National News

Black Lives Matter: Coming To A Museum Near You?

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 03:42

How do you curate a museum exhibit about the protests in Ferguson, Mo.? NPR's Scott Simon speaks with the director National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open next fall.

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Winds Of Change? Rhode Island Hopes For First Offshore Wind Farm

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 03:42

Rhode Island is trying to have more success than a similar project off the coast of Massachusetts. However some residents worry the farm will disrupt the ocean view.

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No Shame, No Euphemism: Suicide Isn't A Natural Cause Of Death

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 03:03

A doctor's mother loved medicines and their potential for miracles, but she always sought to ditch them the moment she felt better. Her mental health problems eventually overwhelmed her.

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How Sierra Leone's Most Famous Journalist Helped NPR Get The Ebola Story

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 03:03

At the height of the epidemic, Umaru Fofana was our guide — and a one-man solution system. This summer, he stopped by NPR's headquarters for a reunion with our Ebola reporting team.

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Coding Camp to Baltimore Schools: Bring Us Your Bored!

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 01:32

A summer program in Baltimore has black middle-schoolers coding, designing apps and altogether hooked on engineering.

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Israeli Officials Promise To Find Arsonists Who Killed Palestinian Child

NPR News - Sat, 2015-08-01 00:03

The Israeli prime minister says he's shocked and outraged at the attack. An analyst says public concern could make this a defining moment for Israelis.

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Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Update: Expecting A Baby

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 20:58

The co-founder of the world's largest social network also disclosed that the couple had suffered three miscarriages over the last two years.

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A giant robot that shoots ... T-shirts?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-31 20:21

If the whole idea of creating a new sports entertainment league that will rival the UFC, WWE and NASCAR for sheer dollars, excitement and danger doesn't work out, the MegaBots can always do parties. It turns out that a MegaBot is a really good T-shirt cannon.

MegaBots is a startup, based in Oakland, California, doing the kind of work a lot of kids hope to be doing someday, too: building a 15-foot tall, 15,000-pound fighting robot, and hoping it'll become the centerpiece of a new global entertainment business.

Matt Oehrlein, Gui Cavalcanti and Andrew Stroup, who was later replaced by Brinkley Warren, started the company as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2014. Their goal was to raise $1.8 million, but they managed just over $65,000 — a less than mega haul. That would seem to be the end of it, until earlier this summer when the MegaBots team issued a challenge to a Japanese company called Suidobashi Heavy Industries, which is making its own fighting machines. MegaBots called for a duel, the Japanese accepted, and the company is suddenly back in the spotlight. 

MegaBots raised some private funding and got a sponsorship from AutoDesk, and managed to build its roughly $200,000 prototype, which it has taken on the road to build interest and support.

Cavalcanti said the company will take a two-headed approach to building its brand: venture capital funding for the business of creating a fighting robot league, and a second Kickstarter that will hopefully pay for upgrades to the robot, both structural and decorative (think eagle heads on each shoulder, since the robot is now part of "Team America").

I tracked down the MegaBot at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, where it had been summoned to entertain some august members of the tech community. The bot was baking in the summer heat of the museum's parking lot, and Cavalcanti and Warren said they'd recently learned that the MegaBot could perform a new trick: using its missile-launcher left arm to fire T-shirts into the air.

The MegaBot can certainly draw a crowd — people crowded around for selfies and questions. But skepticism abounded, too: one spectator in a Maker Faire T-shirt pointed out that the device couldn't rightfully be called a "robot," since it has to be piloted by humans. The MegaBot, in fact, requires two pilots: a driver and a gunner.

Warren declares that the presence of humans inside the fighting robots (or, uh, exoskeletons, if we're being specific) adds the crucial element of danger and excitement that will make a fighting league a big draw. It's like NASCAR or hockey, he says. These aren't purely mechanical, remote-controlled gadgets like BattleBots — there are people in there, and the blood lust, as it were, is real.

