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Ukrainian forces have launched what appears to be a major operation to rout pro-Russia forces from occupied government buildings in the country's east. Two helicopters were shot down by separatists, killing the pilots, both sides report.

The move is being described by Ukraine as an "anti-terror" operation in the Slovyansk-Kramatorsk region.

The Kremlin said Friday that Kiev's actions have "killed the last hope" for a deal to diffuse the crisis, which was agreed on last month in Geneva. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov also described Ukraine's operation as "punitive," the BBC reports.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, reporting from near Kramatorsk in Ukraine's east, says pro-Russia gunmen stationed at a checkpoint leading to Slovyansk appear "very nervous."

"They definitely fear this is not limited to Slovyansk," Soraya tells Morning Edition.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement that the "active phase" of the operation began at 04:30 local time.

"A real battle with professional mercenaries is going on," Avakov said, adding that Interior Ministry troops and the National Guard were involved.

Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel said the city was being "stormed," according to the BBC.

Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russia militants, said one of their men was killed and another injured. She offered no further details, according to The Associated Press. Another spokesman for the separatists said fighting had broken out at several points around the city and that government armored vehicles were seen on roads leading into Slovyansk.

Avakov said on his Facebook page that government troops had met fierce resistance from the separatists but had succeeded in retaking nine checkpoints on roads surrounding Slovyansk.

In apparent response to the helicopter assault, the Kremlin has urged an accounting of what's happening in southeast Ukraine, where "aviation is being used against [the] population," Reuters says.

Ukraine authorities said one of the helicopters was downed by a surface-to-air missile, "which it said undercut Russia's claims that the city is under the control of civilians who took up arms," the AP reports. Soraya says a grenade launcher reportedly may have been used to take down the other helicopter.

Update at 12:40 p.m. ET:

President Obama, appearing at a joint news briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the idea that the conflict in eastern Ukraine was a spontaneous uprising was belied by the pro-Russia militants' use of surface-to-air missiles.

He called again on Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to persuade pro-Russian forces to stand down. Obama and Merkel also expressed concern about May 25 elections.

"We are united in our determination to impose costs on Russia," Obama said.

"The post-Cold War order has been put in question" by Moscow's moves, Merkel said. "We will move to a third stage of sanctions if necessary; it's not what we want, but we will," she said.

Referring to the kidnapping of seven observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who are believed held in Ukraine, Obama said Washington and Berlin are "united in our outrage over [their] appalling treatment."

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET:

In an interview with Morning Edition, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, acknowledges that the Kremlin has used the same tactic in eastern Ukraine that it employed in the annexation of the territory of Crimea earlier this year.

In Crimea, he says, "shadow figures" took ground and then were replaced by "locals" to hold the gains and present the appearance of an indigenous uprising.

"I think they realized how quickly we were able to see through the false narrative" in Crimea, Breedlove tells Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. In Ukraine, he says, "they've been much quicker to put a local face on the action."

In response to the downing of the two helicopters, Breedlove says it's not clear whether Russian forces or Russian-supplied weapons were involved. "It surely is an easy step of logic to make — we have to look into that," he says.

Breedlove says what worries him more than a direct and open intervention by massed Russian troops is that by "creating this perception of lawlessness, [and] inability of the government to respond," Putin "may actually be able to accomplish his objectives in eastern Ukraine without using his larger amassed forces."

The arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams this week in Northern Ireland is raising questions about academic freedom across the Atlantic.

As NPR's Scott Neuman reported:

"The arrest was prompted in part by a Boston College-sponsored history project on the conflict in Northern Ireland that included taped interviews with individuals who implicated him [in a 1972 abduction and slaying]. Adams has been president of Sinn Fein, a party once considered the political wing of the IRA, for three decades. He played a key role in the 1998 peace agreement that ended the conflict."


The arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams this week in Northern Ireland is raising questions about academic freedom across the Atlantic.

As NPR's Scott Neuman reported:

"The arrest was prompted in part by a Boston College-sponsored history project on the conflict in Northern Ireland that included taped interviews with individuals that implicated him [in a 1972 abduction and slaying]. Adams has been president of Sinn Fein, a party once considered the political wing of the IRA, for three decades. He played a key role in the 1998 peace agreement that ended the conflict."

