Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) unveiled the first cast of actors for its highly anticipated “The Lord of the Rings” streaming television series on Tuesday, including two “Game of Thrones” veterans, and said production would begin in New Zealand next month.
Among the 15 cast members are the British actors Robert Aramayo, who portrayed a young Ned Stark, and Joseph Mawle, who played Benjen Stark on HBO’s medieval fantasy hit “Game of Thrones.” Others coming to “Lord of the Rings” include British theater actor Owain Arthur, British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi, Australian actor Tom Budge, British actress Morfydd Clark, and Slovak-American actress Ema Horvath, the company said.
“After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series,” showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said in a statement.
“These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors, they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle-earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide,” they added.
The TV adaptation will explore new storylines preceding author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first installment in the famed fantasy trilogy set in the fictional land of Middle-earth.
Amazon announced the cast at a Television Critics Association event where TV networks preview upcoming shows.
The series still has a “few key roles left to cast,” said Vernon Sanders, Amazon’s co-head of television.
The company did not reveal details about the roles the actors would play or the storyline.
Bong Joon-ho,“Parasite”’s director, said he was overjoyed when his film won six Oscar nominations. This is the sign that language is no longer a barrier to global success.
“Parasite,” a dark comedy about the vast gap between the rich and poor in South Korea, snagged a coveted best picture nomination, best director for Bong, and best screenplay in addition to its best international feature nomination.
“Every time they announced the new nominations, it was so thrilling, because we didn’t really anticipate any of this,” Bong told Reuters Television in an interview in California.
Bong had previously discussed the challenges of international films breaking the “language barrier” around the world, but said the nominations suggest those barriers may now be falling.
“We can say that thanks to the internet, social media and these streaming services, the entire society is experiencing less of these language barriers and perhaps ‘Parasite’ benefited from that global trend,” he said.
In a video shared online by film distributor NEON, one of the show’s stars, Song Kang-ho, manages to not spill a cup of coffee as he and others in the room excitedly celebrate.
“The sign you’re a global superstar: You don’t spill your coffee when your film is nominated for Best Picture,” the company said.
Kwak Shin-ae, the CEO of the production company, Barunson E&A, said she was delighted by the first Oscar best picture nomination for a South Korean film but disappointed Song did not get a nod for an acting category despite the crucial role he played in the film.
“Being nominated for more than just the foreign language film category is meaningful because it means the film transcended language and nationally to communicate in the universal language of cinema,” she said.
South Koreans, many of whom have watched the movie more than once, were also proud to share the honor.
“I was so happy to hear that in the morning Parasite was nominated in many categories for the Academy Awards and I hope the film will make good results,” said Bae Young-sil, 62, who was with friends to watch another movie.
A high school student, Kang Jin-gu, 18, said: “It plainly reflected the dark side of our society,” referring to the movie’s portrayal of the social disparity that has pitted the rich and the poor in Asia’s fourth largest economy.
It’s back to business for Meghan Markle.
Amid the royal family drama, the Duchess of Sussex made a surprise visit to Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver, Canada, on Tuesday. The center — which “provides basic needs and positive change for women and children,” per their site – posted a group photo of Markle surrounded by women from the center. In the pic, Markle is casually dressed in black jeans, boots and a beige sweater.
“Look who we had tea with today! The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community. 💜,” the center’s official Facebook page wrote alongside the shot.
Markle’s visit comes a day after her husband, Prince Harry, met with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, father Prince Charles and brother Prince William to discuss their future with the British monarchy. The former Suits star was not directly involved in the discussion, as a royal source told ET that in the end, the Sussexes decided that it wasn’t necessary for the duchess to join.
Following Monday’s meeting, Queen Elizabeth released a statement in support of her 35-year-old grandson and his wife.