Critics charge that the MegaBot won't actually do what other high-profile robotics projects have done, which is to spur innovation and development that could further the field overall and lead to breakthroughs that could save lives, make work more efficient or even do a better job cleaning our houses. Instead, noted the Washington Post, MegaBots is merely violent fantasy, leading to a vision of robotics that bristles with guns and will only militarize robotic development.

After a few hours with the MegaBots crew, it's clear that their motives aren't particularly altruistic, and to expect otherwise would be like asking Vince McMahon whether his wrestling empire had led to training breakthroughs for Olympic athletes. It's just not the point.

And after my own brief ride in the gunner's seat, and the opportunity to rapid-fire about 80 T-shirts across a parking lot into the foliage above a group of excited children, I admit that if and when the MegaBots duel actually occurs (the team is hoping for summer of 2016), I'd probably watch it. Sometimes, robots are just fun.

Pacific Trade Pact In Limbo As Talks End Without A Deal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 19:47

Disagreements remain among the 12 countries regarding drug patents, market access and more, and likely will delay congressional debate of any eventual agreement into 2016.

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Watch: 164 Skydivers Fall Into Formation, Breaking World Record

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 19:43

One of the dangers was that parachutes or people could collide. The previous skydiving record was set by 138 people in 2012.

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Chimps In Habeas Corpus Case Will No Longer Be Used For Research

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 19:37

Hercules and Leo were used for researched at Stony Brook University will be retired. They were at the center of a court case that tested whether chimps had the same legal "personhood" as humans.

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Professional Wrestling World Mourns Longtime Star 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 17:58

The Canadian entered the WWF as a villain and fought Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the first Wrestlemania event. The career gave the often-bekilted grappler many chances to show off his bagpipe skills.

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The minimum wage debate

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-31 14:10

Next weekend on Marketplace, guest host David Lazarus will take a look at the debate behind the minimum wage across the U.S. Does the minimum wage force companies to layoff low-paid employees? Or is a living wage fair to employees?

Have you ever lived on the minimum wage in your area? We want to hear your stories. Send us an email or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Zimbabwe Official Calls For Extradition Of American Lion Hunter Walter Palmer

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:48

Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri wants Palmer to face justice in Zimbabwe, wire services report. U.S. authorities are investigating whether any American laws were broken.

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Decades Of Limbo Ends For Some Indians, Bangladeshis Along Border

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:47

The fate of pockets of Bangladeshis and Indians living on opposite sides of the border was left unresolved after the partition of the former British colony in 1947. A new agreement has changed that.

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Juvenile Justice System Failing Native Americans, Studies Show

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:43

One report shows that state courts are twice as likely to incarcerate Native teens for minor crimes like truancy and alcohol use. Another, that alternatives like treatment programs are more effective.

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Ebola Vaccine Hailed As 'Game Changer' In Fight Against The Virus

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:38

In a small trial, an experimental vaccine protected 100 percent of people at high risk for Ebola. But more data are needed to figure out exactly how well the vaccine works.

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Kai Ryssdal's 10th anniversary

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:35

This Friday marks the 10th anniversary of Kai Ryssdal hosting Marketplace.

To celebrate, Marketplace Senior Producer Sitara Nieves and and Executive Producer and Vice President Deborah Clark surprised him with a pop quiz:

What was his lead story 10 years ago?

What was the music for the numbers?

What was his personal admission on the broadcast?

To hear the answers, click on the audio player above.

Hillary Clinton To Release 8 Years Of Tax Returns

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:25

The returns will show that she and her husband Bill Clinton paid nearly $44 million in federal taxes since 2007, according to her campaign. "We've come a long way," she said.

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Relativity Media goes into turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-31 13:00

Hollywood studio Relativity Media has filed for bankruptcy after reportedly amassing more than $1 billion in debts. The company's assets amount to half of that, according to reports. Relativity founder Ryan Kavanaugh wanted to move away from the blockbuster-centric economy that rules the big studios and concentrate on smaller films that could be spun into additional revenue streams on television and the web. But "absent any significant hits, it's hard to maintain this kind of enterprise for a long period of time," says John Sloss, an entertainment industry lawyer and film producer. Relativity's creditors will now have to get in line to get paid.

Click the above audio to hear the full conversation. 

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