At least 19 people are now listed as killed in the second car bomb in a month to hit the Nigerian capital, officials says. It comes days before the city is set to host a major international conference.

The explosion, on a busy street in Abuja on Thursday, occurred near a bus station where 70 people were killed in an April 14 bomb attack, Reuters says. The Islamic extremist terrorist network Boko Haram claimed responsibility for last month's attack.

Police Superintendent Frank Mba told reporters on Friday that the toll had reached 19 dead with as many wounded.

Abuja is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa May 7-9. The conference is to feature Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. It attracts leaders, policymakers, philanthropists and business leaders from around the world to discuss Africa's economic growth prospects.

The latest violence comes as police in the country said the number of schoolgirls held by Boko Haram militants after a mass kidnapping last month was 276, an increase of more than 30 from earlier reports.

Police Commissioner Tanko Lawan revised the number of girls and young women who have escaped to 53.

The abduction of the girls in Chibok in northeastern Borno state was among the most shocking attacks by Boko Haram in five years of separatist conflict that has left thousands dead in the country's north and central regions.

According to The Associated Press, Lawan says that the figures of the number of girls taken increased "because students from other schools were brought into one school for final exams last month after all schools in Borno state were shut because of attacks by Islamic extremists. Communications are difficult with the military often cutting cell phone service under a state of emergency and travel made dangerous on roads where travelers are frequently attacked by the militants."

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, says there's still no word on the fate of the girls.

There are a number of theories, including forced marriages and/or being moved across the border to either Chad or Cameroon, Ofeibea says.

Weeks after the April 14 kidnapping, "the people want answers," she says.

"Someone has to know something, even in the government, because remember this happened at night, after curfew — 22 pickup trucks and 30 motorcycles riding down the main road in plain sight," she says.

The parents have a sense of hopelessness and despair. They've held protests in Abuja and the city of Chibok this week.

"Remember, these are young women who were/are to be the cream of the crop, big dream in an area with such little opportunity for education, especially for girls," Ofeibea says. "These are ones destined to go on to university, to be doctors, teachers. These girls lives are ruined."

On a recent day, just west of Kabul — where the city's sooty sky gives way to fresher air — Abdul Sadiq coaches four young members of the Afghan National Cycling Federation. They're working on their riding technique while dodging the free-form traffic.

"The road is very narrow, make sure you don't get into an accident, as you can see the cars are coming," the former competitive cyclist tells them, amid zooming vehicles and honking horns.

They're at Qargha Lake, whose aquamarine waters sit below a snow-sprinkled mountain backdrop of 13,000-foot peaks. It was here in 2012 Taliban insurgents attacked a resort killing 18 Afghans.

But this day is all about riding: The cyclists wear long sleeve jerseys and full-length tights — and draw hoots, honks and open mouth stares when they pedal past.

These aren't ordinary riders: They're members of Afghanistan's only women's cycling team. And in this deeply conservative country where women have long been confined to the shadows, and they face more dangerous obstacles that just the chaotic roads.

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Al Feldstein, the man who turned Mad magazine into a must-read for teens of the Baby Boomer generation, has died at his home near Livingston, Montana. He was 88.

Feldstein, who died Tuesday, was editor of Mad for nearly 30 years until the mid-80s, taking the magazine to a mass audience with its blend of political and cultural satire tuned to adolescent sensibilities.

Among other things, he turned the freckle-faced, gap-toothed and jug-eared Alfred E. Neuman character, with the "What, Me Worry?" catchphrase, into a staple of the magazine.

The Associated Press writes:

"Neuman's character was used to skewer any and all, from Santa Claus to Darth Vader, and more recently in editorial cartoonists' parodies of President George W. Bush, notably a cover image The Nation that ran soon after Bush's election in 2000 and was captioned 'Worry.'

"Feldstein also helped assemble "a team of artists and writers, including Dave Berg, Don Martin and Frank Jacobs, who turned out such enduring features as 'Spy vs. Spy' and 'Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.' Fans of the magazine ranged from the poet-musician Patti Smith and activist Tom Hayden to movie critic Roger Ebert, who said Mad helped inspire him to write about film."

