Browsing articles from "May, 2017"

Endangered Rhino Takes Out Tinder Ad To Raise Awareness, Money

May 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Endangered Rhino Takes Out Tinder Ad To Raise Awareness, Money

His Tinder profile said he was “one of a kind,” “the most eligible bachelor in the world,” “6 feet tall” and, finally, 5,000 pounds. Sudan is the last male White Northern rhinoceros in the world, and his keepers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya put out the Tinder ad as an opportunity to spread awareness and raise money toward the very expensive in vitro fertilization that is the last hope for keeping the species alive.

That campaign recently ended, and Richard Vigne, head of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy (@OlPejeta), says it was a success. Vigne joins Here Now‘s Robin Young to discuss the campaign, and the rhino’s plight.

Why A Theater Director Made A ‘Color-Conscious Choice’ In ‘Virginia Woolf’ Casting

May 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Why A Theater Director Made A ‘Color-Conscious Choice’ In ‘Virginia Woolf’ Casting

Elizabeth Taylor, (from left) George Segal, Richard Burton and Sandy Dennis starred in the 1966 film adaptation of Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A theater director in Portland recently cast an African-American actor as Nick (Segal’s role) — and found the Albee estate withheld rights to the play.

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Elizabeth Taylor, (from left) George Segal, Richard Burton and Sandy Dennis starred in the 1966 film adaptation of Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A theater director in Portland recently cast an African-American actor as Nick (Segal’s role) — and found the Albee estate withheld rights to the play.

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It all started when a director and producer from a tiny theater in Portland, Ore., posted a message on Facebook; he was outraged that the Edward Albee estate wouldn’t grant him rights to produce Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? because he’d cast a black actor in one of the roles. His post went viral, and a firestorm ensued.

Michael Streeter says he wanted to dust off Albee’s 55-year-old play and give it a new angle. So, he cast an African-American actor in the role of Nick, a young biology professor who visits an older academic couple with his wife. Nick is described in the script as blond and blue-eyed.

“In 1962, the year the play was written, African-Americans were facing tremendous strife with the civil rights movement and the character of Nick was ambitious,” Streeter says. “He is striving to get ahead and he puts up with a lot of invective from the other characters in the play. And this is something that I see as emblematic of what was happening in the African-American community in 1962.”

Playwright Edward Albee, Who Changed And Challenged Audiences, Dies At 88

But the Albee estate — which approves the casting of all professional productions of the late playwright’s work — did not agree. Streeter vented his frustration online and the media responded.

Chicago-based actress Tania Richard, who co-hosts a podcast called Race Bait, wrote a blog post about it. Richard is black, Streeter is white.

“I knew the minute I read the initial article that I felt it wasn’t racist,” Richard says. “That I felt it was completely within Albee’s estate’s rights to maintain the vision that he intentioned. … To ask the character of Nick to be black, in this world, in the ’60s on a small campus in New England, is sort of suggesting an alternate universe that couldn’t have existed, you know? And this isn’t a fantasy piece. This is a very specific piece.”

Many plays in the American canon are very specific about time and place, which can limit opportunities for actors of color. So, for years, theaters have attempted to correct this with color-blind casting. There have been mixed-race productions of plays by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, says New York Times drama critic, Ben Brantley.

“It has to be done, I think, on a case-by-case basis,” he says, “in which you weigh the elements and think: How much does this distort the author’s vision? But when you’re talking about Shakespeare, when you’re talking about musicals, when you’re talking about plays that have been in the canon of Western civilization for centuries, I think then anything goes.”

What Streeter was proposing with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was not color-blind casting.

“There’s also color conscious-casting, where you deliberately choose to cast a person that is different from what’s written in the play,” Streeter says. “This was a color-conscious choice on my part because I thought that it added depth to the play; that there would be certain lines that would have more resonance. There would be the question that would happen throughout the play, as the audience is watching these people abuse this character. And you wonder, ‘OK are they going to start using racial slurs?’ “

In the boozy second act of the play, things get particularly nasty between the two academic couples.

“Will they or won’t they throw a racial slur at this guy …” Richard says. “As an actor, I don’t want to be put in that position. I don’t want to be sort of the target for the audience almost blood lust about whether or not the character is going to be called the N-word or not. That’s creating a whole other layer to the piece that was never intended in the first place.”

