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Following the Senate's rejection Wednesday of a range of gun control measures, including universal background checks, many in Newtown, Conn., are reacting with surprise and disappointment. The town is still stricken with grief from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December that took the lives of 20 students and six adults.

On Thursday morning, Mike Cragin stopped by the Dunkin' Donuts in Newtown with his bulldog, Truman.

After the Dec. 14 shootings, Cragin brought Truman down to this Dunkin' Donuts and put up a sign inviting people to hug the bulldog.

"Over the course of two days, hundreds of people came and hugged this dog, and then burst back into tears," he recalls.

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D.A Mishani is an Israeli literature scholar who specializes in the history of detective fiction. And recently he became a novelist as well — his debut, The Missing File, was published in the U.S. in March. Its hero is police inspector Avraham Avraham, a lonely character who, on most nights, eats dinner in front of his TV. Only Avraham's parents call to wish him mazel tov on his birthday, and he can't solve the case at the center of the story because he refuses to suspect anyone. He is also one of the few detectives ever written in Hebrew.


The suspects in Monday's deadly Boston Marathon explosions and the Thursday night murder of a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are two brothers from a former Soviet republic who were in the United States legally for years, and lived together in a Watertown, Mass., apartment.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, on Friday afternoon was still being sought by police. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed Friday morning in a shootout with police in Watertown.

NPR's Joe Shapiro interviewed a woman in Toronto who said she was the aunt of the two suspects. She said the boys grew up in Kyrgyzstan, and spent a year in Chechnya, 1994.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the family includes two sisters. It says one brother arrived in the U.S. in 2002, and the second in 2004. It says the boy's father is an auto mechanic who has received treatment in Germany for brain cancer. The Associated Press says the father is now in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Age 19: Born July 22, 1993

Has been in the United States since he was 12.

Attended and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where in 2011 his wrestling prowess – he captained the school team for two years — earned him a citation as one of the "Greater Boston League Winter All Stars."

Assistant high school wrestling coach Peter Payack told The Boston Globe he was dedicated and a leader, was loved and respected by his fellow wrestlers, and was the "opposite of a loner."

He was among students who received a $2,500 college scholarship through the city of Cambridge, Mass., in 2011. He was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where the school on Friday posted this message: "UMass Dartmouth has learned that a person being sought in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing has been identified as a student registered at UMass Dartmouth. The campus is closed. Individuals on campus should shelter in place unless instructed otherwise."

On Vkontakte — described as the Russian equivalent of Facebook — he lists his personal priority as "Career and money," and his world view as "Islam."

A longtime classmate in an interview with ABC News described him as "just a great kid. He was fun to be around. He always had a positive attitude." CNN interviewed a classmate who called him a good wrestler and "a normal kid. He parties, sometimes he smokes. He was raised here. He was just as American as I am."

The suspects in Monday's deadly Boston Marathon explosions and the Thursday night murder of a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are two brothers from a former Soviet republic who were in the United States legally for years, and lived together in a Watertown, Mass., apartment.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, on Friday afternoon was still being sought by police. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed Friday morning in a shootout with police in Watertown.

NPR's Joe Shapiro interviewed a woman in Toronto who said she was the aunt of the two suspects. She said the boys grew up in Kyrgyzstan, and spent a year in Chechnya, 1994.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the family includes two sisters. It says one brother arrived in the U.S. in 2002, and the second in 2004. It says the boy's father is an auto mechanic who has received treatment in Germany for brain cancer. The Associated Press says the father is now in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Age 19: Born July 22, 1993

Has been in the United States since he was 12.

Attended and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where in 2011 his wrestling prowess – he captained the school team for two years — earned him a citation as one of the "Greater Boston League Winter All Stars."

Assistant high school wrestling coach Peter Payack told The Boston Globe he was dedicated and a leader, was loved and respected by his fellow wrestlers, and was the "opposite of a loner."

He was among students who received a $2,500 college scholarship through the city of Cambridge, Mass., in 2011. He was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where the school on Friday posted this message: "UMass Dartmouth has learned that a person being sought in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing has been identified as a student registered at UMass Dartmouth. The campus is closed. Individuals on campus should shelter in place unless instructed otherwise."

On Vkontakte — described as the Russian equivalent of Facebook — he lists his personal priority as "Career and money," and his world view as "Islam."

A longtime classmate in an interview with ABC News described him as "just a great kid. He was fun to be around. He always had a positive attitude." CNN interviewed a classmate who called him a good wrestler and "a normal kid. He parties, sometimes he smokes. He was raised here. He was just as American as I am."

A somber week, with people wasting no time putting the Boston tragedy in political terms. President Obama unleashes on Congress after a background check amendment to the gun bill goes down in the Senate. At least the latest exploits of Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner keep NPR's Ken Rudin and Ron Elving amused in the latest episode of the It's All Politics podcast.

UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: In addition to the institutions mentioned below, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has announced that admission will be free on Wednesday, April 17.

At least two art museums in Boston, the Museum Of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art, have announced that admission on Tuesday will be free as a service to a city still dealing with the trauma of the explosions Monday at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Admission to the MFA is normally $23-25, while admission to the ICA is normally $10-15.

