National News

No Regrets For Organizer Of Muhammad Cartoon Contest

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 16:21

"I will continue to speak in defense of freedom until the day I die," Pamela Geller told the AP. Her cartoon contest was attacked last weekend by Islamist militants.

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Canadian Judge Grants Former Guantanamo Inmate Bail

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 15:31

Omar Khadr, who served more than a decade at Guantanamo Bay, has been released on bail while he waits out an appeal for war crimes' convictions. The Canadian government criticized the judge's ruling.

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Let's Talk About Death Over Dinner

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 15:19

Over the last two years, more than 70,000 people around the world have gathered to dine and discuss their own deaths, and the end-of-life decisions that entails. We eavesdrop on one such gathering.

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No Goooaaal? Spain's Soccer Federation Suspends Season In Row Over Law

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 14:33

At issue is a new law that allows poorer teams to share TV airtime and revenue more fairly. The law would break the monopoly of the league's two richest teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

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Are music festivals a bubble waiting to burst?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-07 14:22

Forget sweltering clubs and concert halls. Summer tours for some bands are now a matter of hopping from one grassy lawn to another.

Take the indie rock band Modest Mouse. This summer they're playing at least 10 festivals in the U.S., Canada and overseas.

The number of multi-day music festivals in North America has gone from a handful to hundreds.

“We do live in a culture right now which is heavily saturated with festivals,” says Jonathan Levine, who heads of the Paradigm Talent Agency's Nashville office.“If someone has a plot of land and a checkbook, they can suddenly find themselves in the festival business.”

Levine's roster includes the Black Eyed Peas and the Grateful Dead – a band that played one of the most iconic music festivals. But a lot has changed since Woodstock.

Music festivals have gone mainstream, and they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars. Millennials, it seems, are willing to shell out for multi-day music experiences. And deep-pocketed corporate sponsors are willing to shell out to reach them.

And it's all come none too soon for musicians.

The growth in the number of music festivals over the last decade and half has coincided with a big shift in how people buy recorded music — if they buy it. And now streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and, soon, Apple's Beats are reinventing the model again.

“The whole industry, the whole — all of it — is changing so much, especially with the internet, downloads and MP3s and stuff. So, the festivals is really where it’s at,” Katelyn Shook says. Katelyn and her sister Laurie Shook are the front-women of the Shook Twins, a Portland-based indie folk pop group.

The stretch from May to September is the biggest time of year for the Shook Twins – biggest payouts, biggest crowds, biggest publicity. They plan their tours around festival dates.

“It’s so good for an up and coming band because when we go to a new territory, we don’t have to have the pressure of filling the club all by ourselves, we’re just part of this huge thing and they’re promoting it and they’re doing all the cool stuff for it,” Laurie Shook says.

The Shook Twins, Laurie and Katelyn Shook, in their van before a show in Spokane, Washington.

Jessica Robinson/Marketplace

But is there a ceiling on all this growth?

“The problem that we’ve got is that everyone is competing for the same pool of talent. And it’s not just in North America. It’s worldwide,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert business trade publication Pollstar.

For example, Bluesfest in Australia in early April snagged Ben Harper, Hozier, David Gray, Counting Crows and a lot of other in-demand acts, Bongiovanni says. And of course, if they're in Australia, they couldn't be in the U.S. for the ever-increasing number of festivals here. In Pollstar's 2014 year-end business analysis, Bongiovanni forecast the competition for big names could lead to a “bloody market correction that weeds out weaker festivals.”

And he’s not the only one making gloomy predictions.

“There’s only so many artists that can play and anchor and headline the festivals,” Levine says. “So it’s going to be a little bit survival of the fittest. Some will thrive and others will not.”

There's another force putting restrictions on the availability of big-name acts. It's called a “radius” clause. For example, the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee might tell a band it can’t play within 300 miles of the festival two months before or after. Larger festivals use the agreements to make sure they keep exclusive rights on the headliners – and the hype surrounding them.