The Albee Estate wouldn’t speak directly to NPR about the decision. Instead, it sent a statement, saying Albee had remarked on several occasions that a mixed-race marriage in the early 1960s would not have gone unnoticed in the script — though Albee did approve the casting of a black actress as the older professor’s wife when the playwright was still alive. This is the first time the estate has had to deal with this issue since Albee’s death in September 2016.

“The vast majority of roles in Edward Albee’s almost 30 plays can and should be cast diversely,” wrote Sam Rudy, spokesperson for the Albee Estate. “The Estate is eager to encourage as much diverse casting as possible. There are many opportunities for diverse casting throughout the body of Edward’s work with the most recent example being Sophie Okonedo and Archie Madekwe as Stevie and Billy in the current the West End production of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

For his part, Streeter, while disappointed, understands the estate’s position.

“I don’t think this is racially motivated,” he says. “This is absolutely about a fealty to the integrity of Edward Albee.”

More On Edward Albee

Playwright Albee Defends 'Gay Writer' Remarks

Albee at 80: Still Asking the Big Questions

New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley says he kind of likes the idea of Nick as a black man. “I could see it being played that way,” he says. “I could see it bringing out elements in George and Martha. On the other hand, it would be a different play.”

Ultimately, when it comes to inserting your own ideas into someone else’s play, Tania Richard always remembers the advice of one of her old writing teachers:

“He had this wonderful quote where he would say: Well, maybe you should write that play.”

‘Like Brain Boot Camp’: Using Music To Ease Hearing Loss

May 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on ‘Like Brain Boot Camp’: Using Music To Ease Hearing Loss

Most of the people in a choir at Ryerson University in Toronto have joined a study testing how practicing music might help people with hearing loss handle noisy environments better.

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Most of the people in a choir at Ryerson University in Toronto have joined a study testing how practicing music might help people with hearing loss handle noisy environments better.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

Trying to make out what someone is saying in a noisy environment is a problem most people can relate to, and one that gets worse with age.

At 77, Linda White hears all right in one-on-one settings but has problems in noisier situations. “Mostly in an informal gathering where people are all talking at once,” she says. “The person could be right beside you, but you still don’t hear them.”

White, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, has not gotten hearing aids, although she says she probably will in the future. Instead, she’s part of a group of people testing out a different intervention for dealing with hearing loss: learning music.

She is part of an ongoing study organized by Frank Russo, a professor of psychology and director of the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology Lab, or SMART Lab, at Ryerson University in Toronto. He says understanding speech in noise is a top complaint among older adults with hearing loss.

“The complaint often is, ‘I hear just fine when I’m speaking to someone one-on-one, but when I’m in a crowded situation – if I’m a party, if I’m at bus station, if I’m in a mall – speech in noise becomes very problematic,'” Russo says.

And hearing aids can only help so much, because separating speech from noise is not so much a task for our ears as it is for our brains. As people age, something declines along the pathway between the inner ear and the brain’s auditory cortex, explains Russo. “So, the hearing aids we have that are becoming increasingly remarkable in their ability to suppress noise, they can’t completely correct this problem of aging auditory systems,” he says.

Previous research has found that aging musicians fare better than non-musicians when it comes to distinguishing speech from noise, even when their overall hearing is no better than that of non-musicians.

How well can you hear speech in noise?

Try listening to these clips and repeating what you hear. (They get progressively more difficult.) The answers are at the bottom of the page.

Credit: University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Dept. of Speech and Hearing Science/ Courtesy of the SMART Lab at Ryerson University

So Russo and his colleagues are getting older adults to join a choir, with no musical experience or talent required, and then testing whether it changes how their brains process speech in noisy environments.

The choir is run through Ryerson’s 50+ Continuing Education Program. Each session lasts ten weeks, with one two-hour rehearsal each week.

“We wanted to see how short-term could we make the musical training. How quickly can we see these improvements?” says Ella Dubinsky, a graduate student in the SMART Lab who recruits study participants from among the choir singers. She grew up playing music with her family and later studied classical piano. “Singing is sort of like brain boot camp. You’re sort of whipping your neurons into shape,” she says.