According to its website, the MFA is currently featuring exhibitions of samurai armor, Bruce Davidson's photographs of East Harlem in the 1960s, and Paul Cezanne's The Large Bathers, on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many, many other offerings. The ICA, meanwhile, has an exhibit featuring San Francisco graffiti artist Barry McGee and an installation by visual artist Haegue Yang that incorporates trees as well as sculptures and collages.

Both museums announced the day of free admission on Twitter in similar terms: The MFA said, "The MFA will be free today. We hope the Museum will be a place of respite for our community." The ICA said, "ICA admission is free for all visitors today. We hope the museum will offer a place of community & reflection." They hashtagged their announcement, "#WeAreBoston."

The decision is reminiscent of one made by some New York museums after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Back then, NPR's Susan Stamberg reflected on the issue of art as a source of comfort after she visited the Phillips Collection in Washington, where the arrival of some of the elements for an exhibition of French paintings had been delayed by the airport restrictions in place at the time. While not all the planned works were there, Stamberg had this to say:

What is on display is a cornucopia of 19th-century beauty — and, yes, comfort. Paintings from museums and collectors in Paris, Orleans, Amsterdam, Boston, St. Louis, Denver — so many places. Paintings by the French masters — bruised pears and an exuberance of flowers by Courbet, two white Manet peonies in close-up that swirl like satin ballgowns. Van Gogh is there: Tahitian oranges that look as if Gauguin painted them with sunset; and moonlight colors some Cezanne apples. Simple objects we all know — plums, onions, a paring knife, shoes — celebrated in oil paint by artists who were making revolution with their quick brush strokes. Seeing them now is a reminder of the ordinary things that make up and pleasure our lives — and, through art, last.

Scientists can't just agree to disagree. It's not because we are stubborn or ornery (OK, maybe we are). It's because the whole point of science is to establish "public knowledge" — an understanding of the cosmos on which we can all agree. That is why there is trouble brewing at the beginning of the Universe.

There is a number, the Hubble Constant, that's fundamental to the study of the cosmos. The problem is, different folks are finding different values for that number and no one yet knows what that means.

Two weeks ago the scientific team running the Planck satellite announced the most comprehensive analysis of their data to date. The Planck mission was designed to study radiation left over from just a few-hundred-thousand years after the Big Bang. This is the famous cosmic microwave background radiation (or CMB) and it's a kind of fossil light, imprinted with all kinds of details about how the Universe evolved. These details include parameters describing the proportions of material in the Universe, like dark matter and dark energy.

One of the parameters that fall out of their analysis is the Hubble Constant (written as Ho) that describes the rate of the Universe's expansion in the current epoch of cosmic history. The Hubble constant is directly tied to finding the Universe's age (though other parameters are needed as well). The Planck analysis yielded a value of Ho = 67.11 kilometers per second per Megaparsec (km/s/Mpc: yes those units are weird but don't worry about them for now). Put it all together and the Planck team finds the Universe to be 13.89 billion years old give or take a few hundred million years. You gotta admit, that kind of precision is pretty impressive.

So what's the problem?

Other teams using a very different set of methods get a very different answer for the Hubble Constant. When Edwin Hubble (you know, that guy with the constant named for him) first discovered the Universe was expanding back in 1928, he did it by measuring how fast galaxies were flying away from us versus their distance from us. The CMB wasn't even a gleam in scientist's eye back then. This direct method — measure the distance and recession velocity of lots of galaxies, then plot up the result — has been getting more refined ever since. These days the best values for the Hubble Constant that come from this approach find something around Ho = 74 km/s/Mpc.

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The Central Park Five

Directors: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon

Genre: Documentary

Running time: 119 minutes

Not rated



Whether it's in chat rooms or on Facebook, via gambling sites or cellphones, the digital universe is athrong with hidden dangers, with cyberbullies and con artists who wish to do us harm. It's a theme that might easily slip toward daytime talk show paranoia, but Rubin largely avoids that risk by maintaining a sober, patient tone and getting out of the way of actors who supply the conviction necessary to sell the melodrama. Even the designer Marc Jacobs is shockingly good in a brief cameo as Kyle's pimp; good to know he has a fallback if women ever get tired of flowery fragrances and stripey separates.

Nowhere, however, is the film's dependence on performance more obvious than in its strongest segment, in which two distracted fathers (Jason Bateman and Frank Grillo) realize too late that their sons are in crisis. Helped by exceptionally strong work from the young actors Jonah Bobo and Colin Ford, Rubin teases out the nuances of loneliness that can drive reckless behavior, blurring the line between victim and villain. The result is a moving meditation on modern family that, in its attempt to locate the permeable boundary between flesh and fantasy, could easily have stood alone.

Even in the heightened awareness of a post-Catfish age (and its spoofs), Disconnect is naturally gripping. Using unforgiving closeups, Rubin pokes into unexpected corners— not least the different ways in which men and women respond to calamity — and never forces his story's social-media scares to improbable heights. Our hard drives may or may not harbor predators; perhaps even scarier is the film's reminder that they definitely hold our secrets.

In China, countless television soap operas have been based on the adventures of Emperor Kangxi, a Qing ruler in the 17th century who, according to legend, would slip off his yellow dragon-embroidered silk robes to travel incognito among his people.

For several hours Thursday, a story went viral on the Chinese Internet that the new Communist equivalent of the emperor, President Xi Jinping, had pulled the same trick.

At first it seemed that Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong daily, had a big scoop, with its tale of how taxi driver Guo Lixin had picked up Xi and ferried him to the Diaoyutai hotel, part of the state guesthouse.

