History revealed: What people of Baltimore left in time capsules

— Early pictures of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and many artifacts commemorating the centennial of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Baltimore’s Washington Monument and other key aspects of American history were revealed Tuesday.

The 1915 Centennial Time Capsule was one of two time capsules discovered during the renovation of Baltimore’s Washington Monument, the first to honor George Washington.

The monument has been going through a $5.5 million restoration by the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy since January 2014.

The 1915 time capsule was opened Tuesday at the Walters Art Museum, while the contents of a time capsule from the 1815 cornerstone, some of which had been revealed in February, were finally displayed.

“The artifacts contained in the cornerstone are incredible finds and reveal much about what the Washington Monument represented to those who erected it 200 years ago,” said Lance Humphries, chair of the conservancy’s restoration committee, in a news release. “We wait with great anticipation to open the 1915 time capsule to understand what the monument meant to Baltimoreans a century ago.”

Discovered in October behind a bronze plaque marking the monument’s centennial, the 1915 time capsule was transferred to the Walters museum and has been on display — unopened.

In addition to the Declaration of Independence picture and other anniversary artifacts, the 1915 capsule contains a portrait of “Star-Spangled Banner” writer Francis Scott Key and newspapers of the day.

The monument’s original 1815 cornerstone was found in February with an inner lid carved with names of the monument’s original masons and stone cutters. There were also three glass jars stuffed with newspapers and wrapped bundles.

Each jar appears to tell a story.

One jar contained Washington’s likeness, a copy of his presidential farewell address, 10 U.S. coins, a medal of Washington and a medal honoring the Duke of Wellington’s military campaigns in the Spanish Peninsular Wars.

A second jar contained a 1812 copy of the Bible.

The third jar had July 5 and July 6, 1815, copies of the Federal Gazette. The July 6 paper has a story about the cornerstone being laid.

On top of the jars was a copy of the Declaration of Independence, reprinted in the Federal Gazette on July 3, 1815.

“While it is well-known that the monument is the first erected to George Washington, the selection of this item for such a prominent placement adds new meaning to the monument, and increase its significance” Humphries noted.

“American national independence was fresh in the minds of Baltimoreans of July 1815,” said Humphries. “They had just played a key role in resecuring that freedom during the Battle of Baltimore the previous fall.”

Another party is scheduled for July 4, the bicentennial of the laying of the monument’s cornerstone. After the monument is rededicated that day, it will be opened again to the public.

The Maryland Historical Society will also display some of the items starting on July 4.


™ & © 2015 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

Justice is not blind

— When racist attitudes, either conscious or subconscious, are combined with the discretionary powers that law enforcement officers have, the result is a differential outcome, with African Americans more likely to be the targets of “blind justice.”



Julianne Malveaux

Most of our politicians and leaders are exploiting subconscious racism, and pandering to explicit racial fears. Even worse, they are rewarded when they say they are “tough on crime.”

Soledad O’Brien documented some of these attitudes in her most recent “Black In America” series. Included was an interview with a young Black man was stopped more than 100 times as he stood outside his college. Of course, he’d done nothing wrong, but police officers, “doing their duty,” felt free to harass him.

In a more telling segment, two young men, one Black and one White, staged the “stealing” of a bike to show how members of the public responded to watching the apparent theft. The young men were dressed similarly – T-shirts, casual pants, caps. People walked by as the White guy did everything he could to break the lock on the bike, including using a chain cutter. One even offered to help him take “his” bike, even though he acknowledged it was not his.

Within moments of the Black man approaching the bike, White people, one or two of whom called 911, surrounded him. As opposed to the benign response the White guy got, the Black guy was simply assumed to be a criminal.

How does this play out on the streets and with officers of the law? Police officers use their discretion selectively. A Black man (Eric Garner) selling loose cigarettes is manhandled, arrested, and dies when he is choked and cannot breathe. Most have seen the video by now, and wonder why Daniel Pantaleo was not charged with any crime, even though he used an illegal chokehold on Garner.

Pantaleo could have told Garner to move on, or he would risk arrest. Instead, Pantaleo and his posse of lawless cowboys chose to kill the man. Would a White man be similarly treated, or did unconscious racism play into the callous way Eric Garner was treated?

During the late 1990s, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “stop and frisk” policies resulted in African American men being stopped more than five times as frequently as Caucasians, even though these frisks led to nothing more than the humiliation of Black men, some simply coming off the subway or walking down the street. Hispanic men were stopped about three times as often as Caucasians. White men were stopped and frisked less frequently than others. Unconscious racism? Discretion? The law sanctions both.

