as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Taste Test: Obama Soda A Hit With French Teens

The election of Barack Obama has inspired one French entrepreneur to create a new soft drink. The maker of Obama Soda says he hopes his beverage, and its namesake, will inspire young people living in some of France's grimmest housing projects by giving them a little taste of the American dream.

La Courneuve is a working-class suburb only 5 miles from the center of Paris, but it seems a different world from the glittering City of Light. In the drab housing projects — or cites, as they are called here — rows of gray cinder block apartments dominate the landscape. It is here that 31-year-old Jean-Jacques Attisso has decided to base his advertising business. Attisso grew up in a nearby housing project; like most young people here, his parents were immigrants from Africa. The energetic entrepreneur says one of the biggest problems in La Courneuve is the apathy and hopelessness among young people.

"There is like a gap between this area and Paris," says Attisso. "And for me, it's really important to be here and to try to give a positive message."

Attisso gives back to the community by mentoring young people in his spare time. He says President-elect Obama has inspired young people like nobody else. That, and the fact that one of his clients is a can manufacturer, gave him the idea to create Obama Soda. The drink comes in a red and blue can featuring Obama's photo and the slogan "Yes We Can." It's the perfect tool to get young people to listen to his message, says Attisso — even if the success story is from another country.

"They know that Barack Obama is American, and here in France, the situation is a bit different," says Attisso. "But still, if someone is able to do that in the biggest country in the world, why not? It could happen in other countries."

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, December 15, 2008

Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoes At President Bush.

President Bush made an unannounced trip to Iraq on Sunday. He and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a ceremonial copy of a U.S.-Iraq security agreement. Bush also dodged a pair of shoes flung by a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television during a news conference in Iraq. The president joked the shoes were a size 10.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Carter: African Leaders Must Pressure Mugabe

Former President Jimmy Carter says reports of humanitarian conditions from inside Zimbabwe are "horrifying and even much worse than we had feared." He and a group of advisers known as "The Elders" were prohibited from entering the country and surveying the situation on the ground personally. A continuing power struggle in government combined with a widening cholera outbreak is gripping the nation.

"[Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe had made every effort, successfully, to conceal the fact that there's an absolute, total humanitarian crisis in his country," Carter tells NPR's Renee Montagne. Carter says the "campaign of oppression" in the country to restrain dissenting voices is contributing to the problem.

-excerpt from NPR

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Puppycam Lives On

Last week, we broadcast a story about six Shiba Inu puppies, made famous by a puppycam on ustream.tv. We posted links to it and other puppycams, and the story has been one of the most-emailed npr.org for days.

We have an update: The Shiba Inu pups are now 8 1/2 weeks old, and this weekend the first of them goes off to a new home.

Ustream.tv users' comments on the departure of the puppies promised tears and deep sadness when they'll be taken by their new owners. Well, we have good news. The breeders have decided to keep one of the dogs, and so the puppycam will continue. The other pooches have all been sold to nearby families. The breeders say that they will arrange a reunion and will post updates and pictures as the litter grows. For now, you can still visit the puppycam through the link below.


-excerpt from NPR

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finding Health Insurance Can Be Tricky For Grads

For those who have aged out of their parents' health plan — and don't get benefits through an employer — the best option is to shop around for an individual health plan, experts say.

Lacey Schweitzer, 29, a part-time massage therapist and waitress in Denver, went almost seven years with no insurance. "I thought I couldn't afford it," says Schweitzer.But then she found an HMO through Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. The plan costs about $100 per month.

Schweitzer says she couldn't afford a premium plan — and she didn't anticipate needing to see specialists — so the preventive care plan from Kaiser Permanente is a good fit. "I can go to the doctor and do a co-pay. And I can get a prescription if I'm sick," she says. Schweitzer says the policy gives her peace of mind.

One place to start shopping for individual health plans is eHealthInsurance.com.

"There are lots of plans being offered out there," says Jennifer Libster, a lawyer and analyst at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "But I think it can be very confusing."

A general rule of thumb is that the higher the monthly premium and the lower the deductible, the more coverage a policy offers. But plans vary. And the devil is in the details. "It's important to sit down and read your plan," says Libster. There can be lots of surprises when you sift through the details.

- excerpt from NPR

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Transcript Of Barack Obama's Victory Speech

"...I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure." -Barack Obama

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

South Dakotans Again Consider An Abortion Ban

Its deja vu all over again in South Dakota, where voters are being asked for the second election in a row to approve or reject a ban on abortion. Two years ago, voters just said no to a ban so sweeping it allowed almost no exceptions. This year, the proposed ban is a little less rigid. But opponents say it's still too extreme. And partisans on both sides know it's not just abortions in South Dakota at stake: If the ban is passed, it could be used to mount a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the right to abortion nationwide.

Limiting Exceptions

Initiated Measure 11 is the formal name of the abortion referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. It would ban virtually all abortions in the state, with limited exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or health of the woman. At this house, Moss scores a hit, as Flanagan says he'll be voting against the ban. "I don't believe in government telling people what to do," he says.But while a strong libertarian streak among South Dakota voters like Flanagan helped defeat the ban two years ago, South Dakota is still a very conservative state when it comes to abortion.

That's apparent around the corner, at the home of ZoAnn Trumbull. "I believe abortion is wrong, it's murder," she tells Moss' canvassing colleague, Hassan Ali. "And according to the Bible, thou shall not murder. … And there are a lot of people out there who need to adopt those babies that need to be adopted, and that's the way we stand," she says politely, but firmly.