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the Queen said in a statement. “These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”
The drama began last week when Harry and Meghan announced that they plan to step back as senior members of the royal family, become financially independent, and split their time between North America and the U.K. Though the family had been in early talks with the royals about this decision, the Queen and others were not aware that the statement was being released, sources previously told ET.
Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend that Markle had signed a voiceover deal with Disney. For the latest on the royal couple’s recent news, watch the video below.
The highest awards in the movie industry, will be handed out at a ceremony in Hollywood on Feb. 9. It became known that the movie “Joker”shot on a comic book will fight already for 11 Oscar nominations.
The Warner Bros (T.N) film will compete for the top prize with race car drama “Ford v Ferrari,” Netflix (NFLX.O) gangster movie “The Irishman,” Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit,” classic novel “Little Women,” divorce drama “Marriage Story,” World War One film “1917,” nostalgic “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and South Korean movie “Parasite.”
“The Irishman,” Universal Pictures’ (CMCSA.O) “1917” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” from Sony Pictures (6758.T) got 10 nods each. Netflix got 24 nominations, including for “The Irishman,” as well as for “Marriage Story,” “The Two Popes” and documentary “American Factory.”
The nods for “Joker,” which was controversial for its terrifying portrayal of an isolated loner but took more than $1 billion at the global box office, covered all the major fields, including for director Todd Phillips, adapted screenplay, film editing and sound editing.
In acting races, other nominees included “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, “Marriage Story” stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, and “Little Women” actresses Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh.
Only two of the acting nominees were not white: Cynthia Erivo for her lead role as anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” and Spaniard Antonio Banderas for drama “Pain and Glory.”
All the nominated directors were men, dashing the hopes of Greta Gerwig in the traditionally male club for “Little Women,” although she did get a best adapted screenplay nod.
Slideshow (6 Images)
However, a record 62 women were nominated, almost one-third of the field, said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose 8,000 members vote on the nominees and the winners.
Social satire “Parasite” became the first South Korean movie to be nominated in both the best picture and best international film categories. Director Bong Joon Ho also received a nod for best director.
Notable snubs included Robert De Niro, star of “The Irishman,” Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Eddie Murphy for comedy “Dolemite is My Name” and Disney blockbusters “The Lion King” and “Frozen 2” – both of which were omitted in the animated feature film category.
Liam Hemsworth and model Gabriella Brooks appeared to be kissing at the Byron Bay Beach in Australia, last week. The pair were all smiles before being snapped in the sand in photos published byNew Idea.
The newly-divorced Hemsworth looked low-key in floral swim trunks and a tan trucker hat and sunglasses, while Brooks sported a red and white striped bikini. The duo haven’t been linked romantically for very long, but it seems that things could be getting serious.
Last month, Hemsworth, 29, and Brooks, 21, were spotted out on a lunch date with his parents, Craig and Leonie.
It’s been a whirlwind few months since Hemsworth and his ex-wife, Miley Cyrus, went their separate ways. The pair quietly reached a divorce settlement late last month, and they haven’t waisted time jumping back into the dating pool. Cyrus went public with her relationship with Cody Simpson last October.
Hemsworth and Cyrus were on-again-off-again for a decade and split in 2018, after less than a year of marriage.
Florence Pugh told that she screamed around 5 minutes – that was her hilarious reaction to being a Vogue cover girl!
The Little Women actress, who graces the cover of the iconic fashion mag’s February issue, tells ET’s Keltie Knight at the 2020 Critics’ Choice Awards red carpet that she screamed when she saw her face on the glossy.
“Well, I was at home and I screamed for a solid five whole minutes — and five whole minutes is a long time to scream,” Pugh shares. “I mean, it’s bizarre. When does that ever happen?”
Pugh went on to explain the unexpectedly relaxed environment during the photo shoot.
“I mean, I thought it was going to be very daunting. Actually, I got there and Daniel Jackson, the photographer, was just really happy with letting me have fun and be me and make all the silly faces and that was so cool.”