Stop and frisk incidents increased dramatically with no concomitant increase in crime. However, since New York Mayor Bill Blasio took office, the number of stop and frisk incidents has dropped by almost three quarters, again with no increase in crime. It appears that whether stop and frisk occurrences are aggressive or gentle; the incidence of crime does not increase.

There are many occurrences where police can make discretionary decisions. First, they can decide whom to stop. Then, when they stop they don’t have to arrest or frisk. A simple conversation that explains the reason for the stop will yield a more favorable outcome than wrestling someone to the ground, knee in his or her back, or handcuffing someone without explaining why.

Police resistance to the use of body cameras suggests these officers know that they are out of order in dealing with the public. Once someone is arrested, the police have the right to charge him or her with a minor crime or let them go. Finally, prosecutors can decline to bring charges. All of these decisions can be minimized or maximized, based on discretion.

Justice is not blind when police officers use discretion to stop one segment of the population to harshly mistreat and let the other population slide. If police officers wonder why there is antipathy and distrust toward them in the African American community, somebody needs to tell them that their use of discretion suggests that justice is hardly blind.

Julianne Malveaux is author and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

Politicizing donations to Clinton Foundation

— Like the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy that primarily funds education, world health and population projects, the Clinton Foundation was established to address such issues as climate change, global health, economic development, health and wellness and problems involving women and girls.

In a crass effort to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign bid, major Republican figures and Fox News, their partner-in-crime, are peddling the idea that there is something inherently wrong with supporting private efforts to improve the world.

As Media Matters observes, they are “falsely equating donations to the Clinton Foundation with contributions to a Democratic political campaign.” The media watchdog group observes, “The foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which means it is ‘absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.’”

Media Matters wrote, “Paul Waldman, an American Prospect senior writer and former Media Matters senior fellow, criticized Politico reporter Dylan Byers for drawing a misleading ‘parallel between donating to a candidate’s campaign and donating to a charitable foundation run by an ex-president.’

“Other media figures have similarly made the false political campaign comparison. Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, Breitbart.com, National Review Online, and HotAir.com, all suggested a donation to the foundation was equivalent to financing Democratic candidates.

“As Waldman explained at The Washington Post, ‘it’s notable that everyone is now treating the Clinton Foundation as if it has long been central to sort of scheme to personally benefit the Clintons, and not a charitable foundation.’ He added that ‘judging by the way the foundation is now talked about – as if anyone who has had any association with it is tainted – you’d think it was running a network of international assassins instead of distributing malaria medication.’”

Partisan critics conveniently neglect to note that prominent Republicans are also generous contributors to the Clinton Foundation.

For example, Rupert Murdoch, founder of the News Corporation Foundation, and his son, James, have given more than a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. In fact, more than a dozen news organizations have donated to the foundation.

Aside from the overt political attack on the Clinton Foundation, the case of George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton administration press secretary, illustrates the problems associated with a political operative switching careers in hopes of being viewed as a credible journalist.

Too often TV talking heads are labeled “journalists” when they are anything but. As the American Press Institute notes, “Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” In other words, it’s not merely the ability to share one’s opinions.

Stephanopoulos erred by making a $75,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, knowing it could call into question his ability to be fair. He compounded the mistake by failing to disclose it to the public. Like it or not, if journalists want to maintain their credibility, they must refrain from participating in overt political acts or behavior that can be perceived that way.

Britt Hume of Fox said, “…if there’s one thing he [Stephanopoulos] needed to do in doing that was to sever any real or apparent ties with the Clintons. Contributing to their foundation is one thing. And now it also turns out that he participated in panels and other events connected to the Clinton Global Initiative. It is a mistake to do that. You want to be seen as independent.”

Evidently, you get a pass if you’re at Fox News.

“Fox News has attacked ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos for participating in Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, calling it a ‘mistake’ that compromises ‘good coverage,’” Media Matters found. “But Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated or participated in at least eight [Clinton Global Initiative] events between 2008 and 2013 while at CNBC.”

Yet, Fox is not calling that a “mistake” that compromises “good coverage.”

Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, was criticized for making a paltry $250 donation in 2010 to the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund. She issued a statement, saying: “I made the gift in response to an urgent joint appeal from former President Clinton and then-President George W. Bush for aid to the victims of the Haiti earthquake,” Woodruff explained in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “Seeing the massive loss of human life and the terrible conditions for survivors, I wanted to make a contribution and saw this as a way to do that.”

