National News

Why Some Mushrooms Glow In The Dark

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-21 03:11

Scientists outfitted some fake fungi with LEDs and put them in a Brazilian forest to test their theory that light, not some funky mushroom fragrance, was luring bugs.

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With Fewer New Teachers, Why Do Some Stick Around?

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-21 03:03

As teacher training enrollment drops, we wanted to know: Why do some teachers stay in the profession?

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A Year Of Ebola: Memorable Moments From Our Reporters' Notebooks

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-21 01:29

They remember an early survivor, the crying baby, the teenager who wouldn't give up, the woman who had only bananas to eat, people shaking hands again despite the risks.

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After Alleged Machete Attack On TSA Agent, Man Shot In New Orleans Airport

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 20:51

A former taxi driver attacked two TSA agents with was spray and a large blade before a sheriff's deputy shot him three times, authorities say. The alleged assailant was in surgery Friday night.

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From Selma To Eisenhower, Trailblazing Black Reporter Was Always Probing

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 15:22

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the successful crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, a key moment in the civil rights movement. Journalist Ethel Payne was there.

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Benghazi Panel Asks Clinton To Hand Over Her Email Server

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 14:57

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the panel, asked the former secretary of state to hand over her server to a neutral third-party. Clinton used a private email account during her tenure.

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Record Number Of Stranded Sea Lion Pups Strains California Resources

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 14:01

An uptick in malnourished pups on the coast has rescue centers struggling to keep up. Changing weather patterns and warmer ocean waters could be to blame, but it's still too early to tell.

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John Urschel, Ravens Offensive Lineman, Publishes Math Paper

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 13:15

"A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians" was published in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It's not Urschel's first paper.

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Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Edits

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 13:12

Researchers who helped develop powerful techniques warn that tweaking the genome is now easy. More public debate's needed, they say, before making changes in genes passed from parent to child.

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The comic book battles behind the big screen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-20 12:56

Time to get geeky.

A new X-Men TV show  is on the way — maybe. That’s if Marvel, which created the X-Men, agrees.

Like the plot of any good comic book, this story is a complicated one. In the '80s and '90s Marvel was struggling financially and was on the verge of bankruptcy. To raise much-needed funds, the company made what seemed at the time like a super heroic move: It sold the movie rights to some of its characters like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. Back then, on the heels of comic book adaptations like "Batman and Robin" and "Mystery Men," no one imagined a movie about comic book characters could make truly big money, says comic book historian and geek consultant Alan Kistler.

“You didn't know what was going to happen with the X-Men. Was Magneto going to look stupid? How were you going to get someone who could really pull off Wolverine’s hair? No one knew," he says.

But Fox figured it out in 2000 with its "X-Men" movie.  Hugh Jackman's Wolverine got high marks for his hair, and the movie grossed almost $300 million worldwide.

"Doing that first X-Men movie was proof that you could do decent superhero movies," Kistler says.

Then Marvel decided it wanted a piece of the action, and the company came up with a plan to buy back its characters and to make its own movies. But there was a wrinkle. While Marvel got Iron Man back from Paramount and Sony gave up Ghost Rider, Twentieth Century Fox refused to sell back the rights to the Fantastic Four or the X-Men.

That’s when the arguing, and ultimately the lawsuits, began. Marvel created a TV show, “Mutant X”, and Fox sued accusing the company of trademark infringement, claiming the show was nothing more than a thinly veiled copy of the X-Men. The relationship between the two companies deteriorated from there.

A few months after news broke in late 2013  that Fox was making their eighth "X-Men" movie, Marvel announced it was killing off Wolverine. He's one of the most popular X-Men, and comic book fans quickly grew suspicious.

"I get it from a business standpoint," says Patrick Hellen, a tech company employee by day and super-Wolverine fan by night, "But at the same time you have fans that have been collecting 'Fantastic Four' [comics] since the '60s that don't understand why these people they identify with and they enjoy to read are going to go away because of a business deal."

Fans like Hellen believe that Marvel is willing to sacrifice its comics for the future of its films. That in an effort to thwart Fox's success on the back of characters it created, the company will change its plots and even kill off its characters — in short, it wants Fox to fail.

Check the message boards and fan forums and this is the buzz you'll hear Other rumors are circulating too: that Marvel has also told writers to stop creating new X-Men characters and that one of its classic comics "Fantastic Four" is being cancelled to derail Fox's new movie.

Translated from the world of comic book to popular culture as a whole: Marvel's doing away with the Fantastic Four would be like the record label EMI taking a hit out on the Beatles.

But it's fans like Hellen, who are avidly following all of these corporate ins-and-outs,  that are one of the biggest reasons Fox doesn’t want to sell its movie rights back to Marvel.

“There's a built-in audience, a proven audience," says Jonathan Handel, an entertainment and tech lawyer with the law firm of TroyGould in Los Angeles.

