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In what is being described as an embarrassing release of a confidential email, the Bank of England has inadvertently revealed that it is making financial plans for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, should that ever come to pass.

Earlier this month, the newly reelected British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his party's commitment to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on continued membership in the EU.

According to The Guardian, on Friday, the Bank of England, the U.K.'s central bank, "accidentally emailed details" the newspaper details of a contingency plan in the works on how to extricated the U.K. from the EU, "including how the bank intended to fend off any inquiries about its work."

The plan has been dubbed "Operation Bookend," according to the newspaper.

The Guardian reports that "The email, from [Deputy Governor for Financial Stability Sir Jon] Cunliffe's private secretary to four senior executives, was written on 21 May and forwarded by mistake to a Guardian editor by the Bank's head of press, Jeremy Harrison.

"It says: 'Jon's proposal, which he has asked me to highlight to you, is that no email is sent to James's team or more broadly around the Bank about the project.'

"It continues: 'James can tell his team that he is working on a short-term project on European economics in International [division] which will last a couple of months. This will be in-depth work on a broad range of European economic issues. Ideally he would then say no more.'"

While the United Kingdom is one of 28 EU member states, it maintains its own currency and is not part of the Eurozone.


United Kingdom

European Union


On why he leaves in brand names and clothing labels

Why take it out, would be the real question? The brands that people wear are a serious business. I remember growing up as a kid in South Central Los Angeles, back in the 1980s, when people were being killed for Jordan sneakers. Branding says a lot about luxury, and about exclusion, and about the choices that manufacturers make, but I think that what society does with it after it's produced is something else. And the African-American community has always been expert at taking things and repurposing them toward their own ends. This code-switching that exists between luxury and urban is something that was invented in the streets of America, not Sixth Avenue.

On the painting "Mugshot Study"

Wiley: Well, what this painting is is a portrait of a young black man, possibly between the ages of 18 and 26, I can't really say. He has these beaded necklaces around his neck; nothing more than a wife-beater. It's a painting that's cropped, and in fact, the way that I found this image was, I was walking down the street in Harlem, and I found this crumpled piece of paper. And on it as a mug shot. Presumably it fell out of a police car, and it got me thinking about portraiture, about the choices that one has to make in order to be in a portrait of this type.

"It's a rebuke of the mug shot, it's an ability to say 'I will be seen the way I choose to be seen.'"

- Kehinde Wiley

Cornish: It's also the antithesis of the work people may recognize ... if anything, your work, for a lot of people, has been a rebuke of the mug shot when it comes to black men.

Wiley: It's a rebuke of the mug shot, it's an ability to say "I will be seen the way I choose to be seen." All of the models are going through our history books and deciding, out of all the great portraits of the past, which ones do they feel most comfortable, which ones resonate with them. And so I go through the studios with individuals who go through art history books and choose how they want to perform themselves.

On why he chooses to work in traditional forms rather than create something new

My love affair with painting is bittersweet. I love the history of art — you asked me about that moment that I first looked at the stuff and when I first fell in love with it. It was only later that I understood that a lot of destruction and domination had to occur in order for all of this grand reality to exist. So what happens next? What happens is the artist grows up and tries to fashion a world that's imperfect. Tries to say yes to the parts that he loves, and to say yes to the parts that he wants to see in the world, such as black and brown bodies — like my own — in the same vocabulary as that tradition that I had learned so many years before.

It's an uncomfortable fit, but I don't think that it's something that I'm shying away from at all. In fact, I think what we're arriving at is the meat of my project, which is that discomfort is where the work shines best. These inconvenient bedfellows that you're seeing all over this museum are my life's work.

On the gut feeling of vulnerability that informs his work

What I wanted to do was to look at the powerlessness that I felt as — and continue to feel at times — as a black man in the American streets. I know what it feels like to walk through the streets, knowing what it is to be in this body, and how certain people respond to that body. This dissonance between the world that you know, and then what you mean as a symbol in public, that strange, uncanny feeling of having to adjust for ... this double consciousness.

Much of Brad Bird's Disney sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland is terrific fun, but it's one of the strangest family movies I've seen: Bird's not just making a case for hope, he's making a furious, near-hysterical case against anti-hope.

After a perplexing prologue in which George Clooney in a futuristic suit addresses an unseen audience, Bird flashes back to perhaps the 20th century's most enduring symbol of technological optimism: The 1964 New York World's Fair. Clooney's character, Frank Walker, is a pre-teen science nerd who's demonstrating his semi-functional homemade jetpack to a British scientist called Nix played by Hugh Laurie. Nix belittles Frank, but a young girl named Athena, who appears to be Nix's daughter, secretly slips the boy a World's Fair pin that transports him somewhere fabulous.


Hugh Laurie is British scientist David Nix in Tomorrowland. Disney hide caption

itoggle caption Disney

Hugh Laurie is British scientist David Nix in Tomorrowland.


I can't describe where that is because the fun in Tomorrowland comes from being constantly upended. What I can say is that for Bird the '64 fair is utopia. This was an era when kids made rockets in garages out of vacuum cleaner parts; when a clean, cheerful "city of the future" inspired awe instead of cynicism. For Frank, anything seems possible.

Frank is not the movie's protagonist, but it's someone cut from the same cloth. Casey Newton is a present-day Florida teen (played by Britt Robertson) whose dad works for NASA overseeing the dismantling of rockets that will never be used. A budding rocket scientist, she's so outraged by the failure to support the space program, she sends homemade drones to sabotage the equipment —and gets caught. Sprung from jail, she finds in her belongings the same kind of pin that sent Frank on the ride of his life. Every time she touches it, she's in what I'm tempted to call a field of dreams.

It's obvious why both Casey and Frank got that pin: They have imaginations that can't be dampened. Casey's dad poses a riddle that becomes the cornerstone of her worldview, which is, in fact, the film's worldview: You have two wolves, one representing darkness and despair, the other light and hope. Which one lives? Casey knows the answer: "The one you feed."

After Casey joins forces with the middle-aged Frank, much of Tomorrowland is time-and-space jumping plus blast-'em-up battles with human-looking robots. But the most vivid thing is the message: a critique of films, books and TV shows in which floods, plagues, robots, or nukes wipe out civilization. It's not that Bird is disparaging climate change or other dangers. He's saying our society has become so comfortable with the vision of apocalypse that we're not dreaming up solutions.

Maybe Bird's right and we are too comfortable — even turned on — by plague/flood/road-warrior/kids-killing-kids movies. But Tomorrowland has a weird side, too. Bird has acknowledged the influence of Ayn Rand's militant individualism, and so the enemies he identifies aren't, say, the people causing climate change. They're the doomsaying collective, like the science teacher who drones on about temperature rise and looks dumbly at Casey when she interrupts to ask, "Can we fix it?" Nihilistic groupthink rules our culture, says Bird, and Casey's positivity makes her a pariah.

Apart from that — a big "apart" — I loved the movie. I had to dry my tears and let the buzz wear off before I could argue with it. The creator of The Incredibles, Ratatouille and the last Mission: Impossible film, Ghost Protocol, Bird straddles two worlds, his animation grounded by love of classic cinema, his live-action films liberated by an animator's sense of possibilities.

The cast is fun, too. Though Clooney mugs as much as acts, his comic timing remains superb and his young female co-stars are marvelous. Britt Robertson's jumpy Casey pairs beautifully with Raffey Cassidy's crisp underplaying as the enigmatic Athena. I hope neither actress follows Tomorrowland with a plague or Mad Max film — though we all know that in Hollywood, movies with no future are the future.

A branch of the self-declared Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia that has killed at least 19 people, a move that could represent a significant escalation of the extremist group's operations in the kingdom.

NPR's Leila Fadel reports from Cairo that the online statement from ISIS "named and praised the Saudi suicide bomber who detonated himself amongst a congregation of Shiite Saudis praying in a mosque in the village of al Qudaih in Qatif province."

She says it is the first time a Saudi branch of ISIS known as Najd Province has claimed responsibility for an attack inside the kingdom. Leila says Saudi Shiites are concerned that the attack represents a backlash for Saudi Arabia's military campaign against rebel (Shiite) Houthis in Yemen.

"In the statement, ISIS called Shiite Muslims impure and vowed that dark days are ahead for them. It also said attacks like this one won't stop until they drive all Shiites from the Arab peninsula," Leila reports.

According to The New York Times: "During Saudi Arabia's two-month air campaign against the Houthi movement in Yemen, which practices a form of Shiite Islam and receives backing from Saudi Arabia's regional rival, Iran, imams at Sunni mosques and commentators in Saudi Arabia have frequently rallied the public around the war, in part by repeatedly denouncing Shiites as dangerous infidels."

Al-Jazeera offers a bit of background:

"Saudi Arabia's Shia population is mostly based in two oasis districts of the Eastern Province - Qatif on the Gulf coast, and al-Ahsa, southwest of the provincial capital al-Khobar.

"Qatif and al-Ahsa have historically been the focal point of anti-government demonstrations.

"The kingdom's Shia community accounts for between 10 to 15 percent of the total population. They say they face discrimination in seeking educational opportunities or government employment and that they are referred to disparagingly in text books and by some Sunni officials and state-funded clerics."

Islamic State

suicide bombings

Saudi Arabia

It seems like a no-brainer: Offer kids a reward for showing up at school, and their attendance will shoot up. But a recent study of third-graders in a slum in India suggests that incentive schemes can do more harm than good.

The study, a working paper released by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, looked at 799 boys and girls. The kids, mostly age 9, were students in several dozen single-classroom schools run by the nonprofit Gyan Shala in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Ahmedabad.