The dozen or so participants in the current session are nearly all women. They’re working on four tunes that are familiar to this crowd, including “Love and Marriage” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” Choir director Sina Fallah puts them through vocal challenges, such as singing a D-minor scale, ascending and descending, under the melody of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” which he plays on violin.

“My duty, of course, is to make sure they have fun. They also learn something. They become better singers,” Fallah says.

In addition to the choir participants, the researchers are following two control groups. One is not singing, but is listening to a lot of music in a music appreciation course. The other has no musical intervention. And all of the study participants undergo before-and-after lab evaluations that include speech-in-noise tests, in which they’re asked to repeat sentences that are played against increasingly loud background noise.

And participants also get homework.

Using Theta Music Trainer software, participants practice their singing at home, trying to match sequences of notes played from the computer. The program evaluates the singing, and tells the participants whether they’re sharp, flat or right on the money. Another exercise involves listening to two notes played on different instruments, and choosing the one with the higher pitch. The different timbres of the instruments make the exercise challenging.

White says she struggles with some of the exercises, but that she feels like overall the homework is helping her singing.

To Frank Russo, that’s important progress. He says one way we follow a particular voice is by locking onto its pitch, allowing us to use frequency as an anchor. “When we’re listening to voices and speech, there’s a frequency trail we can follow, but it’s often buried under a din of noise. But if our brains have improved in tracking that anchor, we can better reconstruct the nuance of each speech fragment,” he says. “So that’s the presumed mechanism for why this pitch training is so important.”

Graduate student Ella Dubinsky, choir director Sina Fallah, and professor of psychology Frank Russo at the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto.

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Graduate student Ella Dubinsky, choir director Sina Fallah, and professor of psychology Frank Russo at the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

Russo says the research is a little messier than he would like. People who sign up for the choir may have more musical interest and, conceivably, more ability than the control groups. The choir may also yield social benefits that improve people’s outlook and performance.

But it’s a messiness he can live with. “There’s been this general liberalization of science that makes it ok to ask these messy questions now,” he says.

The Ryerson University SMART Lab plans to present some initial findings from their research at a conference on music, sound and health in Boston this summer.

Here are the answers to what is being said in the clips above:

Clip 1: “His plan meant taking a big risk.”

Clip 2: “The baby slept in his crib.”

Clip 3: “The workers are digging a ditch.”

Do Tree-Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees?

May 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Do Tree-Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees?

Goats climb an argan tree in Morocco to dine on its fruit.

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Goats climb an argan tree in Morocco to dine on its fruit.

Jeremy Horner/Getty Images

Do trees grow from seeds that goats eat and later expel?

That is a question that has long bedeviled ecologists.

Let’s say it’s a small seed. The goat will swallow it, poop it out and a tree could sprout.

But what if it’s a sizable seed? It probably wouldn’t make it through the goat’s digestive tract intact. And so … no tree.

Unless … the goat spit out the seed instead of pooping it out.

Go Ahead, Little Goat, Eat Some Poison Ivy. It Won't Hurt A Bit

A new study probes the question of excretion vs. expectorate. The answer has important consequences for the birth of baby trees — in particular, the gnarled argan tree of Morocco.

We were interested in this study for two reasons. First, our blog is, after all, called Goats and Soda. (Here’s why.) And second, argan trees are an important part of the economy in this lower-middle income country. They bear fruit. And the seeds of the fruit are valuable — they can be pressed to yield argan oil, valued in beauty treatments and foodie circles. By some reports, argan oil exports bring in $6.5 million.

It’s not easy to harvest seeds from atop a 30-foot-tall tree. In the arid parts of Morocco where argan trees grow, goats are encouraged to climb, dine and deliver the seeds to earth, where they are collected by humans and eventually turned into argan oil.

But argan trees don’t always thrive because of overharvesting and climate change. It would sure be helpful if the goats did a little planting of their own.

The study is titled “Tree-climbing goats disperse seeds during rumination” and was just published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

We talked to one of the co-authors, biologist and ecologist Jose Fedriani, to learn more.

Okay, before I even get to the seeds, let’s discuss the fact that goats climb trees!

Yes, they are climbers. You see them climbing rocks, they are able to climb on top of chairs, so they are good climbers.

But … trees? How?

They go very slowly and they do it. Some goat keepers modify the trees to make them easier to climb, they cut some branches off the trees so the goats can start climbing the trees more easily.