The story claimed the Guo realized this was no ordinary fare when – in response to the taxi driver's complaints about the pollution — the mystery passenger launched into a spirited defense of government policy.

According to the newspaper, the driver asked, "Has anyone ever said that you look like General Secretary Xi?" Guo's passenger then chuckled, saying, "You are the first one to ever recognize me."

The story went viral, though sharp-eyed netizens commented on how the handwriting on the message ("Safe Sailing") left for the driver by "President Xi" didn't seem to match known samples of presidential scrawl.

At first, Beijing's traffic department confirmed the news. Then it was denied by the state news agency, Xinhua, which labeled it "fake news." The Ta Kung Pao issued a groveling apology: "Such a major case of false news should absolutely never have happened."

And so the newest urban legend of the Chinese President Who Took a Taxi was officially shut down.

Not wasting any time, the censorship police have already ensured that "Take a taxi" and "Safe Sailing" are already banned searches on China's equivalent of Twitter.

But perhaps even more interesting is just how many people wanted this story to be true.

Apart from the historical parallels, such behavior would have been in line with the man-of-the-people moves that Xi has taken since taking over as Communist Party chief last November.

He's declared war on official extravagance, calling for an end to big entourages and motorcades. The official banqueting policy of frugality has been dubbed "fur dishes and a soup."

And on China's version of Twitter, the story of Xi's taxi ride won him plaudits from many, with comments such as "The king now cares more and more about the subjects' lives."

But had President Xi really taken a taxi, it might not have been such a bad thing. Since 1949, China's top leaders have lived in Zhongnanhai, a leafy compound once part of the imperial Forbidden City.

It is normally closed to outsiders, but after a decade of reporting in China, I had my first glimpse in this Communist Forbidden City on Saturday, when I accompanied the delegation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The heart of Zhongnanhai is completely tranquil; an expanse of lake serves to silence the bustle of city life. For a scant half hour, I experienced the dislocation one feels from being physically isolated – partitioned off by walls and lakes – from the world outside. That is both an enormous privilege, and an enormous problem, for China's rulers.

I had to stage a protest. And the best way I knew how was through my appearance. My fellow classmates would see me, I thought, and back off. They would know I came from a different world, Fresh-Prince-style.

I should note, I wasn't a particularly intimidating 14-year-old. For middle school dances, I wore jumpers and turtlenecks.

But for the first day of high school, I decided I was going to rep the flatlands.

I kept the outfit simple, Fonzian even: a white tee, blue jeans, spotless Nikes and a jean jacket. But the pice de rsistance would be on top: with the help of my best friend Maria and her younger sister Chrystal, I did my hair up in cornrows.

I just needed to convey a single message on the first day of high school: Look, rich kids, I'm not here to make friends. I'm just here to get an education and get out.

My plan backfired.

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The legislative process on Capitol Hill is often slow and grinding. There are committee hearings, filibuster threats and hours of floor debate. But sometimes, when Congress really wants to get something done, it can move blindingly fast.

That's what happened when Congress moved to undo large parts of a popular law known as the STOCK Act last week.

A year ago, President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act into law at a celebratory ceremony attended by a bipartisan cast of lawmakers.

"I want to thank all the members of Congress who came together and worked to get this done," he said.

The law wouldn't just outlaw trading on non-public information by members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs. It would greatly expand financial disclosures and make all of the data searchable so insider trading and conflicts of interest would be easier to detect.

It's All Politics

Insider-Trading Ban Passes Congress, But Some See Missed Opportunity

A computer glitch in the reservations system at American Airlines caused all of the carrier's flights to be grounded for at least two hours on Tuesday.

"American's reservation and booking tool, Sabre is offline," American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan told Reuters in an email. "We're working to resolve the issue as quickly as we can. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports that the outage was announced about 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

On Twitter, American wrote: "We're currently unable to modify today's reservations. However, when able, we'll offer refunds or update travel at no charge." It said flights would be held at airports until at least 5 p.m. ET.

In the next few hours, thousands of passengers were stuck on planes and in terminals as American worked frantically to get their network system back online. By 4:30 p.m., Goodwyn reports, passengers were again boarding flights.

According to The New York Times, the outage with the reservation system meant that gate agents could not print boarding passes.

"Sabre, meanwhile, said the issue did not come from its own computer systems. Other airlines, including Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, use Sabre and have not experienced any outages, said Nancy St. Pierre, a spokeswoman for Sabre.

"At Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, thousands of passengers were stranded waiting for flights, some of which were being canceled. Some passengers described being stuck for long stretches on planes on the runway unable to take off or, having landed, initially unable to get to a gate."

She's in Finland now, getting her Ph.D. at the University of Jyvaskyla, but before that, when she was in Adelaide, Australia, she studied elevator behavior. Rebekah Rousi hung around two tall office towers in town, riding elevators up and down day after day, looking for patterns. When a bunch of people get into an elevator, she wondered, do they segregate in any predictable way? Do tall ones stand in the back? Do men stand in different places than women? Who looks where? She says she wasn't expecting or even predicting a particular configuration, but she found one.

Over and over, she noticed that older "more senior men in particular seem to direct themselves towards the back of the elevator cabins."

Younger men took up the middle ground.

And in the front, facing the doors, backs to the guys, stood "women of all ages."