I almost felt badly about what we had done. That in the end, we should not have done this reward program at all.

- Sujata Visaria, an economist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Gyan Shala's program is free and has a reputation for offering decent quality instruction in language, math and science. Still, attendance rates are no better than the average for the region. On any given day, about a quarter of students are absent. Gyan Shala's administrators believe many opt to stay home and play if, say, it's a festival day or a sibling who attends a different school is off or simply because they're not in the mood for class.

So the researchers challenged kids in about half of the classes: Over a designated 38-day period, show up for at least 32 days — that's 85 percent of the time — and get a special gift: two pencils and an eraser.

That might not sound like much. And it's not as if these kids couldn't get a pencil or eraser some other way, notes Sujata Visaria, an economist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and a co-author of the study. Still, such items are a treat in the slums where these kids live, Visaria says.

And the erasers weren't run-of-the-mill. "We spent a lot of time trying to make sure what they got would be a little unusual," she says. "Not a plain, drab erasers but something colorful and shaped like an animal."

Goats and Soda

Dear World, Your Grade For Educating Your Children Is ...

The kids could inspect sample erasers before the 38 days kicked off. The prospect of winning the prize certainly provoked interest. The students were nearly twice as likely to attend class during the 38 days. The effect was particularly pronounced among kids whose attendance level had been the lowest before the reward program began. They were now 2.3 times as likely to come to class. By comparison, kids whose attendance level had been the highest before the reward program also improved their attendance, but by somewhat less: They were 1.8 times as likely to come to class.

So far it all seemed logical, says Visaria. As an economist, she would expect a reward program to be most effective with students who don't already have some existing, intrinsic motivation for going to school — like finding class fun.

After the 38 days, rewards were handed out to those who qualified in a special ceremony in front of the rest of the class. The researchers checked back on the kids two more times. And that's when things got surprising.

Goats and Soda

Cellphones Or School? What Makes Kids Around The World Happy

The researchers looked at three different categories:

• Kids whose attendance rate was highest in the class before the reward program. They reverted to their baseline level.

• Kids whose attendance rate was lowest but managed to up their attendance enough to win the prize. After the program was over, these kids also reverted to their lower baseline level.

• Kids whose attendance rate was lowest to start off with and who did not improve enough to qualify for the reward. In other words, they failed the challenge. More than 60 percent of the lowest attenders fell into this category. For them, the aftermath was grim. They were now only about one-fourth as likely to show up for class as they had been before the reward scheme was introduced.

What happened? Visaria speculates that for these low-attending students, the incentive program underscored how poor their attendance was. So they may have lost what little motivation they had to begin with. Other findings in the study bolstered that theory. After the reward program concluded, the kids with lower original attendance rates were less likely to feel confident about their scholastic abilities than before.

Visaria says this result was not just unexpected and cautionary but disheartening. She and her fellow researchers had been prepared for the possibility that the reward program would not prove particularly helpful, or that any positive effects would not last. But they never expected it to leave children worse off.

"I almost felt badly about what we had done," she says. "That in the end, we should not have done this reward program at all."

school attendance




Just a few years ago, downtown Hamilton, Mo. looked a lot like a thousand other forgotten, rural towns. Abandoned, forlorn buildings marred the main drag.

But in recent years, an explosively fast-growing start-up business in rural north western Missouri has shaken up a staid industry, producing a YouTube star and revitalizing a town with a proud retail history.

That's why Dean Hales, who's lived here 77 years, is so delighted now.

"I've lived here most all my life, I can't hardly believe what I'm seeing," he says. "When you've got people coming from all over the world to a little town of 1,800 people, you've got something pretty special. And we do have."

They've got Missouri Star Quilt Company. Just seven years after its launch, fifteen freshly-remodeled buildings in Hamilton now house fabric, sewing machines and customers.


Missouri Star Quilt Co. co-founder Alan Doan explores a long-vacant space the company is remodeling in downtown Hamilton. This building was formally owned by J.C. Penny, who got his first retail job in the shop downstairs in the 1890s, and made it his 500th J.C. Penny's store in the 1920s. Frank Morris/KCUR hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Morris/KCUR

Missouri Star Quilt Co. co-founder Alan Doan explores a long-vacant space the company is remodeling in downtown Hamilton. This building was formally owned by J.C. Penny, who got his first retail job in the shop downstairs in the 1890s, and made it his 500th J.C. Penny's store in the 1920s.

Frank Morris/KCUR

Della Badger drove here from Victorville, Calif.

"I just looked on my map and asked Siri, How do I get to Hamilton, Missouri," she says. "But, it was my dream to get here and see Jenny."

Badger's talking about someone she knew only through YouTube, Jenny Doan, of Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Doan's how-to quilting videos have drawn millions of views.

"It's some crazy thing like that," Doan laughs. "I can't hardly use the bathroom in a restaurant without someone saying, 'I love your tutorials!' "

Jenny Doan's DIY quilt tutorials have drawn more than 50 million views.

Doan says it's because she takes an easy-going approach to what traditionally can be a daunting and tedious craft.

"Quilting has always been something that's like, for the elite," she says. "It's kind of a hard thing to do, you know, everything has to be cut perfectly. And I'm like, 'Just whack up, we're going to put it together, this is going to be awesome!' "

She says women from around the world visit Hamilton, or write to thank her for getting them into quilting.

"This has absolutely been the sweetest, most serendipitous thing that has ever happened to me," Doan adds.

And this business would not have happened if she had been a better financial planner.

"My parents have always been bad with money," says Alan Doan, Jenny's son.

He says the recession cost his folks most of their savings, and threatened to take their house.

"Me and my sister were looking at it and said, 'We've got to put something together, so that mom can make a little extra cash,' " Alan says.

So in the fall of 2008, Alan and his sister took out loans and set their mom up with a business sewing other people's quilts together. Customers kept asking for fabric, so Alan built a website to sell it.

"World, we're open! And you expect somebody to care, right? And so we launched the website," Alan says. "I still have my Facebook post, I went and looked at it the other day, it's like, 'Hey I launched this quilt shop for mom, you guys should check it out.' It's [got] like, two likes."


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Michel Martin, Going There

What's Driving The Motor City Forward Now?

Doan was selling, or trying to sell, a relatively new product: pre-cut fabric. The pieces come bundled together from the factory in a pack with different, complementary, prints, making it much easier and faster to make good looking quilts.

But one year in, business was terrible.

Jenny says, "Alan came to me and said, 'Mom, are you interested in doing tutorials?' I said, 'Sure honey, what's a tutorial?' I mean, had no idea. I had never been on YouTube.' "

Well, the videos, featuring pre-cut fabrics, eventually took off. Sales exploded and now Missouri Star Quilt employs more than 180 people to sew, staff stores and, like Mindy Loyd, ship thousands of packages a day from the company's huge new warehouse.

"This one's going to Australia," Lloyd says. "Isn't that neat?"

Alan's savviness helped build the foundation of a large business.

"We had to learn how to do this from like watching YouTube videos on how Amazon does it, or something, right? We built this warehouse, and I just called all the smart people I knew and said, 'How do we do this?' " he says.

Success has pushed the company into publishing, even food service. They're renovating more buildings and by mid-summer they plan to double the number of quilt shops in Hamilton, and even add a "man's land" to give their customer's husbands something to do.

The Doans aren't the first people from Hamilton to make it big in retail.


Alan Doan likes the fact that Missouri Star Quilt Co. is following in the footsteps of fellow Hamilton native J.C. Penny, but Doan's never been into an actual J.C. Penny store. Frank Morris/KCUR hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Morris/KCUR

Alan Doan likes the fact that Missouri Star Quilt Co. is following in the footsteps of fellow Hamilton native J.C. Penny, but Doan's never been into an actual J.C. Penny store.

Frank Morris/KCUR

James Cash Penny Jr. landed his first sales job here almost 120 years ago. Penny left Hamilton a teenager, but came years later, and opened his 500th J.C. Penny store here.

It's not likely the Missouri Star Quilt Company can match that, but it has so far transformed this once sleepy little town into a quilting mecca.

hamilton, mo.

missouri star quilt company




On a sunny day in the remote Chienge district of Zambia, hundreds gathered for a celebration that was the first of its kind. There was singing, laughing and no shortage of dancing. The village chiefs and government officials came dressed in their finest clothes while volunteers sported bright green T-shirts that read, "We use a toilet ... do you?"

The daylong event celebrated a milestone in Zambia, where the practice of defecating in the open is all too common. In April, Chienge, in the northernmost province of Luapula, became the first district in Zambia to be declared free of open defecation by the government. According to UNICEF, it's also the first district in southern Africa to fully abandon the practice. That means every household has at least one private latrine and a place to wash your hands.

Goats and Soda

Me, Myself And The Loo: A Woman's Future Can Rest On A Toilet

"It means the community has decided they don't accept [defecating] in the bush or outside," says Philippa Crooks, a UNICEF volunteer from Australia, who helped run the campaign in the district of some 40 villages and 134,000 people.

An estimated 6.6 million people in Zambia alone don't have a proper toilet, and 4.8 million people live without clean water, according to UNICEF. Residents often drink water from nearby a river and lakes, which have been contaminated with feces. And because hand-washing isn't a regular practice in every district, bacteria from human waste can end up in people's food, spreading diarrhea and cholera. There, the two diseases are among the major causes of death in children under age 5.

Zambia wants to make the entire country "open-defecation-free" within the next five years. And Chienge is a role model. Since the initiative began more than a year ago, Crooks says, the district has not recorded a single case of cholera.

The residents are happy about using toilets, says Leonard Mukosha, national coordinator of the Community-Led Total Sanitation program in Zambia. He recalls what he heard from a boy about 12 years old.

