National News

U.S. Returns Dozens Of Looted Artifacts To Iraq

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 05:18

Some of the artifacts date back more than 4,000 years. Among them is the head of a statue of Assyrian King Sargon II, similar to one destroyed by militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

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49ers Linebacker Quits After 1 Season, Citing Safety Concerns

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 04:42

Concerns over possible brain injuries prompt Chris Borland to end his NFL career after one season. Borland, 24, said, "I just honestly want to do what's best for my health."

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Alison Bechdel on storytelling "for the forces of good"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 04:01

This week Marketplace Tech is exploring South by Southwest Interactive, the tech-oriented event that draws tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas every year.

We spoke with cartoonist and memoirist Alison Bechdel, who came to SXSW to talk about telling stories that work “for the forces of good.” For 25 years, Bechdel chronicled the lesbian community in her comic strip "Dykes To Watch Out For." Since then, she has published her second graphic memoir, won a MacArthur Fellowship, and watched the Bechdel test take on a life of its own. We talked with her about record-keeping, Google image search,and putting Silicon Valley through the Bechdel test.

I want to ask you something about record keeping. This is something you have done since you were a kid. Diaries, pictures, stuff like that. It’s informed your work. How do you keep records now?

A lot of my record keeping is now digital. I’ve got email, photos and I keep my diary on my computer. Somehow that doesn't make it any easier to find anything. I thought it would but...

Do you have a folder that says "diary"?

I do. Sort of, yeah. My archives are just proliferating. The older I get, the more stuff there is. It's sort of like my aging brain. It gets harder to find stuff.

Do memoirs matter in a world where Facebook summarizes your year for you every year?

Well, yeah. you can't reflect meaningfully on something that you're posting in half a second. I think memoir is still really an important act.

I want to ask about your process a little bit. How has technology the cartoonist’s job since you’ve started?

Oh man. It’s changed it on every level, profoundly. I started way before the internet, way before photoshop when I drew stuff by hand and you copied at the copy shop and put it in the mail. I think the most profound shift for me has been Google Image Search. If you wanted to find out what a 1968 Oldsmobile looked like, you had to go to the picture file at the library where someone hopefully had clipped out a photo of that car. Now that I can draw anything in the universe, my tendency is to want to draw everything in the universe, which is its own sort of problem, but I’m working on that.

Do you get more sleep now that you’re a MacArthur “genius?” Or did you get more sleep before?

I definitely got more sleep before. It’s a very nerve-wracking experience. I am still adjusting to it. But it’s really making me feel like I better up my game.

What are your plans for upping your game?

I don’t know. I’m just working. I’m trying to work harder.

This is something you’re probably very bored of talking about, but I wanted to ask you about the…

The Bechdel test

Yes.

This is my great legacy.

How do you feel about that?

At first I was sort of bewildered by it and didn’t feel like it was really mine. It was an idea I stole from someone else who probably stole it from Virginia Woolf. But now I am very proud of it. I feel like it reflects the idea that a woman can be a human, a fully human character and subject.

You may have heard that there is a diversity problem in the tech industry.

Oh really...

This may come as a shock to you. But I wanted to ask you if you would consider what a Bechdel test might be for a company?

Are there more than two women in managing positions?

We would hope so.

Do they talk to each other? I don’t know. But it’s a good template that you can apply to any  number of fields.

I think we are at a good moment right now. In the tech industry but also in the media. We are becoming more aware of white male hegemony. How do straight white men help to create a society where there is more power sharing with people outside of their group?

The fact that we are even able to see this, that people are aware of it is because that hegemony is not as hegemonic as it once was. The demographics of this country are really changing. I guess just to examine your privilege. It’s very hard to see what privilege is. We all want to believe that we deserve everything we have. And we don’t all have the same chances. So just looking carefully at that, I think, is the most anyone can do.

We’re asking people while we're here about their pitch...

Yeah. I am on a panel about storytelling and I want to talk about what makes a story good. Not just a compelling story, but what makes a story a story that works for the forces of good.

What is a story that works for the forces of good?

Oh, anything. You know most things. Advertising, propaganda...I think it’s important for any kind of story, especially journalism or non-fiction storytelling, to allow for its own possibility of being wrong.

Alison Bechdel on storytelling "for the forces of good"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 04:01

This week Marketplace Tech is exploring South by Southwest Interactive, the tech-oriented event that draws tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas every year.

