Browsing articles from "August, 2014"

If Salt-N-Pepa Told You To Brush Your Teeth, You’d Surely Listen

Aug 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on If Salt-N-Pepa Told You To Brush Your Teeth, You’d Surely Listen

Sandra Pepa Denton, Deidre Spinderella Roper and Cheryl Salt James of Salt-N-Pepa at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.i
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Sandra “Pepa” Denton, Deidre “Spinderella” Roper and Cheryl “Salt” James of Salt-N-Pepa at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.

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Sandra Pepa Denton, Deidre Spinderella Roper and Cheryl Salt James of Salt-N-Pepa at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.

Sandra “Pepa” Denton, Deidre “Spinderella” Roper and Cheryl “Salt” James of Salt-N-Pepa at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The song starts slow, with soulful piano chords. Then a voice chimes in: “Ring the alarm, turn on the sirens. I see my people dying, but nobody’s firing.

No, the lyrics aren’t about war or politics. About a minute in, Liberian hip-hop artists Tan Tan B and Quincy B make their message clear: “Ebola is real.”

But do people really pay attention to the lyrics?

The use of music to comment on public health issues is hardly new. Back in the 1300s, French poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut vividly described the horrors of the bubonic plague ravaging Europe in “Le Jugement du Roi de Navarre,” or “Judgment of the King of Navarre.”

But it took a few hundred years for public health experts to catch on. Inspired by the success of pamphlets, posters and motion picture propaganda for World War I, health organizations and the government began pursuing all sorts of media, including music, as a tool, says Michael Sappol, a historian at the National Library of Medicine.

The effort to put health messages in music really took off in the 1920s and early ’30s, as radio began reaching a mass audience. Songs about diseases and health became more common. In 1949, the U.S. Public Health and Services commissioned songs from Woody Guthrie as part of its anti-venereal disease campaign. Guthrie’s “V.D. City” warned people of “cold lower dungeons where the victims of syph roll and cry.”

One of the most successful public health songs was released in 1986. Johns Hopkins University developed a campaign starring Mexican American pop sensation Tatiana Palacios and Puerto Rican singer Johnny Lozado to promote sexual responsibility among young adults in Latin America. At the time, teen pregnancy rates in that region were as high as 15 percent.

One of the duo’s songs was “Cuando Estemos Juntos,” or “When We Are Together,” which featured bouncy beats and lyrics like, “You always tell me to wait; it’s not the time to give us all.”

“They did songs on adolescent reproductive health that went to the top of the charts,” says Susan Krenn, director of the Centers of Communication Programs at Johns Hopkins. The campaign also developed videos and TV ads and garnered more than a million hours of air time, according to USAID, which funded the campaign.

Follow-up surveys of more than 2,000 teens between 10 and 19 found that over half talked to a female friend about the message of the song, and a third spoke to their mother.

The key, Krenn says, is to get the conversation going; when people start talking — to families, friends or partners — they’re more likely to take action.

An important strategy, she adds, is to create a song as catchy as a chart-topping hit: “Entertainment draws, so you don’t have to go hunting people down; you can attract people to your messaging.”

For decades, the center has been promoting health messages around the world through “entertainment education.” They’ve created a lyrics contest in Mozambique to raise awareness about HIV prevention and launched a malaria campaign in Ghana with a fast-paced song called “Aha Ye De,” or “It’s Good Here” under the bed net.

“When we’re doing public health messaging, one of the expressions that we use is that ‘we’re catering to the heart and mind,’ ” she tells Goats and Soda. “While you’re trying to give people the facts of a particular issue, you also want to appeal to the emotional side so that it hits home on a personal level.”

Sometimes, songs aren’t part of campaigns, but a commentary from artists on issues that are important to them. Often, Sappol says, they focus on topics overlooked by health officials.

His favorite is the 1991 hit “Let’s Talk About Sex” from hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa. The song encouraged women to discuss sex without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

“They’re saying [women] got to take control and talk about it,” Sappol says.