Goats and Soda

Volunteer Recap: A Summer With Her Mind On The Toilet

"Before, he would go into the bush [to use the bathroom] with fear because he would think of snakes," Mukosha says. "And during the rainy season, sometimes you go and suddenly it starts raining. Now, least, he's able to go to the toilet [indoors] so there are no surprises there."

Over the past year, Mukosha and other health workers have been working with village chiefs and "champions" — those selected as community role models — to teach villagers about the importance of using toilets and washing hands with soap.

The goal is to help the community realize that "open defecation is very risky and that it strips the dignity from people," says Mukosha. "You show them how the feces left in bushes get back to them. You create a sense of disgust when they realize so much money is being wasted to treat diseases that are preventable."

Both Mukosha and Crooks say that despite defecation being a taboo subject in the communities, the village chiefs and champions met little resistance. They say, it's because the residents already have a tradition of keeping their villages and homes clean.

"Historically that's how the people have been," Mukosha says. "If you go to the district you'll find that lots of the villages are clean, and what was just lacking was the presence of toilets. So we made clear to them that you cannot claim to be completely clean [and] then use the bushes as a toilet — that does not mean cleanliness."

Goats and Soda

Floating Toilets That Clean Themselves Grow On A Lake

Those caught defecating in the open can face penalties in the form of community work — cleaning government offices or gathering crops for orphans and disadvantaged people. But Mukosha says the district has rarely had to use the penalties.

What the campaign doesn't do is hand out toilets. The Zambian government used to just donate cement slabs to villages, "and it never moved the country anywhere," says Mukosha. "We only reached about 20 percent of the people, and everyone else was waiting for the material."

Instead, the volunteers work with the villages to build pit latrines using locally available materials. The pit latrines are simple to construct: a hole in the ground for the actual latrine with a cleanable slab over it. Then poles and mud bricks for walls, straw for the roof and empty bottles and jugs for the hand-washing station.

"You can see that people have a lot of pride in their toilets, and they just keep them very, very clean," Crooks tells Goats and Soda.

Mukosha says they plan to make at least five more districts open-defecation-free by the end of this year, as well as to provide better and more efficient toilets.

And part of the strategy is to celebrate the toilet era every year and set new goals as the people of Zambia climb what he calls the "sanitation ladder."




Rob Burnett started working with David Letterman as an intern in 1985 and never left, even when the talk-show host moved from NBC to CBS. During the course of his 29-year tenure, Burnett evolved from intern to head writer to executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman, a position he held through last night's final show.

Burnett tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that end of the Late Show is difficult to process. "I think none of us truly understand what it feels like and what it means for this to be ending," he says. "It was very odd to hear that this was over, but I remember my gut feeling at the time feeling like: You know what? [Letterman] deserves this."

Burnett's work with Letterman has spanned from the absurd — who could forget Letterman's "Alka-Seltzer" suit? — to the somber, such as the host's first monologue following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Throughout it all, Burnett says he has had unwavering respect for the man behind the desk. "At the end of the day, I think what drives all of us is that if you're going to spend this amount of time and energy doing this, you want to be doing it for the best possible person, and at least from where we sit, [Letterman]'s the best ever at this."


Rob Burnett celebrates with Barbara Gaines, left, and Maria Pope, right, after winning an Emmy Award for his work on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2000. Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press hide caption

itoggle caption Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

Rob Burnett celebrates with Barbara Gaines, left, and Maria Pope, right, after winning an Emmy Award for his work on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2000.

Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

Interview Highlights

On trying to keep the last shows from getting sentimental

Dave is not sentimental, although I think he's a little more so now ... as he's gotten a little bit older. I think that happens to people. ... For a long time, we pushed guests very hard not to mention the end, not to tell Dave what he meant to them and all of this, and then at some point, as you get close, it becomes inevitable. And it has been lovely. We've had really beautiful tributes from a lot of people — Howard Stern and [Martin] Short and Tom Hanks. ... People getting very emotional and you start to feel Dave — we know what he's meant to us, but you start to realize he's meant a lot to a lot of people.

On the Top 10 lists

I was around when the Top 10 began and, like most things, no one ever really thought it would become what it would become. It was just a silly parody idea to make fun of other top 10 lists. ...

People responded to it and it actually became kind of an interesting way to write topical jokes every day. It was an interesting form. Originally, you know, the first one was very silly: "Top 10 Things That Kind Of Rhyme With 'Peas.' " Very Lettermanesque. I remember when I was a writer, just a staff writer, Gerry Mulligan and I were pushing for a long time and finally got through a list that was "Top 10 Ways The World Would Be Different If Everyone Were Named 'Phil,'" which was one of my favorites. It was so dumb. It was things like "Ben & Jerry's now called Phil & Phil's." It couldn't have been stupider. "Favorite Beatle? Phil." It was just 10 of the stupidest things possible and some of those were ultimately my favorites.

On dropping things off the roof

"I remember particularly one day at the Ed Sullivan Theater holding a bowling ball in my hand and dropping it into a bathtub full of pudding and thinking, 'I am the luckiest man alive.' "

- Rob Burnett

Dropping things off a building I did my fair share of. I remember particularly one day at the Ed Sullivan Theater holding a bowling ball in my hand and dropping it into a bathtub full of pudding and thinking, "I am the luckiest man alive."

On Letterman's bypass surgery in 2000

He was unreachable — it's strange because everything on that show, it all goes through Dave. It's all Dave all the time. Whether he's actually weighing in on it or people are just guessing what he would weigh in on, it's all about him. And suddenly he was gone and inaccessible to us for a while. There was great concern by the staff and then when finally I was back in communication with him and I got the sense that everything went well and that he was going to be back, there was great relief. It was a very emotional moment, I think, for all of us as well as for him and the audience when he retook the stage because that's where he belonged.

On how the show has changed over the years

I think this show has evolved. There are very distinct phases to it. I think the very early years, with Merrill [Markoe, Letterman's first head writer,] and all of those great writers ... it was pure innovation; it was turning television on its head. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen.

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Then the show evolved a little further when we went to CBS. The show moved to 11:30 and to a big theater. You could do less material that was kind of material for comedy writers only. ... You had to appeal a little bit more to a mass audience.

As the show has evolved beyond that, now we are in a phase where ... [after] the bypass, Sept. 11, but I think also as Dave has gotten older — if you look at most of the highlights of the show, they're actually not comedy highlights as much. ... This is part of Dave's genius and I can tell you that I've felt the pains of this as head writer when your instinct in desperation as you're putting on a show each night is that sometimes you want to go back to a certain well because things have worked and people love it. And Dave, through that honesty as a performer, says, "No, I don't want to do that," and these microscopic course-corrections each day lead you to another place and, thankfully, then you're not 68 and still putting on a Velcro suit and jumping up on a wall. I think what you have now is Dave as this great broadcaster and great communicator.

On the audience's laughter when Letterman first spoke about his affairs and being blackmailed

My sense of it in the studio was that I think the audience didn't quite understand what was being said right away. The way I remember it was Dave said something about, I'm paraphrasing, but he said something like, "I'm going to tell you a little story. Do you have time for a little story?" is how he kind of got into it. And I think [the audience is] so juiced up and responding to the show and such that I think as a group — I don't think they were really processing at all as he was doing it until the end. But I do think ... [the audience] sided on the idea that the blackmail was so wrong and I think they do love Dave.

On what it was like working for Letterman

He is definitely one of a kind. He is funny almost all the time but not "on." I think show business people come in two varieties: There's the kind that wants everybody to look at them and draw attention to themselves, and then there's the other kind — and Dave is the other kind. He's never been comfortable drawing attention to himself. As a result, he's extremely self-critical so the mood at the show can be — somber [is] maybe is too strong a word. There are certainly laughs that happen, but it is not a typical show business slap-on-the-back "Hey, that was great." ... That's not the mode there.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, held the floor of the Senate for 10 1/2 hours Wednesday afternoon and evening, airing his objections to the NSA bulk collection of telephone records in the U.S.

Many of the accounts of this lengthy performance referred to it as a filibuster, or a near-filibuster, or some kind of filibuster or other.

It was none of the above.

In the contemporary world of the Senate, the kind of filibusters you can see are extremely rare. But the kind of filibusters you can't see happen all the time. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say "virtual filibusters" are now the normal course of business.

What is a filibuster? It's a senator or group of senators exercising their right to unlimited debate. If pursued in earnest, it can prevent a piece of Senate business off the floor indefinitely. The chamber's majority leader can either remove the issue at hand from consideration or file a motion to invoke cloture.

That motion takes 60 votes to succeed. That is why you constantly hear that it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the U.S. Senate.

Once cloture is invoked, a set period of debate may ensue, followed by a debate on the issue itself.

The requirement for cloture was originally two-thirds of the Senate. In those days, filibusters were reserved for the gravest existential issues. Southern senators used it to defeat civil rights bills for decades.

But after the requirement was lowered to three-fifths (60) in 1974, senators came to embrace the filibuster as just another tool. With each decade since, the use of it has proliferated. Cloture votes are now a regular event.

But you wouldn't know it because the virtual filibuster typically goes on while the Senate is doing other business. The filibustering senator or senators may not even appear on the floor to debate the issue itself.

So what Paul did was rather the opposite. Knowing he could not really prevent the Senate from considering a renewal of the NSA data collection program as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act overall, he performed the old-fashioned "live filibuster" largely for the cameras.

This is not to say his opposition to the program is insincere. He clearly opposes it, as do the three other Republicans who joined in on Wednesday and the seven Democrats who did so as well.

But by carrying the torch for this group and illuminating the privacy issue, Rand Paul was also casting some dramatic light on his own candidacy for president.