The British beauty became a breakout star last year, following her performance in the horror flick Midsommar and most recently in the Greta Gerwig-directed adaptation of the classic novel. Next, she will star in Marvel Studios’ upcoming blockbuster Black Widow, opposite Scarlett Johansson.
“I’m 24 and it was my birthday and it’s 2020 and I’m on the cover of Vogue and so far it’s been a great year,” Pugh says of her rising career.
Pugh is predicted to nab an Oscar nom for her portrayal of Amy March in Little Women. Nominations will be announced on Monday, and the star isn’t expecting much.
“Oh, my gosh, this is too silly now. This is too silly. Just to be here, just to be in this film, just to be around all these amazing people is enough, so whatever happens on Monday — we’ll see,” Pugh says of the Oscar buzz.
The actress immediately made her way onto ET’s best dressed list in her sparkly, party-ready Prada dress. See Pugh and the rest of our favorite looks from the Critics’ Choice Awards by clicking through the gallery, ahead.
Meghan Markle doesn’t get hung up on her and Prince Harry’s problems with royal family and forge her own path.
The Duchess of Sussex has reportedly signed a voiceover deal with Disney in exchange for a donation to a wildlife charity, according to multiple reports. The deal is for an unspecified project and will benefit the conservation charity Elephants Without Borders, an organization that helps to track and protect the animals from poaching, per the U.K. newspaper The Times.
The publication, however, notes that the deal was signed before the royal couple made their shocking announcement earlier this week. In Meghan and Harry’s statement, the two said they would be working on becoming “financially independent” from the royal family and splitting their time between the U.K. and North America.
Meghan and Harry have previously worked with Disney, attending the London premiere of The Lion King in July. The event was held in support of African Parks, an organization Harry supports.
Meanwhile on Saturday, a palace source told ET that the royal family will gather on Monday at Sandringham, Norfolk, to talk about Harry and Meghan’s future. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William and the Duke of Sussex will all be in attendance. It is believed that Meghan will phone in.
“Following a series of meetings and consultations across the last few days, there are a range of possibilities for the family to review, which take into account the thinking of the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week,” the source said. “Making a change to the working life and role in the monarchy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex requires complex and thoughtful discussion.”
The source said the next steps for everyone “will be agreed upon at the meeting,” adding, “there is a genuine agreement and understanding that any decisions will take time to be implemented.”
However, it seems as if Harry’s family has been hurt by the couple’s sudden news to distance themselves from them — but will do what they can to make Harry and Meghan happy.
“Everyone still loves Harry. No one wants to be vindictive or punish him. That is wrong,” another source told ET. “All of the parties are trying to find a workable solution. William is upset, understandably. There was a lot of hurt to go around but people want to get this fixed and are working together.”
For more on how the royal family has reacted to the couple’s news, watch the video below.
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) – World War One movie “1917” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” set in 1960s Tinseltown, won the top movie prizes at the Golden Globes on Sunday on a night packed with upsets and hot-button issues at the start of Hollywood’s awards season.
“1917” was named best drama and took best director, beating presumed front-runners “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” both from Netflix Inc. The nostalgic “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” from Sony Pictures won for best comedy/ musical, and had the biggest Golden Globe haul, with three awards.
Martin Scorsese’s high-profile and costly gangster epic for Netflix went home empty-handed on a disappointing night for the streaming service that could affect its Oscar chances in February.
Netflix took home just one Golden Globe in the movie race, for Laura Dern’s supporting role as a ruthless divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.”
Apple Inc’s new Apple TV+ streaming service, in its first award show, failed to make good on any of its three nominations for “The Morning Show.”
British director Sam Mendes was named best director for his immersive “1917” from Universal Pictures, a dark horse with no big names that arrived in U.S. movie theaters only 10 days ago.
“That is a big surprise,” said a stunned Mendes. “I really hope this means people will turn up and see it.”
