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!

Friday, May 30, 2008

ancient clump reveals greenland eskimos' roots.

A 3,000-year-old clump of human hair found frozen in Greenland may have solved a scientific mystery: Where did all the ancient Eskimos come from? The ancient clump of hair looks like something you'd sweep off a barbershop floor. "It's kind of brown, got a bit of dirt in it, a bit of twigs, but ... it looks [in] remarkably good condition," says biologist Thomas Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen researchers had spent months in Greenland trying to find human remains, with no success. They then learned of this hair sample, which was discovered in the 1980s in Disko Bay, in western Greenland, and was being kept in a museum collection.

And the hair yielded something extremely rare — the DNA of some of the earliest humans to live in the Arctic. By studying that DNA, researchers say they've been able to answer a longstanding question: Are modern Eskimos descended from ancient Native Americans, or did they come from somewhere else? The answer, according to a new study published in the current issue of the journal Science, is somewhere else — probably eastern Asia.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

long days and short nights for a hindu monk.

There's not much traffic on First Avenue in lower Manhattan at 5:15 a.m. But in the building between a darkened tattoo shop and electronic store, a light shines bright from the second floor.Inside is the New York City headquarters of the Interfaith League, a Hare Krishna group. A visitor is greeted with a blast of sights and sounds: Thirteen men and one woman are twirling and dancing, playing cymbals and drums and chanting Hindu tunes. Hare Krishna monks are in orange or white robes. Civilians are in business suits or jeans. They all face an altar adorned with flowers and statues of the supreme Hindu God, Krishna, and his female counterpart, Radha. A little over an hour later, a 35-year-old monk named Gadadhara Pandit Dasa blows into a conch shell and pours a water offering. This marks the half-way point in this three-hour morning worship service, a daily celebration.

Pandit grew up in an observant Hindu family. He was an only child. They moved from India to California when he was 7, and as his father's business fortunes ebbed and flowed, he began asking existential questions. In his early 20s, Pandit moved to Bulgaria to help his father with his import-export business. Unable to speak the language, he had few friends. He spent evenings alone and lonely, and one night, began reading the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. "That's when it really took off for me," he recalls, "because for the first time in my spiritual life, I was being given answers."

"Some people may think that a monk is somewhat reclusive — kind of isolated, in a bubble, meditating all day. But it's quite the opposite. I'm on the computer, e-mailing. I'm driving, using cell phones and using Facebook. I have my own Web site." Facebook, he notes, is "great for connecting to college students."

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

adults squeezing out teens for summer jobs.

The weakening economy and rising unemployment are producing middle-aged competition for all sorts of summer jobs that young people rely on.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, May 26, 2008

scientists excited after safe mars landing.

The Phoenix Mars Lander touched down Sunday on the Red Planet without a hitch. Onboard instruments will analyze the ice and look for signs of life at a relatively boring-looking landing site. Joe Palca was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for the landing.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, May 23, 2008

advice to stop PTSD diagnoses triggers probe.

More and more military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking help and compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. That has created concern by veterans and others that the government could try to minimize the problem of PTSD to save money. An incident at a veterans' hospital near Fort Hood, the Army post in Texas that is one of the nation's largest military bases, has stoked that concern.

In an e-mail, a psychologist at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas, advised her staff to stop diagnosing veterans with PTSD to save money. The e-mail became public last week. The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs insists that's not VA policy.

The VA has refused interview requests about the incident. In a statement, Secretary James Peake characterized the e-mail as an isolated example: "A single staff member, out of VA's 230,000 employees, in a single medical facility, sent a single e-mail with suggestions that are inappropriate and have been repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization." The VA's inspector general's office is headed to Temple to find out if anyone higher up is telling the VA to "cool it."

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, May 22, 2008

slugging to work: anonymous ride-sharing

If you've ever sat in rush-hour traffic, gazing longingly at the cars rushing by in the high-occupancy vehicle lanes, try doing something your parents warned you never to do: Hop in a car with a complete stranger behind the wheel. In a few cities, like Washington, D.C., formerly lone motorists can zip over into those HOV lanes thanks to a rare breed of commuter called a "slug." And with gas prices through the roof there's now an extra incentive to do it.

As SUVs and station wagons pull to the curb, the driver announces his destination to the person at the head of the line — the "caller" in slug parlance — who then relays that information to the slugs behind. The drivers need an extra body or two to get into the high-occupancy lanes. So they pick up the slugs, who get a free ride into the city and a faster commute themselves. The system isn't overseen by any government — it has evolved organically over the years. There are rules, like no smoking or eating by driver or slug. Slugs may not adjust windows or talk on cell phones. And there's no messing with the radio. It's a system that allows total strangers to tolerate each other for long periods of time in a very small enclosed environment.

- excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

u.s. economy copes with high oil prices.

With oil at $129 dollars a barrel, some might expect the U.S. economy to be near collapse. There is a slowdown. But while some sectors are definitely feeling the pain, others have adapted much better than anticipated.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

veggie pride on display in big apple.

