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November 20, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
The eyes may be the mirror of the soul, but for those with autism, the mouth will have to do. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center isolated neurons in the brain's amygdala that respond to facial expressions, and tested patients with autism against those without. Both groups could correctly identify a "happy" or "fearful" face, a function long associated with the amygdala. But when the researchers examined which neurons fired in relation to areas of the face, they found that those with autism "read" the information from the mouth area more than from the eyes and seemed to be lacking a population of nerve cells that respond only to images of eyes.
November 15, 2013 | By Chris Lee
There are weeks when popular culture functions as if unified by a single, invisible thread, powered ever forward by ego, ambition and staggering sums of cash. At other times, the culture seems to operate in a continuous feedback loop , trumpeting and repeating perceived glories ad infinitum. This past week was governed by a kind of glorious mirroring; call it the place where entertainmentdom's parallel lines appeared to meet. How else could you possibly explain a span of days heralding the announcement of not one but two separate movie productions based on the Greek demi-god Hercules ?
November 15, 2013 | By J. Hoberman
More than 3 million Jews lived in pre-World War II Poland, making up 10% of the population. Today, the Jewish population is at best a tenth of a percent of what it was in 1939. Yet the world is not devoid of Polish Jews. As noted by Louise Steinman in "The Crooked Mirror," her firsthand report on what remains of Jewish life in contemporary Poland, four out of five American Jews are of Polish-Jewish descent - a diaspora within the diaspora. Steinman's previous book, "The Souvenir," was prompted by her discovery of a Japanese flag among her father's World War II effects and, among other things, details her subsequent trip to Japan to return this enigmatic trophy.
November 4, 2013 | By John Horn
Movies occasionally grow a little more topical due to current events -- earlier this year, coverage of Trayvon Martin's killing and the George Zimmerman trial made conversations about  “Fruitvale,” a drama about the fatal shooting of a black man,  even more relevant. But rarely does such news date back 70 years. Over the weekend, the upcoming George Clooney film “The Monuments Men,” a drama about the ragtag team of academics, historians and museum curators charged with saving thousands of art masterpieces looted by the Nazis, was the beneficiary of some startling new information tied to World War II. PHOTOS: Movie Sneaks 2013 On Sunday, a German magazine reported that a raid on a Munich apartment two years ago had yielded artwork suspected of having been looted by Nazis.
October 30, 2013 | By Rebecca Keegan
With this year's high-profile movies "The Butler," "42" and "12 Years a Slave" prominently featuring black actors, it may seem as though the multiplex is enjoying new levels of diversity. But popular films still under-represent minority characters and directors, and reflect certain biases in their portrayals, according to a study being released Wednesday by USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Researchers evaluated 500 top-grossing movies released at the U.S. box office between 2007 and 2012 and 20,000 speaking characters, finding patterns in the way different races, ethnicities and genders are depicted.
October 16, 2013 | By Jonathan Zimmerman
In 1942, the popular detective fiction writer Rex Stout published a book about Congress featuring "the silliest, stupidest and most dangerous statements that have ever been made by men laying claim to being leaders of the American people. " The book's title told the whole story: "The Illustrious Dunderheads. " I've been thinking about Stout during the government shutdown, which has triggered a fresh round of ridiculing Congress. But the joke is on us, as comedian Jimmy Kimmel recently noted.
October 11, 2013 | By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
It's tough to be a writer of crime fiction. Not because of the genre but because of the expectations: A book a year, preferably part of a series, the same character over and over again. This is why, say, Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly have branched out; Mosley set aside his hero, Easy Rawlins, for six years before bringing him back in 2013. The same is true of George Pelecanos, the Washington-based author of the "D.C. Quartet" and a dozen other novels who has written about a variety of detectives as well as for television ("The Wire," "Treme")
September 25, 2013 | By Paige St. John
SACRAMENTO -- A federal court order for California to entertain alternative options to reduce prison crowding echoes a set of solutions proposed just one day earlier by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. In a letter sent to federal judges Monday, Steinberg (D-Sacramento) provided a framework for following Gov. Jerry Brown's plan, suggesting California be required to reduce prison crowding by Dec. 31 to 145% of what the prisons were designed to hold -- a goal the state has said it can reach by moving 2,500 prisoners into private facilities.
August 23, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
Technicians on Saturday will fire up a furnace in Arizona to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit to pour glass to fabricate a mirror 27 feet in diameter that will be part of a giant telescope with 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. The mirror, which will weigh about 20 tons, will take a full year to polish to within 1/20 the wavelength of light, a tolerance on the scale of about 1 in 10 billion. “Let's imagine you took this mirror and you enlarged it to the physical size of the United States.
August 20, 2013 | By Andrew J. Bacevich
When it comes to Egypt, the U.S. has little leverage and therefore no real options. That's according to the prevailing wisdom, at least. Yet this analysis - endlessly reiterated in mainstream commentary - is misleading. The absence of leverage does not preclude options. It certainly does not require the Obama administration to debase itself by pretending that the military overthrow of a freely elected government is not a coup or by accepting the Egyptian army's slaughter of civilians with no more than a tsk-tsk.
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