She's not sure why. It wasn't segregation by height. It wasn't age, since older and younger women co-mingled. Clearly, the people in the back had the advantage of seeing everybody in the cabin, while people in the front had no idea who was behind them. Could there be a curiosity difference? A predatory difference?

There was a second pattern, one that broke along gender lines. "Men," she wrote, "looked in the side mirrors and the door mirrors" to openly check out the other passengers, and/or themselves.

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

After last year's no-Pulitzer debacle, there was a general sigh of relief when a fiction winner was announced Monday. Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son, a surreal novel of life in North Korea under Kim Jong Il, won the prize. Sharon Olds' Stag's Leap (yes, named after the winery), a collection of poems about a devastating divorce, took top honors in poetry. And Ayad Akhtar's play Disgrace took the drama category. (Read Akhtar's recent essay for NPR, "The American Sublime: 3 Books On Faith In The U.S.")

On Monday, Granta magazine released the names of authors featured in its "Best of Young British Novelists" issue, which comes out once a decade and tends to be a predictor for literary success — past honorees include such literary superstars as Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis. Morning Edition's David Greene speaks to Granta editor John Freeman and novelist Sarah Hall.

The shortlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), was announced Tuesday morning. The finalists are Kate Atkinson, A.M. Homes, Barbara Kingsolver, Hilary Mantel, Maria Semple and Zadie Smith.

The New Yorker published a short story from the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano, "Mexican Manifesto," translated by Laura Healy: "And then she started smiling again, not a mocking smile, not as if she were enjoying herself, but a terminal smile, a knotted smile somewhere between a sensation of beauty and misery, though not beauty and misery per se, but Little Beauty and Little Misery, paradoxical dwarves, travelling and inapprehensible dwarves."

On Monday, the American Library Association released its list of the "most-challenged books," that is, books that have received the highest number of "formal, written complaint[s] filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness." Dav Piley's Captain Underpants tops the list, and is joined by books like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, Toni Morrison's Beloved and E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey.

Is small-batch hard apple cider the next microbrew? It seems everybody and their brother is experimenting with ways to make the potent stuff profitable. Sales of domestically produced hard cider have more than tripled since 2007, according to beverage industry analysts — and that's not counting Europe, where it has held a steady popularity for centuries.

But there's a bit of a hitch that may stunt cider's future growth. Apple blight? Climate change? Finicky millennial tastes? Well, maybe, but Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is focusing on the antiquated way the products are taxed.

Schumer, the man who never misses the chance to promote his state's agriculture (have you seen the video of him "cooking" for the presidential inaugural ceremonies?), is proposing legislation he says will supercharge the cider boom for both the Empire State and the whole country.

"New York is the second-largest apple producer in the country, and there's no doubt it should be at the core of the hard-cider industry, which is rapidly growing in popularity," says Schumer. "However, current federal tax rules make it extremely costly for Capital Region producers and consumers alike to produce, market and sell this product, which could prevent New York's hundreds of apple growers and hard cider producers from fully benefiting from the stable income that comes with this new product."

Here's the problem, as Schumer sees it: Under federal law, hard apple and pear ciders cannot exceed 7 percent alcohol by volume – or they become subject to the higher taxes of products with higher alcohol levels, like wine.

But hitting the right level and no higher is tricky when working with a product like apples, which naturally vary in sweetness levels. Since the amount of sugar varies, that means the amount of alcohol produced will ultimately vary, too. Sometimes, those variations can put a particular cider batch's alcohol content above that 7 percent mark.

And there are other factors that can alter how boozy a cider batch is.

"We don't know for sure how efficiently the available sugars will or will not be converted to ethanol," says Chris Gerling of the Cornell Extension Enology Lab. (It's about 51 percent, but not always.)

Gerling has worked with wine and hard-cider producers in New York state for years on ways to boost production, teaching classes and offering advice. But recently, he's become the student, learning a bit of excise tax law, courtesy of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, as this issue has come up.

"The problem is that cider has to kind of drift between beer and wine in the regulations, and can cross major TTB definition [and/or] tax boundaries with relatively small changes [and/or] fermentation outcomes," Gerling says.

And it gets even more complicated.

Add too much carbonation to the hard cider, and it falls into the even higher tax realm of champagne.

"It's much more of a burden for cider producers than for somebody who's selling sparkling wine for $50 a bottle," he says.

One reason regulations may be outdated is that hard apple cider, formerly the drink of choice for Colonial Americans, fell out of favor once beer got big. People just stopped making it here. It's only in recent years, as more U.S. producers have taken up making cider, that the tax issue has become a growing problem.

The tax issue as it stands now creates all kind of messy labeling issues and potentially confusing price changes for cider makers, Schumer says, and can be an impediment to getting the stuff to market. That's especially true, he says, for the increasing number of small craft brewers and orchards with bushels of imperfect apples looking to turn more fruit into reliable profits, and those looking to plant new cider-specific varieties.

The CIDER Act (yes, members of Congress love acronyms) would change the law to give cider makers up to 8.5 percent alcohol by volume to work with — a range similar to what winemakers enjoy — and bring U.S law in line with the European Union, where hard cider never lost its appeal.

So what would it mean to the U.S. consumer? A few more sweet hard-cider choices.


Smashing through walls and yelling "Oh, Yeah!" apparently aren't cool enough for Kool-Aid Man anymore.

