National News

Feinstein's CIA Outrage Splits Senate

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 15:41

The Senate was a chamber divided in reaction to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's diatribe against the CIA for allegedly hacking into Senate computers.

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What Would It Take To Destroy A Black Box?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 15:11

When a plane crashes, it can take many months or years to find the black box that provides clues to what happened. Just what are these devices, how do they work, and why can they be so hard to find?

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Big shot directors are making indie films for Prada

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 14:47

Lauren Wolkstein has her eyes glued to YouTube, watching the latest Wes Anderson movie. She gives a startled laugh as Jason Schwartzman's character's car crashes into a wall.

This seven minute film is not for theaters. It's for Prada, the fashion label.

“This is actually very entertaining,” Wolkstein says. She's an indie film director herself. She's had three films at Sundance. And like Wes Anderson, she's also made a short film for a fashion label, Gucci.

In fact, just about every major fashion house now has a short indie film. Prada commissioned Wes Anderson. Yves Saint Laurent used Darren Aronofsky. Dior got Sofia Coppola to make its movies.

Which begs the question: Why are these famous directors selling out? 

“To me,” Wolkstein says of her experience working for Gucci, “it was like, 'Oh, I don't have to worry about dressing the actors, I don't have to worry about the location, they gave me everything to play with, and I was able to tell a story, with these amazing clothes!''

Wolkstein says it can take years to raise enough money to finance a film, even for established indie directors. Commissions from big brands take that problem away.

"They're saying 'I love your work, here's some money, pretty much take this money and run with it and tell your stories.' And the only requirement, if any, is to put their name and the brand on the film."

She says having a fashion brand as your patron, giving you free rein, it actually raises a filmmaker's street cred.

But what's in it for the brand?

“I think fashion brands for a long time struggled to go online,” says Quynh Mai, founder of the agency Moving Image and Content, which helps fashion companies with digital marketing. “They sell exclusivity, aspiration. And for a long time the online space was the antithesis of that.”

Mai says having a web film with a fancy director gives fashion houses the exclusivity they're aiming for.

“When brands like Prada spend exorbitant amount of moneys on their films online,” Mai says, “they're trying to create a halo effect for their brand – that crosses not only their target consumer but maybe the consumer who buys their sunglasses, or buys their nail polish.”

Although, Mai says, when brands hire big name directors to make their films, it can take away attention from the brand.

“All people say is, 'Have you seen that Wes Anderson short?'” she says. “I’m not sure that that was a Prada piece.”

But director Lauren Wolkstein says hiring an indie director can actually save a brand money, because they're used to making films on a smaller budget than most commercial crews.

People Overload Website, Hoping To Help Search For Missing Jet

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 14:29

A satellite company's call for crowdsourcing to help find the missing Malaysia Airlines jet brought a strong response on the Internet, placing an "unprecedented load" on the company's servers.

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Not Spring Yet: Wicked Winter Storm To Pound Midwest, New York

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 14:22

The 8 to 10 inches of snow predicted for Detroit will bring the city within reach of the record for snowiest winter in recorded history.

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Rent vs. buy: How did you choose your home?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 13:49
Do you rent or own your home?

On this week's Marketplace Money, we'll tackle the demographics of renting vs. buying. How did you choose the way you did?

According to Trulia, buying a home is 38% cheaper than renting. But that varies widely depending on location, "buying ranges from being just 5% cheaper than renting in Honolulu to being 66% cheaper than renting in Detroit."

Need help deciding? Trulia: Rent vs. Buy: Which is Cheaper

Health Care Enrollments Up, But Still Well Short Of Goal

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 13:19

The administration says 940,000 people signed up in February for a total enrollment of 4.2 million. The White House is hoping for 6 million by the end of this month.

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Tin: The modern world's glue

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 13:11

For the next installment in the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt's micro-scopic look at the economy: element number 50 Tin; or symbol "Sn" on the periodic table.

So perhaps tinfoil isn't the sandwich wrap of choice. What does it matter?

"Amazingly, tin is actually the glue that holds the modern world together," says Rowlatt. "Tin still has an absolutely crucial role in the world."

Tin is also used in the float glass making process. This has made sheet glass making less labor intensive, cleaner and safer.

Rowlatt says tin is used because it is relatively abundant and cheap.