Hundreds of vegans and vegetarians - and people dressed as vegetables - marched through the West Village for the First Veggie Pride Parade Sunday. It ended in Washington Square Park, where advocacy groups set up stalls, along with merchants like Roberta Kalechofsky, author of The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook.

KALECHOFSKY: My most popular recipe that people really love is a recipe for vegetarian chopped liver. Incredibly successful. Jewish people love chopped liver. But once you eat this vegetarian chopped liver, you'll never want to go back to meat. Never.

REPORTER: The event was billed as America's first, and featured music, information stalls and non-dairy snacks. Organizers say 10 billion animals are killed each year in the US, and that aside from the ethical and health problems associated with meat-eating, say raising livestock contributes heavily to climate change.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, May 16, 2008

it's national bike to work day!

Paul Steely White, of Transportation Alternatives, says now is the time to pull out your bike and join the city's estimated 130,000 daily riders.

WHITE: The first thing is to make sure your bicycle is in proper working order. Make sure your brakes are working, that would be the most important.

REPORTER: To mark the day, Transportation Alternatives is distributing coffee and pastries on the East River Bridges, the Hudson River Greenway and in Central Park.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, May 15, 2008

bolivian mission towns revive baroque legacy.

Deep in the tropics of Bolivia, a revival of centuries-old music is captivating crowds and creating the next generation of the country's classical musicians. At an international Baroque music festival this month, strains of Bach and Vivaldi are stirring in the same mission towns that the Jesuits established in the 17th century.

The festival takes place in an area known as the Chiquitania — a World Heritage Site that is home to the Chiquitano Indians, the original inhabitants of the region in eastern Bolivia. Its eight mission towns not only have restored their original churches but have reconstructed thousands of pages of original musical scores from the Jesuit period that began with the 1691 founding of the San Javier mission.Over the last decade, youth orchestras have sprung up in every mission in the lush, steamy lowlands, reviving interest in Baroque culture.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

polar bear endangerment decision looms.

Bush administration officials are under a court order to decide by tomorrow whether to add the polar bear to the list of endangered species. The decision will cap a three-year campaign by environmentalists to show that climate change has the potential to imperil wildlife. Critics say any listing is a bad idea. Polar bears are threatened, but not endangered.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

man says jetblue made him sit on toilet.

A New York City man is suing JetBlue Airways Corp. for more than $2 million because he says a pilot made him give up his seat to a flight attendant and sit on the toilet for more than three hours on a flight from California. Gokhan Mutlu, of Manhattan's Inwood section, says in court papers the pilot told him to "go 'hang out' in the bathroom" about 90 minutes into the San Diego to New York flight because the flight attendant complained that the "jump seat" she was assigned was uncomfortable, the lawsuit said.

Mutlu was traveling on a a "buddy pass," a standby travel voucher that JetBlue employees give to friends, from New York to San Diego on Feb. 16, and returned to New York on Feb. 23, the lawsuit said. Initially, Mutlu was told a flight attendant had taken the last seat on the plane, but then he was advised she would sit in the employee "jump seat," meaning he could have the last seat, the lawsuit said.

The pilot told him 1 1/2 hours into the five-hour flight that he would have to relinquish the seat to the flight attendant, court papers say. But the pilot said that Mutlu could not sit in the jump seat because only JetBlue employees were permitted to sit there, the lawsuit said. When Mutlu expressed reluctance to go sit in the bathroom, the pilot, who was not named in the lawsuit, told him that "he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command that (Mutlu) should be grateful for being on board," the lawsuit said.

-excerpt from AP

Monday, May 12, 2008

commission calls for mlk statue's redesign.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is going to be big. The site for it is a four-acre plot on the Tidal Basin, not far from the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.In the original design for the MLK memorial, a bust of King emerges almost organically out of the side of the Stone of Hope. To get to the stone, a visitor would walk through two rocks symbolizing the Mountain of Despair. That design won the competition set up by the U.S. Fine Arts Commission, the federal agency that approves anything that gets built on the National Mall.

But in the new model for the statue, King is much bigger. His arms are crossed defiantly and he has a solemn look on his face. In a letter calling for revisions to the statue, Thomas Luebke, who heads the commission, said King's character had gone from "meditative" to "confrontational."

The new design for the statue was carved by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. And any controversy about his work is fodder for the people who opposed the decision to hire him in the first place. The MLK National Memorial Foundation was criticized for not hiring an American artist. Lei has carved many Chinese officials over the years, including Communist leader Mao Zedong.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, May 9, 2008

clinton stretches her dollars as race stretches on.

As the Democratic primary campaign grinds on, money has become one of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's biggest problems. Some of the most determined presidential candidates have been forced out of contention when their coffers ran dry, but few could have foreseen Clinton's funding drying up. When she launched her campaign in January 2007, conventional wisdom held that she would vacuum up all available cash in the Democratic primaries. And in traditional terms, she did. Her donors were mainly big givers with track records of giving to Democrats. But many of them quickly hit the $2,300 contribution limit and were effectively sidelined.