Joaquin Phoenix, who played a terrifying “Joker,” and Renee Zellweger, who portrayed Judy Garland in “Judy,” took the drama movie actor honors. Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Awkwafina (“The Farewell”) were first-time winners in the comedy/musical field.
“We all know there is no … competition between us,” Phoenix told his fellow nominees, praising their “beautiful, mesmerizing work.”
Tarantino won for the screenplay of his love letter to the industry, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” while Brad Pitt was a popular winner for playing a laid-back stunt double in the film.
“I wanted to bring my mom,” quipped Pitt. “But any women I stand next to, they say I am dating.”
77th Golden Globe Awards – Show – Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 5, 2020 – Sam Mendes accepts the award for Best Director – Motion Picture for “1917.” Paul Drinkwater/NBC Universal/Handout via REUTERS
GERVAIS GETS WICKED
British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, hosting the awards ceremony for a fifth time, threw caution to the wind with expletives and jabs about the dominance of streaming platforms, diversity and Hollywood’s sexual misconduct scandal, which drew mostly nervous laughter in the room of A-list celebrities.
Gervais noted that the room was packed with entertainment executives. “They are all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He’s coming for you,” he said, referring to the American journalist whose reports helped uncover the sexual misconduct scandal that has swept Hollywood over the past two years.
Gervais was not the only celebrity at the boozy dinner to get political.
Michelle Williams, winning limited TV series actress for “Fosse/Verdon,” gave an impassioned speech about reproductive rights and encouraged women to vote.
She said she had built a career of her choosing and “wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom.”
Others, including absent winner Russell Crowe, for television series “The Loudest Voice,” spoke of the devastating bushfires in Australia and the dangers of global warming.
Patricia Arquette, winning for limited TV series “The Act,” expressed fears over heightened tension in the Middle East following the U.S. killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani.
Slideshow (21 Images)
In the television races, HBO’s media dynasty show “Succession” and Amazon Studio’s quirky British comedy “Fleabag” were the big winners.
British talent took multiple prizes. In addition to Mendes, they included “Succession” and “Fleabag” stars Brian Cox and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Olivia Colman for “The Crown,” “Rocketman” actor Taron Egerton, and music duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin for original song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.”
Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine and Nichola Groom; editing by Jonathan Oatis
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Are we all trapped in a live-action version of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”?
The Jan. 3 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was followed by a torrent of contradictory narratives.
Was Soleimani planning to attack Americans? What about Vice President Mike Pence’s erroneous assertion that Soleimani was involved in 9/11? Or was the plan all along to withdraw troops, as a letter accidentally sent to the Iraqi government suggested?
Was Trump simply trying to distract from his impeachment trial? Was the attack the knee-jerk decision of a malignant narcissist? Or was it a reasonable response following months of Iranian provocations?
Were Democrats mourning Soleimani’s death? Or were they also responsible for the attack?
Each burst of accusations and justifications has elicited a flood of public responses, expert opinions and efforts to correct a record full of hostilities and absurdities.
Many might feel bewildered and demoralized. But fans of the 19th-century French novel have seen this before.
In a 1852 letter, French author Gustave Flaubert mused, “When will we write the facts from the point of view of a cosmic joke, that is as God sees them from on high?”
He answered his own question in his 1857 novel, “Madame Bovary,” which he published during the regime of Napoleon III – the French president whose autocratic ambitions were aided by a swirl of misinformation and warring political factions.
When language loses all meaning
As I’ve previously written, “Madame Bovary” traffics in deliberate meaninglessness, or, as literary critic Leo Bersani put it, the “arbitrary, insignificant, inexpressive nature of language.”
The main character, Emma Bovary, has devoured romantic novels and is disillusioned by a provincial existence that has proven dull. Her search for excitement and escape leads to adulterous disasters and financial ruin.