"Countless people said, 'If you'd had an exception for rape and incest, then we'd have voted with you,' " he says. So in version 2.0, he explains, "we're giving the people of South Dakota what they wanted. This bill, this initiative, basically has exceptions for rape, incest and health and life of the mother."

Unruh says he recognized that some compromise was necessary. "Ideally, I'd like to save every child possible, but we don't live in that type of world right now. So to me, it's kind of like if the Titanic is sinking, would you say, 'Let's not lower the lifeboats because you can't save them all?' Let's save every person we can."

Across town, at the current Planned Parenthood clinic, CEO Sarah Stoesz says all the talk of limits on the ban is nothing but a smoke screen.

"If this ban is passed, it means that there will be no abortions performed in South Dakota," she says.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, October 24, 2008

Survey: U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Placebos

Placebos are common in medical research testing. One group of volunteers gets a test drug, while another group gets a look-alike sugar pill. Everybody is told upfront that they could get one or the other.

But a new survey finds that many U.S. doctors regularly prescribe placebos even in everyday patient care — for conditions that haven't responded to treatment, such as chronic pain or fatigue. Patients are almost never aware that they are getting a placebo. The idea is that if a patient thinks the pill will help, it just might.

Of nearly 700 U.S. internal medicine doctors and arthritis specialists surveyed, almost half said they prescribe placebos regularly — two to three times a month. Only 1 in 20 doctors told patients they were getting a placebo.Doctors say they most often will prescribe a vitamin pill or over-the-counter painkiller, though some prescribe an antibiotic or sedative, which the authors of the study say could be harmful. Typically, doctors tell patients the placebo is "potentially helpful, but not designed for your specific illness."

"Half of all American internists and rheumatologists using placebos was a real surprise to me," says Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, head of ethics at the National Institutes of Health and an author of the study, which appears in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Walter Reed' for combat dogs opens at Texas bas

A new $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs. Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration are trained at the base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 dogs are working with military units.

Like soldiers and Marines in combat, military dogs suffer from war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working. Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown to Germany for care. If necessary, they'll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.

"We act as the Walter Reed of the veterinary world," said Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, hospital director, referring to the Washington military medical center that treats troops returning severely wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs can usually return to combat areas if they recover at the Military Working Dog Center, he said.

-excerpt from AP, NPR

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Campaigns Take Flak For Using Robocalls

One of the least glamorous devices in politics has landed in the headlines: Republican John McCain is taking criticism for using robocalls, or automated phone calls, to spread negative messages about Democrat Barack Obama. Campaigns like robocalls because they are incredibly cheap and cost a small fraction of a piece of direct mail.

The most recent robocall is a McCain message that accuses Obama of being a radical dupe for terrorists. "Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC, because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers…" begins one robocall.

This call has caused an uproar — partly for its method and partly for its message. McCain and the Republican National Committee also have a robocall about Obama and abortion. Those who object include Republican senators fighting for re-election. But Sunday on Fox News, McCain said he's not stopping his phone campaign against Obama. "Of course not. These are legitimate and truthful," he said on the program.

Economics Of Robocalls

Studies show that robocalls usually aren't that effective. Dakin says it's their economics that keep them going. "Essentially, all you need to do is buy a computer server with the right software on it, and you have a robocall system. So if they're relatively low quality done over the Internet — called voice over IP — those can be as low as a quarter of a cent a call," he said.

David Magleby is a political scientist at Brigham Young University who studies political communication strategies. He has two possible interpretations of McCain's big push with robocalls. It could be that McCain's campaign is using them instead of far more costly TV ads. Or it could be "that they may not have the volunteer base that the Bush campaign had in 2000 or 2004, and so they're going to robocalls rather than having volunteers call," he added. Either way, McCain's phone operations are so intense, they may set a new standard for robocall saturation and, perhaps, for their impact.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, October 20, 2008

God Wins In Nebraska Court.

Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers sought an injunction against God last year for widespread death and destruction. Judge Marlon Polk threw out the suit, saying there's no way to properly notify the defendant. You can't serve papers on a suspect with no address. Chambers says he may appeal. He says God is aware of the charges because he is all-knowing.

-excerpt from NPR

the link to hear the story:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Is Joe The Plumber?

Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man looking to buy a plumbing business, came to symbolize the notion of spreading the wealth in Wednesday night's third and final presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Earlier this week, when Wurzelbacher got a chance to speak with Obama during a campaign appearance in Toledo, he told Obama that his tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him. Sensing an opportunity during the debate, McCain cited that exchange when the candidates were asked to explain why their economic plans are better than their opponent's. McCain said Obama's plan would stop entrepreneurs from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

"Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes," McCain challenged Obama.

"You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream," McCain said. McCain then looked directly into the television camera and said: "Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income."

Obama denied that was true. "Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy," Obama said. "They produce the most jobs."

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, September 29, 2008

Caring Makes Us Human

When the scruffy orange cat showed up in the prison yard, I was one of the first to go out there and pet it. I hadn't touched a cat or a dog in over 20 years. I spent at least 20 minutes crouched down by the Dumpster behind the kitchen as the cat rolled around and luxuriated beneath my attention. What he was expressing outwardly I was feeling inwardly. It was an amazing bit of grace to feel him under my hand and know that I was enriching the life of another creature with something as simple as my care. I believe that caring for something or someone in need is what makes us human.

Over the next few days, I watched other prisoners responding to the cat. Every yard period, a group of prisoners gathered there. They stood around talking and taking turns petting the cat. These were guys you wouldn't usually find talking to each other. Several times I saw an officer in the group — not chasing people away, but just watching and seeming to enjoy it along with the prisoners.