They found Fidencio Rodriguez, 46, making tostilocos in a stall he's had for 25 years near the port of entry where pedestrians and cars line up to cross. "I like working here, I have my own schedule and it's good work," he tells NPR. He's from Quertaro state, and says the tostilocos craze took off in 2011.

But Southern food expert John T. Edge puts the snack's birth date back further. It probably began popping up in Tijuana about 10 years ago as a cheap, fun filler at soccer games and along the town's Avenida Revolucin after the bars closed, he says. Now the unique flavor profile is attracting the attention of everyone from high-end American chefs to Taco Bell.

As Edge sees it, tostilocos is quintessential border food.

"It's almost like a Mexican reclamation effort," Edge tells The Splendid Table. "It's like if American companies took tortilla chips and packaged them and sold them to everyone, that would be Tostitos. Then Mexican-Americans and Mexicans from Tijuana are reclaiming Tostitos chips for Mexico by adding all these things to them and creating a new product."

There's a great movie to be found in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it's not about super-heroes, super-villains, or impending urban calamities. It's a deeply felt and hugely winning romantic tragi-comedy about a pair of recent high school grads who are perfect for each other in every way, but just can't ever seem to get their timing right.

As Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone don't just have chemistry on-screen. They've got a rare Hepburn-and-Tracy-esque naturalism that flits from awkwardness to ease to unquestioned devotion in the space of a few shared glances. They don't just have spark, they have a buzzing, crackling electricity with power enough to light the New York City skyline.

It's a pity, then — both for Peter and Gwen, and for the movie — that they keep getting interrupted by Electro (Jamie Foxx), a buzzing, crackling, energy-sucking villain with enough power to darken the New York City skyline. Not to mention Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), who also shows up to cross these lovers' stars some more, and Rhino (an utterly wasted Paul Giamatti), who appears as an afterthought. Because what superhero movie doesn't benefit from an extra villain or three? (Answer: very few.)

That Garfield and Stone are the best parts of the movie should come as no surprise: they were the anchor that saved director Marc Webb's 2012 Spidey franchise reset from complete irrelevance as well. But while they're perhaps even more of a pleasure to watch onscreen this time around, the rest of the film gets bogged down in too many villains, too many origin stories, and too many minutes of running time.

It's those origins that are particularly maddening, since one of the pleasures of getting past the first installment of any superhero franchise is being able to dispense with the now-familiar expository notes of the hero's creation. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spends inordinate amounts of time setting up its villains (and even backtracks into the past to reveal even more details of Spider-Man's origin), only to dispatch them speedily in an overstuffed third act, as if Webb suddenly realized he'd set up too much story to resolve even in two and a half hours.

As a result, the movie never seems to care much about the conflict between Peter and his foes. Ostensibly, the big set piece is the fight with Electro, a former electrical engineer, stereotypically nerdy and meek, who is trying to turn off the lights to the city and finally get people to pay attention to him. (All of which could have been avoided if only his co-workers had just bought the poor guy a birthday cake – he's basically Office Space's Milton, except he's looking to take down more than just his office building.)

But Electro is a one-dimensional big bad, and is really only here to help facilitate Harry's transition to the Green Goblin. And the Goblin's brief appearance is really only there to set up the climax of the Peter and Gwen story – and to set up the next film. Rhino is even more of a throwaway, a device to help Spidey get his groove back after Webb tries to replicate much of the plot of Sam Raimi's 2004 Spider-Man 2 in the space of a short montage.

There's something admirable in what seems to be Webb's intent here, to make a costumed crusader flick that's more about the people than the spectacle. The small moments, the physical comedy, Spidey's constant wisecracking; these things are all charming, but they're counterbalanced by stock summer blockbuster elements that Webb never seems interested in. What we get is a glimpse of how good Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone might be in a snappy, witty, old-fashioned romantic comedy — if only all those pesky scientifically engineered mutants would stop intruding.

In the end, it was riveting finish: A campaign to save part of the Michigan factory where Rosie the Riveter and thousands of other women built B-24 bombers during World War II has raised the money needed to turn the facility into a museum.

The site's manager had given organizers of the Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant campaign until Thursday to raise $8 million to buy the now-derelict plant. As recently as Tuesday, we told you that it could be the end of the road for the plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., because organizers were $1 million short.