Do the goats ever fall?

No, no, no, they don’t fall. They are so good, they don’t fall.

[Editor’s note: Let’s take a minute now to look at this video, which reveals that goats are indeed very, very good tree climbers, although some sources say they do take the occasional tumble.]

Your interest was not climbing but the dispersal of seeds. As I understand it, the conventional wisdom was that in Morocco goats climb argan trees, eat the fruit and then poop out the seeds. Your theory was that the goats spit out the seeds. Um, why should we care?

A small seed can go through the goat’s stomach and intestine and get out without damage and grow into a tree. But large seeds cannot do the same thing. The large seed has to be split into small pieces or destroyed completely.

Let’s get a sense of size. How big is the argan seed? The size of, say, a lemon?

Not like a lemon, much smaller, it would be like an acorn from an oak. It’s the shape and size of the acorn.

In the study you fed lots of fruit with large seeds to goats. What happened?

They disperse the seeds by spitting them out during rumination.

I see from your study that sometimes they spit out the seeds within hours but sometimes take up to 6 days. In either case, the seeds are not damaged and can grow into new trees, correct? So are goats agricultural heroes?

The answer depends on the context. If we have a huge number of goats, they eat all the new baby trees, they kill them, so even though the goats are dispersing the seeds, they are eating the baby trees. So the effect is negative. But if there is a small or moderate number of goats, they will not kill all the baby trees produced by the dispersed seeds.

What happens in the areas where argan trees are grown in Morocco?

These people who take care of the argan trees get money from selling the argan fruit, so they buy more goats. So there is no rejuvenation of the argan forest because the goats are eating all the baby trees.

Sigh. So your study does not necessarily reflect well on goats.

This may not be the story you want.

What is the moral of the story?

We need to have a balance between the number of goats and number of trees and try to keep the equilibrium. That is the important point to me.

Are more studies needed?

More local studies should be done on trees and plants to find out the net effect of goats.

Ambitious Effort To Clean Plastic From The Ocean To Start Next Year

May 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Ambitious Effort To Clean Plastic From The Ocean To Start Next Year

A 22-year-old Dutch man has an ambitious plan to try to clean plastic from the ocean by installing long booms in the water, near the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to collect trash swirling in the currents.

Boyan Slat founded the nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup in 2013, and he’s managed to raise millions of dollars for the project, which is on track to get underway next year.

Here Now‘s Robin Young talks with Slat (@boyanslat) about his plans.

For ‘Normal,’ The Homeless Gospel Choir Re-Creates Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’ Video

May 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on For ‘Normal,’ The Homeless Gospel Choir Re-Creates Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’ Video

Derek Zenetti believes in the power of punk so much that he’s re-created the “Ironic” video shot-for-shot. Okay, maybe the logic doesn’t make much sense, but neither does Alanis Morissette‘s use of irony.

Zenetti’s been making acoustic-driven protest songs as The Homeless Gospel Choir for a little more than five years; his work stems from a lifelong obsession with punk and the community it fosters. It’s in the latter, in particular, that the Pittsburgh songwriter finds inspiration for “Normal,” a tease for a new album he’s putting out this fall. A staple of his live set, it tells a story about turning 11 in 1994, coming to terms with being a weird kid, and getting into punk: “I found my escape in that Green Day tape / When the songs would end, we’d just rewind them.”

Now, the acoustic song has become a full-blown, anthemic rocker out of The Replacements songbook. Fully expect to find yourself shouting along to the extremely shout-along-able hook and message: “You’re never gonna be normal because you’re punk.”

“Normal” comes out as a 7″ single on June 9 via A-F Records. The Homeless Gospel Choir will go on a U.S. tour this summer.

Officer Who Killed Tamir Rice Fired For Rule Violations On Job Application

May 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Officer Who Killed Tamir Rice Fired For Rule Violations On Job Application

Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice during a 2014 protest in Washington, D.C. The police officer who shot and killed the 12-year-old boy, Timothy Loehmann, was fired Tuesday for answers he provided on his personal history statement during the hiring process.