Yes, “journalists” must walk a fine line, not crossing over into political partisanship. And, yes, they must avoid even the appearance of such activity. But let’s be equally clear: The Clinton Foundation is a highly respected charity, not a political offshoot of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.

Ravens Timmy Jernigan looking to cash in on big opportunity

— The Baltimore Ravens traded away Haloti Ngata, a franchise stalwart during the off season. That move opened up a spot for second year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan played really well when Ngata was out for the final four games of the 2014 regular season. He constantly got pressure on the quarterback and notched two of his four sacks on the season.

Jernigan said that he learned a lot last season. He’s a high energy player that likes to be disruptive against both the run and the pass. According to the second year player, he is ready to pick up where he left off last year and feels really good.

“Everything is starting to seem kind of second nature to me. The biggest thing now is just to keep it going and building on top of what I did last year.” Jernigan said. He still has that chip on his shoulder from not being a first round pick in 2014. It won’t allow him to just rely on what he did last year. “You can’t get complacent with what you did and feel comfortable with where you’re at.” Jernigan continued; “I’m just trying to take it to the next level.”

Jernigan was asked what the next level is during a press conference after Ravens OTAs. He replied with zero hesitation, saying that the next level is to make it to the Pro Bowl. Jernigan said that the first order is to win more games. It’s his goal to help the defense get even better even though Ngata is gone.

“I know a lot of eyes are not just going to be on me, but the whole group.” Jernigan said; “We have huge shoes to fill with Haloti [Ngata] missing, and it’s definitely going to be a group effort for all of us, not just me.”

Ngata is a big player but he did more than just clog running lanes. Jernigan said that one of the things that he learned from Ngata was how to practice and work to be perfect with his technique along with his steps and using his hands. Most importantly, Ngata showed Jernigan how to use anticipation and feel to be in the right spot at the right time. Jernigan spoke about how Ngata would know when he could take a chance and go inside on a play.

“The guy knew plays before they even happened, and that’s definitely what I learned from the way that he prepared and got ready for games.” Jernigan said.

The focus on the little things has paid off. Head coach John Harbaugh sees a difference. “He has just improved and gotten better. He’s more confident in what he’s doing defensively. He wants to play to his strengths.” Harbaugh said. “He has a lot of quickness and explosiveness, and he’s focusing on that. I can’t say it’s a dramatic difference, because he’s very confident, but he was really confident last year. He’s a confident guy, so he has really high expectations for himself.”

The young defensive linemen called it a blessing to play for the Ravens because he gets to go against Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda every day once he shows up for off-season workouts. In Jernigan’s eyes, Yanda and Osemele two of the best guards in the NFL and going against them helps to prepare him for game time.

Practicing without pads and actual contact is always a tough thing for the guys in the trenches. Despite that, Jernigan has still worked on getting off the ball and getting in the backfield. He acknowledged that it’s hard to not be physical but pointed to the fact that they need to take care of one another.

Even though the physical part of the game is greatly reduced right now, Jernigan is making the best of his reps. There are particular things that he works on in different periods of practice. “When the offense is zoning, your feet, where are your feet, not getting cut off by the tackle. Little things like that. When it’s pass rush time – when you’re clubbing and ripping – where is your hand placement, when you’re doing the little things like that. That’s definitely a victory for me.”

VIDEO: Tearful Tracy Morgan thanks Walmart after accident

— Tracy Morgan thanked Walmart, the company’s whose truck hit his car a year ago seriously injuring him and killing a friend, saying that the company “stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way.”

CNN Video

Tracy Morgan gives first TV interview since accident

Comedian Tracy Morgan did his first television interview since being involved in a deadly car accident last year.

In an emotional interview on NBC’s Today Show Monday in which he broke down in tears several times, Morgan said he was grateful that Walmart had taken full responsibility for the accident and had also settled with the family of his friend who was killed, James McNair.

“I’m just happy that they looked out for Jimmy Mac’s family. He can rest in peace now,” Morgan said. “In the beginning there was a misunderstanding but that got squared away. They came through in the clutch.”

Walmart CEO Doug McMillion plans to speak directly to Morgan and his attorney Benedict Morelli later this week to apologize, Morelli said during the interview.

“I thought that was a huge gesture,” he said.

The Walmart driver was traveling more than 20 mph over the speed limit when his truck struck the limo bus that Morgan, McNair and others were traveling in on the New Jersey Turnpike in June 2014. Safety officials said the truck driver had been awake for more than 24 consecutive hours before the crash.