But, as The Associated Press reported on Thursday, campaign organizers "closed in on a big one." Here's more:

"That allowed [fundraising consultant Michael] Montgomery and his partners to get "within spitting distance of the full eight (million)" and enough to go forward with a purchase agreement, which he expects to be finalized in seven to 10 days.

"Meanwhile, those behind the effort will go back to raising the additional dollars needed to make the new Yankee Air Museum a reality."


Around the country, there are lots of tinkerers working on what they hope will be the next brilliant idea — but who don't have the tools in their garage to build it.

In dozens of cities, those innovators can set up shop in a "maker space" — community workshops where members have access to sophisticated tools and expertise.

A Growth Spurt For Maker Spaces

Since moving into its new home this month, the for-profit Columbus Idea Foundry in Columbus, Ohio, is now considered to be the largest maker space in the world. The facility is being renovated with hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds. It also received a $350,000 grant from the nonprofit ArtPlace America to aid its "creative place-making" mission.

Members of Artisan's Asylum, a 40,000-square-foot hacker space in Somerville, Mass., have raised $4 million on Kickstarter for a variety of small businesses. Executive director Molly Rubenstein says $3.5 million in venture capital investments have also gone to startups at Artisan's Asylum, where many classes are sold out and a waiting list exists for studio space.

The TechShop in Detroit, opened in partnership with automaker Ford, is credited with helping increase the number of inventions by Ford employees, according to Bill Coughlin, CEO of Ford Global Technologies. TechShop recently announced it was opening a maker space in partnership with BMW in Munich. TechShop facilities were opened in Pittsburgh and Arlington, Va., after thousands of memberships were purchased for veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Twitter is growing and its brand is spreading but Wall Street is unimpressed. On Tuesday, the company announced it had doubled its quarterly revenue from a year ago to $250 million. The social networking site also increased its number of active users to 255 million, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

But despite the gains, Wall Street analysts have called the growth tepid. Twitter went public last November, and its shares have traded as high as $74; on Wednesday, it opened at under $38.

Nat West, owner of Reverend Nat's Hard Cider in Portland, Ore., is spicing up his cider made from eating apples with ginger juice, herbal tonics, coffee and hops. He has even aged cider in a tank with crushed rock slabs to impart notes of "minerality."

Schilling Cider, in Seattle, uses mostly Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples — varieties that "don't have any flavor," in owner Colin Schilling's opinion. That's why he steeps bags of chai spices in one of his ciders, ages others with oak chips and adds Ecuadorian cocoa nibs to another to create a thick and brownie-like beverage only faintly reminiscent of apples. Schilling once even fermented some apple juice over Japanese horseradish for what was intended to be a "wasabi cider."

"That was awful," he says. "We dumped it out."

Unsurprisingly, there are critics of such experimental cider-making.

Steve Wood, co-owner of Farnum Hill Cider, grows about 70 acres of apples on his New Hampshire farm. For him, making cider is less like craft brewing than it is like making wine — a process of tending to the trees, growing the fruit, harvesting the apples at optimal ripeness, blending the juices and fermenting it in oak barrels and steel tanks. Wood uses apple varieties like Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Bramtot — varieties too bitter or sour to eat but long used in Europe for cider-making.

"The goal is to bring our fruit to the bottle in the most delicious way possible," Wood says. "It's a very hands-off, white wine-making approach."

Adding anything but apple juice to the cider would go against Wood's most basic principles: "I would never, in my wildest imagination, put jalapenos in my cider. That would be like if a Bordeaux winemaker threw a bunch of hot peppers into his wine."

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Fiddler on the Roof's Broadway premiere. Lyricist Sheldon Harnick co-wrote the songs for Fiddler, as well as Fiorello!, She Loves Me and Tenderloin. Just in time for his 90th birthday, Harnick has released a new album, Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures (1949-2013), a collection which includes Harnick singing demos of his own popular songs, rarities from early in his career, and pieces cut from Broadway shows. Many of the recordings are from his private collection.

"Any successful lyricist has to be part playwright and has to be able to put himself into the minds and the hearts and the souls of the characters he's writing about," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "That's part of a theater lyricist's talent."

Manuel Antonio Tejarino used to be a lean, fit field hand. During the sugar cane harvest, he'd swing a machete for hours, hacking at the thick, towering stalks.