But both Sappol and Krenn says there’s no metric to measure how effective a song is in influencing behavior. Any musical component is usually part of a bigger campaign that uses as many forms of communications as possible.

“Those that are going to be less successful are those looking at just one intervention, thinking that one is enough,” Krenn says. And it’s not as easy as jotting down lyrics and a catchy beat – you have to do your homework.

“What exactly do you want people to know and do?” she says. “And then build your messaging around that, understanding what the barriers and opportunities are.”

Government health workers administer blood tests to check for the Ebola virus in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 25.

So a song that simply tells people to wash their hands might not resonate as much as one that has a story that people can relate to. Take, for example, the Ebola song “State of Emergency,” which reminds people how many family members, friends, neighbors and doctors have died from Ebola.

Samuel Shadow Morgan.

I’ve seen a mother cry; she just lost her son
I think I can help her; ’cause she needs a ride
But then my baby warned me: help her and we all die
Those words hit me hard, ripped out my heart
How many doctors die, trying to play their part

The song shares airtime in Liberia with a dance hit called “Ebola’s In Town,” which tells people to avoid touching friends to avoid the virus. In neighboring Sierra Leone, three artists got together in July to record “Di Ebola Song,” telling locals to “save yourself” by seeking medical help early.

All the Ebola songs in the world may not stop the outbreak. After all, Sappol says, media campaigns are no “magic bullet.” But our correspondents in Liberia report that everybody’s talking about them.

Are Food Boats The Next Food Trucks? Don’t Count On It

Aug 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Are Food Boats The Next Food Trucks? Don’t Count On It

Captain Tim Titcomb maneuvers his 15-foot Carolina skiff along the sandy beaches of Sampson's Island, Mass., in July 2014.i
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Captain Tim Titcomb maneuvers his 15-foot Carolina skiff along the sandy beaches of Sampson’s Island, Mass., in July 2014.

Courtesy of Tim Titcomb


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Captain Tim Titcomb maneuvers his 15-foot Carolina skiff along the sandy beaches of Sampson's Island, Mass., in July 2014.

Captain Tim Titcomb maneuvers his 15-foot Carolina skiff along the sandy beaches of Sampson’s Island, Mass., in July 2014.

Courtesy of Tim Titcomb

Two rings of a bell, that is. In Cotuit Bay, near Cape Cod, those rings signal the arrival of the Ice Cream Boat. Captain Tim Titcomb maneuvers the 15-foot Carolina skiff along the sandy beaches of Sampson’s Island, where beach-goers await Good Humor Chocolate Eclairs and Popsicles.

When I first encountered the seasonal fixture of the Ice Cream Boat last summer, I thought: This is genius. It’s like a food truck, afloat.

And it turns out the Ice Cream Boat is not alone. There are a handful of vessels around the country peddling food from oceans, lakes and rivers.

Boaters and sandbar-bathers alike can get their lunch grilled on food boats like Burger Buoy in New York and Burger Barge in Oregon. Swimmers can cool down with a frozen treat from Bay Ice Cream in Panama City, Fla. You can find them in Michigan and Maine, as well.

Food boats, I assumed, must be about to explode like food trucks. After all, Americans clearly love the convenience and novelty of buying food from mobile machines.

But as I learned after investigating the world of food boats, they aren’t like food trucks at all, and they’re not likely to catch on like wildfire.

Here’s why:

Food boats aren’t copying each other.

Most of the food boats out there seem to be the only one in their community. And while food truck numbers are growing nationally, food boats are a movement so quiet that nearly every food boat owner I spoke with had never heard of any of the others.

Around the country, a handful of vessels like the Ice Cream Boat peddle food on oceans, lakes and rivers.i
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Around the country, a handful of vessels like the Ice Cream Boat peddle food on oceans, lakes and rivers.

Courtesy of Tim Titcomb


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Around the country, a handful of vessels like the Ice Cream Boat peddle food on oceans, lakes and rivers.

Around the country, a handful of vessels like the Ice Cream Boat peddle food on oceans, lakes and rivers.

