Saturday, October 3, 2015

TRUMP: Victims of the Oregon community college shooting would've been 'a hell of a lot better off' if the teachers were armed

Donald Trump

Donald Trump says he believes questions about rampant gun violence in America have already been answered.

Days after a student killed nine people inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College in southwestern Oregon, the Republican primary front-runner says the answer to mass shootings like these is as simple as arming teachers.

“It was a gun-free zone,” Trump said, referring to the community college in Roseburg, Oregon.

While talking to a crowd Saturday at a campaign stop in Franklin, Tennessee, Trump said, “I tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or someone with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.”

Trump has often made clear his position on gun rights since he announced his presidential campaign nearly four months ago.

“I’m a big Second Amendment person," the real-estate mogul said in July. "I believe in it so strongly.”

He has said that taking guns away from “the good people” means the “bad ones are going to have target practice.”

A similar argument — that the unarmed victims of mass shootings are somehow indirectly responsible for their own deaths — gained traction among some lawmakers after the South Carolina church shooting in June, in which nine people were killed.

In a CNN interview days after the shooting, South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley ® said, “These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot … somebody in there with the means of self-defense could have stopped this.”

Umpqua ShootingAs the number of mass shootings stack up, the collective response among some lawmakers has remained the same: that tougher gun laws are not the answer.

GOP presidential candidate, Marco Rubio (R-Florida), declared at a town hall meeting in Iowa on Friday that there’s “no evidence that gun laws would prevent these shootings.”

The last meaningful legislation on the issue — a 2013 bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales — never made it through Congress.

Since the beginning of 2015, there have been nearly 300 mass shootings in the US.

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Guatemala mudslide leaves 56 dead, hundreds still missing

Rescuers take part in the search for victims in the village of El Cambray II, in Santa Catarina Pinula municipality, Guatemala, on October 3, 2015 after a landslide

Santa Catarina Pinula (Guatemala) (AFP) - At least 56 people were killed in massive mudslides that buried scores of homes on the outskirts of Guatemala’s capital city, officials said, amid fears the toll could climb sharply.

Julio Sanchez, a spokesman for firefighters who are leading the search for survivors, told reporters that several young children, including newborn babies, were among the dead in Santa Catarina Pinula.

Sanchez said 350 people were still missing, raising the prospect that the number of people who perished in the disaster could rise much higher.

The death toll has steadily risen in the day and a half since heavy rains triggered the mudslide.

Thursday night, waterlogged earth and debris tore through the village of El Cambray II, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, destroying or damaging 125 homes.

At dawn Saturday, rescue workers, police, soldiers and volunteers began a second day of clawing away at the debris with picks and shovels.

Two firefighters were injured later in the day when a wall collapsed as they were trying to extract a body from the rubble.

Nearby, relatives of the missing checked in at a makeshift morgue set up next to the buried homes.

Municipal authorities had urged the community, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) east of the capital Guatemala City, to relocate several times, most recently in November of last year.

“We can’t live here any more,” Carlos Hernandez, an electrician who survived the landslide lamented as he stepped between rescuers with his few remaining belongings on his shoulder.

- ‘There was nothing’ -

The destruction had been sudden and decisive.

“I went on an errand for my mother and when I returned there was nothing,” Carlos Ac, 17, told AFP. He was still waiting for word about his missing mother and seven siblings.

In gray denim trousers and a black coat – now the only clothes he has – Ac said his family had come from the city of Quetzaltenango, approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west of the capital, to sell tortillas.

Alex Lopez, 44, called his ex-wife and daughters as soon as he heard of the landslide. “It rang. But there was no answer,” he told AFP.

Saturday, he was waiting for the body of his ex-wife and had already been given those of his two daughters, aged 21 and 22, and his two-year-old grandson.

Some authorities have said hundreds remain missing. Families have reported receiving text messages from people they believed to still be trapped.

The impact of the heavy rain was exacerbated by a nearby river, officials said.

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Playoff pulse: Alabama not fading away; Ohio State escapes

Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) celebrates with Geno Matias-Smith (24) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) after intercepting pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Athens, Ga. Alabama won 38-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Facing the possibility of being out of the playoff picture five weeks into the season, No. 13 Alabama announced it is far from finished.

Facing the possibility of being upset in Indiana, No. 1 Ohio State wiggled out of a tight spot to keep its winning streak going. Whether it was good enough to keep the Buckeyes in the top spot remains to be seen.

The first Saturday of October was dominated by huge conference showdowns and ranked vs. ranked matchups that will start to shape the College Football Playoff race. Alabama looks as if it is going to be part of that picture for a while.