Kraft Foods Group has decided that the pitcher pitchman needs an new look that plays up his "undeniably fun personality."

So he's now "technologically advanced, CGI-generated and more interactive and colorful than ever." And, of course, he has a Facebook page.

It seems that formerly rather terse Kool-Aid Man (a guy in a costume) will now be a bit of a chatterbox in his ad spots. In one, for example, he'll be seen thinking about which mix he should "wear" and saying that, "I put my pants on one leg at a time. Except my pants are 22 different flavors. I've got grape pants, I've got watermelon pants."

The good news for fans of the old guy: According to The Associated Press, "Kraft isn't abandoning trademarks of its past campaigns in the new ads, which were developed by the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi. At the end of the commercial, the Kool-Aid Man heads out to work by calming busting through the front door. When he emerges, he waves cheerily to two awestruck kids riding their bikes past his front lawn."

Still to come: How Family Guy will react to this news. As KpopStarz notes, on Family Guy "every time a character says 'Oh Yeah,' " a reasonable facsimile of Kool-Aid Man "will come bursting through whatever wall may be near by."

Oh Sit! (The CW, 8:00 p.m.): When the CW first announced that it was going to have a show called Oh Sit!, which would basically be a game of musical chairs with a punny scatological name, it seemed like it would be exciting in its sheer stupidity. But as it turns out, having seen the previews, it seems like it's really just ABC's Wipeout in disguise. I feel defrauded somehow, as if I was promised a wretchedness diamond and received a cubic zirconia.

I Killed My BFF (Bio, 9:00 p.m.): LOL? I'm not sure how I missed the fact that Bio has an entire television series about friendships that lead to murder, or the fact that they gave it a text-speak title that makes it seem like these are the most OMG murders ever, but here it is, tonight with a couple of episodes, including "West Texas BFFs." Just in case you hadn't hadn't thought about the letter "F" often enough while considering this particular offering.

Burger Land (Travel, 10:00 p.m.): I'm really only mentioning this so that I can tell you that according to my go-to source for TV listings information, The Futon Critic, Travel's press release for this show used the phrase "self-proclaimed hamburger expert." Just when you think you have the world's best job, another one comes along.

House Hunters (HGTV, 10:00 p.m.): I have nothing to say about this episode of House Hunters, except that if you don't already watch House Hunters, you really must. It is a show that often seems to be about the wealth-building adventures of the worst people in the world, who sigh and moan over bathrooms with inadequate jets in the tub, perfectly gorgeous wood floors that are one shade off from theoretical perfection, and other non-catastrophes.

Texas Car Wars (Discovery, 10:00 p.m.): Believe it or not, this is a real show, not one of the ones we made up when we threw random reality-show words into a shredder.

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is the drummer and co-founder of the Grammy-Award winning band The Roots, which now serves as the house band for the talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Questlove is coming out with a memoir in June called Mo' Meta Blues, co-written with Ben Greenman. After reading it, you'll feel like you know Questlove. The book is intimate and funny. Plus, you'll come away with a crash course in hip-hop history.

I talked to Questlove by phone on a Tuesday afternoon, while he was preparing for Fallon's show. He was shy when I said I liked his book. He talked to me about the process behind crafting an album, why the movie Spring Breakers made him feel uncool, and what it was like to see Prince roller-skate.

In your book, you say that you write your own reviews of your albums.

I feel a little silly admitting that. I was obsessed with Rolling Stones lead reviews. At the time... it was rare that the music I would listen to would wind up as a lead review. Rare for hip-hop and rap to get that glory. Half the time I was trying to imagine, "What if it were a fair playing field?" For my first six albums, I would draw the illustrations and write the reviews — that's how I craft the record. The perfect review is a 4.5, never a perfect 5. You study it and then manifest it.

You said that in high school you felt like Tariq [Tariq Trotter, also known as Black Thought, the lead MC and co-founder of The Roots] was the cool kid and you were the dweeb. Do you still feel like a dweeb, or is that something you outgrow?

I feel like dweebishness has come full circle. I wear it proudly. When I saw Spring Breakers, I was shaking my head thinking, "Whoa, I'm well-respected in hip-hop and... we really never had that stuff." I was wondering, "Did I just waste that tall glass of rock star-ness?" But I'm staying the course. Dweeb till I die.

Can you tell me more about roller-skating with Prince?

It was the most surreal night of my life. It was me and my then-girlfriend and Eddie Murphy and his girlfriend. Prince had these special skates. The friction of the wheel left a Xanadu glow. It was like watching Billy Jean on skates — everywhere he stepped lit up.

[On Jimmy Fallon,] there are certain celebrities — it'll get tense and silent when they come on the show. It was one of those Fridays when Eddie Murphy was on for the first time. I wanted to know if he remembered. Everyone was like, "Ahmir, shh!" But he looked at me and said "Roller skates!" The fact that we laughed so hard made the whole hallway laugh. I was like, "I told y'all."

Why do you think Prince had you come out to watch him roller-skate?

Prince — he's a normal guy. When he came to Philly once, he had me throw an afterparty at a fourth-story walkup without an elevator. I get a call. And he wants a pool table.

Did you carry it up?

[Laughs] I didn't. They had five guys carry it up. I think he played pool for about 20 minutes.

Why did you decide to be the house band for Jimmy Fallon?