Rand Paul's long hours on the Senate floor were about liberty, the Constitution and the need to stand out somehow in a crowded field of GOP hopefuls.

In practical terms, however, public perceptions aside, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed for cloture on a bill renewing the Patriot Act with the NSA bulk collection program intact for two months. He also filed cloture on another bill, passed by the House by a wide margin, that would renew the Patriot Act without that NSA feature.

Either or both could see a vote on the Senate floor before the body leaves for its Memorial Day recess.

NPR hosts, correspondents, producers and contributors write an awful lot of books, many of them eagerly anticipated by listeners who turn them into bestsellers. But I believe NPR should not routinely help their cause by featuring the books on air and online. NPR's new top news executive concurs, in part, particularly when it comes to show hosts discussing their own outside projects on their own shows.

Until now it's been almost a sure bet that NPR listeners and NPR.org readers would hear about new books by staff members and contributors; it has been standard practice in recent years to feature them on NPR programs and at NPR.org. Increasingly, those interviews have even been conducted by close colleagues.

In the most recent example, on Tuesday, which was publication day for Steve Inskeep's Jacksonland, a history book about President Andrew Jackson and his relationship with Cherokee Chief John Ross, the Morning Edition co-host was interviewed by one of the show's other co-hosts, Renee Montagne.

Inskeep himself interviewed their third colleague, David Greene, last October, when Greene's Midnight in Siberia was published. In recent weeks, Inskeep also interviewed the show's Monday contributor Cokie Roberts about her new book Capital Dames, and Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon about his new Unforgettable, a memoir of his mother's life and death. All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish interviewed regular Friday contributor David Brooks about his new book, The Road to Character.

"Your staff have no right to be using NPR as a platform to promote projects which will enrich them personally."

- Listener Doug MacDonald

Listeners who have complained to me see this practice of covering staff-written books in financial terms. Doug MacDonald, a listener in Durham, N.H., wrote of the Jacksonland interview: "Your staff have no right to be using NPR as a platform to promote projects which will enrich them personally."

Carl Goldfield, a listener in New Haven, Conn., called that interview "unethical and inappropriate," adding "With all of the worthwhile history books being published, NPR decided there was some special merit to his? On what grounds? I donate money to my local NPR stations (WNPR and WSHU) because I believe in their non-profit missions. I am outraged to have my hard earned dollars go to support Steve Inskeep's campaign to increase his outside author income."

Others called out more explicitly the conflict in having a host's project featured on his own show, instead of elsewhere on NPR where there might be a bit more editorial distance.

And interviews aren't alone in coming in for criticism. Even a mere mention of Brooks' new book at the end of a recent Friday commentary segment drew a complaint from Steve Mangion, of Newbury, Mass., who wrote: "Certainly seems like an unwarranted plug to me."

I also heard from general managers of NPR stations about the Montagne-Inskeep interview. Oregon Public Broadcasting did not air it, citing the conflict of interest. Al Bartholet, executive director of WMRA in Harrisonburg, Va., said his station did not air the tune-in promotion for the interview because of its disagreement over "the continued practice of promoting NPR host books under the guise of a legitimate news story." Bartholet noted that when one of the station's own part-time hosts, Martha Woodroof, wrote a novel called Small Blessings last year, she was interviewed by Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday, "but WMRA did not interview her or allow her to promote her own book."

Is there a direct line between an NPR interview and sales? A 2012 chart by Business Insider showed the impact of an NPR mention using data from Goodreads.com, a site where readers list books that interest them.

Until now (see a late-breaking update at the bottom of this post) NPR has had no firm policy governing how to handle staff-written books, which is surprising, since NPR has gone to great lengths to be transparent about the picks for the recently launched Morning Edition Book Club, and, moreover, has extensive guidelines for avoiding other conflicts of interest. As the ethics handbook notes:

Conflicts of interest come in many shapes — financial holdings, romantic relationships, family ties, book deals, speaking engagements, and others. It's important to regularly review how our connections are entangled with the subjects of our reporting, and when necessary, to take action.

In minor cases, we might satisfy an apparent conflict by prominently disclosing it, and perhaps explaining to the public why it doesn't compromise our work. When presented with more significant conflicts that might affect our ongoing work, our best response is to avoid them. But some conflicts are unavoidable, and may require us to recuse ourselves from certain coverage. More specific guidance on how to make these decisions appears in the sections below.

Other national publications—although certainly not all— have strict rules governing how they handle books written by staffers. If a New York Times reporter writes a book, it will almost certainly be reviewed by a non-staff person. In recent years staff writers haven't even gotten that at The Economist, which has previously said, "Our policy is not to review books written by our staff or regular freelance contributors because readers might doubt the independence of such reviews."

In NPR's case we are not talking about reviews, but features, which are more promotional. But banning them altogether, in my mind, would be going too far, by depriving readers (or in NPR's case, listeners) of information that they might otherwise find valuable or interesting. I also got complaints about the interview of Simon. That interview seemed appropriate to me, however, given that Simon's poignant July 2013 tweets as his mother was dying became a story unto themselves, and provoked a dialogue about grieving in the social media era. Had NPR not covered the book in some way, it would have seemed odd, and NPR listeners would have been disadvantaged.

NPR should not be featuring a host's book on his or her own program.

Nonetheless, NPR should not be featuring a host's book on his or her own program (and no longer will be; see below.) Overall, it also ought to be much more stingy when handing out these features to fellow staff members, particularly when it comes to the main newsmagazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and their weekend counterparts. If production executives worry they would be put in the uncomfortable position of telling colleagues, "No, your book doesn't meet our threshold of newsworthiness," the newsroom should set a policy of largely avoiding these interviews altogether, or designate one newsroom executive to be the arbiter.

I've heard the argument internally that NPR's listeners are, by definition, interested in what NPR hosts and correspondents are up to—and that NPR listeners tend to be readers. Both of those likely are true, to some extent, but in that case why not put an excerpt online, instead of devoting some of the limited on-air time to what will be seen as a promotion? The New York Times, where one almost never sees features about books written by staffers, recently ran an online Q-and-A with its personal finance columnist Ron Lieber, about his new book, The Opposite of Spoiled, where readers did the interviewing about the topic. That also seems like a reasonable option for NPR.

I'm less concerned about staff interviews if they are conducted on the midday Here and Now, or NPR-distributed programs such as The Diane Rehm Show (where Inskeep will be interviewed today) and Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross. They are more conversationally driven, and in the case of the Rehm's show and Fresh Air, there is some editorial distance, as the staff and hosts of those shows do not work in or report to NPR's newsroom.

Updated 10:00 a.m. on Thursday

Last evening, after I finished writing this column but before I had a chance to post it, NPR's top news official, Michael Oreskes, who started work April 27, sent me new guidelines for covering staff-written books, after coming to some, but not all, of the same conclusions that I did. He told me the guidelines were drafted after he heard the Jacksonland segment and discussed it with those involved and with key newsroom leaders. His note follows:

NPR has not had a written policy on this issue or even a consistent practice. We will now. NPR's producers and editors will use the same standard they apply to outside books to decide whether works by our own staff merit coverage and on which of our programs and platforms. That decision must be approved by the Senior Vice President for News — that is, me.

This book clearly would have met our test of coverage. Steve is a successful author who has written a well-researched work of history about one of our most important presidents and his relationship with the chief of the Cherokee. The book has already received a number of reviews and The New York Times published an Op Ed piece related to the book. There was no reason for us to leave NPR listeners out of this conversation.

NPR has no financial interest in Steve's book. His managers believed his listeners on Morning Edition would want to hear from him about his book. That was a good faith decision. Just not the right one.

Interviewing Steve on his own show created needless doubts and confusion among some listeners. That's not how we should have done it. For the future, NPR staff members will not appear on their own shows to discuss outside books or other works unrelated to NPR coverage.

I also received a reply from Tracy Wahl, the executive producer of Morning Edition:

When we consider who our hosts should interview, we assess interviewees based on their reporting and the listener interest in the topics of the books.

When it came to Steve's book, Renee Montagne expressed interest. She has long been interested in Native American history given her own family connection to the Dakotas and the West. Morning Edition managers considered her request and determined that having her interview Steve fell within the above-mentioned criteria. Listeners would be interested and the reporting was solid.

Even if Steve had not been the author, it is quite likely that she would have wanted us to book an interview with an author writing a book about Andrew Jackson and John Ross.

Some writers to the ombudsman were concerned that Renee was not able to ask tough questions of Steve because of their working relationship.

Renee has interviewed Steve about his stories many times before and no one has ever raised a concern about it and she has never had any trouble speaking her mind on or off the air. Also, as with every project we rigorously check the reporting as much as we can.

Writers to the ombudsman have expressed concern that there will be a perception of conflict of interest. I don't think that is true for the majority of listeners, although of course I can't prove that.

I believe listeners expect that hosts interrogate each other's reporting when interviewing each other about breaking news and reporting trips. I believe that they have the same expectation when one host interviews another about his or her reporting that they might do off the clock.

And finally, I'll give the last word to Inskeep, since he ended up being the focus point here, even though the issue is much broader than just this one interview. He told me:

I researched and reported out a story and, when asked, talked about it on NPR. That's what I do every day on NPR.

It's true that I get paid for working that story. I get paid for all the work I do on NPR.

It's true that NPR did not pay for my research and travel costs for that story over the course of two years, although NPR has often put reporting on the air that NPR did not finance.

It's true that Renee asked me questions, as she has with many stories on NPR.