That’s a common enough premise, but what makes “Madame Bovary” unique is its insistence on the unreliability of narratives, phrases, descriptions and words. All the characters, from the callow manipulators to the well-meaning dullards, are awash in cliché. Emma and her future lover, Léon, declare that they love sunsets by the seaside, though neither has been to the ocean. The pharmacist Homais counsels prudence to others, though no one listens, and he himself is ruthlessly ambitious; the novel ends with him receiving the cross of the Legion of Honor. Léon tells Emma that he wanted to be buried in a rug she gave him, though the narrator reveals that this is false.
It isn’t even that everyone in the novel lies; some earnest characters really mean what they say. The problem is that language itself has had the meaning drained out of it by a combination of insincerity, repetition and bombast. In a famous scene at an agricultural fair, the audience of attentive townspeople hangs on every word of a mind-numbing, meandering speech about crops: “Here we have the vine, there we have the cider apple, further on we have cheese, and flax!”
When the fireworks planned for the event’s grand finale sputter out, the newspaper nonetheless reports that they went off without a hitch, describing them as a “veritable kaleidoscope, a true stage-setting for an opera.” No one cares that the description is made up.
The ultimate punchline of Flaubert’s cosmic joke is that the narrator himself is a master of subtle confusion. He starts the story in the first person, positioning himself as a schoolmate of Emma’s husband, before changing abruptly to the third person. Some of his accounts are straightforward and dispassionate. Others are entirely confounding. Descriptions of a boy’s cap, a wedding cake and a medical device are so detailed – and yet so baffling – that readers find themselves unable to even imagine what they might look like.
“I want to produce such an impression of utter weariness and ennui,” Flaubert later wrote in the plans for a subsequent literary project, “that my readers will imagine the book could only have been written by a cretin.”
France in political turmoil
Flaubert didn’t write “Madame Bovary” in a vacuum. As he was starting the novel in 1851, elected President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was staging the coup d’état that would transform him from president to emperor.
Bonaparte gave his followers important positions, reminded soldiers of their oath of “passive obedience” and crushed parliamentarian revolts and rural insurrections.
Roughly 10,000 political opponents were deported to penal colonies. Victor Hugo, a staunch opponent of the coup, fled to Brussels, while Alexis de Tocqueville retired from political life to avoid joining the regime.
French citizens found themselves bewildered and disoriented. Journalist and politician Eugène Ténot, writing an account of the coup in 1868, warned readers that “no truthful narrative of that event has been published in France.” He also remarked that “narratives written in troubled times are always imbued with partiality, exaggeration, injustice, even bad faith.”
In an open letter published in December 1851, Bonaparte announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, which he called a “hotbed of conspiracies.” In January 1852 he put in place a new constitution, all the while accusing “démagogues” of spreading “fausses nouvelles” (“fake news”). In December 1852, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became Napoléon III. France’s Second Empire commenced.
Described as “the first modern dictator” and “one of the first modern leaders to rule by propaganda,” Bonaparte went from being France’s first elected president to its last emperor. The Second Empire lasted until 1870, when the emperor, conscious of his declining popularity, declared war on Prussia – and lost.
France’s political upheaval, misinformation wars, sporadic uprisings and public confusion likely left a deep impression on Flaubert.
Americans today might sympathize with his characters, who exist in an endless vortex of repetition, insincerity and stupidity.
Recent technological advances are partially to blame.
Over the past decade, abundant research has emerged on media oversaturation, narrative overload and the deluge of digital images – and what this does to the brain. Incessant stimuli and distractions lead to memory impairment, confusion and troubles with retention.
These conditions are ripe for political warfare.
In his 2014 book “The Contradictions of Media Power,” media studies professor Das Freedman wrote that, in times of political instability, “existing narratives are under stress and audiences themselves are actively seeking out new perspectives.” Information wars and fake news seem to be endemic during times of political upheaval.
In many ways, we’re living out an extreme version of the cosmic joke Flaubert envisioned.
