violate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.”

Groups like the Center for Inquiry — which pushes for a more secular society “based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values”— have also been working to draw attention to the GOP’s actions. “They’re doing this through a budget bill because they don’t think people notice budget bills,” Nick Little, the Center for Inquiry’s legal director, told ThinkProgress. “As a supporter of democracy… something this important deserves to be debated in public.”

Nevertheless, the issue remains a focus of groups like ADF, who have incorporated activism around the Johnson Amendment into a larger fundraising strategy.

“As a practical matter, the ADF has found this issue to be very salient,” Brunson told ThinkProgress. He pointed to ADF’s website, which flanks its Pulpit Freedom Sunday page with donate buttons.

Churches as havens for “dark money?”
If the Johnson Amendment is almost never enforced — a fact acknowledged even by groups like ADF — and is deeply unpopular with the American public, then why repeal it?

Granted, Trump and Republican lawmakers would likely be showered in praise from the Religious Right if the provision gets passed. But the real drive may be about something else: money.

“There are groups, often among the evangelical right, who want to funnel large sums of money to political candidates,” Nick Little said.

As The Atlantic’s Emma Green pointed out last year, repealing the Johnson Amendment could prove catastrophic to political transparency efforts. If faith groups are allowed to retain their tax-exempt status but act in political ways, an individual may be more likely to contribute to a church or house of worship (which is tax deductible) than a political campaign (which isn’t tax deductible).

According to Philip Hackney, this tactic might quickly run into legal challenges, as other provisions of the tax code prohibit receiving deductions for political activity. But he added that churches still might play “fast and loose” with legal definitions.

“There are groups, often among the evangelical right, who want to funnel large sums of money to political candidates,” Little said.

And both Little and Hackney pointed to a larger issue that could arise in the absence of the Johnson Amendment: The influx of so-called “dark money” — political funds whose sources remain undisclosed — into churches. Churches are not required to publicize their large donors, meaning an individual could pump money into a church during an election cycle without ever having to make their donation public. The difference between a church and a Super PAC — neither of which are beholden to finance laws used to reign in campaign donations — would effectively vanish.

“You could have unlimited dark money flowing to a campaign if this gets passed, and there is nothing the IRS could do about it,” Little said. “They would be getting a double benefit.”

Sam Brunson was slightly less concerned about the potential impact of dark money, saying there are other parts of the tax code that would prevent a church from spending most of its money or time on political activities. The exact parameters of that hypothetical limit are a bit unclear, he said, but he doesn’t expect an “apocalypse” of dark money to overtake churches.

Still, Brunson acknowledged the Johnson Amendment helps protect faith communities that would prefer to remain apolitical, insulating them from political entities who could entice them with deep pockets. And even if dark money only has a limited impact on campaigns, he said, politicized megapastors with large churches in swing states could still turn the tide on Election Day.

“It probably doesn’t cost a church anything for a pastor to preach a sermon,” Brunson said.

The piece has been updated to clarify that Church at Pierce Creek’s lawyer was Jay Sekulow, now Trump’s lawyer.

Bryan Cranston says Power Rangers movie is almost unrecognizable from the TV show

Last month it was announced that Bryan Cranston is to play Zordon in Lionsgate’s upcoming Power Rangers movie, and the actor has been discussing his casting in an interview with The Huffington Post. Cranston – who provided voice work for the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – revealed that he was initially reluctant to join the project, fearing that it would have a similar tone to that of the TV show, but was convinced after seeing how they plan to reimagine the beloved franchise for a new audience.

“At first I was, to be honest with you, I was reticent to looking at the role because I remember the television series was kind of farcical and silly and ‘pow’ and ‘zow’ — weird movements and things like that. I was like, ‘Oh, OK,’” said Cranston. “I wasn’t really high on it until I talked to the producer and read the script and talked to the director. After that I went, ‘This is different.’ This is as different a reimagining as the Batman television series as it became the Batman movie series. You can’t compare those two, and nor can you compare this movie version of the Power Rangers to that television series. It’s unrecognizable for the most part. There are tenets of the folklore that you hold onto for sure, but the inspiration is different, and the sensibility of it, and the approach to the film making is completely different.”

“I don’t know if the tone is as dark as [The Dark Knight Trilogy] because you’re dealing with teenagers,” he continued. “So the appropriateness of that, and real teenage life, and going through high school and the cliques and the popularity or lack thereof, and the bullies and all the different sections and sub-sections of high school life, and the insecurities of these kids and things like that — hopes and dreams — and you embrace all of that into a retelling of the Power Rangers. And what you would get is this new version, this new reimagined version.”