Courtesy of Tim Titcomb

“We went into it blind,” says Ari Fingeroth, owner of Nauti Foods, Washington, D.C.’s first food boat that launched this summer. “Since we’ve started, a lot of people have told us about other food boats.”

Food boats don’t cater to foodies.

One of the reasons food trucks have multiplied on city streets is that they’ve figured out how to specialize and exploit culinary niches: from Korean tacos to Maryland crab sandwiches to gourmet popcorn.

Food boats are more limited by the vessels. A pontoon might be able to fit a grill on board, but very few boats have the space for a full kitchen. Many food boats are just floating snack bars, offering cold beverages and pre-packaged goods.

Titcomb says that his local health department regulations are stricter for made-to-order food – a boat would need running water, bathrooms and frequent storage space inspections, among other things.

“The ice cream is pre-packaged, so we’re not handling any of the products directly,” said Titcomb. “It’s easier to obtain licenses because it’s more sanitary.”

Food boats face lots regulations and restrictions.

Health codes and vendor laws vary greatly by location. The Cotuit Bay Ice Cream Boat just needed health and hawker’s licenses, but not every boat has it so easy.

Nauti Foods, which offers fresh-prepared spiral-cut hot dogs called Nauti-Dogs, was treated like a food truck, but with extra precautions, says Fingeroth. They dealt with the local health department; the D.C. River Authority; the police and marine patrol, who had concerns about the river and the safety of people who approach the boat.

“There were a lot of hoops to jump through,” says Fingeroth.

Food boats aren’t that great of a business.

Hawking snacks to people near water with little more than a few crumpled up dollar bills in their swim-trunks is hardly a recipe for big profit. For Fingeroth and his partner ,Tammar Berger, Nauti Foods is just a fun weekend project, started “on a lark.” (They have full-time jobs.)

For Titcomb, running the Ice Cream Boat is a summer gig that’s been passed down through his family for years. He says it’s not particularly lucrative, but it’s more fun than washing dishes at the local seafood joint. “Every day, someone tells us to raise prices.”

More food boats could clutter the environment.

Sure, food trucks fight over parking – but food boats encroach on more than just traffic lanes. Because their customers are primarily there to enjoy the outdoors, food boats are particularly careful to avoid overcrowding the environment. The culture of boating could easily be destroyed by too many boats, says Titcomb. Fingeroth, who has been boating on the Potomac since 2000, agrees.

“I love being out on the water,” he said. “We want to add to that experience, not ruin it.”

Fingeroth added that some of that responsibility lies with government organizations like Marine Patrol, which will be crucial in controlling any influx of food boats in the future.

OK. So food boats are not that trendy. But if it’s not a trend, then what is it?

It’s probably a small manifestation of the “going mobile” trend, says Marian Berelowitz, editorial director at JWTIntelligence, a trends research and analysis group. Like food trucks, they speak to “the idea of people being more innovative with established business models, and being more creative with how to deliver a product to consumers.”

While it’s another way to meet consumers’ need for instant gratification, Berelowitz doesn’t see huge trend potential. “It’s limited in the extent to which it could evolve,” she says.

For now, the boats satisfy a quirky niche within their community, at least until they get their sea legs.

Iceland Ups Aviation Warning As Volcano Rumbles

Aug 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Iceland Ups Aviation Warning As Volcano Rumbles

A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 12 miles away, in the northwest region of Iceland's Vatnajokull glacier, on Tuesday.i
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A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 12 miles away, in the northwest region of Iceland’s Vatnajokull glacier, on Tuesday.

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A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 12 miles away, in the northwest region of Iceland's Vatnajokull glacier, on Tuesday.

A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 12 miles away, in the northwest region of Iceland’s Vatnajokull glacier, on Tuesday.

Reuters/Landov

Iceland today raised an aviation alert level to reflect growing concern over underground rumblings at its Bardarbunga volcano in the central part of the island nation.

A sub-glacial eruption caused Icelandic authorities to raise the aviation alert level to red, indicating “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere,” The Associated Press reports.