A continual stream of tedious lies, meaningless clichés and empty grandstanding has disillusioned Americans just as much as it confounded Emma Bovary. Lieuvain’s boring, bizarre address at the agricultural fair has its modern equivalents – think of Trump’s meandering rally speeches, or his complaints about toilet flushing and cancer-causing windmills. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes is currently suing a fictitious cow for defamation, while the president’s supporters applauded the statement that there was a war on “Thanksgiving.”
With the assassination of Soleimani, disregard for truth and reality – and examples of Madame Bovary-esque word salad – remains as blatant as ever. Mike Pence’s reference to Soleimani’s involvement in 9/11 is as detached from reality as Emma’s vision of Roman ruins bordering a forest of tigers, camels, swans, sultans and English ladies.
The flood of narrative confusion continues unabated. Only time will tell if Iran becomes the Prussia of 21st-century America.
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Susanna Lee, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Georgetown University.
Telecommuters create positive change – so why aren’t employers more flexible about people working from home?
More Americans are using flexible workplace practices – including telecommuting, co-working and off-peak start times – to add flexibility to their lives and eliminate or improve their commute.
One motivation? Rush hour traffic is getting worse, and commute times are getting longer.
For example, the average American today spends close to an hour getting to and from work. It’s worse in big cities. In the greater New York area, commutes average 1 hour 14 minutes round-trip.
We’re experts in urban planning and development, and started wondering why worsening traffic wasn’t encouraging more people to telecommute.
What do we know about workplace flexibility?
Telecommuting – or working at home – has many benefits. Workers have been modifying commutes ever since the phone and portable computers made it possible.
Advances in technology within the last decade have greatly expanded our ability to work from anywhere at any time. Many of us are taking advantage of this flexibility.
Census estimates show that the percentage of the workforce working from home the majority of the week grew from 3.3% in 2000 to 5.3% in 2018, and is growing faster than additions to the workforce.
Most people adopt flexible workplace practices just a few times a month rather than full-time, and these numbers are also growing.
How workers win
What are the benefits of telecommuting?
For one thing, it allows workers to seek cheaper housing, yet still have access to a large job market.
They can also use time previously spent commuting in more productive ways.
Companies that offer flexible workplace practices have a competitive edge because they are more attractive to workers. Many high-tech businesses and startups cater to their employees’ needs in order to attract and retain talent because talent is critical to innovation.
Flexible workplace practices can also increase an organization’s productivity. Studies have shown that workers who have control over their schedules and places of work are more satisfied and productive. They don’t quit as often or take as many sick days.
But even with these benefits, most organizations are still not comfortable granting flexibility to their workers.
Obstacles to flexibility
Our recent report showed that many workers we surveyed viewed managerial and executive resistance to telework as a major obstacle.
Through interviews, we learned that executives saw the benefits of using flexible work to their advantage as a negotiating tool for recruitment, promotion, retention and motivation, but they often worried about the costs of training and potential culture change.
They expressed concern that allowing telecommuting could create inequitable outcomes in the workplace, and possibly negatively impact morale.
Because flexible workplace practices provide so many benefits, we believe policymakers should encourage its implementation. In Atlanta, which has seen one of the fastest-growing commute times of any city, policymakers have implemented telework programs.
It has paid off. From 2008 to 2017, the number of commuters working from home increased from 5.7% to 7.3%.
There are no easy fixes here. Even if organizations become more willing to allow flexible workplace practices, we will likely never see a future in which the roads are free of congestion.
That’s because any traffic decreases will result in people that were previously using alternatives joining the roads. This is called “triple convergence” in the field of transportation research, and it is the principle that congestion self-adjusts.
In other words, you can add more lanes to a highway, but after a while people will catch on, begin using the route and congestion will stay the same or increase.
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Mohja Rhoads, Research Consultant and Lecturer in Policy, Planning and Development, California State University, Dominguez Hills and Fynnwin Prager, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, California State University, Dominguez Hills