The Record

D'Angelo And Questlove Bare The Roots Of 'Voodoo'

Oblivious to international tensions over a possible North Korean missile launch, Pyongyang residents spilled into the streets Monday to celebrate a major national holiday, the birthday of their first leader, Kim Il Sung.

Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and parents pushed strollers with babies bundled up against the spring chill as residents of the isolated, impoverished nation began observing a three-day holiday.

There was no sense of panic in the North Korean capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts and foreign newspaper headlines speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein Pyongyang in, including a swing through the region by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try to tamp down emotions and coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally.

Foreign governments have been struggling to assess how seriously to take North Korea's recent torrent of rhetoric — including warnings of possible nuclear war — as it expresses its anger over continuing U.S.-South Korea military maneuvers just across the border. Officials in South Korea, the United States and Japan say intelligence indicates that North Korean officials, fresh off an underground nuclear test in February, are ready to launch a medium-range missile.

North Korea's own media gave little indication Monday of how high the tensions are.

The Rodong Sinmun, the Workers' Party newspaper, featured photos and coverage of current leader Kim Jong Un's overnight visit to the Kumsusan mausoleum to pay respects to his grandfather. There was only one line at the end of the article vowing to bring down the "robber-like U.S. imperialists."

Kim Jong Un's renovation of the memorial palace that once served as his grandfather's presidential offices was opened to the public on Monday, the vast cement plaza replaced by fountains, park benches, trellises and tulips. Stretches of green lawn were marked by small signs indicating which businesses — including the Foreign Trade Bank recently added to a U.S. Treasury blacklist — and government agencies donated funds to help pay for the landscaping.

Braving the cold, gray weather, people lined up in droves to lay bouquets of fake flowers at the bronze statues of Kim and his son, late leader Kim Jong Il, in downtown Pyongyang, as they do for every major holiday in the highly militarized country, where loyalty to the Kims and to the state are drummed in citizens from an early age. They queued at roadside snack stands for rations of peanuts, a holiday tradition. Cheers and screams from a soccer match filled the air.

"Although the situation is tense, people have got bright faces and are very happy," said Han Kyong Sim, a drink stand worker.

Monday marked the official start of the new year according to North Korea's "juche" calendar, which begins with the day of Kim Il Sung's birth in 1912. But unlike last year, the centennial of his birthday, there are no big parades in store this week, and North Koreans were planning to use it as a day to catch up with friends and family.

But while there has almost no sense of crisis in Pyongyang, North Korea's official posture toward the outside appears to be as hardline as ever.

On Sunday, it rejected South Korea's proposal to resolve tensions through dialogue. North Korea said it has no intention of talking with Seoul unless it abandons what it called the rival South's confrontational posture. South Korea's unification ministry spokesman, Kim Hyung-suk, called that response "very regrettable" on Monday, but said that the South remains open to dialogue.

A top North Korean leader, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, also told a gathering of high officials Sunday that the North must bolster its nuclear arsenal further and "wage a stronger all-out action with the U.S. to cope with the prevailing wartime situation," according to footage from the North's state TV.

South Korea's defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary committee in Seoul on Monday that North Korea still appears poised to launch a missile from its east coast, though he declined to disclose how he got the information.

Kerry, during his trip, has warned North Korea not to conduct a missile test, saying it will be an act of provocation that "will raise people's temperatures" and further isolate the country and its people. In Tokyo on Sunday, Kerry said the U.S. was "prepared to reach out" but Pyongyang must first lower tensions and honor previous agreements.

North Korea has also pulled workers from the Kaesong factory complex on its side of the Demilitarized Zone, the last remaining symbols of inter-Korean rapprochement, in a pointed jab at South Korea. South Korean-run factories provided more than 50,000 jobs for North Korea, where two-thirds of the population struggle with food shortages, according to the World Food Program.

North Korea has issued no specific warnings to ships and aircraft that a missile test is imminent, and is also continuing efforts to increase tourism.

"I'm never embarrassed to be out here," Oliver says. "I'm proud of what I do. I can dance and not get pulled over by the cops and arrested. And I like dancing anyways. So if I'm not going to be doing it here, I'm going to be doing it somewhere else. But here I get to get paid for it, so it's great."

It's part time and minimum wage (he makes $8 an hour). Oliver says he's happy with that for now. One perk of the job: free tax prep. But he doesn't take advantage of it. He has his own tax preparer: Mom.

Oliver still lives at home with his mother, Vivian Oliver. "I usually use TurboTax," she says.

Sitting in the living room, they talk about his taxes and his work, and they open his W-2s for the first time. They don't add up to a lot. On one, his earnings totaled $398. On the other, Robert guesses he earned about $1,000.

"A thousand? No not even close," Vivian says. "Honey, you only worked there a couple of days. $114."

For the year, he's earned $512. That's not much, but Robert is optimistic.

"That's not good, you know, that's terrible," he says. "But for me it's kind of like, where there's a will, there's a way, you know?"

When he has work, Oliver works hard. He sold incense and oils at malls, gas stations and on Venice Beach — unsteady work he really liked. He says he's tried to get a full-time job, but it's tough. He doesn't have computer skills, he doesn't have a driver's license and he just got his GED last year.

"He worked on his GED longer than anyone alive," his mom says.

On the ride back to work, Oliver opened up a little more about his life and why he and his mother are upbeat about his future.

"When Mom adopted us, I didn't even know how to read and write," he says.