Morgan’s interview was his first public appearance since the accident. He said he does not remember the crash itself and has still not been able to return to work but hopes to do so.

“I love comedy. I can’t wait to get back to her. But right now my goal is just to heal and get better. I’m not 100% yet,” he said.

Morgan was in a coma following the accident, and suffered multiple broken bones and brain trauma. He said he has good days and bad days, the latter when he forgets things and has headaches. But he said the emotional loss has been more difficult than the physical injury.

“Bones heal. The loss of my friend will never heal,” he said.


™ & © 2015 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Your Perfect State of Organization

— Life gets busy and clutter has a way of sneaking up on everyone. It may be all those shoes, the lack of space or the fact that you have absolutely no time – there are many reasons for the mess. But, whether you’re a single person living in an apartment or have a large family in a sprawling house, everyone can benefit from more organization. By simply thinking about storage differently and coming up with a smart organizational system that works for you, you’ll be on the way to creating a well-balanced, happier home.

“For many, just the thought of starting the de-cluttering and organizing process is daunting,” said Lisa Engel, VP and General Manager Digital Commerce, ClosetMaid. “By breaking it down – room by room, or need by need, the process can actually become rejuvenating. You’re literally creating an easier life for yourself.”

Starting the process

If you’re just beginning, remember: baby steps. Focus on one small area or room – or even your junk drawer. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture as that’s when frustration mounts, causing you to walk away in disgust. Be sure to finish the project you’ve begun. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and be encouraged to tackle subsequent rooms and projects.

Already started

Stuck midway through an organizational project and need some inspiration to finish? Don’t be afraid to utilize online resources. ClosetMaid’s idea galleries, design tools and online store can help provide affordable and stylish solutions. Thinking of your project as a mini-makeover can help make it more exciting and less of a chore. Try taking pictures along the way, documenting your progress can really be rewarding.

Already organized

If your home is already organized, you know that keeping clutter at bay is a full-time job. Be sure to keep a watchful eye on areas that naturally accumulate clutter, such as entryways and child play areas. If you do have children, get them involved in the organization process by teaching them where items belong and how to store them. By labeling storage bins, baskets or drawers, your kids will always be able to help your home stay organized and clean.

“If you think like an organized person, soon you will be one,” said Lorie Marrero, certified professional organizer and author of the “Clutter Diet.” “It all starts with your state of mind.”

To find your perfect state of organization visit www.ClosetMaid.com, www.StorganizationBlog.com or call 1-800-874-0008.



Clean power plan affects black quality of life

— When Cheeraz Gormon received an invitation to lobby in Washington on behalf of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan with environmental legal advocacy nonprofit, Earthjustice, she was bewildered.

“You couldn’t have told me even last month that I would be on Capitol Hill actually talking about the Clean Power Plan. I was like, ‘Wait, I don’t deal with climate change or any of that,’ I don’t have any expertise in it,” said Gormon, an international spoken-word artist, activist, documentarian, and award-winning advertising copywriter.

She felt if anyone could use an advertising makeover, it was environmentalists. Gormon always thought of them as people who chained themselves to redwood trees.

“But it was always an in-family conversation. Why there’s no trees in our neighborhood, why we have to live near all these factories that [are closed], the different smells, what they’re spraying in the air, saying they’re spraying for mosquitoes. After I accepted the invitation, I went back and connected the dots,” Gormon said.

In her hometown of St. Louis, where half the population is Black, the Meramec coal-powered electricity plant that sits on the Mississippi River pumped an average of 20,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air per year between 2007 and 2010, according to an NAACP report. This byproduct contributes to acid rain, as well as chronic heart and respiratory diseases such as COPD, asthma, and emphysema.

The power company has not installed a sulfur dioxide monitor at this plant, but has spent $600 million on purifying “scrubbers” at its St. Charles County facility, west of St. Louis near the airport, where the population is 88 percent White.

In Missouri, 83 percent of the electricity comes from burning coal, which higher than the national figure of 50 percent. These coal power plants are the nation’s and the world’s chief source of air pollution. The Clean Power Plan – a component of the latest update to the Clean Air Act, which began in the 1950s – requires states to reduce their coal power plants’ emissions by 30 percent of 2005 levels, over the next five years.

Neighborhoods that border power plants and refineries are known as “fenceline communities,” and are almost always low-income, of color, or both.