Now Tejarino is slumped in a faded, cloth deck chair outside his sister's house on the outskirts of Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.

Tejarino's kidneys are failing. He's grown gaunt. His arms droop by his side. In the tropical midday heat, he alternates between wiping sweat off his brow and pulling a sweatshirt up over his bare chest.

"I feel like I'm burning," says Tejarino, 49. "My blood pressure goes down. I get dizzy. Someone has to help me walk. If I'm alone I'll fall down."

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President Obama returned to Washington on Tuesday after a weeklong visit to Asia.

The four-nation tour was designed to showcase U.S. involvement in the region, but it produced only modest diplomatic developments. And toward the end of the trip, the president offered a modest assessment of his overall foreign policy.

The Asia trip didn't produce a blockbuster trade deal, or bring an end to North Korea's nuclear threat. The U.S. won a smaller-scale agreement to station military forces in the Philippines. And it polished its newfound ties with Malaysia. This is the kind of workaday diplomacy that President Obama says is not sexy but pays off in the long run.

"That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn't make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles; you hit doubles. Every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world."

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine cast a shadow over the trip. Having watched Russia annex Crimea with only limited challenge from the West, Asian allies wanted reassurance the U.S. will support them against any aggressive moves by China. Congressional Republicans, like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, have criticized what they say is the administration's tepid response to Russia's moves in Ukraine.

"I'm very concerned that as we've seen from this administration on so many tough issues, their policies are always late — after, after the point in time when we could have made a difference in the outcome," Corker said on CBS.

Obama suggests his critics are really calling for a stronger military response, and argues they haven't learned the lessons of the Iraq War:

"Frankly, most of the foreign-policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people have no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests."

David Rothkopf, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine, concedes some of the president's critics are trigger-happy. But he also says Obama is too quick to suggest that sending in the troops is the only possible alternative.

"There is something between the catastrophe of the Iraq War and total impotence that is an option for U.S. foreign policy," he says.

Rothkopf would have liked to see the U.S. act more decisively in Syria and Egypt, and on global issues such as climate change. While the president's modest talk of hitting singles partly reflects the experience of five-plus years in office, Rothkopf says there's a danger of setting the bar too low.

"He's being realistic, but I think he's also rationalizing where we've ended up in a way that is a little self-serving and not sufficiently demanding of himself or performance from his team."

Obama insists the U.S. will continue to make a difference around the world, using all the tools available to it. But the president was frank this week in citing the limits of U.S. power.

"There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world. And not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us."

Obama takes seriously the idea that he was elected to end wars, not start new ones. But in his drive to avoid making errors, Rothkopf says, the president also runs the risk of playing it too safe.

"I think he's moved into a kind of a mode where he will consider his presidency and its foreign policy to be successful if we don't screw up in a big way like we did during the first term of the Bush administration. And, you know, that's fair. We don't want to go back there. But it may leave some problems on the field for the next president."

This president still has 2 1/2 years, though, in which to refine the Obama Doctrine.

Some countries in Syria's neighborhood are feeling inundated with refugees, and countries like Greece are making it harder for them to enter the country. Now Bulgaria has followed suit, with growing reports of Syrian refugees facing violent beatings, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

Among the poorest European states, Bulgaria was ill-prepared for the spike in refugees who came across its border last fall. The government quickly beefed up border patrols as part of a "pushback" policy designed to keep the refugees in Turkey. It's a policy that refugees and rights advocates say the border police are executing with a vengeance.

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With The Help Of Smugglers, Syrian Refugees Sneak Into Europe

Youth is a time of idealism and energy except, perhaps, when it comes to voting in the mid-term elections.

A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll found that interest in voting in the November 2014 elections among 18-to-29-year-old voters is lower now than just several months ago — and even lower than it was at a similar point in 2010.

Only 24 percent of those polled said they would definitely be voting, according to the survey. That was a drop of 10 percentage points since last November and a seven point drop from four years ago.

These are the kind of polling results guaranteed to raise Republican hopes and give Democrats sleepless nights. Younger voters tend to vote Democratic. If they are significantly less inclined to vote this year than they were in 2010 — when Democrats lost the House — Election Day 2014 could be very gloomy indeed for Democrats.