So, Power Rangers fans, are you looking forward to this reimagined version of the franchise? Let us know your thoughts on Cranston’s comments below…

Power Rangers is set for release on March 24th 2017 and will star Becky G as the Yellow Ranger, Ludi Lin as the Black Ranger, Naomi Scott as the Pink Ranger, Dacre Montgomery as the Red Ranger, R.J. Cyler as the Blue Ranger, Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston as Zordon.

Woody Allen To Write Weinstein Scandal Movie Directed By Roman Polanski

AS Women in the creative industries of America continue to come forward to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment, a leading team of Hollywood filmmakers has vowed to tell the moving story of an abhorrent abuse of women, by men in power.

“The flood of stories emanating from across the world in the wake of the Weinstein allegations shows us the unprecedented scale of what many knew already,” explained co-producer of the film, Benjamin Balero.

“And when we sat down to think about it, without consulting anyone, there just isn’t anyone else who could possibly suit a project like this more than these two titans. This industry owes it to itself to tell the story of how many people ignored this behaviour”.

Producing under the Male Gaze Films banner and backed by investment firm Mens Capital, legendary scribe and director Woody Allen will pen a script set to be directed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist director Roman Polanski.

“To be able to pool the immense talents of these guys, and tell a story that really needs to be told, it’s an honour. We’re going to give a voice to these women,” confirmed one of the film’s backers Jonathan Kerridado.

“It’s great, and I can’t wait to get it out there. Any women I’ve shown it to really respond to it, including my daughter-wife and when I showed them the script, they also liked that too,” Allen shared with movie site MenOnMovies.

In exchange for securing additional funding, the as yet untitled movie will have to be filmed entirely in China and minor changes to the source material will see the harrowing tale centre around a man who is wrongly accused of sexual harassment despite overwhelming evidence he is guilty.

Hallmark releases Christmas movie lineup for 2017

The Hallmark Channel has announced it’s “Countdown to Christmas” lineup of new movies for 2017. There are 34 new movies, and they start before Halloween on the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Here is the schedule:

  • Sat. Oct. 28 – Marry Me at Christmas
  • Sat. Nov. 4 – Christmas Festival of Ice
  • Sat. Nov. 4 – The Perfect Christmas Present
  • Sun. Nov. 5 – Miss Christmas
  • Sun. Nov. 5 -Christmas in the Air
  • Sat. Nov. 11 – The Sweetest Christmas
  • Sat. Nov. 11 – A Song For Christmas
  • Sun. Nov. 12 – Enchanted Christmas
  • Sun. Nov. 12 – Engaging Father Christmas
  • Sat. Nov. 18 – Coming Home For Christmas
  • Sat. Nov. 18 – Christmas Homecoming
  • Sun. Nov. 19 – A Gift to Remember
  • Sun. Nov. 19 – A Bramble House Christmas
  • Wed. Nov. 22 – With Love, Christmas
  • Thur. Nov. 23 – The Mistletoe Inn
  • Fri. Nov. 24 – Finding Santa
  • Sat. Nov. 25 – The Christmas Train
  • Sun. Nov. 26 – Switched For Christmas
  • Sat. Nov. 26 – A Joyous Christmas
  • Sat. Dec. 2 – Christmas in Evergreen
  • Sat. Dec. 2 – Christmas in Angel Falls
  • Sun. Dec. 3 – Christmas at Holly Lodge
  • Sun. Dec. 3 – The Magical Christmas Ornaments
  • Sat. Dec. 9 – Christmas Encore
  • Sat. Dec. 9 – The Christmas Cottage
  • Sun. Dec. 10 – The Christmas Shop
  • Sun. Dec. 10 – Karen Kingsbury’s Maggie’s Christmas Miracle
  • Sat. Dec. 16 – Father Christmas
  • Sat. Dec. 16 – Unbridled Love
  • Sun. Dec. 17 – Christmas Connection
  • Sun. Dec. 17 – Reindeer Games
  • Sat. Dec. 23 – Christmas Getaway
  • Mon. Dec. 25 – When Calls the Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree
  • Sat. Dec. 30 – A Royal New Year’s Eve

Hallmark is also airing one-hour preview specials of Christmas movies on October 21 and 22 to get you prepared for the holiday films, and the first movie starts October 27.

You can see the full lineup with more details here

Study Finds That Men Who Attack Women Online Are, Literally, Losers

A new study purports to show what we all could have guessed: Men who attack women online are actual losers.
A pair of researchers examined interactions between players during 163 games of Halo 3 to determine when men were most likely to exhibit sexist, anti-social behavior toward their female peers.

