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April 17, 2011

St. Martin's Press relaunching Sweet Valley High books for adults

‘Sweet Valley Confidential’ Revives and Roils a Teen Book Series - NYTimes.com
In the annals of 1980s young-adult fiction, there were no teenage heroines more loyal, more youthfully wholesome, more impossibly flawless than Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield of the “Sweet Valley High” series, with their cascading blond hair, aqua eyes, rosy lips and perfect (in the ’80s, anyway) Size 6 figures. It is all the more scandalous to their fans, then, that a new spinoff, “Sweet Valley Confidential,” depicts the identical twins, now 27, in an angry rift, living on separate coasts, drinking, having casual sex and — gasp — enjoying it. “I’ve had people who have questioned Elizabeth having orgasms,” said Francine Pascal, the creator of the original series and author of the new book. “And I say to them, if they’re listening, would you deny a 27-year-old woman the right to have an orgasm?” Nostalgia is big in publishing these days, with prequels, sequels or reissued versions of books like “The Baby-Sitters Club,” “The Boxcar Children” and even “The Official Preppy Handbook.” Now St. Martin’s Press, the publisher of “Sweet Valley Confidential,” is navigating the trickiness of reviving a beloved series and directing it not at a new generation of readers but at the people who were devoted to it the first time around. . . .

April 15, 2011

Detroit Sends Layoff Notices To Every Public School Teacher

Detroit Sends Layoff Notices To Every Public School Teacher | TPMMuckraker
Every one of Detroit's public school teachers is receiving a layoff notice -- but that doesn't mean they will all be fired. The layoff notices were sent to the 5,466 unionized teachers "in anticipation of a workforce reduction to match the district's declining student enrollment," according to a Detroit Public Schools statement. The layoff notices are required as part of the Detroit Teachers Federation collective-bargaining agreement. Non-Renewal notices have also been sent to 248 administrators, and the layoffs would go into effect by July 29. As Reuters reports, a new law in Michigan gives Detroit Public Schools' Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb the power to alter collective bargaining agreements and even fire elected officials if he believes it will prevent a financial emergency. And Bobb "fully" intends to use that authority, he said in the statement. Detroit is certainly not the first school system to issue mass layoff notices. TPM reported in February of a similar case in Providence, Rhode Island. But the layoff notices, of course, are not very appealing to the teachers who receive them. "We're just being walked all over, when we are the ones who help educate everyone else to get to the positions they're in, including the emergency financial manager," Carla Henry, a high school special education teachers, told the Detroit Free Press. "It took a teacher to educate him." The Detroit Federation of Teachers had sharper criticism over Bobb's threat to alter union agreements. . . .

April 14, 2011

Linguist claims all languages evolved from southern Africa

Languages Grew From a Seed in Africa, Study Says - NYTimes.com
Quentin D. Atkinson, a biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has shattered this time barrier, if his claim is correct, by looking not at words but at phonemes — the consonants, vowels and tones that are the simplest elements of language. He has found a simple but striking pattern in some 500 languages spoken throughout the world: a language area uses fewer phonemes the farther that early humans had to travel from Africa to reach it. Some of the click-using languages of Africa have more than 100 phonemes, whereas Hawaiian, toward the far end of the human migration route out of Africa, has only 13. English has 45 phonemes. This pattern of decreasing diversity with distance, similar to the well-established decrease in genetic diversity with distance from Africa, implies that the origin of modern human language is in the region of southwestern Africa, Dr. Atkinson says in an article published on Thursday in the journal Science. Language is at least 50,000 years old, the date that modern humans dispersed from Africa, and some experts say it is at least 100,000 years old. Dr. Atkinson, if his work is correct, is picking up a distant echo from this far back in time.