The other piece of bad news for the president's party in the Harvard poll was something we've seen elsewhere — there's more intensity among Republican voters than Democrats.

The poll found 44 percent of the 18-to-29 year olds who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 say they definitely plan to vote this fall. That compared with 35 percent of President Obama voters who said they planned to vote in November 2014.

While these numbers are obviously bad for Democrats, they're not necessarily determinative, as least not according to Sasha Issenberg, author of "The Victory Lab," which explains techniques campaigns use to motivate their voters to go to the polls.

In a recent New Republic piece, Issenberg, a fellow at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, writes that Democrats may be able to drive up turnout numbers if they use proven methods that motivate a portion of "unreliable" voters — like young people — to go to the polls.

The challenge is those methods, like sending canvassers out to targeted voters or dropping direct mail in the right mailboxes can be costly. It requires donors and activists to stay engaged which is easier said than done, Issenberg says.

There was a time in Eastern Europe when the landscape was dotted with wooden synagogues, some dating back to the 1600s. Inside, the walls and ceilings were covered with intricate painted designs. Almost all of these structures were destroyed during the Holocaust, and with them a folk art. But in Burlington, Vt., a synagogue mural has been uncovered where it lay hidden for a quarter century.

Aaron Goldberg grew up in a section of Burlington known as Little Jerusalem. His family was among the Jewish immigrants who settled there in the late 1800s, mostly from Lithuania. Goldberg first saw the mural in the 1970s when he was in middle school and accompanied his mother to a carpet store.

"I have a distinct memory of going up to the second floor to look at the carpet rolls and the remnants with my mother and seeing a painting on the back wall," he says. "It was surreal."

The store, it turned out, had once been a synagogue. Shoppers could see rays of sunlight, a crown hovering above a tablet with the Ten Commandments and a throne supported by two lions of Judah — all part of a mural stretching 10 feet high and 18 feet wide. It had been painted in 1910 by an immigrant artist named Ben Zion Black.

Years later, Goldberg and another member of his synagogue learned that the carpet store had been sold and the new owner was going to convert the building into apartments.

"She allowed us about a month to see if we could figure out a plan to get the mural out," he says. "So we called museums, hospitals, colleges, commercial warehouse storage spaces all over the East Coast and we could not locate a space. So we asked her if she would consider walling up the mural."

The owner agreed and for 25 years tenants lived in an apartment not knowing what was behind the walls.

An Exuberant Work Of Art

Two years ago, the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, where Goldberg serves as archivist, started renting the apartment. It tore down the wall that had been erected to protect the mural and hired art conservator Connie Silver to help restore it.

"This is a really exuberant work of art," she says.

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As has become the recent custom over at CBS, when Craig Ferguson decided to announce his departure from The Late Late Show on Monday, he had a self-deprecating joke ready.

"Thanks everybody! That was quite convincing!" he said, as the audience groaned at news he would leave the network's 12:35 a.m. show in December. "I'll go and do something else. Probably, I'm thinking, carpentry."

Some fans might assume Ferguson is leaving because CBS hired someone else to take the top job in the network's late night universe, handing Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert the hosting gig on the 11:35 p.m. Late Show when host David Letterman announced his retirement weeks ago.

But the Scottish-born comic told Variety that he had planned to leave his show long before Letterman shocked the showbiz world by unexpectedly announcing his retirement April 3. Once that happened, Ferguson had to keep his mouth shut while the world reacted to Letterman and CBS announced Colbert as his successor.

I believe Ferguson, because when I visited his show for a feature story in 2007, he told me he couldn't see sticking with the program past his then-six-year contract. "I just don't know if I like being that visible," he said, musing a bit about a post-Late Show life spent writing standup bits and books from a seaside bungalow in Florida. "I don't know if I would want to ramp that up any more, you know. And people here find that, I think, quite difficult to (understand)."

If what Ferguson says is true, then the network surely has a succession plan in mind for him as well. And given how quickly they moved on announcing the Colbert hire, it might not be long before we're talking about how the next guy (or gal, hopefully) is going to help reinvent late night TV on the network of NCIS and CSI.

But first, let's take a moment to give props to Ferguson, a wildly talented performer who succeeded – and failed – because he insisted on creating a late-night talk show for people who hate most late-night talk shows.