Robert was 8 when he and his younger sister were adopted. Before he got to his mother's house, he says, he had cycled through five different foster homes. His mother put a stop to that. She nurtured him and gave him stability.

"The skills that I have learned since I've been with Mom — I'm very thankful for that," he says.

He has learned to read, learned to communicate better, has had years of therapy, and has become part of a vibrant church community. For Oliver, this job is an accomplishment. It's a world away from the life he saw for himself.

"I probably would've joined a gang and I probably would've did things that I know I shouldn't have been doing, and I probably would have been in jail or dead," he says.

He heads back into the office to get into his Statue of Liberty outfit, clamp on his headphones and hit the corner. This Tax Day is his last day here, until next January, if he still needs the job.

President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department has been one of the most aggressive advocates for civil rights in decades. Tom Perez prosecuted a record number of hate crimes cases and extracted huge settlements from banks that overcharged minorities for home loans.

But some Republican lawmakers say those same qualities give them pause about voting to confirm Perez as a Cabinet member.

'Making A Huge Difference'

As the son of Dominican immigrants, and a guy who helped put himself through Ivy League schools by working as a garbage collector, Perez knows something about climbing the ladder.

"Over my career, I've learned that true progress is possible if you keep an open mind, listen to all sides and focus on results," he said last month during the White House rollout of his nomination.

About those results: For more than three years, Perez has run the civil rights unit as an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, where he has sued Texas and South Carolina over voting rights and searched for abusive law enforcement patterns in more than a dozen police departments.

Perez has done something else, too, says Mark Perriello, president of the American Association of People With Disabilities.

"All the work that he has done to secure the rights of people with disabilities to live independently in the community, to have access to polling, to have access to simple things like technology and watching Netflix with your family at home at night has been nothing less than stellar," Perriello says. "He is making a huge difference."

Perriello and dozens of other disability rights advocates have just launched a campaign to support Perez as labor secretary.

It's support the nominee may need to counter vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers like Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley.

"This person's going to have trouble — both through the committee process and on the floor," Grassley says. "He's got a lot of questions to answer."

A Quid Pro Quo?

Grassley and two House Republicans, Darrell Issa of California and Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, released a report late Sunday that blasted Perez for his role in what they call a quid pro quo last year, when the Justice Department agreed not to support a big whistle-blower lawsuit against St. Paul, Minn., for mishandling federal money.

The report drafted by congressional Republicans says Perez's testimony about the episode conflicts with that of other accounts from people inside the Justice Department and lawyers in Minnesota who worked on the issue.

"Perez's inconsistent testimony on a range of subjects calls into question the reliability of his testimony and raises questions about his truthfulness during his transcribed interview," the report said.

The report also alleges Perez engineered a plan to back away from the whistle-blower case without notifying his superiors or ethics lawyers at Justice about all the facts, and that he meddled with the decision-making by career lawyers in the government, while asking them to avoid putting the details in writing, placing "ideology over objectivity and politics over the rule of law."

The situation "confused and frustrated the career Justice Department attorneys ... who described the situation as 'weirdness,' 'ridiculous' and 'cover your head ping pong,' " the report added.

House Democrats countered that the criticism was political.

"Instead of identifying inappropriate conduct by Mr. Perez, it appears that the accusations against him are part of a broader political campaign to undermine the legal safeguards against discrimination that Mr. Perez was protecting," they said in a statement.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson also defended Perez's actions in an emailed statement. "The resolution reached in these cases was in the best interests of the United States and consistent with the Department's broad discretion to consider policy and other factors — including pending litigation — in resolving False Claims Act [whistle-blower] matters," Iverson said.

She pointed out that private plaintiffs still were allowed to move forward with their whistle-blower case.

"The Department's decision was appropriate, and followed an examination of the relevant facts, legal, and policy considerations at issue, and following Mr. Perez's consultation with career ethics officers," she added.

St. Paul leaders agreed to drop their Supreme Court challenge to a legal tool known as disparate impact theory that the Justice Department often uses in housing discrimination cases. (For an explanation of disparate impact theory, check out this interview on NPR's Tell Me More. There's more background on the Supreme Court case and the St. Paul whistle-blower lawsuit in The Two-Way blog.)

Grassley says that kind of arrangement is not against the law, "but it looks pretty bad right now when somebody at that high level of government makes a quid pro quo that costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars ... just for the purpose, for philosophical or ideological purposes, to get a case to the Supreme Court dropped."

Facing Questions

Asked if he would be prepared to block the Perez nomination, Grassley replied: "I'm at least prepared to resist any attempt to bring it up until we get all of our questions answered."

At his Senate confirmation hearing before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday, Perez could face even more questions about his management at the Justice Department's civil rights unit. The department's inspector general recently concluded the atmosphere there is filled with partisanship and bullying, though watchdogs say most of that trouble dates back a decade, before Perez arrived.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee is planning its own hearing this week on those issues. In a statement to NPR, Goodlatte, the committee chairman, said he was "shocked the President is moving forward with this nomination. ... Mr. Perez should face tough questions about this backroom deal he helped coordinate, his role in interfering with a Supreme Court case, and his mismanagement of the Civil Rights Division."

Supporters of Perez say the White House knew all about those controversies when it nominated him to lead the Labor Department. Obama says he wants Perez to play a big role in such issues as long-term unemployment, immigration and the minimum wage.