The Crimson Tide (4-1) rolled into No. 8 Georgia knowing another loss would be devastating to its national championship hopes and ran right over the Bulldogs, 38-10.

Two weeks after people were asking whether Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide was a fading dynasty, Alabama put together maybe the most dominant effort by any team this season in game that was very much suited to its preferred style. Sure Alabama’s offense has stepped into the spread, up-tempo age with offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. But Alabama is still power at heart, both on offense and defense. Georgia is, too, but the Bulldogs were no match for Derrick Henry, Reggie Ragland and the Tide.

While Alabama looked great, the pressure isn’t off the Crimson Tide. That loss to Mississippi doesn’t disappear off the Tide’s resume. ‘Bama still needs some help just to win the SEC West and cannot afford another loss.

Hoping to reach the final four with two losses and no conference championship is a long shot. The Tide have plenty of tough SEC tests left, but considering the way Alabama responded facing maybe its biggest obstacle, you have to like its chances.

As for Georgia, technically the loss wasn’t devastating for its playoff hopes. If the Bulldogs win out and win the SEC, and their schedule sets up relatively manageable the rest of the way, they could reach the College Football Playoff. But after that performance, it’s hard to imagine Georgia easily righting itself. The Bulldogs might be going back to square one in its search for a quarterback who can lead them to a title.

Poll voters might be searching, too, on Sunday. Who should be No. 1 in the country after the Buckeyes’ great escape from Bloomington, Indiana?

Ezekiel Elliot had three long touchdown runs in the second half, but Ohio State turnovers kept Indiana (4-1) in it right to the end — even with a backup quarterback and backup running back leading the Hoosiers offense. A bad snap blew up Indiana’s final play on fourth-and-goal and the Buckeyes (5-0) won 34-27.

Ohio State 2015 is starting to look like Florida State 2014. Much like last year, the defending champions have been far less than dominant. But they are unbeaten. The winning streak is now 18 in a row, but you have to wonder if the Buckeyes will be No. 1 on Sunday in the AP Top 25.

If not the Buckeyes, then who? No. 2 Michigan State (5-0) needed a late stand to hold off Purdue 24-21 at home. No. 3 Mississippi was playing No. 25 Florida in the Swamp and the early returns were not good for the Rebels.

No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Baylor both won huge. What about No. 6 Notre Dame, playing No. 12 Clemson at soggy Death Valley?

The opinions that matter most won’t be revealed for another month. The first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings come out Nov. 3.

Winning ugly was fine for Florida State last year because the Seminoles won them all until the semifinals. Ohio State will likely be afforded the same courtesy. As would pretty much any team from a Power Five conference.

There is plenty of time clear some things up. Or make them even more muddled. Probably the latter.


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‘The Martian’ is basically ‘Cast Away’ in space — and that’s a great thing

the martian matt damon

There’s a moment toward the latter half of “The Martian” where Matt Damon faces the camera. Staring back at the audience is a scrawny, ragged shell of a man with a haggard, overgrown beard.

His character, astronaut Mark Watney, has spent over 400 days alone on Mars on a rationed diet desperate to get back home to Earth.

It’s difficult not to flash to an image of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated role in 2000’s “Cast Away.”

Replace the arid desert surface of Mars with a deserted island and “The Martian” is essentially “Cast Away” in space, but with slightly less emotional trauma and no volleyball (unless Wilson is a potato covered in Matt Damon’s fictional excrement. We’ll get to that in a bit.)

the martian cast away

“Cast Away,” from Fox, which is also releasing “The Martian,” earned Hanks an Academy Award nomination for best actor.

“The Martian,” based on the 2011 best-selling novel by Andy Weir, certainly puts Matt Damon in the running to do the same.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know the basic premise: Damon stars as the cocky and confident astronaut Mark Watney, who’s left on Mars after a dust storm causes his team to abandon their mission on the red planet early.

Watney’s left behind because his crew thinks he’s dead. They’re wrong.

mark watney matt damon the martian

The odds are stacked against him.

He doesn’t have enough food to survive. He has a limited supply of water. Oh, and the next NASA mission to the planet won’t arrive for four years.

There’s no way this guy’s going to make it, right?

And that’s what you tune in to watch for two hours and 21 minutes: One man’s struggle and persistence to do the impossible and see whether or not he will make it home.

You’re hard pressed to do anything but root for Watney as he’s determined to find an answer to every problem thrown his way to survive. You say Mars can’t grow food? Watney’s botany skills will teach you a thing or two about growing 400 potato plants using your own excrement as a fertilizer. Can’t phone home? Watney finds a workaround that would make E.T. impressed. Want to stay warm? Nothing a piece of plutonium can’t handle.

the martian botanythe martian plant lifeThe audience becomes his own personal cheerleader, stressing out whenever he has a setback and letting out a big sigh of relief when he’s out of danger. Myself and other audience members were cringing, wincing, and gasping several times throughout the film.