I have, over the years, done book interviews with Juan Williams (then of NPR), Scott Simon, Anya Kamenetz, Michele Norris, Cokie Roberts and David Greene, as well as hundreds of book talks with reporters and writers who aren't from NPR and have no connection to me. The way I look at books, at least the kind of books we talk about on NPR, they are about doing original research and reporting and spreading ideas.

Editorial researcher Annie Johnson contributed to this report.

For generations of Americans, Detroit was the place where people made things: powerful cars, amazing architecture, beautiful music. But now Detroit is entering a new chapter. After months of often tense and difficult negotiations, Detroit is now formally out of bankruptcy. Millions of dollars of contributions from private foundations and corporations helped the city preserve its acclaimed art collection. A new generation of artists and entrepreneurs, doers and makers is calling Detroit home. So we'd like to ask, what's next? What will drive Detroit's future now? Will it be art, industry, technology — even agriculture?

Tonight, in collaboration with member station WDET, I will be in Detroit to hear and share stories about the past, present and future of Detroit with a particular focus on the creative forces that are fueling Detroit's economy. We will ask if there are lessons the city's past and present might offer other cities as they try to entice new residents and create a brighter future for the people who live there now.

You can listen to our live audio stream and join us on Twitter and Facebook using #MotorCityDrive. We will be inviting guests to add their voices during a live Twitter chat. You can join on Thursday, May 21st at 7 p.m. ET, using #MotorCityDrive.

Joining us on Twitter are:

Margarita Barry @IAmYoungAmerica, founder and publisher, I Am Young America

Matt Chung @mattChung, artist, educator, communicator at @WeKnowDetroit

Hajj Flemings @HajjFlemings, Detroit entrepreneur

Angela Flournoy @AngelaFlournoy, author, The Turner House

Don Gonyea @DonGonyea, NPR correspondent, formerly Detroit bureau

Ingrid Lafleur @Ingridlafleur, art lover, Wanderlust Art tours

Mike Moceri @mocerimike CEO of Manulith, a 3D printing and design company

Jerome Vaughn @JVdet, @WDET news director

#motorcitydrive Tweets

NPR's Davar Ardalan and Frederica Boswell will moderate from the live event using @NPRMichel.


Last month, a Chinese government think tank bashed history professors from Harvard, Georgetown and other leading American universities regarding things they wrote — at least 15 years ago — about events that occurred more than two centuries ago.

"This was a uniquely vitriolic attack," says Georgetown's Jim Millward. The article calls him as "arrogant," "overbearing" and an "imperialist," and dismisses Millward's and his colleagues' scholarship as "academically absurd."


Georgetown University professor Jim Millward, photographed in Beijing's Forbidden City. Courtesy of Jim Millward hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Jim Millward

Georgetown University professor Jim Millward, photographed in Beijing's Forbidden City.

Courtesy of Jim Millward

In all the article, published on the website of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had 88 exclamation points. "It was written in the style of a Cultural Revolution denunciation," says the professor, who teaches Chinese and Central Asian history.

(Millward is married to NPR Executive Editor Madhulika Sikka, who was not involved in the production of this story.)

What did he and the other professors do to provoke such wrath? They offered a historical interpretation of the Qing Dynasty that contradicts the Communist Party's line.

In academic circles, it's called "New Qing History." Keep in mind, the Qing collapsed more than a century ago, a few decades before the Communists took control in 1949.

"How could something so arcane become so political?" says Mark Elliott, a Harvard professor who also got slammed.

For the answer, look no further than George Orwell's novel 1984: "He who controls the past, controls the future."

The American professors say the Qing created China's modern borders by conquering people in the far west who weren't Chinese.

"This is totally at odds with a powerful, but I believe ultimately flawed narrative of the unification of China, which is that these territories by rights belonged to the empire," says Elliott, who is director of Harvard's Fairbanks Center for Chinese Studies.

Elliott says the Communist Party insists these territories have always been part of China, "going back as long as you'd like to look."

These territories include what we now call Tibet and Xinjiang, where some people bitterly oppose Chinese rule. More than 140 Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in recent years to protest China's repressive religious policies there, and in Xinjiang — home to a mostly Muslim Uighur minority — terrorists have launched a series of knife and bomb attacks.

Jim Millward says the government fears that the work of foreign scholars could be used to help justify pushes for independence.

"The fact that the Communist Party wants to assert or hang on to the argument that its territory has been a part of China since antiquity shows that they're really insecure about their rule in those places," he says.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences declined to provide contacts for Li Zhiting, a retired professor who wrote the article that attacked the scholars.

If the piece was designed to enforce the Communist Party line, it doesn't seem too effective so far. Ge Zhaoguang, who studies the Qing Dynasty at Shanghai's Fudan University, wasn't impressed.

"I think this article is a very terrible article," Ge said in an interview at his campus office. "It doesn't have high academic standards. For scholars like us, it has no impact at all."

Ge doesn't agree with all the arguments the American professors make about the Qing Dynasty, but he welcomes different perspectives. That way, Ge says, China can better understand its own history.


George Orwell





Whoa, I wouldn't want to be Steve Easterbrook right about now.

The newish CEO of McDonald's — who has pledged to turn the fast-food giant into a progressive burger chain — is getting an earful this week, as the company prepares to convene its annual shareholders meeting on Thursday.

A few thousand workers protested outside the company's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Wednesday afternoon, chanting, "We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check," referring to the push for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

And it's not just workers rallying for higher wages. A slew of activists have descended on Oak Brook to register a host of beefs with the company.

There's the Toxic Taters Coalition, a group that wants to raise awareness about the levels of pesticides used on potatoes that McDonald's buys.

And there's a leader from the Chicago Teacher's Union who takes issue with a fundraising practice called McTeacher's Nights. In these events, teachers and administrators work behind the counter at McDonald's on a given night and invite their students to come dine.

"We're gearing up to make a big splash," says Kara Kaufman, a spokesperson for the Value [The] Meal campaign organized by the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International.

Corporate Accountability International plans to bring a team inside the meeting that includes members of the Chicago Teachers Union, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, organizers with Restaurant Opportunities Center United and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. Together, they plan to challenge McDonald's labor practices and kid-targeted marketing.

The Salt

This 9-Year-Old Girl Told McDonald's CEO: Stop Tricking Kids

Kaufman says the coalition is asking McDonald's to "analyze how its political spending and marketing practices align with its stated values." The group has filed a shareholders' resolution aimed at bringing awareness to the discrepancies between the two.

For example, Kaufman says McDonald's claims to treat employees with fairness and dignity, but "it has made contributions to politicians and organizations that publicly oppose an increase in the minimum wage."

The resolution is not likely to pass, given that the McDonald's board of directors has already recommended voting against it.

Another example: As we've reported, in 2013 Don Thompson, the former CEO of McDonald's, said point blank, "We're not marketing to schools." But Charlie Feick, an organizer with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who is also a teacher in Massachusetts, wants to press this issue.

"This is simply not true," Feick plans to tell the shareholders' meeting. "Under the guise of promoting everything from reading to healthy lifestyles, you regularly send Ronald [McDonald] into schools in the U.S. and throughout the world to push your junk-food brand," Feick is planning to say.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, along with a bevy of other organizations, has been pushing for McDonald's to stop marketing to kids in school.

So, if he gets the chance to directly address Easterbrook Thursday, here's Feick's question: "Will you finally commit to ending the predatory practice of targeting our children in schools?"

If you want to watch the shareholders meeting unfold, you can get as close as we reporters in the media who are covering the issue — watch it via webcast. As The Guardian has reported, McDonald's has banned the media from actually attending the meeting.

marketing to kids


Six months ago, when President Obama announced sweeping and polarizing executive actions on immigration, immigrant families all over the country were watching his rare prime-time address.

But those actions have now fallen out of the headlines and the highest-profile changes are on hold.

The actions were aimed at people who have been in the country more than five years and who have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

"You'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law," he said.

That night, Karla Rodriguez was at a watch party in Las Vegas where she lives. Obama was talking about people like her parents.

"It was just, it was crazy," she said. "Everybody was crying."

She ran to her mom Evelia Beltran, and then they called her dad, Cesar Orozco. He said his first reaction was joy and hope that it would come to pass.

"I also thought of many possibilities that we would have as part of this country," Beltran said, according to a translation of his Spanish.

Her dad said the part that mattered more than anything was "the security."

They have a mixed-status family. Orozco, Beltran and three of their children came to the country illegally. Two younger children were born in the U.S. They worry constantly about being separated. Eleven-year-old Evelyn Orosco says when she wakes in the morning, her first thought is whether her parents have been picked up by immigration.

"So I have to like get up and be like 'mom are you here? Dad? So it's really scary," she said.

Big sister Karla Rodriguez remembers when she was about ten years old being invited to hang out with a friend at a casino with carnival games for kids.

"I had seen on the news that there had been immigration raids," she said. "And I was terrified to ask my dad to drive me because in my head I said if we leave the house they're going to get deported."

Under the president's program, her parents would have been submitting applications right about now for a temporary reprieve from deportation. But the program is on hold pending court action. Twenty-six states sued to block the president's executive actions, arguing they would be harmed.

"This issue in this lawsuit is not about immigration, the issue in this lawsuit is about abuse of executive power," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is leading the charge, told NBC's Meet the Press in December.

"And if this abuse is not stopped it will erode the Constitution that has attracted so many people to this country for generations."

For supporters of the lawsuit, the uncertainty now faced by immigrant families isn't the result of the suit, but rather the president's decision to go it alone with executive action. The legal process could drag on for months or even years.

Karla Rodriguez works as a community organizer and counsels immigrant families like her own.

"You know members of the community ask me. When is this going to happen and I can't say anything. I just say well, we're just going to wait. And it sucks," she said.