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Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice during a 2014 protest in Washington, D.C. The police officer who shot and killed the 12-year-old boy, Timothy Loehmann, was fired Tuesday for answers he provided on his personal history statement during the hiring process.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Timothy Loehmann, the police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, was fired by the Cleveland Police Department on Tuesday. At a news conference, city authorities announced that the reason for his termination wasn’t the deadly incident that brought him to national attention, but rather violations he committed in the course of his hiring process.

“Patrol officer Loehmann had been charged with rule violations concerning his application process to be considered a cadet with the Division of Police — specifically, answers he had provided on his personal history statement,” Michael McGrath, the city’s director of public safety, told reporters in prepared remarks.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer explains that Loehmann failed to disclose the full circumstances of how his time at a previous police department ended:

“Loehmann was allowed to resign from the Independence department after six months following a series of incidents where supervisors determined he was unfit to be a police officer.

“The disciplinary letter cites a letter in Loehmann’s personnel file from Independence that says he was emotionally immature and had ‘an inability to emotionally function.’ The letter also cites an emotional breakdown Loehmann had on the gun range in Independence.”

Cleveland authorities also announced that Frank Garmback, the officer driving the patrol car at the time Loehmann shot Rice, would be suspended for 10 days for administrative rule violations of his own. He would also be required to take a tactical training course.

The penalties cap a review process conducted by Cleveland’s Critical Incident Review Committee, or CIRC, in the wake of Rice’s death and the widespread protests it elicited. As the Plain Dealer reported last month, CIRC already “found no fault in the officers’ actions leading up to, during and after the Nov. 22, 2014 shooting at Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s West Side.”

Must-Read Reactions To Grand Jury Decision in Tamir Rice Case

In 2015, a little more than a year after the shooting, a grand jury also declined to bring criminal charges against the two officers. Rather, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor said at the time, it was simply a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day.”

Here is how Nick Castele described the police shooting on Morning Edition:

“On a Saturday afternoon last year, Tamir Rice was playing with an air gun at a park on the west side of Cleveland. Someone called the police, mentioning in the process that the gun could be fake.

“The dispatcher didn’t relay the caller’s doubts.

“Soon afterward, police drove onto the grass within feet of 12-year-old Tamir. Investigators say surveillance shows Tamir reaching toward his waistband and lifting up an outer garment. Within seconds Officer Timothy Loehmann stepped out of the passenger side and fired two shots, striking Tamir once in the abdomen. Tamir Rice died early the next day.”

For Family Of Tamir Rice, An Inauspicious Anniversary

Rice’s death, ruled a homicide by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner, drew demonstrations both in Cleveland and several other cities across the U.S.

And though the officers faced no criminal charges for the incident, the City of Cleveland later agreed to pay $6 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by the Rice family.

At the news conference announcing Loehmann’s firing Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson offered “condolences to the family of Tamir Rice.”

“You know, it’s difficult when a child — in this case, a 12-year-old — loses their life,” he said. “It makes it even more challenging and more difficult in terms of accepting it if it happens at the hands of a police officer.”

Watch Live: White House Briefing Amid Reports Of Staff Changes, Russia Developments

May 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Watch Live: White House Briefing Amid Reports Of Staff Changes, Russia Developments

Press secretary Sean Spicer is briefing reporters on Tuesday following President Trump’s first trip overseas.

The briefing also follows news Tuesday morning that White House communications director Michael Dubke has resigned, and there are reports of other possible staffing changes.

Reporters are also likely to ask about Jared Kushner’s communication with Russian officials. The Washington Post reported on Friday that Kushner discussed the possibility of setting up a direct and secret line of communication with Moscow. The Post cited “U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports”; NPR has not independently confirmed the paper’s account.

Doo-Wop Singer Dion Pays Homage To His Musical Influences

May 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Doo-Wop Singer Dion Pays Homage To His Musical Influences

During a 2000 visit to the Fresh Air studios, the former teen idol performed old songs, new songs and songs by blues and country performers who influenced him.

Flags For The Fallen At Massachusetts National Cemetery

May 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Flags For The Fallen At Massachusetts National Cemetery

American flags are flying on the graves of veterans across the country on this Memorial Day.

Here  Now‘s Alex Ashlock (@aashlock) updates the story of a Massachusetts father who lost a son in Afghanistan, and each year inspires hundreds of volunteers to place flags on the graves at the Massachusetts National Cemetery.

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