We spoke with cartoonist and memoirist Alison Bechdel, who came to SXSW to talk about telling stories that work “for the forces of good.” For 25 years, Bechdel chronicled the lesbian community in her comic strip "Dykes To Watch Out For." Since then, she has published her second graphic memoir, won a MacArthur Fellowship, and watched the Bechdel test take on a life of its own. We talked with her about record-keeping, Google image search,and putting Silicon Valley through the Bechdel test.

I want to ask you something about record keeping. This is something you have done since you were a kid. Diaries, pictures, stuff like that. It’s informed your work. How do you keep records now?

A lot of my record keeping is now digital. I’ve got email, photos and I keep my diary on my computer. Somehow that doesn't make it any easier to find anything. I thought it would but...

Do you have a folder that says "diary"?

I do. Sort of, yeah. My archives are just proliferating. The older I get, the more stuff there is. It's sort of like my aging brain. It gets harder to find stuff.

Do memoirs matter in a world where Facebook summarizes your year for you every year?

Well, yeah. you can't reflect meaningfully on something that you're posting in half a second. I think memoir is still really an important act.

I want to ask about your process a little bit. How has technology the cartoonist’s job since you’ve started?

Oh man. It’s changed it on every level, profoundly. I started way before the internet, way before photoshop when I drew stuff by hand and you copied at the copy shop and put it in the mail. I think the most profound shift for me has been Google Image Search. If you wanted to find out what a 1968 Oldsmobile looked like, you had to go to the picture file at the library where someone hopefully had clipped out a photo of that car. Now that I can draw anything in the universe, my tendency is to want to draw everything in the universe, which is its own sort of problem, but I’m working on that.

Do you get more sleep now that you’re a MacArthur “genius?” Or did you get more sleep before?

I definitely got more sleep before. It’s a very nerve-wracking experience. I am still adjusting to it. But it’s really making me feel like I better up my game.

What are your plans for upping your game?

I don’t know. I’m just working. I’m trying to work harder.

This is something you’re probably very bored of talking about, but I wanted to ask you about the…

The Bechdel test

Yes.

This is my great legacy.

How do you feel about that?

At first I was sort of bewildered by it and didn’t feel like it was really mine. It was an idea I stole from someone else who probably stole it from Virginia Woolf. But now I am very proud of it. I feel like it reflects the idea that a woman can be a human, a fully human character and subject.

You may have heard that there is a diversity problem in the tech industry.

Oh really...

This may come as a shock to you. But I wanted to ask you if you would consider what a Bechdel test might be for a company?

Are there more than two women in managing positions?

We would hope so.

Do they talk to each other? I don’t know. But it’s a good template that you can apply to any  number of fields.

I think we are at a good moment right now. In the tech industry but also in the media. We are becoming more aware of white male hegemony. How do straight white men help to create a society where there is more power sharing with people outside of their group?

The fact that we are even able to see this, that people are aware of it is because that hegemony is not as hegemonic as it once was. The demographics of this country are really changing. I guess just to examine your privilege. It’s very hard to see what privilege is. We all want to believe that we deserve everything we have. And we don’t all have the same chances. So just looking carefully at that, I think, is the most anyone can do.

We’re asking people while we're here about their pitch...

Yeah. I am on a panel about storytelling and I want to talk about what makes a story good. Not just a compelling story, but what makes a story a story that works for the forces of good.

What is a story that works for the forces of good?

Oh, anything. You know most things. Advertising, propaganda...I think it’s important for any kind of story, especially journalism or non-fiction storytelling, to allow for its own possibility of being wrong.

Israel's Election: Netanyahu Seeks 4th Term

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 03:22

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party has slipped in recent voter surveys, with approaches to a potential Palestinian state and the economy emerging as the top issues.

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Q&A: Raising Kids Who Want To Read

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 03:03

Daniel Willingham's new book is full of advice for parents and teachers hoping to nurture a love of reading in kids.

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Why Federal Budgets Aren't What You Think They Are

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 00:03

Congressional Republicans' budget is expected to be released Tuesday, but a federal budget is not really a budget at all.

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In Intense Desert Training, A Dozen Women Fight For Place On Front Lines

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 23:22

The Marines are being tested in California's Mojave Desert to see if they have what it takes to serve in infantry units. Injuries in earlier training kept another dozen women from getting that far.