The NAACP report grades and ranks the nation’s coal-fired power plants based on how harmful they are to communities of color. Among the top 12 most hazardous plants, Black people accounted for 76 percent of the surrounding populations. Another study by the University of Minnesota found that people of color are exposed to 38 percent higher levels of nitrogen dioxide – a gas that irritates and weakens airways and aggravates existing heart and respiratory issues – than Whites. For families living in fenceline communities, such as Port Arthur, Texas, Dearborn, Mich., and Pittsburgh, Pa., cancers, heart, and lung conditions strike across generations.

Satoria Briggs, activist and member of the Hip Hop Caucus, knows that from first-hand experience.

“Moving into the Southeast side of Chicago…there’s things I can’t do because of my activity-induced asthma. But it’s activity-induced – it shouldn’t just be there. When there’s piles of petcoke sitting around my neighborhood, that’s directly affecting me,” Briggs explained. “BP has a huge refinery where they have petcoke piles. The cancer rate is higher in this area. You’re being affected. And because you’re not going to say anything much, they’ll throw you this and that.”

Petcoke is a powdery black byproduct of the oil refining process that can be reused as a fuel in some cases. Some oil companies keep it outside in neat exposed mounds, where the dust is easily whisked into the wind and air each day. Briggs recalls seeing schoolchildren arrive to school lightly dusted in it.

Last year, the Hip Hop Caucus launched the People’s Climate Music project and the Home album, featuring tracks about climate change from artists such as Common, Raheem DeVaughn, Ne-Yo and many more. Earthjustice invited Briggs to lobby as a representative of the Caucus.

The finishing touches on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan are expected next month, but the plan has drawn fierce objections from the beginning. Concerns center on energy companies’ profits and the financial burden of meeting tighter standards; states rights and the EPA’s limited power in creating or enforcing rules covering the energy business; and the political struggle between state legislators and local economies lubricated with coal and oil money.

The plan mandates that coal-fire power plants must choose from four methods to reduce their carbon emissions. They can upgrade their facilities and/or practices with state-of-the-art public health-friendly equipment; convert to natural gas, nuclear, or renewable energy; or switch customers to energy efficiency programs and practices.

States will be required to provide the federal government with a proposal on how they will use these methods to comply with the Clean Power Plan. States that refuse or submit inadequate plans will have to comply with a cookie-cutter plan from the federal government.

Critics assert that the plan violates the Constitution by giving a federal agency power over a state function. They also argue that it hinders private profits without providing “due compensation.”

Some feel the plan is unnecessary.

Over the past several years, some companies have been voluntarily reducing their impact on the air and surrounding neighborhoods. Some critics say that these efforts would have reached the Clean Power Plan’s goal in time, without federal intervention. Further, even if the plan is successful, it will do little to impact climate change. The EPA concedes that the proposed reduction pales in comparison to the level of greenhouse gases produced across Asia.

But as state legislators, energy companies, pundits, and the White House squabble, Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans disproportionately suffer the effects.

“We can’t keep thinking that this environment stuff is separate from your asthma, or your ADD, or your COPD. All this stuff comes from the environment,” Briggs says.

“When I was first asked to do this, I was not super knowledgeable on everything. But I have 126 first cousins on my mom’s side. I can say 60 percent of them have asthma. You don’t have to actually know all the logistics. You should just know that if you can’t breathe, that’s an issue.”

Contract talks open for 10,500 cleaners in Washington, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County & Baltimore

— Negotiations will begin today for a new union contract covering over 4,000 commercial cleaners in Washington, D.C., nearly 4,000 cleaners in Northern Virginia, over 1,500 cleaners in Montgomery County, Maryland and 700 Baltimore cleaners. The union will present proposals focused on increasing worker access to full-time hours and thus, full-time income to representatives of commercial cleaning contractors who serve the area’s commercial real estate industry.

“Washington’s multi-billion dollar real estate industry can afford to allow hard-working cleaners the opportunity to earn full-time wages and affordable health care,” said Jaime Contreras, 32BJ Vice President and Capital Area Director. “We must ensure that these men and women don’t have to work multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.”

Most janitors in D.C. have no choice but to accept part-time hours. No matter how many part-time jobs workers have, they often still don’t get employer-paid health care. Moreover, most are likely deprived of employer-provided health care if they fall below the 30 hour Affordable Care Act threshold. 32BJ has been discussing the possibility of mandating full-time hours with Council members in DC and Montgomery County.