Still, all of this isn’t bothering Drew Lorona too much. He's one of the founders of the fledgling Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho, which just wrapped up its fourth year. Like most new festivals, it’s struggled to turn a profit. But Lorona says the urban music festival has been careful to grow slowly and put its emphasis on discovering unknown bands.

“I think the festivals that will struggle are going to be the ones that don't have that differentiation. … And that seems to be what's popping up the most – is kind of branded as like a party in the desert type of thing,” says Lorona.

And speaking of popping up, he knows of at least two new music festivals starting in Idaho this summer.

What Happens When A Police Officer Doesn't Shoot?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 14:06

An officer's body camera captured his decision not to shoot a possibly armed suspect. He was praised for brave self-restraint, but some law enforcement officers say his reluctance was irresponsible.

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A Fish With Cancer Raises Questions About Health Of Susquehanna River

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 13:53

The smallmouth bass with a malignant tumor was caught late last year near Duncannon, Pa. Officials say it's the first time such a tumor has been found in the state on that type of fish.

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Kale: the cause and solution to all of McDonald's problems

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-07 13:00

A pretty clear illustration of the problems McDonald's is going to have turning itself around, as the company said earlier this week it wants to do.

You know where this is going, right? Mickey D's is indeed gonna go with kale. They're testing two breakfast bowls here in southern California, one of which will have kale in it.

Tearing down tech manuals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-07 13:00

When you buy a complex gadget, chances are it’s not going to come with a repair manual. Instead, manufacturers may take the product in, or expect you to purchase a new one when the latest model comes out. This has led to a boom in the repair industry and has inspired countless people to dissect pieces of technology and create their own manuals.

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson explains the boom and bust of the repair industry and introduces the idea of a “teardown.”

NAFTA legacy casts a shadow on new trade agreements

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-07 13:00

President Obama will visit Nike headquarters in Oregon on Friday to tout the benefits of free trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal between the U.S., Japan and 10 other nations that’s deep in negotiations.

The president will also likely push for Congress to pass a pending Trade Promotion Authority bill, which would renew his ability to negotiate trade agreements before submitting them for a straight yes or no vote in Congress, without amendments.

Both initiatives have drawn criticism from members of the president’s own party and renewed a much older discussion about the North American Free Trade Agreement's impact on the U.S. in the two decades since it was enacted. 

In the 1992 presidential debates, Ross Perot cautioned that NAFTA would create “a giant sucking sound” of U.S. jobs heading south to Mexico, crystallizing public fears about its potential impact.


Those fears have colored many Americans' present-day perceptions of the agreement, but the reality is far less dramatic, says Simon Johnson, a professor of global economics at MIT.

“NAFTA did not do as much as is claimed by people who are either for or against NAFTA,” he says. “It did increase trade, particularly between Mexico and the United States. It did displace some jobs in the U.S., and some people who lost those jobs didn’t get good jobs again.”

Trade has winners and losers. Many labor unions, for example, will say the losses aren’t worth the gains. Lots of economists disagree, including Jeffrey Schott, with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“Overall, NAFTA has been a great benefit for the U.S. economy,” says Schott. “It’s boosted productivity, it’s increased economic growth.”

But he says politicians – both Democrats and Republicans – often try to sell trade deals by promising new jobs.

“People with an Econ 101 background know pretty well that you’re not going to create more jobs through a trade agreement,” he says. “But trade agreements affect the type of jobs available in an economy.”

The White House has acknowledged that NAFTA has “not lived up to the hype,” but it disagrees with critics who have dubbed the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.” President Obama argues it should be debated on its merits, not what NAFTA did or didn’t do.

But for many Americans, it’s still very hard to separate the two.

“People seem to know that NAFTA should be opposed without really understanding why,” says Andy Shoyer, a partner specializing in international trade at the law firm Sidley Austin and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

In the early 1990s, Shoyer was an assistant general counsel with the United States Trade Representative, and spent late nights typing drafts of the deal. He still has a T-shirt that a colleague made at the time, listing NAFTA negotiating sessions like concert tour dates.