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A New Community Rises In The West Bank ... And It's Not Israeli

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 23:21

Much of the new building in the territory involves Jewish settlements. The Palestinians now have a new city, but the project has been slowed because until recently Israel did not allow a water hookup.

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Are Humans Really Headed To Mars Anytime Soon?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 23:17

Public passion is all well and good, but it will take more than big talk to get to Mars by 2025, space specialists say. Even several rockets-worth of cash won't easily solve the technical challenges.

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UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland Earn #1 Seeds in NCAA Women's Bracket

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 17:39

Though Princeton is the only undefeated team in the championship. They enter as eighth seed. The tournament begins March 20th.

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If You're One Of The World's 382 Million Diabetics, Your Wages May Dip

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 16:03

The caseload could surge to 592 million by 2035, with a huge contribution from the developing world. And across the globe, people with diabetes tend to earn less — or lose their job altogether.

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Obama, 2016 Contenders Deal With Changing Attitudes On Marijuana

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 14:57

As Americans move toward more favorable views of pot, politicians are, too — in some cases.

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Clues To Autism, Schizophrenia Emerge From Cerebellum Research

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 14:15

The brain's cerebellum helps shape thinking and emotion, as well as physical coordination, research shows. Could stimulating that part of the brain help ease some aspects of autism and schizophrenia?

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Gunfire, Bombs And An Arrest: Boston Police Detail Tsarnaev's Capture For Court

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:24

Police officers on Monday described a fierce gunbattle that included thrown explosives, at the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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FEMA Plans To Reopen All Sandy Claims, Regain Trust In Overhaul

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:17

It's the latest step in a growing controversy after thousands of homeowners said insurance companies lowballed damage estimates and insurance insiders called the appeals process "rigged."

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California Judges Must Cut Ties With The Boy Scouts

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:17

The state's earlier ban on judges belonging to groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation now applies to youth organizations. Does this take judicial impartiality too far?

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Why are razor blades so expensive?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:15

A trip to the local drug store prompted listener Paul Fuligni to wonder why razor blades are so expensive, such that they’re now often in locked containers or behind the counter at the drug store.  

It turns out, lots of people have thought a lot about the pricing of razors and blades. There have been dozens of academic papers written about it and any good MBA student will have studied it.

“This tends to be called 'razors and blades pricing' or a 'two-part tariff',” says Richard Schmalensee, an emeritus professor of economics and management at MIT and the author of his own paper on razor blade pricing.

Companies woo customers with an inexpensive, maybe even below-cost product (like the razor handle) and then charge more a related good (such as the refill blades). It’s a way to lock customers into a product line, but Schmalensee says it’s also a way to charge higher prices for customers who use the product more often.

“The person who uses a new blade every day, that’s a person who values a close shave and that’s the person I, as the manufacturer, know would pay a high price,” he says. “And I’d be happy to charge them that high price.”

A slew of other products use the razors and blades model: Video consoles and video games, printers and ink cartridges, e-readers and e-books, and even in some ways, phone carriers who subsidize a cell-phone handset when purchased with subscription to their service.

However, there’s another reason why blades are so expensive.

“Razor blades are really, really difficult to make,” says Jeff Raider, the co-founder of Harry’s, a start-up that sells shaving products directly to customers through its website.

Raider says before he started Harry’s, he had no idea how complicated razor production would be or that there’s only a few companies in the world producing blades. He wound up purchasing a German factory in order to get the blades and quality he wanted.

 “It actually starts with buying really fine razor steel,” explains Raider. “You have to grind steel so that it’s very sharp at its tip and very strong at its base. That gives it both stability and a really crisp cutting surface.”

The combination of strength and precision minimizes the risk of nicks or razor burn.

The metal is then heated and cooled, “actually changing the molecular composition of the steel,” says Raider. Next it’s ground at “specific angles that are proprietary to the razor blade manufacturer, in machines that the manufacturers actually make themselves.”

Because creating the blades is an intricate, complicated, expensive process with high barriers to entry, the few companies that make blades have an advantage: Without many competitors, they’re able to charge higher prices.

“Historically, the companies that have known how to make razor blades have been able to charge people vastly different prices for razor blades than the actual cost,” say Raider.

War Criminals Next Door: Immigration Division Brings Violators To Justice

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:08

A little-known division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has helped track down people who committed atrocities in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and El Salvador.

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I'm Mike Huckabee, And I Approve This ... Infomercial?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 13:05

How does the former governor square hawking a diabetes supplement program with a potentially serious run for the White House?

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