“A strong contract will improve many things for working families and create better opportunities for our children,” said Oscar Vasquez, a Washington, D.C. cleaner.

“We are going to fight, united we are stronger,” said Victoria Dominguez who cleans offices in both D.C. and Northern Virginia.

Under the contract expiring at midnight on October 15th, 2015, 32BJ commercial cleaners earn wages ranging from $10.60 per hour for part-time cleaners to $14.60 for full-time cleaners. All full-time workers have employer-paid medical care and all part-time workers have life insurance and dental benefits.

Full-time cleaners in all regions have employer-paid health care, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and life insurance. Part-time cleaners have life insurance and family dental benefits. All cleaners have paid vacation, holidays and sick days.

As a result of a District of Columbia law, all D.C. cleaners have up to seven sick days.

Today marks the first bargaining session for 11 agreements, covering approximately 75,000 commercial cleaners on the East Coast in 32BJ and nearly 135,000 nationally under SEIU. With more than 145,000 members in nine states, including 17,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

Film Review: Tomorrowland

— If you took the world of The Jetsons, and made it a live-action film location, that would describe the visuals for the mysterious, glorious and fantastical place Tomorrowland. Seeing it is easy. Getting there is difficult. All the work it takes to travel to this paradise may not be worth the effort for this film’s target audience, young girls. Blame the meandering script, the lax pacing and some cheesy sets for making a trip to Shangri-La an iffy adventure.

Director Bard Bird (The Iron Giant and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol) co-wrote the script with Damon Lindelof (World War Z) and Jeff Jensen. Can’t knock Bird and Lindelof’s writing pedigree, on the one hand. On the other hand, with that much firepower, they should be able to write a script that is worth following, one that unfolds mysteriously but engagingly and is easy enough to comprehend. A film that panders to young female audiences shouldn’t have a complicated screenplay. If adults lose interest discerning what’s going on, kids will be scratching their heads, text messaging or falling asleep.

It’s 1964, the height of the New York World’s Fair. A precocious kid named Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson, who looks like a young Jay Leno) has come all the way to the Big Apple to show off his invention, a jet pack that can make him fly—theoretically. He presents it to a huffy judge named Nix (Hugh Laurie), who scoffs at the machine made with two vacuum cleaner tanks. Nix’s young assistant Athena (Raffey Cassidy, Snow White and the Huntsman) takes a liking to Frank, gives him a lapel pin with a “T,” and suggests he follow her, Nix and his crew. Frank does, and winds up in a futuristic citadel.

Fast forward to present day. Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride), a feisty adolescent, her dad (Tim McGraw) and younger brother live in Cape Canaveral, Fla., so close to NASA she can smell the jet fuel. She gets arrested, and when she is released, she is given back her personal belongings. In her stuff is a mysterious lapel pin with a “T.” Whenever she touches the trinket, inexplicably, she is taken away to fields of wheat, with a mystical city floating in the distance. “I think I’ve seen the future,” says Casey. As she tries to unravel the mystery of the pin she meets Athena. The two, and a much older Frank (George Clooney) who is now an eccentric, reclusive inventor, are on a mission to get back to Tomorrowland.

The inspiration for the film comes from Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and Epcot Center. That very inorganic premise is possibly why the script feels so contrived. The Casey character is decently drawn, should intrigue girls and Newton makes her very appealing. The older Frank character, as played by Clooney, is so crabby you want to force-feed him Prozac. Ditto Laurie as the bitter Nix. As the story goes on, and on, and on, it becomes apparent that Wonderland needs to be saved for a bunch of reasons. None are that clear, nor will they be of great concern to many.

Scott Chambliss’ (Star Trek Into Darkness) production designs for the magical city are ingeniously beautiful. At other times his sets look obviously fake (interior of the inter-dimensional space ship) to the point of distraction. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s (Life of Pi) visions of the city will stay in your psyche. His shots of regular scenes are dated and reminiscent of Back to the Future. Jeff Kurland’s costumes on the normal people blend in well, but his space age fashions for Nix look like rejects from an Earth Wind & Fire tour. There are periods when Casey, Frank and Athena are on the run and the pace kicks in. But over the course of 130 minutes, editors Walter Murch and Craig Wood have not done their due diligence. There are times when you will tap your foot and wonder if there is any popcorn left at the concession stand.

The point of Tomorrowland is to encourage youngsters to think out of the box, stay positive and never give up. It’s a sweet and inspirational message buried in a mire of cryptic plotting. Still, young girls may get a kick watching Casey solve problems adults can’t.