When he put it on recently, he wife quipped that “while it was safe to wear it around the house, it probably wasn’t prudent to wear it around the neighborhood.”

Modernizing the Magic Kingdom

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-07 13:00

Four years ago, the big cheese at the house of mouse unveiled a $1 billion plan for streamlining the guest experience at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The company would introduce some revolutionary wearable tech called “MagicBands.”

The electronic bracelets would be proverbial “keys to the kingdom” for millions of visitors, allowing them to do everything from pay for meals to access their hotel rooms, just by holding their wrist up to a scanner. It was an ambitious goal, and Disney had its work cut out.

“You’re talking about installing 30 million square feet of of WiFi coverage,” says Austin Carr, who wrote about the overhaul for Fast Company. “You’re talking about installing upgrades to the hotel door locks —about 28,000 of them."

The project was an enormous undertaking, and required the 40 square mile park to cram state-of-the-art tech into 40-year-old structures. The rollout of the bands, which started out slowly in 2013, wasn’t without its bumps.

“When you entered the park, a lot of guests complained that it wouldn’t read their MagicBands right," Carr says. "A lot of people had difficulty understanding how the system worked."

That forced Disney to hire more guest services representatives to handle the complaints. Despite the costs and challenges, Carr says CEO Bob Iger’s risk paid off.

"Just being able to swipe your wrist is a reflection of the world I’d like to see," he says.

The Internet of Things the MagicBand can do

  • Check-in with Disney Magical Express transportation
  • Park admission
  • Hotel check-in and unlocking Disney hotel room doors
  • FastPass+ check-in for attractions and entertainment
  • Access special event tickets
  • Connect Disney PhotoPass images to account
  • Charge food and merchandise purchases to Disney hotel room
  • Signal arrival to specific park restaurants, and locate your table using radio frequency (via Wired)

Are You Sick, And Sick Of Hearing 'Everything Happens For A Reason'?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:56

Afraid of saying the wrong thing to someone with a serious illness? Now there are "empathy cards" that make fun of those well-meaning but tasteless remarks.

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DNA 'Printing' A Big Boon To Research, But Some Raise Concerns

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:56

Companies are assembling and churning out tailored stretches of DNA faster and more cheaply than ever before. The tool speeds research into diseases of plants and people. But what about eugenics?

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FBI Says It Sent Bulletin On Texas Assailant Hours Before Attack

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:33

Director James Comey says that Elton Simpson had attracted attention as someone who might attend the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest, but that the bureau had no reason to believe he would attack.

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'Haqqathon' Takes Anti-ISIS Fight To Cyberspace

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:30

In Arabic, haqq is the word for truth. Muslim software designers gathered recently for a "haqqathon" to develop social media products that can compete with violent extremists online.

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New Public-Corruption Chief Vows To Not Shy Away

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:29

Raymond Hulser, the new chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, said his unit is committed to prosecuting "important and tough" cases cases and bringing them to trial.

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Ebola Hides In The Eyes Of A Man Who Was Considered Cured

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:11

Weeks after being diagnosed with Ebola, a doctor came down with a dangerous eye infection. Ebola was lurking there. Other Ebola victims face the risk of blindness through these delayed infections.

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Orson Welles' Unfinished Final Film Seeks Crowd Funding For Release

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 11:29

Producers are seeking $2 million on the website Indiegogo to complete The Other Side of the Wind. Welles had intended for it to be his comeback movie.

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Senate Votes For Congressional Oversight Of Iran Nuclear Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 11:06

The measure, which now goes to the House for consideration, enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, passing by a 98-1 vote.

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Screening Rates Stalled For Common Cancers

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-07 11:02

Many Americans aren't getting recommended screening tests for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer. Despite a public health push, there has been a lack of progress in reaching screening goals.

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