Basically, Ferguson busted up the rigid formula of late night TV wherever he could, producing a show that could split sides one moment and leave you wondering if you stumbled on a celebrity-studded acid trip in the next.

Some of the stuff is obvious. Early in his tenure, Ferguson jettisoned a mostly-planned monologue for a stream-of-consciousness way of speaking to the camera that was more genuine and more funny. Sometimes the program would begin in a "cold open" with a puppet rabbit interrogating an audience member; other times, he spoke openly about the life and death of his father or explained why, as a recovering alcoholic, he would pass on poking fun at the debilitating meltdowns of Britney Spears.

He never had a backing band – in part, early on, it was likely a money thing. But even after CBS upgraded his studio, Ferguson avoided the bandleader sidekick and live music, instead trading banter with a skeletal robot voiced by one of the show's writers offscreeen and with two people in horse's costume. Really.

As interviews began with guests, Ferguson would symbolically rip up his blue note cards as a way of signifying that what was coming wasn't really planned. Sometimes, that brought a lot of empty riffing with a celebrity who just couldn't keep up. But sometimes, you got this (warning: parts of this are a little NSFW).

Ferguson took over The Late Late Show in 2005 from Craig Kilborn, himself a refugee from Comedy Central's Daily Show. CBS actually tried a succession of guest hosts in the job after Kilborn failed, and Ferguson was the unlikely-yet-compelling permanent choice.

Where Kilborn was smug and overly scripted, Ferguson was genuine and spontaneous (Kilborn has the dubious distinction of hosting two shows which were turned into creative successes after he left them). And when Ferguson occasionally got serious – in talking about race relations or staying sober or dealing with death – it was because he was interested in whatever he was talking about in that moment.

This was a show created by a star who chafed at all the typical conventions of a late-night talk show. The result was an unpredictable program which was often funny, sometimes amazing and occasionally just strange and not quite complete.

Small wonder that more traditional shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers beat The Late Late Show in ratings. And it's also no surprise that Ferguson might get tired of re-inventing the form every night and just move on (he already has his next TV gig lined up: hosting his syndicated game show Celebrity Name Game).

Beyond hoping they don't hire yet another white male, I'm crossing my fingers that CBS succeeds Ferguson with someone just as willing to blow up conventional ideas of what a late night talk show can and should be.

As legacies go, that might be the best one yet, especially for a host who often called himself "TV's Craig Ferguson" – an offhand description that seemed equal parts ironic jab and grudging admission of his circumstance.

And as final tribute, please enjoy 13 minutes of Ferguson-centered craziness, courtesy of YouTube.

It's early evening on a Thursday and you're at a networking event, balancing a small plate of appetizers in one hand. Someone comes up to you to say hello. She acts like you've met before, but you can't recall where.

"It's Jackie Barnes," she says.

"Jackie Barnes," you repeat her name like you remember. "It's been a while."

As you say her name, a little device in your ear picks it up. The device does a search and microseconds later it feeds you the info it's found on the Web: the college she attended, her current company, that she has two kids and is an avid runner.

That's right, she's a former coworker from a few years back.

"How's the new job?" you ask, relieved.

Here, in the hyper-connected world of wearable technology, such as Google Glass or Fitbit watches, enter hearables, a small device you wear in your ear. If one forecaster watching this market closely is correct, hearables are about to hit the market in a big way. If that happens, what could this mean for how we interact with the new technology — and with each other?

First, let's look at what a hearable could do. There are some on the market, like the Dash, a fitness-focused product from a German company called Bragi. As the technology advances, adoption could become a lot more widespread, wirelessly connecting with your smartphone, for example.

"It's discreet in your ear and it's helping in some way," says Piers Fawkes, president of think tank PSFK Labs. "There's an opportunity for it to be a personal adviser ... whispering going on, giving you directions, telling you that you're late for a meeting."

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A few weeks after David Letterman announced he'd be retiring from the CBS late-night television lineup, Craig Ferguson did the same.

Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show since 2005, told his studio audience during Monday's taping that he will step down at the end of the year. Ferguson's show airs after Letterman's, at 12:35 a.m. on weekdays.

The move was no surprise after CBS announced that Stephen Colbert will replace Letterman next year. There was a time that Ferguson, whose show won a Peabody Award in 2009, was considered a strong contender for that job.