"His story," the president said last month, "reminds us of this country's promise: That if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, you can make it if you try."

Perez is in line to become one of the highest-profile Latino Cabinet members in recent memory, if he can get past Senate Republicans.


The president of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union is calling on Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to step down from the Gang of Eight. The bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on immigration overhaul legislation, which could be released next week, and Rubio is considered an important factor in getting conservatives to support the effort.

Chris Crane, of the National ICE Council, is concerned that border enforcement is not the group's first priority. In a statement Friday, he said:

"... The outline from the Gang of 8 offers legalization, or amnesty, before enforcement is accomplished. ... I would then respectfully call on Senator Rubio to follow through on his commitment to the American people — and his pledge to accomplish enforcement before legalization — and to leave the Gang of 8."

The baseball season is still young, but the New York Yankees have already faced harsh public criticism. No, we're not referring to their lackluster record. Instead, the Yanks were accused of trying to hoodwink beer drinkers with a new "Craft Beer Destination" concession stand at their Bronx stadium.

The problem arose when writer Amanda Rykoff spotted the stand's sign, with an arty chalkboard effect imparting the sense of a brewpub. A fan might expect it to sell beers from New York's famed Brooklyn Brewery, or perhaps Brewery Ommegang, located in the baseball mecca of Cooperstown.

Instead, all of the offerings — Blue Moon; Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy; Crispin; Batch 19 — exist under the MillerCoors corporate umbrella. None of them have a special tie to New York. As many critics noted, Crispin is a cider, not a beer. And its roots are in Minneapolis, home of the Yankee-hating Twins.

Many news outlets including Deadspin took up the story, noting that as part of a conglomerate, the MillerCoors products don't meet the traditional definition of "craft" as established by the Brewers Association, which requires small production and independent ownership.

We should note that in spotting the "crafty" ruse at Yankee Stadium, Rykoff didn't besmirch the beers.

"I confess that on a hot summer day, I will enjoy a Summer Shandy on occasion, and Blue Moon is certainly a popular beer," she wrote. "But to call them 'craft beers' is nonsense and insulting. Real beer drinkers know better but countless numbers of fans will gladly shell out $12 for an overrated beer being marketed as a specialty brew."

Rykoff concluded, "Once again, the Yankees have figured out yet another way to charge a superior price for an inferior product."

The team has now changed its approach, keeping the stand but renaming it the "Beer Mixology Destination."

Other than seeming to be a brazen attempt to glom onto yet another trend — and risking the wrath of cocktail enthusiasts — the new name hints at the concoctions that result from combining Crispin cider with its three stand-mates.

The Yankees are not alone in trying to tap into the growing craft beer market. Craft beer has made inroads at many Major League Baseball stadiums, as fans seek a brew with more flavor — and perhaps a bit more kick, to cut down on trips to the concession stand (and other facilities).

In Detroit, at least seven Michigan craft brewers, including Bell's, Founders, and New Holland, have their beers on tap at Comerica Park, as Darren Rovell writes at ESPN.

And in Baltimore, Orioles fans can easily find beers from Maryland and Delaware, Heavy Seas, Dogfish Head, and Evolution among them, as well as Flying Dog, which is tapping special cask-conditioned brews on Fridays. The Camden Yards property also has a brewpub that's open all year.

And while San Diego fans have suffered through a 2-9 start this season, they can console themselves with a selection of craft beers that's among the best in the majors, befitting the city's bustling beer scene.

The Petco Park Insider says the "star lineup" of brewers includes Stone, Green Flash, and Karl Strauss. The park also sells beer from Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, and others.

We should note that San Diego also has Bud Black at its stadium. But that's not an Anheuser-Busch product; it's the name of the Padres' manager.

Inmates fought guards at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after military authorities decided to end communal housing in one of the prison's camps, and instead put prisoners in individual cells. At least one detainee was reportedly injured by a rubber bullet in the clash Saturday.

The violence began after the facility's commander ordered the move Saturday morning. According to the U.S. Southern Command, the decision was made after detainees covered windows and surveillance cameras, limiting guards' ability to monitor them at all times.

The forced transfer was also used as an opportunity to evaluate the health of the prisoners — dozens of them are on a hunger strike.

"Some detainees resisted with improvised weapons," according to the official statement, "and in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired. There were no serious injuries to guards or detainees."

The prisoners' weapons included batons, broomsticks, and plastic water bottles, according to multiple reports.

The incident occurred in an area of Guantanamo Bay that had evolved into a "medium-security" section since the first inmates were brought there more than 10 years ago.

According to The Miami Herald, a recent visit to the camp showed that the guards "had lost a measure of control" over the inmates.

"The captives could be seen systematically disobeying communal camp rules. They covered surveillance cameras in individual cells with cereal boxes," writes Carol Rosenberg. "They refused to admit food carts to the cellblocks. Commanders said they were concerned that, out of view of the guard force, there were stealth hunger strikers who could suddenly die."

Reports of the number of prisoners who are currently on a hunger strike fluctuate, with some news outlets citing the Pentagon's estimate of 43 prisoners out of a total of 166, and others saying the number is more than 60, citing sources in the military and the inmates' defense attorneys.

Last week, the Pentagon named 11 inmates who were being force-fed so they would not starve themselves to death.

As CNN reports, the hunger strike was prompted by inmates' anger over guards' searching their Qurans and other practices that began after a change in command at the base last summer.

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