The AP notes: “Seismic data indicated that lava from the volcano was melting ice beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, Iceland’s largest, Met Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said.”

“She said it was not clear when, or if, the eruption would melt through the ice — which is between 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet) thick — and send steam and ash into the air.”

Iceland, located along a seismically and volcanically active mid-ocean ridge, saw the eruption of another volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, in 2010. The eruption four years ago spewed an ash cloud into the sky that wreaked havoc on international air travel in the region for a week, cancelling more than 100,000 flights to and from Europe.

And, in 2011, Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano erupted, briefly threatening a repeat of Eyjafjallajokul.

Native Stories From Alaska Give Gamers Something To Play With

Aug 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Native Stories From Alaska Give Gamers Something To Play With

The game Never Alone tells the story of a young Inupiaq girl, Nuna, and her companion, an Arctic fox, as they go on a quest to save her village.i
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The game Never Alone tells the story of a young Inupiaq girl, Nuna, and her companion, an Arctic fox, as they go on a quest to save her village.

Upper One Games


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The game Never Alone tells the story of a young Inupiaq girl, Nuna, and her companion, an Arctic fox, as they go on a quest to save her village.

The game Never Alone tells the story of a young Inupiaq girl, Nuna, and her companion, an Arctic fox, as they go on a quest to save her village.

Upper One Games

Until recently, no video games on the market have told the story of an indigenous people from their perspective. A group of Alaskan natives have partnered with a game developer to change that.

Their game is called Never Alone, and its creators hope it will set a new standard in video game development.

As in movies, native characters in video games tend toward stereotype. Few of them are heroes, but this game is different. Never Alone is based on a traditional story known as Kanuk Sayuka and the experiences of Alaska elders, storytellers and youth. The story follows a young Inupiaq girl and an Arctic fox as they go on an adventure to save her village from a blizzard that never ends.

Game developer Sean Vesce has 20 years of experience in the industry working on action titles like Tomb Raider. He recently went to Barrow, in far northern Alaska, to watch the students play a demo of the game. He says that day was his most memorable experience from the project.

“It was such a special moment because they were literally sitting forward, you know, yelling and screaming at the players to avoid enemies and to navigate around obstacles,” Vesce says.

Vesce’s introduction to Alaska native storytelling began two years earlier, arriving in boxes of transcribed stories. He says they contained tales and creatures as interesting and imaginative as anything in the movies today.

“We were just blown away at the richness and the beauty and the depth of that storytelling tradition and we realized that none of that had really been ever explored in a videogame,” he says.

Vesce made a dozen trips to Alaska with his team to gather more stories and imagery. Helping connect Vesce with native stories was Amy Fredeen, who, as an Inupiaq herself, served as the cultural ambassador between the developers and indigenous storytellers. She says that in native culture everybody depends on each other and that was the most important part of both the game’s story and creating the game itself.

“The last thing we wanted was this game to be kind of a cultural appropriation,” Fredeen says. “We didn’t want this to be an outsider’s view of what the Inupiaq culture was. We wanted it to come from the people themselves.”

One connection Fredeen made was with Jana Harcharek, who works in the Barrow school district to promote and preserve Inupiaq culture. Harcharek says when the students learned that the developers wanted to hear from them, the kids began telling their own stories.

“The ideas just started coming out,” Harcharek says. “They were like ‘well, are you going to be able to maybe do this, because I’m a whaler and I’m a hunter and I have this experience and it would be really cool if we could make this happen or that happen.’ There was a lot of excitement right from the start.”

The whole idea for Never Alone came from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage. Two years ago, president and CEO Gloria O’Neill asked developers if games could be used to share traditional stories. O’Neill says the tribal council was looking to invest its money in a way that would also benefit Native Culture.

“We started thinking about the future because our board also said to us ‘never forget who we are and where we come from, but think about how we can connect with our young people in the future,'” O’Neill says.

Over time, O’Neill started to believe that the perfect way to do that is through video games, something even people in the most remote parts of Alaska want to play.