Whole Genome Scans Aren't Quite Ready For Your Doctor's Office

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 13:11

Wouldn't it be great to be able to scan your genes and find out your disease risk? Those scanners exist. But a test of their usefulness for medical care found them not as accurate as one would hope.

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Delayed Safety Recall May Haunt GM As It Continues Its Makeover

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 13:06

General Motors is recalling 1.6 million vehicles because of faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. It now faces a congressional inquiry into why it took nearly 10 years to warn the public.

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A plan to wind down Fannie and Freddie

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:57

Leaders of the Senate Banking Committee unveiled a bipartisan plan on Tuesday that would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and replace them with a hybrid public-private mortgage-finance system. The government-sponsored enterprises were bailed out by taxpayers in 2008, at a cost of $187 billion as the housing market crashed. Fannie and Freddie guarantee mortgages and issue mortgage-backed securities, and back well over half of new mortgages right now.

The new plan would shut Fannie and Freddie down—presumably over several years—and create a new government entity just to guarantee mortgages. Private sector firms would bundle those mortgages into securities and market them to investors.

“There’s no question it would be a boom for large financial institutions,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. “Mostly banks that would take over that activity and, to some extent, that risk.”

The first 10 percent of losses from guaranteed mortgages would be absorbed by private financiers, not the government. That’s to protect taxpayers from another bailout.

But Cecala is skeptical: “Just like we couldn’t afford to let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fail, the question is, would we be able to allow large banks to fail, if they were propping up the mortgage market by issuing government-guaranteed mortgage securities?”

Star in a TV pilot? You should sign a pre-nup

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:47

This is the season of the television pilot. Networks are shelling out boatloads of cash to produce what they hope will be mega- hits. Of course, most of the pilots produced each season are not mega-hits, they're not even micro-hits. The vast majority don't even make it to air. But there is a way to tell which ones the studios are banking on. It's sort of like a pilot pre-nuptual agreement. It's properly called a put pilot.

Let's say you are a bright-eyed young TV writer. You've just pitched your first pilot to the networks and they love it. Actors are hired, sets built, the pilot is shot, and...it's terrible. The studio kills the project and tells you to get lost. Welcome to Hollywood. Now, if your pilot had what's called a put pilot commitment, things would have gone much differently.

"Put pilot means that the network or the studio behind the pilot has ordered it and committed to putting it on the air," says Ben Travers, a TV editor for Indiewire.

The put gets added because it means the show will be put into production. But here's the important guarantee: If the network doesn't air the show, it pays you a hefty penalty.

So how does a pilot get put?

"Well, if it's a sexy hot script by a very hot writer, then you are going to have competition all over town," says Jay Gendron, a former executive with Warner Brothers. He says studios can gain an edge over other networks by offering put pilot commitment for a show. While throwing money at a pilot can secure a hot series, it doesn't guarantee it will be a hit.

Here are all the ways a put pilot can go down in flames:

Didn't even get to pilot: "Murder She Wrote"
Despite a put pilot commitment, NBC changed their mind before the pilot of the "Murder She Wrote" reboot was even made. Rumor has it Angela Lansbury is investigating the mysterious death of the show.

Whacked after pilot: "Beverly Hills Cop"

Eddie Murphy signed on as an occasional guest star in a series based on the "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. But after the pilot was produced, CBS pulled the plug on it. Rumor has it the show was axed after Eddie Murphy refused to appear on screen unless he could play every character in the show.

 Killed after pilot, brought back to life: "The McCarthys"

Ordered as a put pilot, shot as a single-camera show last season, nixed by CBS, and then rejiggered as a multi-camera comedy for this season. Rumor has it Eddie Murphy will be operating all the cameras.

Wait, actually made it!: "Sleepy Hollow"

The series was put on air and became Fox's top rated series. Rumor has it Washington Irving's ghost is using supernatural powers to manipulate the Nielsen ratings.

Star in a pilot? You should sign a pre-nup

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:47

This is the season of the television pilot. Networks are shelling out boatloads of cash to produce what they hope will be mega- hits. Of course, most of the pilots produced each season are not mega-hits, they're not even micro-hits. The vast majority don't even make it to air. But there is a way to tell which ones the studios are banking on. It's sort of like a pilot pre-nuptual agreement. It's properly called a put pilot.