Bowls of milk and water appeared, along with bread, wisely placed under the edge of the Dumpster to keep the sea gulls from getting it. The cat was obviously a stray and in pretty bad shape. One prisoner brought out his small, blunt-tipped scissors, and trimmed burrs and matted fur from his coat.

People said, "That cat came to the right place. He's getting treated like a king." This was true. But as I watched, I was also thinking about what the cat was doing for us. There's a lot of talk about what's wrong with prisons in America. We need more programs; we need more psychologists or treatment of various kinds. Some even talk about making prisons more kind, but I think what we really need is a chance to practice kindness ourselves. Not receive it, but give it.

After more than two decades here, I know that kindness is not a value that's encouraged. It's often seen as weakness. Instead the culture encourages keeping your head down, minding your own business and never letting yourself be vulnerable. For a few days a raggedy cat disrupted this code of prison culture. They've taken him away now, hopefully to a decent home — but it did my heart good to see the effect he had on me and the men here. He didn't have a Ph.D., he wasn't a criminologist or a psychologist, but by simply saying, "I need some help here," he did something important for us. He needed us — and we need to be needed. I believe we all do.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, September 26, 2008

WaMu becomes biggest bank to fail in US history

As the debate over a $700 billion bank bailout rages on in Washington, one of the nation's largest banks — Washington Mutual Inc. — has collapsed under the weight of its enormous bad bets on the mortgage market.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seized WaMu on Thursday, and then sold the thrift's banking assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $1.9 billion.

Because of WaMu's souring mortgages and other risky debt, JPMorgan plans to write down WaMu's loan portfolio by about $31 billion — a figure that could change if the government goes through with its bailout plan and JPMorgan decides to take advantage of it. "We're in favor of what the government is doing, but we're not relying on what the government is doing. We would've done it anyway," JPMorgan's Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in a conference call Thursday night, referring to the acquisition. Dimon said he does not know if JPMorgan will take advantage of the bailout.

"For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks," Bair said in a statement. "For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition. There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual come Friday morning."

The seizure by the government means shareholders' equity in WaMu was wiped out. The deal leaves private equity investors including the firm TPG Capital, which gave WaMu a cash infusion totaling $7 billion this spring, on the sidelines empty handed.

WaMu ran into trouble after it got caught up in the once-booming subprime mortgage business. Troubles then spread to other parts of WaMu's home loan portfolio, namely its "option" adjustable-rate mortgage loans. Option ARM loans offer very low introductory payments and let borrowers defer some interest payments until later years. The bank stopped originating those loans in June.

"This is a definite win for JPMorgan," said Sebastian Hindman, an analyst at SNL Financial, who said JPMorgan should be able to shoulder the $31 billion writedown to WaMu's portfolio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On holiday until the 24th

back to brooklyn and drawing soon! X alex

Monday, September 15, 2008

Financial Giants Falling: Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG

When Wall Street woke up Monday morning, two more of its storied firms had fallen.

Lehman Brothers, burdened by $60 billion in soured real-estate holdings, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court after attempts to rescue the 158-year-old firm failed. Bank of America Corp. said it is snapping up Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. in a $50 billion all-stock transaction.The demise of the independent Wall Street institutions came as shock waves from the 14-month-old credit crisis roiled the U.S. financial system six months after the collapse of Bear Stearns.

Employees emerging from Lehman's headquarters near the heart of Times Square Sunday night carried boxes, tote bags and duffel bags, rolling suitcases, framed artwork and spare umbrellas. Many were emblazoned with the Lehman Brothers name. Its businesses in Britain were placed in administration Monday, said the administrator, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and employees carrying boxes and bags were walking out of Lehman's London offices.

TV trucks lined Seventh Avenue opposite the building, while barricades at the building's main entrance attempted to keep workers and onlookers from gumming up the steady flow of pedestrians flowing in and out of Times Square.

Some workers had moist eyes while a few others wept and shared hugs. Most who left the building quietly declined interviews.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin Tested On National Security, Foreign Policy

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is emerging from her protective media bubble in interviews with ABC News and says she's ready for the job.

That was at the crux of the first question out of the box from ABC's Charles Gibson, who inquired about her decision to accept the place on the Republican ticket, her national security positions and her stances on energy and the environment.

"I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink," Palin told Gibson. "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink."

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pigs Out, But Artist Sells Tattoo Off Man's Back

At ShContemporary, Shanghai's largest art fair, everyone is talking about something that didn't actually happen. Eight pigs, tattooed with Louis Vuitton logos and Walt Disney characters, were supposed to be exhibited as part of an artwork by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Chinese authorities banned the pig exhibition, Delvoye says, "not because of sanitation issues, not because of animal rights, not because of ideological considerations, not because there's something anti-communist, not because there's nudity in it — but this time it was not allowed because it was not art."

Instead, Delvoye is putting on display a Swiss man named Tim Steiner, whose back Delvoye has tattooed with a scene featuring the Virgin Mary. The tattoo on Steiner's back has been sold for almost $215,000 to a collector who has the right to remove it after he dies. Delvoye says bluntly that this is one yardstick that makes the tattoo an artwork, rather than just another tattoo.

"It's art because it got sold," Delvoye says.

