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!

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