But The Late Late Show has faded in the ratings, particularly with the arrival of Seth Meyers in February as competition in the same time slot.

"CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are consciously uncoupling," Ferguson said. "But we will still spend holidays together and share custody of the fake horse and robot skeleton, both of whom we love very much."

He told the audience it was his decision to leave, adding, "CBS has been fine with me."

CBS Entertainment Chairwoman Nina Tassler said Ferguson "infused the broadcast with tremendous energy, unique comedy, insightful interviews and some of the most heartfelt monologues seen on television."

The Scottish-born Ferguson, 51, became a U.S. citizen during his tenure on the show.

He already has a new job lined up, as host of Celebrity Name Game, a syndicated game show set to debut later this year.

But he joked about his plans with the audience.

After his stint ends, "I'll go and do something else. Probably, I'm thinking, carpentry. But I haven't made my mind up yet. ... I feel like doing this show for 10 years, that's enough," he said.

Guest LL Cool J told Ferguson that "I hate to see you go."

It's been an unusually busy period of personnel changes in the late-night television arena. Jimmy Fallon took over the Tonight show on NBC from Jay Leno in February and was an instant sensation, ascending to the top of the ratings against Letterman and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. Letterman announced that he would be leaving CBS after more than three decades in late-night TV.

Chelsea Handler also has said she will be leaving her late-night show on E!

CBS said it plans to continue The Late Late Show and will be searching for another host. There's another opening at Comedy Central, which is looking to replace The Colbert Report when it ends at the end of the year.

Nearly 400 years since the death of Spain's most famous writer, scientists are using ground-penetrating radar to search for Miguel de Cervantes' body.

It's believed to be buried in the foundation or walls of a 17th century convent in downtown Madrid — the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians — built in 1612, and now surrounded by 21st century tapas bars and traffic.

On Monday, NPR got a sneak peak inside the convent, where a dozen cloistered Catholic nuns — aged 23 to 92 — live. They sing at Mass each morning, hidden behind a second-floor screen, out of public view. And they are the keepers of the legend of Cervantes' final resting place.

"For 400 years, we have kept Cervantes' last dying wish, to be buried here," says Mara Jos, the nuns' secretary and the only one allowed to speak to visitors. "We have passed down the memory of the documents that registered his burial here, even though the documents themselves have all since been lost."

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British comedian Eddie Izzard has been thinking a lot about language (no suprise to anyone who's heard him riff on monkeys on branches, mice under tables, and cats on chairs).

And he's had a crazy idea: Training himself in new languages — German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic — so when he's on the road, he can perform in his audience's native tongue. Though that won't be a challenge when he hits the road in America this week.

Izzard tells NPR's David Greene that he was seven years old when he first knew he wanted to go onstage. "I was watching this other kid, and he was getting a lot of reaction and applause, and whatever he was doing he was doing right, and I thought, I have got to do that. I have analyzed this in my self-analysis way as, my mother had died a year before and I believe I swapped the affection or the reaction of the audience for what I'd lost from my mother."


Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in a sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship's rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers.

Divers found only one body Sunday after a week that saw an increasing number of corpses pulled from the ship as divers made their way through its labyrinth of cabins, lounges and halls. The number of dead from the April 16 sinking is 188, with 114 people believed missing, though a government emergency task force has said the ship's passengers list could be inaccurate. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

Senior coast guard officer Kim Su-hyeon said that most of the remaining missing passengers are believed to be in 64 of the ship's 111 rooms. Divers have entered 36 of those 64 rooms, coast guard officers said, but may need to go back into some because floating debris made it difficult for divers to be sure that there are no more dead bodies.

Ko Myung-seok, an official with the emergency task force, said Monday that 92 divers would search the ferry. He also said that the government was making plans to salvage the ferry once search efforts end but that details wouldn't be available until officials talk with families of the victims.

On Sunday, South Korea's prime minister resigned over the government's handling of the sinking, blaming "deep-rooted evils" in society for the tragedy.

South Korean executive power is largely concentrated in the president, so Chung Hong-won's resignation appears to be symbolic. Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said President Park Geun-hye would accept the resignation, but did not say when Chung would leave office.

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