Steiner is contractually bound to display his tattooed back at various events and functions, including ShContemporary, where he sits on a stool facing a wall so people can marvel at his back. He is a living canvas whose back will live on as artwork after his death, yet he denies that the concept is macabre. "If the project finishes the way it should, and the skin will be removed and properly framed, then I will exist forever, at least a part of me will, and I find that concept more exciting than morbid," Steiner says.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain camp: Obama's 'lipstick' remark disgraceful

What's the difference between the presidential campaign before and after the national political conventions? Lipstick. "You can put lipstick on a pig," Barack Obama told a rally in a reference to a line in Sarah Palin's vice presidential acceptance speech. "It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told an audience Tuesday that GOP presidential nominee John McCain says he'll change Washington, but he's just like President Bush. "You can put lipstick on a pig," he said to an outbreak of laughter, shouts and raucous applause from his audience, clearly drawing a connection to Palin's joke even if it's not what Obama meant.

McCain's campaign called the comments "offensive and disgraceful" and said Obama owes Palin an apology. Obama's campaign said he wasn't referring to Palin and said the GOP camp was engaging in a "pathetic attempt to play the gender card." Obama's camp also noted that McCain once used the same phrase to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan. Obama followed up by saying Palin is an interesting story, drawing boos at the mention of her name that he tried to cut off.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

KFC shoring up security for secret recipe

Pssst. The secret's out at KFC. Well, sort of. Colonel Harland Sanders' handwritten recipe of 11 herbs and spices was to be removed Tuesday from safekeeping at KFC's corporate offices for the first time in decades. The temporary relocation is allowing KFC to revamp security around a yellowing sheet of paper that contains one of the country's most famous corporate secrets.

The brand's top executive admitted his nerves were aflutter despite the tight security he lined up for the operation. "I don't want to be the president who loses the recipe," KFC President Roger Eaton said. "Imagine how terrifying that would be."

So important is the 68-year-old concoction that coats the chain's Original Recipe chicken that only two company executives at any time have access to it. The company refuses to release their name or title, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents.

Louisville-based KFC, part of the fast-food company Yum Brands Inc., hired off-duty police officers and private security guards to whisk the document away to an undisclosed location in an armored car. The recipe will be slid into a briefcase and handcuffed to security expert Bo Dietl for the ride.

"There's no way anybody could get this recipe," said Dietl, a former New York City police detective. His security firm is also handling the security improvements for the recipe at headquarters.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Takes No Prisoners in Debut Speech

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took the podium to a huge standing ovation from the Xcel Center crowd -- it must have lasted at least two minutes. And after all the recent talk about Palin's so-called unpreparedness for the customary attack-dog role of the VP nominee, she came out tonight with guns blazing.

Palin talked up her own political germination as an "average hockey mom" (joking that the only difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom is lipstick) who "signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids' public education better." She worked her way up, earning a seat on the city council and eventually reaching the mayor's office in her hometown of Wasilla. She described that job with poke at Barack Obama's oft-cited beginnings as a community organizer in Chicago.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Orleans residents to return to no power.

Enter at your own risk, New Orleans. That was the message from Mayor Ray Nagin, who gave residents the go-ahead to return to the Crescent City early Thursday, but with several warnings — many homes were without electricity or working toilets and a dusk-to-dawn curfew would still be in effect.

"It's my humble opinion that the city is still in a very, very vulnerable state," Nagin said Tuesday evening.

Millions fled the Gulf Coast in fear of Hurricane Gustav, and many were ready to get back home after spending several days in hot, overcrowded shelters. But as of late Tuesday, there were still nearly 800,000 homes in Louisiana without power, including about 77,000 in the city of New Orleans. Officials said the main transmission lines into southern Louisiana were crippled and they had no timetable of when much of the power might be restored.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palin's Teen Is Pregnant; News Overshadows RNC

The announcement that Sarah Palin's unmarried, 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant, came in a statement released by the McCain campaign. The statement, made in Sarah and Todd Palin's name, said:

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter, Bristol, came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, August 29, 2008

Banksy Hits New Orleans

As New Orleans faces another potentially destructive storm, the street artist known as Banksy has created more than a dozen murals around the city, including the one shown above. The murals depict a variety of scenes, including Abraham Lincoln as a homeless man pushing a basket, a marching band wearing gas masks, an old man in a rocking chair with an American flag below the words “No Loitering,” and a boy on a swing made out of a life preserver. According to a statement released by Banksy on Thursday, the murals were created in response to Fred Radtke, an antigraffiti campaigner also known as the Gray Ghost, who uses gray paint to cover up graffiti. The statement also said, “Three years after Katrina I wanted to make a statement about the state of the clean up operation.”

-excerpt from the NYT

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Clinton: 'Barack Obama Is My Candidate'

Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned plea for party unity in a forceful address to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, declaring, "Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our president."

Clinton, who narrowly lost the race for the Democratic nomination to Obama, delivered her anxiously awaited speech before a packed house at the Pepsi Center in Denver, jokingly giving her thanks "to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" while wearing an orange pantsuit.But she also challenged her supporters, many of whom have been reluctant to transfer their allegiance to Obama. "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or … were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"

Clinton called presumptive Republican nominee John McCain a colleague and friend but said the nation doesn't "need four more years of the last eight years." She said it made sense that McCain and George Bush would be together for next week's Republican convention "in the Twin Cities, because they're awfully hard to tell apart."

'Psychological Release'

Clinton was given an extended ovation before and after her address. And at least some of her supporters were mollified by her remarks. "I feel psychologically released," said Clinton delegate Deborah Hauser of New Haven, Conn. "She reminded me I didn't vote just for Hilary but for progressive ideals."

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Texas students pack bookbags; teachers pack heat.