“Not only we could make money with the right partners, but we had a medium in which we could share our culture with the world; that we could create this invitation of courageous learning with the world,” she says.

Never Alone is slated for release later this year on multiple platforms.

Budget Cuts Threaten A Unique Alabama Prison Education Program

Aug 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Budget Cuts Threaten A Unique Alabama Prison Education Program

Inmates from several Alabama state prisons take a math class at J.F. Ingram State Technical College. The campus becomes a medium-security facility when the students arrive.i
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Inmates from several Alabama state prisons take a math class at J.F. Ingram State Technical College. The campus becomes a medium-security facility when the students arrive.

Dan Carsen/WBHM


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Inmates from several Alabama state prisons take a math class at J.F. Ingram State Technical College. The campus becomes a medium-security facility when the students arrive.

Inmates from several Alabama state prisons take a math class at J.F. Ingram State Technical College. The campus becomes a medium-security facility when the students arrive.

Dan Carsen/WBHM

In a small classroom in Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, a dozen women sit at long gray tables. They all wear the same coarse white jumpsuits as a projector shows tips on “responding to anger” and “developing a positive self-concept.”

This prompts 34-year-old Tamara Kirkwood to reflect on her past.

“You’ve got this mentality,” Kirkwood says, “and you don’t know how to change that way of thinking. You don’t know how to get around that. All you know is: ‘I don’t have, and I need, and this is what’s gonna have to be done.’ And after so long, you think that’s the way life is.”

Kirkwood is not alone. The United States locks up people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world, and some of the country’s most overcrowded prisons are in Alabama. Tutwiler Prison is running at almost double capacity and has been under federal investigation for widespread sex abuse by prison guards.

But the inmates at Tutwiler Prison do have access to a unique state-funded education program that offers GEDs and other skills that inmates need after release. The problem is, this program, which would theoretically ease overcrowding, is threatened by budget cuts.

Kirkwood’s in for drug charges, but she’s taking the new life skills course offered by J.F. Ingram State Technical College. J.F. Ingram provides correctional educational programs and is part of the Alabama Community College System. For decades, it has offered inmates education meant to ease their transitions back into the outside world and reduce recidivism, and recently, it launched a new life skills program. Hank Dasinger, president of J.F. Ingram, initiated the program.

“As I began to think about the people that I knew — including relatives — that have gone sideways with the law, what got them in trouble was not their ability or inability to do a job,” Dasinger says. “What got them into a jam was their inability to manage their life.”

Dasinger is a former Air Force marksmanship trainer with degrees in education and psychology. He took over this seven-campus prison college two years ago.

One of the students is 43-year-old Robin Myers, who is in Tutwiler Prison on felony DUIs.

“Had I had someone teaching me the things that this program is teaching me 20 years ago, we would not be speaking at this moment,” Myers says.

She says she wishes the life skills classes were required for inmates.

“These classes take us step-by-step through thought processes — how we live,” Myers says. “So that we can identify the steps where we’re going wrong.”

The problem is there are only two people teaching this course at Tutwiler. The prison is built to house 400 inmates, although it now holds roughly 700. Instead of getting more money, though, two years ago J.F. Ingram saw its budget slashed more than 12 percent.

“And this year I’m facing another twenty-something-thousand-dollar cut. It makes a huge difference,” Dasinger says. “In light of all of the evidence about the effectiveness of correctional education, how in the world do we cut the program that stands the best chance of getting people out of the overcrowded prison and into a situation where they won’t come back?”

Republican State Sen. Cam Ward has become a leader on the issue of prison reform in Alabama.

An inmate walks through the yard at the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, which recently switched to private management.

Courtney Lockhart is appealing a death penalty sentence that a judge gave him in 2011, which overrode the jury's recommendation of life in prison.

Inmates at New York's Coxsackie Correctional Facility. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says reinstating state-funded prison college programs will ultimately save taxpayers money.

“It’s very hard to justify an education program for prisoners, when K through 12 doesn’t have enough supplies and materials for their kids to go school,” Ward says.

While he points out the current budget realities, he also acknowledges the benefits of prison education.