Rodriguez is encouraging people she talks to, who think they might qualify, to gather their documentation. If the program ever does get started, immigrants will have to prove they've been in the U.S. for more than five years. For her dad that's easy. He has utility bills and pay stubs. For her mom, it's tougher because Beltran has been a stay at home mom.

"Everything has been put in his name," she said. "For me, as a wife, I have nothing."

Rodriguez said she's telling her mom and others to think outside the box. "Get creative. If you have a party invitation and a picture, send that. Because you have to get creative with how you prove you've been here and you qualify."

The challenge of proving residency is something the Obama administration was prepared to grapple with. But until the lawsuit is resolved, that planning is on hold too.

Stephanie Packer was 29 when she found out she had a terminal lung disease.

Shots - Health News

Contemplating Brittany Maynard's Final Choice

That's the same age as Brittany Maynard, who last year was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Last fall, Maynard, of Northern California, opted to end her life with the help of a doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal.

Maynard's story continues to garner support for right-to-die legislation moving through legislatures in California and several other states. Now another young California woman is stepping up to share her story, but she wants people to draw a different conclusion.

Stephanie Packer is in her kitchen, preparing lunch with her four children on a recent spring afternoon.

"Do you want to help?" she asks the eager crowd of siblings gathered tightly around her at the stovetop.

"Yeah!" yells 5-year-old Savannah.

"I do!" says Jacob, who is 8.

Calmly managing four kids as each vies for the chance to help make chicken salad sandwiches can be trying, but Packer cherishes these moments.

Shots - Health News

California Faith Groups Divided Over Right-To-Die Bill

In 2012, after suffering a series of debilitating lung infections, she went to a doctor who diagnosed her with scleroderma. The autoimmune disease causes hardening of the skin and (in about one-third of cases) other organs. The doctor told Packer that it had settled in her lungs.

"And I said, 'OK, what does this mean for me?' " she recalls. "And he said, 'Well, with this condition you have about three years left to live.' "

Packer, 32, is on oxygen full time and she takes a slew of medications.

She says she has been diagnosed with a series of conditions linked to or associated with scleroderma, including lupus, gastroparesis, Raynaud's phenomenon, interstitial cystitis and trigeminal neuralgia.

The Two-Way

As Planned, Right-To-Die Advocate Brittany Maynard Ends Her Life

Packer's various maladies have her in constant, sometimes excruciating pain, she says. She also can't digest food properly and feels extremely fatigued almost all the time.

Some days, Packer says, are good. Others are marked by low energy and pain that only sleep can relieve.

"For my kids, I need to be able to control the pain because that's what concerns them the most," she says.

But Packer says physician-assisted suicide isn't something she is considering.

"Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away — that's absolutely natural," Packer says. "I absolutely have been there and I still get there some days. But I don't get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn't have to be."

She and husband Brian, 36, are devout Catholics. They agree with their church that doctors should never hasten death.

"We're a faith-based family," he says. "God put us here on earth and only God can take us away. And he has a master plan for us, and if suffering is part of that plan, which it seems to be, then so be it."

Stephanie Packer, 32, is terminally ill with the autoimmune disease scleroderma. Stephanie O'Neill/KPCC hide caption

itoggle caption Stephanie O'Neill/KPCC

They also believe if California legislation called SB 128 passes, it would create the potential for abuse. Pressure to end one's life, they fear, could become a dangerous norm, especially in a world defined by high-cost medical care.

Instead of fatal medication, Stephanie says she hopes other terminally ill people consider existing palliative medicine and hospice care.

"Death can be beautiful and peaceful," she says. "It's a natural process that should be allowed to happen on its own." Even, she says, when it poses uncomfortable challenges.

Brian has traded his full-time job at a lumber company for weekend handyman work so he can care for Stephanie and the children. The family downsized, moving into a two-bedroom apartment they share with their dog and two pet geckos.

Brian says life is good.

"I have four beautiful children. I get to spend so much more time with them than most head of households," he says. "I get to spend more time with my wife than most husbands do."

Shots - Health News

A Busy ER Doctor Slows Down To Help Patients Cope With Adversity

And it's that kind of support — from family, friends and people in her community — that Stephanie says keeps her living in gratitude, even as she struggles with her terminal illness and the realization that she will not be there to see her children grow up.

"I know eventually that my lungs are going to give out, which will make my heart give out," she says. "And I know that's going to happen sooner than I would like — sooner than my family would like. But I'm not making that my focus. My focus is today."

Stephanie says she is hoping for a double lung transplant, which could give her a few more years. In the meantime, this month marks three years since her doctor gave her three years to live. So every day, she says, is a blessing.

This story is part of a partnership with NPR, KPCC and Kaiser Health News.

right to die

Brittany Maynard

assisted suicide


So who does drink the most soda in the world, anyway?

That's a question that popped into my mind after the series finale of Mad Men. Ad man Don Draper goes on a hippie retreat, chants some "oms" and then the famous 1971 Coke jingle, sung by an ethnically diverse group of youth, begins to play: "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. It's the real thing."

There's debate over what that means on the show. Did Draper write the jingle?

But as the host of a blog called Goats and Soda, I was focused on soda data: How are Coco-Cola and the other Big Soda companies, Pepsi and Dr Pepper, doing in efforts to sell the world its carbonated beverages — especially the developing world?

To find out, I spoke to two beverage analysts: Will McKitterick of IBISWorld and Howard Telford of Euromonitor International.

Sales of soda are still huge in North America and Western Europe. We're talking 12.76 billion gallons last year in the U.S. alone. But consumption of soda in these markets is stagnating or declining, McKitterick and Telford say. There are various theories why: concerns about extra calories and artificial ingredients used to sweeten diet sodas; interest in other beverages, such as energy and fruit drinks, water and tea.

To boost soda sales, companies are looking elsewhere, like Africa and Asia. There's a rising middle class in those regions, and people have more disposable income for treats like soda.

"And you have a large young population that's growing," McKitterick says. Their parents may stick to local brands — that's especially true in China. But the young'uns "may be more willing to purchase new brands and international brands coming into the country." Like Coke and Pepsi.

So the message of that 1971 ad is more important than ever, Telford says, because Big Soda is "depending on driving consumption in the emerging world."

Some governments aren't happy about that. With rising rates of obesity and diabetes, Mexico last year levied a one peso tax (about 7 cents) on soda and other sweetened drinks. Early indications are that the soda tax has caused a drop in consumption, McKitterick says.

There's a global twist to the Mexico story. Mexico bottles a version of Coke sweetened with cane sugar instead of the corn syrup used in the U.S. Coca-Cola says the taste is the same either way, but "MexiCoke," as it's nicknamed, is imported into the States because some purists prefer cane sugar. They're willing to pay a little more to get what they think of as — to quote the 1971 ad — "the real thing."




Earlier this month, almost 2,000 radio fanatics gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to listen in as Marc Maron, the neurotic and sometimes gruff comedian and podcast host, interviewed Fresh Air's Terry Gross. He is known for being vulnerable and bringing his personal life into his interviews; she tends to keep her personal life separate from her work. The conversation that resulted blurs those two styles and ends up revealing aspects of Gross' life that even the biggest Fresh Air fans may find surprising.

Maron is the host of WTF, a podcast he started in his garage in 2009. WTF began as a way for Maron to talk about life and career success with other comics, and it has expanded to include musicians, actors and directors — and now the host of Fresh Air.

Gross has previously interviewed Maron for Fresh Air, but those interviews were conducted in separate studios; the sit-down at BAM was the first time the two met in person. In her introduction to the interview, Gross says, "When I'd met him backstage before the show, I really wanted to talk with him, but we agreed — let's save it for the interview."

During the course of their conversation, Maron and Gross discussed her childhood in Brooklyn, her beginnings in radio and her record- and book-strewn apartment. For her part, Gross says that Maron's "no bulls***" style made her feel comfortable opening up to him. "I couldn't look you in the eye and not tell you the truth," she tells him.

Interview Highlights

On preparing for interviews

Maron: I'm a little nervous, but I've prepared. I've written things on a piece of paper. I don't know how you prepare — I could ask you that, maybe I will — but this is how I prepare: I panic for a while, and then I scramble and then I type some things up and then I hand write things that are hard to read so I can challenge myself on that level during the interview.

Gross: Being self-defeating is always a good part of preparation.

Maron: Yes!

Gross: Self sabotage.

Maron: So you do that?

Gross: I sometimes do that.

Maron: How often?

Gross: I try not to do that, I do that more in life than I do in radio. ... Life is harder than radio.

On wanting to be a lyricist when she was young

Gross: When I was in high school I wanted to be a lyricist. ... Brooklyn public schools used to have something called SING! where you'd put on a show, each grade would put on a show at the end of the year and you'd write your own storyline. You'd borrow melodies from Broadway shows and write your own lyrics. So I was one of the lyricists for each year that I was there. And part of the time I was in high school my friends shared this interest in theater and it was great, and I thought, "If I could live that life where there's theater and there's song and there's music and people designing scenery and painting it, that would just be super." And then I thought, "How do you get there? How the hell do you get there?" But it was kind of thrilling if somebody sang a lyric that I wrote. Like once I was walking down the street and I heard a couple of the basketball players singing a lyric that I wrote and I thought, "That is really — that's just fabulous."

Maron: It's great! Do you remember the lyrics?

Gross: No.

Maron: Really?

Gross: Yeah. I'm lying, I wouldn't tell you.

Maron: That's what you won't tell me? That's where you draw the line? At a lyric that some basketball players were singing? That's what you don't want America to know about you?

Gross: Yeah.