Along with normal first-day jitters and excitement, students in this tiny district started school Monday wondering which teachers might be toting firearms. "It was kind of awkward knowing that some teachers were carrying guns," said Adam Lira, 17, a senior. "I don't feel like they should be, 'cause we already have locked doors and cameras. But I didn't feel threatened by it."

Several parents said they had no idea that employees of the K-12 school were allowed to carry concealed guns on campus until recent publicity about the school board's policy, approved quietly last fall. They said they were upset that the rural community near the Oklahoma border had not been able to give input.

While some parents said they felt their children were safer, others opposed the plan, which appears to be the first of its kind nationwide. "As far as I'm concerned, teachers were trained to educate my children — not carry a gun. Even police officers need years of training in hostage situations," said Traci McKay, whose three children are among the 110 students in the red-brick Harrold school. "I don't want my child looking over her shoulder wondering who's carrying a gun."

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama To Announce VP Via Text Message

Presidential candidate Barack Obama says his pick for a running mate — he's made a decision but isn't giving out a name just yet — had to meet three standards to join the Democratic ticket: Prepared to be president, able to help him govern and willing to challenge his thinking.

Those criteria did little to narrow the guessing game as Obama prepared for a massive rally in Illinois on Saturday to present his No. 2 to the nation and undertake a pre-convention tour of battleground states. He planned to disclose his choice by unleashing text messages to supporters, perhaps as early as Friday.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To Lower Blood Pressure, Open Up And Say 'Om'

In his 20 years as director of the hypertension program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Randy Zusman has maintained a rather traditional approach. He writes plenty of prescriptions for standard medications to treat high blood pressure. But in recent years, Zusman has gotten more assertive with patients about lifestyle choices.

"You're going to have to change your diet, you're going to have to lose weight, exercise, stop smoking," Zusman tells patients. "If it's not an important priority, keep doing what you're doing, I'll give you the pills. But if you really want to be there, you're going to have to change."

Zusman says that about 40 of the 60 patients trained in the relaxation response had positive results. "Their blood pressure dropped, and they dropped some of their medication. It was striking. It was statistically significant, but more important it was clinically significant to these people," he says.

What helps to explain these results, Zusman says, is the relatively new understanding of how the relaxation response assists the body. It helps increase the formation of a compound called nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to open up. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure. "It's basically a plumbing problem. You're pushing the same amount of blood through a bigger pipe," Zusman says. "And that's what nitric oxide — which all of us make in our body — does in response to relaxation response."

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, August 18, 2008

Powered By Grease, Drivers Race to Greece

In the Grease to Greece road rally kicked off in London Saturday. Teams are heading for Athens in vehicles powered by used cooking oil. The object isn't necessarily who can get to Athens first, rather it's who can get there the greenest. Andy Pag speaks with Robert Smith.

link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93671637

-excerpt from npr

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In Ohio, Inmate Mothers Care For Babies In Prison

At the Ohio Reformatory for Women, a dozen babies are spending time behind bars. Too young to say the word "crime," they are participants in a program that enables inmate mothers to raise their children in their cells. The program is one of many across the country designed to meet the unique needs of mothers who are locked up. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. prison population. At the Ohio Reformatory, the warden estimates that 75 percent of the 2,300 inmates housed there are mothers.

Only a handful of U.S. prisons offer an in-house nursery program like the one at the quickly expanding Ohio complex, located about 30 miles from Columbus. Only nonviolent offenders who arrive at the prison pregnant or with infants and are serving relatively short sentences can qualify. The Achieving Baby Care Success program began in June 2001. The 12 mothers currently participating live in a special wing of the prison. The babies sleep in identical cribs in their mothers' cells. Between prison roll calls, mothers take their children to the in-house nursery for scheduled activities.

The ultimate goal, says warden Sheri Duffey, is to reduce recidivism and keep the next generation out of prison.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

8-year-old guitar wiz has reason to play the blues

When Tallan "T-Man" Latz was 5, he saw Joe Satriani playing guitar on TV. "I turned around to my dad and said, 'That's exactly what I want to do.'" Three years and countless hours of practicing later, 8-year-old Tallan is a blues guitar prodigy. He's played in bars and clubs, including the House of Blues in Chicago, and even jammed with Les Paul and Jackson Browne. He has a summer of festivals scheduled and has drawn interest from venues worldwide.

And what, you might ask, would a kid not even in the third grade have the blues about? The state of Wisconsin for one, and some possibly jealous older musicians for another. An anonymous e-mail sent to state officials complained that Tallan was too young to perform in taverns and nightclubs because of state child labor laws. His booking agent even got an anonymous letter threatening her with death if she keeps booking him.

When Tallan's father read him the state's letter saying he couldn't play clubs anymore (he can still play festivals), the boy's response — like his music — seemed beyond his years. "He goes, 'It's not how many times you get knocked down but it's how many times you get back up and go forward,' Carl Latz said his son told him. "And I told him that's exactly what this is all about and if nothing else this letter just taught you a life lesson."

The lesson can be stiff: Each day he performs, the employer can be fined $25 to $1,000 and the parent from $10 to $250.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, August 11, 2008

Scientists closer to developing invisibility cloak

Scientists say they are a step closer to developing materials that could render people and objects invisible. Researchers have demonstrated for the first time they were able to cloak three-dimensional objects using artificially engineered materials that redirect light around the objects. Previously, they only have been able to cloak very thin two-dimensional objects.

The findings, by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Xiang Zhang, are to be released later this week in the journals Nature and Science. The new work moves scientists a step closer to hiding people and objects from visible light, which could have broad applications, including military ones.