Still, Clinton's spending now outstrips her fundraising. Colby College political scientist Anthony Corrado says, "We've now reached the point in the campaign where Senator Clinton's fundraising cannot support the costs of the campaign." But the campaign continues, thanks to personal loans from Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Their loans exceeded $6 million in the past month.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, May 8, 2008

cuba bars blogger from accepting award in spain

Last year, Time magazine named Raul Castro one of the 100 most influential people in the world. This year, he is off the list, but another Cuban has taken his place. Her name is Yoani Sanchez, creator of a critical blog titled "Generation Y" that has received over a million hits. Her criticism is more generational than political. She expresses the alienation and cynicism shared by many Cuban young people.Yoani Sanchez had to send a tape recording of her speech to Madrid as she was not allowed a visa to leave Cuba.

- excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

barbara walters' lifelong 'audition'.

In her new memoir, Audition, Walters recalls a childhood marked by her father's long hours and her parents' troubled marriage. "The biggest misconception, until now, is that I have had this blessed life — that part of it is true. But [the misconception is] that it's all been smooth sailing," Walters tells Steve Inskeep. "I wanted people to know that my life, too, has had not just great ups, but also great downs."

In revealing the biggest misconception about herself, the veteran journalist answers a question that she's been asking her subjects for years. If you ask subjects about the biggest misconceptions about themselves, "very often they will come out with the very thing that people want to know [but that subjects] have not wanted to talk about," Walters says.

The first woman to co-anchor a nightly newscast , Walters says she has interviewed "almost every head of state of importance, every president of importance, every murderer of importance." But despite all of her experience, she says, "I really have felt that I have been auditioning most of my life."

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

abu dhabi aims to build first carbon-neutral city.

In Abu Dhabi, there's an area of nothing but wind-swept desert. But 10 years from now, if all goes according to plan, a city of 6 square kilometers housing 50,000 people will rise in the United Arab Emirates — and it will be carbon neutral. The project, called Masdar City, will burn no gas or oil, so its contribution to greenhouse gases will be minimal. Masdar is the centerpiece of emirate Abu Dhabi's plans to get into the renewable energy market, a hedge against the day its oil wells run dry.

Another goal is to ban cars in the city, which wouldn't be small enough for people to get around just by walking. Designers envision something called a personal rapid transit (PRT) system. "Really, all it is is a car," says Scott McGuigan of CH2M Hill, the construction firm that's building Masdar City. "It's a simple vehicle [for] six passengers. It's designed like a car, but obviously it's powered by solar energy with batteries."

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, May 5, 2008

taco truck battle heats up in los angeles.

Los Angeles County officials recently passed a law that makes it a misdemeanor to park a taco truck in the same place for more than an hour. Violators face fines of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.Down the street at Tacos El Galuzo, one of many popular taco trucks in the neighborhood, owner Juan Torres sees the situation differently. He says the new law could ruin his business because he depends on repeat customers who know where to find him. Like most "destination" trucks, Tacos El Galuzo is always parked in the same spot. "I have permits for everything," Torres says, adding that the county health department inspects his truck every few months.

As a line of customers waited for 90-cent tacos and $3.25 quesadillas, Torres notes that he pays taxes and has a business license. He says he also pays rent — $700 a month — to the business that shares the curb. Torres isn't willing to ignore the threat to his livelihood. He says he has helped mobilize about 150 taco truck owners into a sort of "taco resistance." When the law goes into effect May 15, they vow to stay parked — right where they are.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, May 2, 2008

leaving the farm, then breaking new ground.

Lyle Link left his father's farm after deciding that picking corn and shoveling manure wasn't for him. He met his future wife, Marion, at church and never looked back. Now 90, Link describes the life they lived together and his heartache now that she's gone.

The Links lived a life full of adventure, he says. It started with a drive across the country on their honeymoon. "I had a '36 Chevy and I was able to lay a mattress in the back seat," Link says. "We spent our first night in that car on a bluff over the Mississippi River. My father, by the way, did not approve of that kind of outrageous living. But I was willing to break new ground," Link tells Dreher. "And your grandma really was ready to break new ground." Link says he doesn't know why he loved her so much. "It was something I couldn't help. We have been in love for almost 70 years. And she now died.... And all I can say is that life was so beautiful.... "

"I think when we got married, we made all new tracks and we never stepped in any old tracks. I want you to do the same thing," he tells Dreher. "Live with courage."

_excerpt from NPR, storycorps

Thursday, May 1, 2008

parsing the generational divide for democrats.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton have divided the Democratic Party by race, income and education, but there is no demographic indicator that sorts the Democratic vote as starkly as age. If you voted in one of the Democratic primaries or caucuses, your age probably determined your vote: The older you are, the more likely you were to vote for Clinton, and the younger you are, the more likely you were to vote for Obama.

Part of this divide is easily explained, since Obama is younger, 46, and Clinton is 60. But, Obama has a particular appeal to young people such as Zahir Rahman, a sophomore at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. "He's hip to our culture and seems to know where younger people are coming from," Rahman says.

-excerpt from NPR