According to the study, which was recently published in the journal PLOS One, men who were worse players than their peers tended to hurl more nastiness at female gamers. On the other hand, men who knew their way around the console were nicer to male and female players.

The researchers say the findings support an “evolutionary argument” that low-status men with low dominance have more to lose and are therefore more hostile to women who threaten their status in the social hierarchy.

“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank,” researchers write.

The findings also support the growing body of anecdotal and research-based evidence that women face harsh blowback when they enter into and thrive in male-dominated corners of the Internet.
As the Washington Post points out, however, the study does not offer any solutions on how to solve the issue.

Scientists Reveal Mysteries on the Night Side of Venus

Credit: ESA

scientists have studied clouds and wind on the night side of Venus and they have found that it is very different from the day side.

That info comes from ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, which entered orbit around Venus in April 2006 prior to being crashed into Earth in December 2014.

We already knew that Venus has a bizarre super-rotation, where its winds can rotate 60 times faster in the world. However, it appears that on the other hand, this procedure is even more chaotic than on the day side.

“This study challenges our current understanding of climate modelling and, particularly, the super-rotation, which is a vital phenomenon found at Venus,” said Håkan Svedhem, ESA Project Scientist for Venus Express, in a announcement.

This mosaic illustrates the atmospheric super-rotation at the upper clouds of Venus. While the super-rotation is present in both day and night sides of Venus, it seems more uniform in the day (AKATSUKI-UVI image at 360 nm, right side), while in the night this seems to become more irregular and unpredictable (composite of Venus Express/VIRTIS images at 3.8 µm, left). Credit: ESA, JAXA, J. Peralta and R. Hueso

The team found that night side clouds form large, irregular patterns, dominated by waves that seem to stand still in the air, called stationary waves. In January this year, a huge stationary wave was seen on Venus from the Akatsuki spacecraft, stretching for over 10,000 km (6,200 miles).

They discovered they did not proceed with the air, an unexpected discovery that was later verified by Akatsuki.

Stationary waves are considered to form over mountainous or other high-elevation areas. Weirdly though, in this information static waves were missing in the intermediate and lower cloud levels, up to approximately 50 km (31 miles) above the surface.

“We expected to get these waves at the lower levels because we see them at the top levels, and we believed that they climbed up through the cloud in the surface,” co-author Ricardo Hueso of the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, from the announcement. “It is an unexpected result for certain, and we will all need to reevaluate our versions of Venus to explore its significance.”

Akatsuki is continuing to orbit Venus, so it could have the ability to shed some light on some of the bizarre things happening with the planet. With the passing of Cassini now, Venus is currently one of just 3 planets apart from Earth — the others being Mars and Jupiter — that have a human spacecraft in orbit.

Scientists Just Teleported an Object Into Space for the First Time


Scientists have successfully teleported an object from Earth to space for the first time, paving the way for more ambitious and innovative breakthroughs.

A group of investigators in China delivered a photon in the floor to an orbiting satellite over 300 miles over through a process called quantum entanglement, based into MIT Technology Review. It is the farthest distance analyzed up to now from teleportation experiments, the investigators said. Their work was published online on the open access website arXiv.

For about a month, the scientists beamed up millions of photons in their ground station in Tibet into the low-orbiting satellite. They were successful in over 900 cases.

“This work establishes the initial ground-to-satellite up-link for loyal and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an important step toward global-scale quantum Web,” the group said in a statement, based on MIT Technology Review.

The MIT-owned magazine described quantum entanglement as a “strange phenomenon” that happens “when two quantum objects, like photons, form at exactly the exact same moment and point in space and thus share the same existence.” “In technical terms, they are described by exactly the exact same wave function,” it stated.

The most recent development comes nearly a year after physicists successfully ran the world’s first quantum teleportation out of a lab. Scientists at the time decided quantum teleportation, which is frequently portrayed as a futuristic tool in science-fiction movies, is actually possible.

Jackie Chan Has Not Seen His First Stunt Team In Decades.Then Realizes They Are All Standing Behind Him

Jackie Chan Stunt Team surprises Jackie on 王牌对王牌

[English Sub] Jackie Chan Stunt Team surprises Jackie on 王牌对王牌 S2E01 20170120 Highlights

To combine the Jackie Chan stunt team your skills must be exceptional. You also need to make a good deal of personal sacrifices, which the members show in an emotional tribute video for Jackie as he takes his award on stage.

Jackie has not seen his first stunt team in years, the men who followed him when no one knew his name. Watch what happens when Jackie realizes they are all standing behind him.