People can see objects because they scatter the light that strikes them, reflecting some of it back to the eye. Cloaking uses materials, known as metamaterials, to deflect radar, light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream. Metamaterials are mixtures of metal and circuit board materials such as ceramic, Teflon or fiber composite. They are designed to bend visible light in a way that ordinary materials don't. Scientists are trying to use them to bend light around objects so they don't create reflections or shadows.

It differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track. The research was funded in part by the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation's Nano-Scale Science and Engineering Center.

- excerpt from AP

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Real Bikers Don't Drink Lattes

Writer Marcos McPeek Villatoro recently bought a Harley — not unlike the one his father and mother drove across the country before he was born. But, tuckered out after a short ride and an espresso-stop, he realizes he'll never be as cool as they were.

-excerpt from npr

Monday, August 4, 2008

Study: Restaurant kids' meals loaded with calories

Parents looking for healthy meal choices for their children are likely to find slim pickings on the menus of the nation's top restaurant chains, according to a report released Monday by a nonprofit public health group. Nearly every possible combination of the children's meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Sonic, Jack in the Box, and Chick-fil-A are too high in calories, the report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

The report looked into the nutritional quality of kids' meals at 13 major restaurant chains. The center found 93 percent of 1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains exceed 430 calories — an amount that is one-third of what the National Institute of Medicine recommends that children ages 4 through 8 should consume in a day.

For example, Chili's Bar and Grill has 700 possible kids' meal combinations, but 658, or 94 percent, of those are too high in calories. One Chili's meal consisted of country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk contained 1,020 calories, while another comprised of cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade contained 1,000 calories. Burger King has a "Big Kids" meal with a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk at 910 calories, and Sonic has a "Wacky Pack" with 830 calories worth of grilled cheese, fries, and a slushie.

While there are some healthy choices on restaurant menus, "parents have to navigate a minefield of calories, fat and salt to find them," the report said.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, August 1, 2008

Unemployment Rate Rises to 4-Year High

The unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high of 5.7 percent in July, as employers cut 51,000 jobs amid a slumping economy, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The U.S. lost non-farm jobs for the seventh straight month in July, hitting teenagers looking for summer jobs the hardest. The total number of jobs lost for the year stands at 463,000.

The report showed that employers remain cautious as a lack of credit stunts their expansion plans. Fallout from the housing slump and high energy prices are also weighing on employers.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as many young people streamed into the labor market looking for summer jobs. This year, however, fewer of them were able to find work, the government said. The unemployment rate for teenagers jumped to 20.3 percent, the highest since late 1992.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baggage-Handling Glitch Stalls Flights At JFK Airport.

A software glitch that snarled air traffic and caused baggage pileups at John F. Kennedy International Airport stretched into Thursday, with more flight cancellations expected.

American Airlines planned to cancel at least five flights scheduled to depart from Kennedy and said others could be delayed, a day after the malfunction led to headaches and angry passengers.

Technicians had diagnosed the problem by Wednesday evening. However, the system was still being tested early Thursday and wasn't yet up and running again, said airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. She said she couldn't estimate when the system would be working again or how many passengers had been affected.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, July 28, 2008

Iraqi Refugee Finds Welcoming Home In The West.

Driving to work one dark morning in February, Rob Hunter caught an NPR story about an Iraqi refugee struggling to find work in Florida. The young man, identified as Bahjat, had endured death threats and a car bombing because of his work with U.S. contractors. He was an IT specialist with a degree in civil engineering, yet the only job he'd been offered was cleaning hotel rooms for $7 an hour, not enough to support his mother and sister. Hunter was far away, in Billings, Mont., but he felt pulled by a mixture of civic duty and religious faith.

Today, Bahjat has his own office at the Paradigm Group. A framed picture of a moose adorns one wall. At his desk is a U.S. map with his six-day driving route from Florida to Montana drawn across it, a welcome gift from his new colleagues. He says he loves his new job and his co-workers, and feels incredibly happy at the turn of events. The hardest part has been adjusting to small-town life after growing up in Baghdad, a sprawling metropolis of 7 million people.

When Bahjat researched Billings online, he saw a photo with two tall buildings — a promising sign, he thought — but when the GPS in his car told him he had arrived in the city, he thought it must be mistaken. He made Hunter drive several times around the central blocks of charming restaurants and shops before accepting that this was, indeed, "downtown."

Nonetheless, Bahjat has nothing but good things to say about the people here: "Billings is small by size, very big by heart."
One lingering frustration is the lack of an Arabic-speaking companion for Bahjat's mother, Rajha. There are only a few Arabs in town, most of them men. One day at Wal-Mart, the family was excited to see a woman wearing a veil, but the woman spoke only English. Rajha says she'd love English lessons but isn't sure where to find them; there is no agency that resettles refugees in the entire state of Montana.

Bahjat keeps in touch with other newly arrived Iraqis across the United States, including several who moved recently to the state capital, Helena, four hours away. Many are still struggling, either unemployed or in low-wage "survival jobs" not in their professional field. That makes Bahjat feel all the more lucky."I live here between Americans," he says. "I work with them; I do everything with them. So even though I love my country, I feel I belong to this country."

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, July 25, 2008

China Trains Cheerleaders To Rally The Masses.

It is no coincidence that the first published essay of China's former leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, was about sports. A strong nation, he wrote, needs strong people. And China has long used sports to bolster its international position and unite its masses. But the controversies surrounding this summer's Olympics in Beijing have heightened a heady mixture of Chinese pride and nationalism.