On her library and record collection

Gross: Here's what typically happens: [My husband] spends a lot of time in record stores looking for unusual and interesting things.

Maron: So he's a vinyl guy.

Gross: Our house is like — it's kind of like we're living in a record store and library.


Marc Maron: A Life Fueled By 'Panic And Dread'

Maron: So now we're talking. There are just stacks of records everywhere. I know the vinyl addiction.

Gross: Records and CDs and piles.

Maron: So do you walk around the house going, "Are you kidding me?"

Gross: Yes!

Maron: "I can't get into the bathroom!"

Gross: It is a little like that. But anyways —

Maron: No, no, no.

Gross: Is your house like that?

Maron: Is my house? No, no, let's stay in your house.

Gross: My house is like a little apartment.

Maron: That's how I pictured it. Every time I talk to you on the air I always picture you in some weird bunker surrounded by books.

Gross: It's kind of like that.

On hitchhiking across the country with her first husband when she was in college

Gross: My parents, when I decided to hitchhike cross-country, they were very, very upset about it.

Maron: I'm upset now.

Gross: Well, now that I'm the age that I am, I think, like "My gosh, no wonder they were so upset!" But my attitude then was, you know, "You're not telling me what to do! You don't control me." ...

Maron: Was this a big deal for you, was it against character?

I think I'm intellectually adventurous — I'm adventurous in my musical taste, in my artistic taste. I'm not a physically adventurous person. I'm not a risk-taker when it comes to the outside world.

- Terry Gross

Gross: It was totally against character. And the fact is that I think my boyfriend wanted to do it probably more than I did, because I'm really not the adventurous type. I think I'm intellectually adventurous — I'm adventurous in my musical taste, in my artistic taste. I'm not a physically adventurous person. I'm not a risk-taker when it comes to the outside world. ...

Maron: So you know that about yourself now, but this must've been a fairly powerful bit of business for you personally?

Gross: It was, and it was weird. I hitchhiked rides. Like there was somebody who was probably just out of prison and somebody else who probably had tuberculosis, judging from how he was coughing, and in the back of a truck with probably — they were probably migrant workers and there were axes all over. I don't think they planned on using them against us, but it is a kind of creepy feeling to be in the back of a pickup truck where there's axes. And if my ex-boyfriend/husband is listening to this, I hope his memories jibe with mine because I can't swear to the accuracy of my memory, but it was just totally creepy.

On having more intimate conversations on mic than off

Gross: Can I get a chance to ask you a question?

Maron: In a minute! In a minute! I know how that goes. I'm trying to hold the line, Terry. These are professional boundaries. I'm the questioner. But how are you with joy? I'm asking this because — this is all I know: I became an interviewer for reasons that had nothing to do with interviewing. ... I don't know if you feel this way, you say you work all the time, but you talk to people professionally and you elicit things from them and you draw people out ... but do you get something out of that emotionally? Because I find in my life that I'm capable of almost a deeper intimacy with —

Gross: That was the question I was going to ask you!

Maron: Well, I'm asking you first!

Gross: OK. Yes.

Maron: Looks like I beat you to it. I'm learning. I just feel like I had one of these weird kind of "Yes, I'm glad that I'm on the right track if I came up with a question that you already had in your mind." Do you?

Here I am, talking to people who I'm not in the room with. ... I don't know them, they don't know me, and I'm asking them about death. And here's my friend who is dying and I'm not talking with her about death. ... I felt it would've been intrusive in a way that it's not with my interviewees because she was not ready to talk about it.

- Terry Gross

Gross: It's a weird thing. I'll give you an example. I often ask people who have a history of illness or who are near death — because I've interviewed people who are near death — I've asked them very intimate things about facing death and about their attitudes toward death. I ask people a lot about how they want to buried, or if they want to be buried or if they'd prefer to be cremated. I had a friend a couple of years ago who was also a neighbor who died and I spent a lot of time with her at the end of her life, shopping for food for her, making some food for her. And I knew she didn't want to talk about facing death and she was really not ready to do it. To the end, she didn't want to talk about it. So here I am, talking to people who I'm not in the room with. ... I don't know them, they don't know me, and I'm asking them about death. And here's my friend who is dying and I'm not talking with her about death. But there's a reason for that and I felt it would've been intrusive in a way that it's not with my interviewees because she was not ready to talk about it.

On meeting in real life

Maron: I guess it's sort of shocking to me because my experience with you is only with voice. This is the first time I've seen you moving. I think for a while there, pre-Internet, there was no pictures of you available anywhere. Like I didn't really know what you looked like, but just your voice made me want to be a better person.

Gross: Have I accomplished that?

Maron: Yeah, I think so. I get nervous. Like, talking to you now is good. Like, I don't know why you interview, but for me it's to get very deep emotional needs met. So, like, I seem to be getting along with you, we're connecting, that makes me happy. It doesn't feel difficult to me. I know you're wondering how this is going, I'm telling you from my point of view that I'm having a nice time.

Gross: So am I.

Maron: But when I'm in the studio talking to you I'm standing up straight and I want to impress you. Like one time I made you snort-laugh and I was like, "I win!" I heard you laugh and snort and I'm like, "I'm done with radio. I can wear that as a badge of honor."

We tried our best to translate this conversation into print, but some things are just better in audio. For the full effect, click the audio link above.

Before there was George, there was Sid.

George Stephanopoulos is, of course, the ABC news anchor whose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation have reminded the world of his longtime ties to Bill Clinton, for whom he worked from 1991 to 1997.

But before Stephanopoulos had entered the picture, another journalist with an activist history, Sidney Blumenthal, had already established himself as an admirer of Bill Clinton and as a confidant of both the future president and his wife, Hillary. That relationship, begun in the 1980s, would last for decades and continues to make news today.

In 2007, Blumenthal advised Hillary Clinton's campaign for president, using his rhetorical razor on her rival, the future President Obama. When she became secretary of state she reportedly wanted to offer a job to Blumenthal but was blocked by the White House. Nonetheless, he remained an informal advisor and worked for the Clinton Foundation. In those roles, he sent her 25 emails relevant to U.S. policy in Libya and that country's political and economic future.

Those emails have now been subpoenaed by the special House committee investigating events in Libya in September 2012 that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Hillary Clinton weighed in on her relationship with Blumenthal Tuesday, saying that he had sent her "unsolicited" emails when she was secretary of state that she had, in some instances, "passed on."

"I have many, many old friends, and I always think it's important, when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics. ... I'm going to keep talking to my old friends whoever they are," she said.

To say Blumenthal has been no stranger to controversy is to understate the case. As a writer and advocate, Blumenthal could tap into the dreams and fears of the left while triggering the deepest dread and loathing imaginable on the right. Both reactions seemed to nourish his closeness with the Clintons. And that is a closeness that stretches back nearly three decades.

In 1988, when Bill Clinton was still governor of Arkansas, Sidney Blumenthal was already writing flattering pieces about him in The Washington Post. He had already met both Bill and Hillary Clinton at one of their Renaissance Weekend gatherings.

It would be another three years before Stephanopoulos would join Clinton's first presidential campaign. There he would find a ready ally in Blumenthal, who had moved from the Post to his previous employer, The New Republic. Blumenthal had generated controversy at that magazine in 1984 with his enthusiastic coverage of another youthful Democratic presidential hopeful, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart.

The Hart flirtation was soon surpassed by Blumenthal's infatuation with Clinton, whose 1992 campaign he praised for its potential to bring "epochal change." He also found ample opportunity to lay waste to Clinton's rivals — President George H.W. Bush and the billionaire independent H. Ross Perot.

After Clinton became president, Blumenthal became the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, a prestigious position that gave him wide latitude to report on the new era and the new administration. He did not see it as his job to report on various controversies that emerged early on, such as the White House Travel Office firings and then the Whitewater investigation. That fell to other New Yorker reporters, of whom Blumenthal was subsequently critical.

Even as the Clintons' health care bill collapsed and the Republicans took over both the House and Senate in the elections of 1994, Blumenthal remained ardently supportive, touting his access and long interviews with the president. This dovetailed with his tendency to self-assurance and dismissal of other points of view. His relations with other reporters on the beat deteriorated as he criticized their work and, it became clear, discussed it with the Clintons in private.

Although Blumenthal continued to write for The New Yorker, Michael Kelly took over as the principal voice of the magazine's Washington coverage as the administration turned toward the 1996 campaign. Blumenthal wrote a play lampooning the White House press corps that was performed at the National Press Club. Wherever one draws the line between "roasting" and expressing contempt, Blumenthal did not seem reluctant to cross it.


Blumenthal was one of just four witnesses deposed by the U.S. Senate when it tried (and acquitted) Clinton on the impeachment charges early in 1999. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP

Blumenthal was one of just four witnesses deposed by the U.S. Senate when it tried (and acquitted) Clinton on the impeachment charges early in 1999.


But if his connection to his professional colleagues was strained, his relations with the Clintons remained robust — enough so that in the summer of 1997 he was hired as Special Assistant and Advisor to the President. In February 1998 he received a subpoena from the special prosecutor who was probing the Monica Lewinsky case that would lead to Clinton's impeachment. He testified to the grand jury twice that year, and was one of just four witnesses deposed by the U.S. Senate when it tried (and acquitted) Clinton on the impeachment charges early in 1999.

In 2003, Blumenthal published his own version of the stormy 1990s, entitled The Clinton Wars. The book features photographs of himself with both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan described Blumenthal as "the most pro-Clinton writer on the planet."

Blumenthal, 66, was raised in Chicago and graduated from Brandeis University in Boston in 1969. He worked for the alternative Real Paper there. In 1980 he published a prescient analytical book called The Permanent Campaign, describing how fixation on electoral politics had begun to paralyze governing in the U.S. He has subsequently written four other books, including Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War a description of presidential politics in 1988. He also gathered his criticisms of the presidency of George W. Bush in How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime.