It’s a fine return to the director’s chair for Ridley Scott, whose recent films ”Exodus: Gods and Kings“ (2014) and ”Prometheus“ (2012) have garnered mixed criticism at the box office.

A scene early on brings to mind Scott’s 1979 classic “Alien” as Damon pulls an “alien” object out of his body. For the squeamish, it can be difficult to watch.

If “The Martian”  sounds a bit bleak to watch, it’s not.

Don’t worry you’re not tuning in to watch a guy slowly die over the course of two hours.

This isn’t Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013’s “Gravity,” which found Sandra Bullock lost in space.

Watney’s witty persona keeps the film lively. Whether through numerous expletives scattered throughout the film to vent his frustration with the Red planet or if he’s jamming out to the only music he can find — disco, courtesy of his commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) — Watney keeps a good sense of humor throughout the film.

matt damon the martian

It probably helps that unlike Hanks’ Chuck Noland, who was stranded on a desert island, Watney has the means of figuring out how to communicate with those back home to help keep him going and to keep him sane.

While the film is very much dominated by Damon, he’s supported by a remarkably large star-studded ensemble: Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara (who is basically the same character she was in ‘Fantastic Four,’ minus superpowers), Sean Bean, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, and Donald Glover.

Yeah. That’s a lot of names. 

Though the film puts them all to use, some of them feel like glorified cameos. Peña is there for little more than comic relief, similar to his role in this summer’s “Ant-Man.”

Wiig and Glover’s roles in particular are short-lived, too, but memorable nonetheless in a few of the film’s more lighthearted moments, including a fun nod to “Lord of the Rings” fans will appreciate.

the martian donald glover

But perhaps that’s not to overshadow Damon. Without a doubt, this is his film.

And then there’s Mars, which looks gorgeous.

Jordan’s desert Wadi Rum, known as The Valley of the Moon, fittingly stood in for the Martian planet. The desert is a popular destination to film movies depicting Mars.

the martian 20th century fox

However, to call “The Martian” simply a thriller or a space movie about Mars would be incorrect.

The film isn’t just about Watney’s personal mission to get home, but also the lengths with which people go to bring him home, and that’s what sets it apart from genre films “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” 

Those guys are basically on their own. “The Martian” is this decade’s “Cast Away,” but if “Cast Away,” took place in a world that was constantly plugged in and online.

A few other things worth noting:

The film’s biggest obstacle

the martian

Not well versed in science? Good luck getting past its scientific and mathematical jargon. I was scratching my head, and I’m sure general audiences will, too.

Thankfully, it’s somewhat limited, but even Michael Pena’s character Rick asks his astronaut comrade Beth (Mara) at one moment to translate her geek speak to English.

If you haven’t read the book, wait to pick it up until after the movie.

You’ll get much more out of the movie. As an experiment, I saw it without having read the book because colleagues on my science team, who have read the book, saw the film ahead of me. (You can read Kelly Dickerson’s take on the film here.)

Reading the book beforehand would have made it more difficult to root for Watney’s character if I knew the book’s ending. Stress-inducing moments wouldn’t have been as frightening or unexpected had I seen them coming.

“The Martian” or “Interstellar”?

matt damon matt mcconaughey the martian interstellar

People have asked me what movie is better: “The Martian” or Christopher Nolan’s space epic “Interstellar,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

"Interstellar" serves as an aesthetic masterpiece, a modern day “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which was made as a love letter to his daughter. It is, essentially, a father-daughter film. “The Martian” plays like a love letter to science and scientists and humanity. “Interstellar” is a movie you would only want to watch in theaters on the big screen to appreciate Nolan’s love of shooting on IMAX. “The Martian” will be a film rebroadcast on cable for years to come.

See it in 2D

the martian dust storm

“The Martian” will be released in both 2D and 3D. I saw the film in the latter format, and other than making you feel like you’re in a dust storm that occurs at the start of the film, it didn’t add much to the overall experience. You can probably stick to 2D on this one.

“The Martian” is the ultimate story of not giving up in the face of a challenge. It’s a call to action, and an inspiring one at that.

As Watney’s character states in the film, at some point in your life, everything will go south. You have two choices: You either accept what obstacles life gives you and throw in the towel or you can solve the problem.

That’s advice anyone could heed.

You can see “the Martian” arrives in theaters October 2.

Check out the trailer below.

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