Officially Approved Slogans

The students in one cheerleading class are not leggy athletic girls with pompoms, but rather desk-bound, middle-aged government employees brandishing balloons. These workers have volunteered, without pay, to be cheerleaders. They are receiving 10 hours of instruction in how to shout the officially approved slogans, such as "Go China! Go Olympics!" At least 300,000 such volunteers will make up China's Olympic cheering squads. And 3,000 of those have been trained by Zhang Jinling, a professional enthusiast with a fixed rictus grin of joy.

"We raise our arms and shout powerfully to encourage China and the Olympics," she says to her students.

"Our cheering squads are more of a collective undertaking than NBA cheerleaders; they're more unified as a whole," Zhang says, explaining why China's fans should cheer with one voice. "Our squad is made up of workers and staff from different units, and they show the realization of our 100-year-long dream."

That dream has been to host the Olympics for the first time in China's history.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minimum-Wage Workers Getting Bump In Pay.

Employers who pay workers a minimum wage will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets starting Thursday. The federal minimum wage goes up 70 cents an hour, to $6.55. The new rate — the second step in a three-year plan to raise required pay — will mean $262 for a 40-hour work week, or $13,624 a year.

Most workers aren't affected by the minimum wage these days. Only 2 percent of hourly earners are paid the federal minimum, compared to 15 percent of the workforce in 1981, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even so, the bureau estimates that 1.73 million workers earned the federal minimum wage - or less - last year.

In some states, hourly workers who receive tips – such as food and hotel workers — are paid less than the hourly minimum wage. If their wages and tips don't add up to the federal minimum, employers must make up the difference.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wild Horses May Face Death Sentence.

With the price of hay up and horse adoptions down, a federal agency may begin killing wild horses to deal with surplus numbers. Letting evolution take its course doesn't cut it these days, the Bureau of Land Management says, prompting wild horse advocates to rally around this symbol of the old West. On a recent afternoon, a group of journalists and BLM officials gather in a mountain-framed valley about 100 miles north of Reno, Nev. Someone whispers, "here they come" and over a mile a way a small plume of dust can be seen against sage-covered mountains, followed by flashing helicopter blades.

Soon dark dots emerge in the valley, then flowing manes and tails, as the chopper pilot herds the horses into a funnel-shaped trap. A wrangler releases a so-called "Judas horse," who has been trained to lead the wild ones into the final approach to the trap. The captives mill about, wild-eyed and confused. They look sleek and fit. Suddenly there's a "whack" — as a mama rears up and protects her foal with a double-hoofed kick to an encroaching mare. It's one of the ways the new social order is solidified.

The federal agency is responsible for managing about 250 million acres of public lands throughout the West. "Protecting, managing and controlling wild horses" falls under these responsibilities, and every year the organization captures about 10-12,000 horses, about half of them in Nevada alone. Not enough, according to ranchers; too many, according to animal rights activists.

-excerpt from npr

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Team withdraws after 3rd Tour rider tests positive.

The Tour de France was thrown into chaos again Thursday after Italian rider Riccardo Ricco became the third rider to test positive for the performance enhancer EPO. Ricco's Saunier-Duval team withdrew from the Tour and suspended all of its activities after news of the rider's test for the banned blood booster. For the third year in a row, the showcase race has been marred by doping. Last year, Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion, Cristian Moreni was caught using testosterone and Iban Mayo - also with Saunier-Duval - tested positive for EPO before being cleared by the Spanish cycling federation.

Two years ago, American rider Floyd Landis was stripped of his title after using synthetic testosterone. "I'm glad they got caught. The Tour needs to continue and get to the finish in Paris," International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press. "It's another blow to the sport but I have to see it in light of the fact that they're getting caught and going to be thrown out."

Ricco, a 24-year-old Italian who won two Tour stages this year, tested positive after the fourth stage, a time trial in the western town of Cholet. Pierre Bordry, the head of the French anti-doping agency, announced the result, leading to the team's withdrawal shortly before the start of the 12th stage - a 104.7-mile run from Lavelanet to Narbonne. "It's a team decision not to start the race," Saunier-Duval sporting director Matxin Fernandez said. "He's our leader, we can't act as if nothing happened." Saunier-Duval is the first team to drop out of this year's Tour. Last year, two teams withdrew and race leader Michael Rasmussen was kicked out just days before the end for lying about his whereabouts to avoid pre-Tour testing.

-excerpt from AP

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Green Speed Dating: Finding Carbon-Neutral Love

For people who are extremely passionate about the environment, finding low-impact love can be tough. A Los Angeles Web site recently tried to help find a solution, organizing what it billed as the first "green" speed-dating event

Sixteen or so singles from across Los Angeles descended on a bar near the beach last month in search of a carbon-neutral connection. What do these greenies drive? As it turned out, more than just Priuses — one would-be dater rolled up in a Land Rover.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gulf Coast States Mull Over Oil Drilling Ban

As gas prices continue to climb, lawmakers in both parties are looking for solutions, including lifting the 27-year ban on offshore drilling along much of the nation's coastline. Congress first approved the ban after thousands of production facilities were erected in the central and western Gulf of Mexico. Top Florida Republicans have backed the ban on drilling off its coast, but now some are changing their minds. Oil and natural gas platforms dot the Gulf off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Off Florida's coast, however, the scene from the beach is different.

Enid Siskin of Gulf Breeze, Fla., would like to keep it that way. Siskin, a board member of the group Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, has been fighting proposals to drill in the eastern Gulf for 16 years. Siskin notes that tourists visit the Pensacola, Fla., beaches for white sands and emerald waters. Tourism not only fuels the economy here; it's the economic engine for the state. "It's what people come here for," Siskin says. "We're not willing to sacrifice our economy for what is potentially a very small amount of oil or gas in comparison to the world supply and will do very little if anything to lower prices."

