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Opinion: #OscarsSoWhite, Part II

Opinion: #OscarsSoWhite, Part II
An Oscar statue is on display during the Academy Awards nominations announcement at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Thursday. (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I'm Paul Thornton, The Times' letters editor, and it is Saturday, Jan. 16. Here's a look back at the week in Opinion.

"Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — sorry, brightest."

It was a one-off joke delivered at last year's Oscars by host Neil Patrick Harris, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will probably have to make light once again of the conspicuous absence of any acting nominees of color at its ceremony next month.

The Times' editorial board notes this year's sequel to 2015's #OscarsSoWhite, calling it "appalling" after last year's "lamentable" whiteout:

The lack of recognition for minority artists mirrors the lack of diversity in the academy membership and the film business in general. Although the academy, now overseen by its first black president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, has started to broaden its voting membership, it will take a while before it's no longer overwhelmingly white and male. Not that black or Latino or Asian members will reflexively support any movie directed by or starring people who look like them. But a more diverse group brings more viewpoints and sensibilities to bear when voting.

The bigger, more complicated problem is that the executives and professionals who finance movies and distribute them are mostly white and hesitant to risk millions of dollars on unfamiliar talent, despite the strong performance of such films as "Straight Outta Compton" and "Creed," both of which had black directors and stars. And yet the studios' TV divisions are scoring hits with a far more diverse lineup of talent, and winning acclaim for it as well; witness last year's Emmy nominations, which included multiple nods for actors and actresses of color.

The Oscar whiteout may eventually be overcome by a new and more diverse generation of aspiring filmmakers, writers and actors, who can use digital technology and the Internet to create movies and attract an audience without relying on the studios. The moviegoing public, which is increasingly diverse, is already telling the entertainment industry that it's ready for a change. Just ask the folks who made "Straight Outta Compton" for $28 million and, so far, have grossed more than $200 million.

» Click here to read more.

Play Powerball for the fun, not as an investment strategy. A mathematician compares buying the winning ticket to finding the right dollar bill in your first try from a stack reaching from Los Angeles to Tijuana. Buy a ticket to be part of a community or to daydream briefly about striking it rich — those aren't unworthy investments, he says — but don't expect to win. L.A. Times

Is Canada-born Ted Cruz eligible to be president? Not if you think like Ted Cruz. Law professor Thomas Lee writes that originalists, who interpret the Constitution based on the founders' intent in the late 18th century, probably would not accept that Cruz is indeed a "natural-born" citizen and therefore eligible for the presidency. The liberal "living Constitution" types might have to come to Cruz's rescue. L.A. Times

San Diego almost lost its football team to Los Angeles, and it still might — but either way, it's unacceptable for Chargers owner Dean Spanos to leave his city dangling, says a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial. And as for Los Angeles getting the Rams, Times readers (sarcasm alert) couldn't be more grateful.

You don't often read this here: Donald Trump is right. "If she's going to play the woman card, it's all fair game," he's said, referring to Hillary Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton. Columnist Doyle McManus says people are right to question the Clintons' record of discrediting Bill's accusers in the 1990s in light of the fact that Hillary plays the gender card "relentlessly" and speaks on the campaign trail about supporting survivors of sexual violence. L.A. Times

No, we didn't come close to war with Iran this week, but the hawks on the right are blowing up the day-long detention of 10 U.S. sailors who crossed into Iranian waters into something it isn't, writes Ali Gharib in an op-ed article. Rather, the Iranians were "well within their rights to act as they did," he says, and it's hard to imagine the American hawks reacting with such diplomatic restraint if an Iranian vessel came so close to the U.S. L.A. Times

Marijuana today is really strong, and we have drug prohibition to thank. Johann Hari notes that during alcohol prohibition last century, beer and wine gave way to harder spirits as Americans' preferred beverages, and we're seeing a similar trend today in the war on drugs' effect on the potency of illegal drugs. The solution? If you want substances to be less intoxicating and risky, it's time to end the war on drugs. L.A. Times

Update on Patt Morrison’s column: For about seven years you haven’t been able to listen to the conversations Morrison has been having with local and national leaders, activists, artists and others. That changes now. “Patt Morrison Asks” has become a podcast as well as a transcribed interview, starting with her recent conversation with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. L.A. Times

Have suggestions for improving this newsletter? Email paul.thornton@latimes.com.

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