“Studies have shown that inmates who get involved in the educational component, like J.F. Ingram offers, they are 43 percent less likely to come back into the system again,” Ward says. “That’s astounding.”

There’s no hard data on how much J.F. Ingram’s courses reduce recidivism, but a national study by the Rand Corporation concludes prison education in general is dramatically effective. Says lead author Lois Davis, “It’s a relatively low-cost program that has a huge return in terms of the cost savings.”

Ballooning incarceration costs may persuade Alabama’s conservative, tough-on-crime politicians to soften up a bit. Some are now talking about sentencing reform and about being “smart on crime.”

That gives J.F. Ingram President Hank Dasinger some hope: “I think we’re at a crossroads, and I think the nation is going to watch what we do, and are we going to be the Alabama of old or are we going to really open ourselves up to new ways of thinking about a problem?”

Convicted burglar Timothy Brown is thinking about a future outside. He’s studying horticulture at another J.F. Ingram campus. Its low brick buildings look like any rural community college, except for the razor wire. He’s got a life sentence, but he’s hoping for parole.

“I fell in love with organic gardening,” Brown says. “And that’s the medium I want to try when I get out.”

Jessica Hernandez: Singing To The Rafters, No Matter The Style

Aug 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Jessica Hernandez: Singing To The Rafters, No Matter The Style

Jessica Hernandez's debut album with her band The Deltas is called Secret Evil.i
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Jessica Hernandez’s debut album with her band The Deltas is called Secret Evil.

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Jessica Hernandez's debut album with her band The Deltas is called Secret Evil.

Jessica Hernandez’s debut album with her band The Deltas is called Secret Evil.

/Courtesy of the artist

The new album by Jessica Hernandez the Deltas has it all. Secret Evil offers a softly strummed rootsy ballad one minute, the oom-pah of Balkan-inspired brass the next, or twangy rockabilly guitars followed by the punch of New Orleans-tinged horns. But in song after song, one thing is consistent: a powerful, undeniable voice.

In an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, Hernandez says she found that voice early, as a kid in Detroit who turned just about everything she saw and heard into a song. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

When the Parachute Failed

Aug 22, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on When the Parachute Failed

For David Hartsock and Shirley Dygert, their entire friendship was formed and put to the ultimate test in 30 seconds. That’s how long it took them to fall to the earth from a plane.

Christian McBride On Piano Jazz

Aug 22, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Christian McBride On Piano Jazz

Bassist, bandleader, and composer Christian McBride has been a presence on the jazz scene for more than twenty years. A veteran Piano Jazz sideman, McBride has accompanied guests like J.J. Johnson and Cassandra Wilson.

On this Piano Jazz session from 2001, McBride takes the spotlight as a dynamic composer and stylist, leading a new generation of jazz players. He features his bass in duet with host Marian McPartland on the standard “Alone Together” and plays solo on his composition “Lullaby for a Ladybug.”

Originally recorded May 2001.

Set List
  • “Alone Together” (Dietz, Schwartz)
  • “Billie’s Bounce” (Parker)
  • “Dolphin Dance” (Hancock)
  • “Lullaby for a Ladybug” (McBride)
  • “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” (Arlen, Koehler)
  • “Midnight Sun” (Burke, Hampton, Mercer)
  • “Sonny Moon for Two” (Rollins)

Outside Groups Mirror Successful Strategies Of Political Parties

Aug 22, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Outside Groups Mirror Successful Strategies Of Political Parties

This is a big political year in Iowa. A U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs, and the Republican party has opened 11 field offices statewide. But there’s also a new team working the state — the Virginia-based group Americans For Prosperity. Mobilizing voters, running TV attack ads — when do secretly financed outside groups start to resemble political parties?

Author And His Daughter Cook Around The Word And You Can Too

Aug 22, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Author And His Daughter Cook Around The Word And You Can Too

Kelly McEvers talks to food writer Mark Kurlansky and his daughter Talia about their cookbook International Night, based on their tradition of cooking a meal every week from a different country.

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