Traditionally, that has united politicians from this area. Democrats and Republicans alike support the federal moratorium on offshore drilling.

-excerpt on NPR

Friday, July 11, 2008

free speech in china? text me.

If Romeo and Juliet lived in modern China, their dialogue would probably be in 70-character text messages. That's how college student Wong Lei's boyfriend courted her. "He told me his experiences from the time he was born through college, all in text messages," says Wong, a college student. Text messaging is the most popular form of communication in China. Six hundred million Chinese have cell phones — that's twice the population of the United States and three times the number of Chinese with Internet access. Text messages are cheaper than a phone call by about half. No one in China has voice mail, so it's the surest way to get a message to someone.

The Chinese prefer texting to talking for cultural reasons as well, says Alvin Graylin, the CEO of mInfo, a Shanghai-based company that supplies software for mobile devices to enable them to search the Internet. According to Graylin, part of the appeal is that texting allows traditionally reserved Chinese to say more than they would in person.

Graylin says the Chinese have a hard time expressing deeply personal emotions. A text message allows them to do it without bumping up against old cultural norms.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, July 10, 2008

bronx zoo cable car passengers safe after repairs.

Dozens of Bronx Zoo sightseers were rescued unharmed after being stuck in cable cars 100 feet above zoo animals for five hours, authorities said. Thirty-seven passengers were stranded in the Skyfari cable car ride when one of the gondolas got out of alignment, officials said. "The cable just jumped a wheel, but the gondola was in no danger of falling," said Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Haring.

Firefighters and police officers used a crane to rescue a family of three from the off-line gondola, which swung about 100 feet in the air. They got the gondola back online and restarted the system, allowing the passengers in the other cars to complete their rides before getting off. The cable car ride broke down around 5:30 p.m., halting 14 cars.

One of the passengers rescued by crane, Olga Perez, said firefighters talked to the stranded passengers and gave them water. She was visiting the zoo with relatives who were stranded in the other cable cars. "We were trying to calm ourselves," Perez said. "Deep in my heart, I knew I was going to take it a little bit at a time."

-excerpt from AP

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

iraqis call for u.s. troop withdrawal timetable

The Iraqi government now says it wants a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable as part of a Status of Forces Agreement or any other document outlining the U.S.-Iraqi military relationship. But this poses a problem for the Bush administration, which has resisted all calls for a timetable — primarily from Democrats.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

photos with petraeus a big draw in baghdad.

Every six weeks, hundreds of people in Baghdad's Green Zone line up to take a picture with Gen. David Petraeus, the head of coalition forces in Iraq. He gets thousands of requests from people who want their picture taken with him.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, July 7, 2008

wi-fi provider bids for san francisco transit district.

A new California company, WiFi Rail, is close to sealing a deal with San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit district to build wireless Internet access throughout the transit system. If successful, the network would be the largest transit-based Wi-Fi system in the country. Over the last few years, a string of municipal wireless networks have failed.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, July 3, 2008

state audit finds misuse of millions in daycare funds.

More than $1.5 million paid to city daycare providers was spent on things such as personal airplane tickets, cell phone bills and massages. That's according to the state comptroller’s audit of 55 state funded daycare centers.

Thomas Di Napoli is asking local prosecutors to investigate 19 of them.

DI NAPOLI: We saw some of this money clearly going for what were personal expenses. Paying for appliances, digital cameras, TV, a DVD player. Some money was deposited in personal bank accounts. The comptroller's audit also found the state paid more than $860,000 for new daycare slots that were never created.

The audit blames the Office of Children and Family Services for poor oversight. Agency commissioner Gladys Carrion says the problems preceded her and reforms such as training employees to detect fraud and reducing the number of contracts each case worker monitors have been put in place.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

australians making odd choices for funeral songs.

Hymns are being replaced at funerals in one Australian city by popular rock classics like Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," a cemetery manager said Wednesday. At Centennial Park, the largest cemetery and crematorium in the southern city of Adelaide, only two hymns still rank among its top 10 most popular funeral songs: "Amazing Grace" and "Abide With Me."

Leading the funeral chart is crooner Frank Sinatra's classic hit "My Way," followed by Louis Armstrong's version of "Wonderful World," a statement said. The Led Zeppelin and AC/DC rock anthems rank outside the top 10, but have gained ground in recent years as more Australians give up traditional Christian hymns. "Some of the more unusual songs we hear actually work very well within the service because they represent the person's character," Centennial Park chief executive Bryan Elliott said. Among other less conventional choices were "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by the Monty Python comedy team, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "Hit the Road Jack," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."

-excerpt from AP

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

california driving: footloose and hands-free.

Californians woke up to a new reality on Tuesday when the state's new hands-free cell phone law went into effect. In June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger held a press conference at which he said the purpose of the law is "getting drivers' hands off the cell phone and onto the steering wheel." A change in this behavior will save almost 300 lives a year in California, he said.

To that end, the state has aired public service announcements on radio and television. Huge signs are plastered on bus stops in many cities. And freeway drivers are often greeted with big electronic signs that read "Hands Free July 1. It's the Law."

So far, the law doesn't address text messaging, personal grooming, eating or reading while driving. Multitasking, per se, isn't illegal in the state, unless you're holding your cell phone, but these distracting behaviors may give the California Highway Patrol ample reason to issue a citation under the state's safe-speed law.

-excerpt from NPR