Throughout his career, Blumenthal has had a propensity to feuding with other writers. Some were ideological adversaries, such as Sullivan. Some had published false stories about him, as Matt Drudge admitted to doing in 1997. Others were colleagues, such as Michael Kelly at The New Yorker. Some were friends or former friends, such as Christopher Hitchens, with whom he fell out over specific events or issues. In 2013, Blumenthal found himself dueling with critics of his son, Max, whose book Goliath compared excesses of the Jewish state in Israel to those of the Nazi regime in Germany.


Shirin Neshat, the most famous contemporary artist to come from Iran, is playing with her rambunctious Labrador puppy in her airy Manhattan apartment. "Ashi, Ashi, come here!" she calls.

The puppy is black. Neshat's apartment is white — white floors, white bookshelves and a long, white leather couch. Black and white defines much of Neshat's work. Her photographs capture the stark contrast between women in long black chadors and men in crisp white cotton shirts. Neshat left Iran as a teenager in 1974 to attend school in Los Angeles. She did not return until 1990.

"When I went to Iran, I was not an artist yet," Neshat says modestly. In truth, she'd been deeply involved in the art world. After studying painting at UC Berkeley, she co-ran a well-regarded non-profit space for art, architecture and design in New York.


Calligraphy is often layered on the people in Neshat's photos. It falls over them like veils, or tattoos their skin. Curator Melissa Ho says text gives these silent faces a voice. Above, Neshat's 1996 work Speechless from the Women of Allah series. Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery hide caption

itoggle caption Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

Calligraphy is often layered on the people in Neshat's photos. It falls over them like veils, or tattoos their skin. Curator Melissa Ho says text gives these silent faces a voice. Above, Neshat's 1996 work Speechless from the Women of Allah series.

Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

But Neshat's sense of herself as an artist changed after going back to Iran, 11 years after the Islamic revolution transformed her country. Men no longer made eye contact with her. Cosmopolitan Tehranian women who'd worn mini-skirts during her youth had become graphic shapes on the street. Neshat processed her complicated feelings through a series of striking, staged photographs showing women in chadors, some holding guns. Neshat was not the photographer, but she conceptualized and directed the Women of Allah series, and appeared in many of them. She says it's meant to explore the dictomy between religion, politics, violence and feminism.

That's exactly why Melissa Chiu decided to mount a Shirin Neshat retrospective as her inaugural exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Chiu is the museum's brand new director.

"In order to be a 21st-century museum, we have to think about the world in different ways." Chiu says. The Hirshhorn is Smithsonian's home for contemporary art. She wants it to reflect contemporary realities encompassed by Neshat's art and experience.

"This idea of being born in one place, living and working in multiple places — that is a condition that will only increase," Chiu says.

Associate curator Melissa Ho, who helped organize the exhibition, says, "Shirin really believes in the power of the artists' voice to enact change, to unsettle the powerful" — and to protest.

She points to one of Neshat's best known works of video art, Turbulent which is featured in the Hirshhorn show. There are two screens. You stand between them. One features a man singing a classical poem before an adoring all-male audience. Then on the other, a woman in an empty stage sings a wild, guttural and language-less song. It leaves the men on the other screen completely stunned.

"Her music and her presence in this room represents something rebellious," Neshat explains. "... This is indicative of how I feel about women in Iran. In the way that they are so far against the wall, but they are far more resilient and protesting and they're much more of a fighter than the men because they have much more at stake."

The same themes play out in Neshat's movie, Women Without Men, about four Tehranian women from very different class backgrounds who find themselves in a mystical garden in 1953. It's set in 1953, when the CIA helped overthrow the county's first democratically elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh. The film earned Neshat a Silver Lion for directing at the Venice Film Festival in 2009.


Neshat says her art is about "people who fight power versus people who hold power." Above her 2013 work Rahim (Our House Is on Fire). Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery hide caption

itoggle caption Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

Neshat says her art is about "people who fight power versus people who hold power." Above her 2013 work Rahim (Our House Is on Fire).

Photograph by Larry Barns/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

"The female characters are the non-comformists," says curator Melissa Ho. "Sometimes only quietly or maybe out of sight, but they resist, and they sort of take control of their story, and they decide to defy the rules."

Much like Shirin Neshat. Her art at first was made just for her, a bridge from a place of exile. "And I never imagined that my work someday would be looked upon as a form of dialogue, larger than my own personal life," she says.

"I am not a practicing Muslim," she adds. " I consider myself a secular Muslim. I do have my faith and certain rituals that I do, and I go to mosque when I can, when I'm traveling in that part of the world. I love the sound of the Koran."

Neshat's been working in Egypt recently — shooting a new feature film, about the singer Umm Kulthum, and creating a newer series of portraiture — simple, shattering shots of working class parents in Egypt whose children were killed or arrested during the Arab Spring.

Fine Art

At LA Museum, A Powerful And Provocative Look At 'Islamic Art Now'

"It's really about the question of people versus tyranny," she says. "And people who fight power versus people who hold power."

Neshat wants to leverage her current considerable power in the art world to bring more voices from Iran and the Arab world into the global cultural conversation.

Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was seized 15 years ago from his relatives in Miami by U.S. government officials who returned him to his native country, says he would like to visit the United States as a tourist.

"For my family it has always been, we always have the desire to say to the American people, to say to each household our gratitude, appreciation and love that we have," he tells ABC News. "Perhaps one day we could pay a visit to the United States. I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we're so grateful for what they did."

He tells ABC he'd like to see a baseball game, visit museums in Washington and talk to Americans.

Gonzalez, now 21, was rescued in 1999 as a 6-year-old boy off the Florida coast where his mother had died trying to reach the U.S. His father in Cuba wanted him returned, but his Miami-based relatives tried to keep him. A legal battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected an appeal from the Miami family. Gonzalez was seized by government agents on April 22, 2000, and returned to his father in Cuba.

ABC adds that Gonzales, who is studying engineering, is engaged to his high school sweetheart, also a student.

He says that though he disagrees with his mother's actions in trying to come to the U.S., he is grateful for her efforts to keep him afloat even as she drowned.

"I believe that if today she is not here with me it is because she fought until the very last minute for me to survive," he tells ABC. "After giving life to me, I believe she was the one who saved me. She was the one who gave life back to me at a time of danger."

You can watch the interview here:

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

elian gonzalez


Voters in more than half the states will soon be able to register online, rather than filling out a paper form and sending it in.

Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, almost all in the past few years. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are now in the process of doing so. That includes Florida, whose governor, Republican Rick Scott signed a bill last Friday requiring the state to allow online voter registration by 2017.

Online voter registration has become so popular because election officials say it's more efficient than a paper-based system, and cheaper.

Voters like it because they can register any time of day from home, said David Becker, director of election initiatives for the Pew CharitableTrusts.

"What election officials are finding, is they're saving a ton of money, because they're having to process a lot fewer pieces of paper by hand, right before an election, and get that into the system," he said.

Arizona, for example, says it costs the state only $.03 to register someone online, versus $.83 on paper.

And there's another reason state election officials like online registration. It can be very difficult to keep voter rolls up-to-date and accurate, which has raised concerns about voter fraud and caused confusion at the polls. But information submitted online is immediately compared with driver's license or other state databases, and verified.

"If someone puts in First Avenue, instead of First Street, as their address by mistake and it doesn't match the motor vehicles file, in real time, with the voter still sitting at the screen, they can ask the voter to double check if what they entered was correct," Becker explained, adding that this can avoid a lot of problems on Election Day, especially if the error involves the spelling of the voter's name.

Online voter registration also turns out to be one of the few areas in running elections where many Republicans and Democrats agree.

Louisiana's Republican Secretary of State Tom Schedler says he was skeptical at first. Louisiana was one of the first states to approve online voter registration in 2009.

"Register online? I mean it just was kind of an oxymoron to me. I just was so used to the old system. So I mean, I guess it was more just my confidence level in technology," he said.

But today, Schedler is a huge fan. He says more than 220,000 people have used the system so far, with no reported problems.

"You can go straight online and do it. It takes about two minutes, three minutes max, and it's done," he says.

Still not everyone's sold on the idea. Florida's bill had strong bipartisan support in the legislature, but Gov. Scott said he signed the measure "with some hesitation." Scott said he was worried about meeting the October 2017 deadline, especially with a presidential election on the way. And his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, told lawmakers last month that he also opposed the bill because it was a massive undertaking.

Georgia's online voter registration website. registertovote.sos.ga.gov hide caption

itoggle caption registertovote.sos.ga.gov

"You're dealing with the most sensitive part of an election. You're dealing with voter registration systems. And if we do it wrong, we are in a heap of trouble," Detzner said.

Some Republican lawmakers in Texas have also blocked an online registration bill in that state, saying they're worried the system would be vulnerable to cyber attacks.

However, computer experts say that's not a problem as long as certain safeguards are put in place. Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a technology watchdog group gave this advice: "you want to make sure that you're testing for security while the system is being built and once it's in use. And you want to have a strategy for what happens if there's a failure of the system at a critical moment, like election day," she says.

In most cases, voters need to have a driver's license to use the online system, which means states can also require them to show their licenses the first time they appear at the polls, as an extra precaution, she says.

For everyone else, registering on paper is still an option.

Becker said one other problem that people were worried about has yet to materialize. Some politicians feared that online registration would favor one political party over the other. But according to Becker the party breakdown in states using online registration is almost identical to what it had been before. Red states are just as red, blue states just as blue.

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