Let's say you are a bright-eyed young TV writer. You've just pitched your first pilot to the networks and they love it. Actors are hired, sets built, the pilot is shot, and...it's terrible. The studio kills the project and tells you to get lost. Welcome to Hollywood. Now, if your pilot had what's called a put pilot commitment, things would have gone much differently.

"Put pilot means that the network or the studio behind the pilot has ordered it and committed to putting it on the air," says Ben Travers, a TV editor for Indiewire.

The put gets added because it means the show will be put into production. But here's the important guarantee: If the network doesn't air the show, it pays you a hefty penalty.

So how does a pilot get put?

"Well, if it's a sexy hot script by a very hot writer, then you are going to have competition all over town," says Jay Gendron, a former executive with Warner Brothers. He says studios can gain an edge over other networks by offering put pilot commitment for a show. While throwing money at a pilot can secure a hot series, it doesn't guarantee it will be a hit.

Here are all the ways a put pilot can go down in flames:

Didn't even get to pilot: "Murder She Wrote"
Despite a put pilot commitment, NBC changed their mind before the pilot of the "Murder She Wrote" reboot was even made. Rumor has it Angela Lansbury is investigating the mysterious death of the show.

Whacked after pilot: "Beverly Hills Cop"

Eddie Murphy signed on as an occasional guest star in a series based on the "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. But after the pilot was produced, CBS pulled the plug on it. Rumor has it the show was axed after Eddie Murphy refused to appear on screen unless he could play every character in the show.

 Killed after pilot, brought back to life: "The McCarthys"

Ordered as a put pilot, shot as a single-camera show last season, nixed by CBS, and then rejiggered as a multi-camera comedy for this season. Rumor has it Eddie Murphy will be operating all the cameras.

Wait, actually made it!: "Sleepy Hollow"

The series was put on air and became Fox's top rated series. Rumor has it Washington Irving's ghost is using supernatural powers to manipulate the Nielsen ratings.

Young People Lag Behind In Health Insurance Enrollment

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:42

One-quarter of the people who have signed up for private insurance through the federal and state exchanges are young adults. Insurers are counting on their participation to keep premiums manageable.

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Being middle class in Pakistan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:23

Middle class life in Pakistan isn’t that different from middle class life in the United States, says Haroon Ullah. Or at least, he hopes you’ll come away with that message after reading his new book, “The Bargain at the Bazaar: A family’s day of reckoning in Lahore.”

The book follows the Reza family and their three sons as they attempt to maintain normalcy in an increasingly tense environment.

Ullah says he met the family at a dinner party in Pakistan 10 years ago.

“They are very blue collar and yet they’re able to, as a family, find a way to move on amidst the sort of tragedy that they often times experience.”

The Rezas shared their story with Ullah over many evening meetings over mangos, what Ullah calls “the best ice breaker in the world.”

The oldest Reza son followed in his father’s footsteps to run the family shop at the local bazaar. The youngest son went to school to become a lawyer. But it was the middle son who would most worry his mother and father when he joined a militant Islamist group.

“The parents would tell me, 'Did we do something wrong? Did we fail as parents?'” says Ullah. “They want better for their kids than they had for themselves. They’re willing to sacrifice everything.”

Is There A Better Way To Track Aircraft During Flight?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:23

Much of the technology we use to track a plane – like radar – is old. New technology is already out there, but their limited use and the cost of adoption are deterrents.

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Save The Escargot! Snail-Devouring Predator Rears Its Head In France

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:21

The New Guinea flatworm is a vicious little thing with an appetite for snails. Its discovery in Normandy has raised concerns about the fate of Europe's snails — and France's famed mollusk appetizer.

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Move To Honor Prohibition-Era 'Untouchable' Hits A Snag

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:00

Several U.S. senators want to name the ATF's Washington headquarters after Eliot Ness, credited with bringing down mobster Al Capone. But Chicago's City Council says Ness doesn't deserve the glory.

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To Sell Health Care To Young People, Obama Steps 'Between Two Ferns'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:00

President Obama's pitch for his health care law has brought him to an awkward place: "Between Two Ferns." In a bid to up the enrollment of young people, Obama visited Zach Galifianakis' Internet show.

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Christie Aides Refuse To Comply With Subpoenas

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-11 12:00

Two key aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are now trying to convince a judge not to force them to testify. They're citing their fifth amendment rights in order to avoid complying with subpoenas.

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