When it comes to making movies, says Handel, knowing you've got ticket buyers takes a lot of the risk out. Think about movie series that have done well recently: The "X-Men" series, "The Hunger Games," "Harry Potter" and all the interconnected films under the "Avengers" umbrella.

“What all of those have in common is that before there was a movie, there was something else. A comic book, a book, a character," Handel says.

And it's those characters, the Wolverines, the Fantastic Fours and so on, that are the root of the problem. There’s a lot of money at stake. For Fox, for Marvel and more recently another player.

"Disney is now much more powerful than these other studios,” says Sean Howe, author of "Marvel Comics: the Untold Story."

Disney bought Marvel in 2009, and Howe says the Mouse House can afford to play tough. He acknowledges that if Marvel manages to win the film licenses for its characters back, the company stands to make a lot of money, but he says the whole scenario is surprising.

"It just seems implausible that Marvel would stomp on the graves of its beloved 50 year old characters," he says.

But he doesn't have another explanation for why the company would want to off Wolverine. And if Marvel or Fox have any other motive, no one knows, because the companies aren't talking. How says that's not surprising. 

"That's another big part of the way Marvel works in the 21st century: silence and hardball," he says.

Is that superheroic?

"Sometimes it seems like super villainy," he says.

But if you're worried about Wolverine or any other character, know that in the world of comics — of parallel universes and crime-solving talking ducks — anything is possible. Dying in a comic book doesn't mean you're dead.

“Captain America died for a while, but then he got better. So it happens,” Hellen says.

And just this once let’s let fans write the end of a story. If customers are willing to buy comic books or movie tickets, companies should  give them what they want.

“If a customer wants to see a sketchy dude with claws going up against a guy dressed in red, white and blue and carrying a shield, then figure it out guys," Hellen says. "Find a way to make it work."

It's All About The Benjamins And Jacksons — But What About The Women?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 12:51

The bills in your wallet have one thing in common: they all feature photos of men. Now, a campaign hopes to replace Andrew Jackson's face on the 20 with someone like Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks.

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Mexico's High Court Overturns Conviction Of Man Jailed For 23 Years

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 12:50

The country's Supreme Court ruled that Alfonso Martin del Campo Dodd, who holds both U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was convicted based entirely on a confession derived by torture.

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Putting a price on comic book deaths

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:48

On Friday we talked about a few corporate titans' earth-shattering battle over a MacGuffin that's getting more and more valuble: Comic book intellectual property.

We're in something of a comic book movie arms race, and there's talk that Marvel could be trying to sabotage other studios' Marvel movies by killing off its own comics characters. But death in comics is rarely permanent, it's often used to boost sales or explore new storylines. Publishers have been doing this for decades with varied success. Let's take a look back at some of the highest-profile comic book deaths, and how the heroes — and their publishers — fared.

Note: A version of this post originally appeared with a July story covering Archie Andrew's death in the pages of "Archie Comics."

Wolverine

Courtesy:Marvel Comics

Everyone's favorite X-Man met his end last fall in a four-part event series that had been building for some time. Wolverine had extraordinary healing powers that had previously let him recover from nearly any injury, even a nuclear blast. But after losing them, Logan's many enemies came out of the woodwork to try and take him down.

"The Death of Wolverine" brought Logan all the way back to the laboratory where he was "born," and gave him a death critics called "honorable" and "anticlimactic." The same could be said for sales: issue one was a top-seller, but by Wolverine's actual demise he had slipped down the charts, walloped, ironically, by "The Walking Dead." It could be because Wolverine has died several times and narrowly escaped death countless more. In fact, there was another "Death of Wolverine" in 2008.

Superman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Perhaps the best-known entry on this list, DC Comic's "Death of Superman" storyline found the Man of Steel fighting an alien rock monster called Doomsday, and the image of him dying in Lois Lane's arms became iconic. Collectors snapped up that issue, which sold millions and made headlines around the world.

Of course, it didn't last. Superman returned – with a black suit and a mullet, because it was the '90s – to fight off impostors and resume his post. Fans labeled Supes' death a gimmick, and the backlash arguably helped push the industry into collapse. You can buy the issue, still sealed in cellophane, on eBay for a few bucks.

Spider-Man

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

This one depends on your definition of "death," which is already pretty slippery in comic books. To commemorate the 700th issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," Marvel Comics had the wall-crawler swap brains with his dying nemesis Dr. Octopus. During the ensuing battle, Peter Parker died trapped in Doc Ock's body. The issue sold more than 200,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com, making it one of the best-selling comics of 2012. The $8 price tag probably helped.

The decision to have Doc Ock take on Spider-Man's identity divided fans, but a new series about Octopus' exploits debuted with 188,000 copies sold. "Superior Spider-Man" ran for about a year-and-a-half, selling a solid 70,000 to 80,000 copies per issue before Parker returned to his own body this past spring.

Batman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Four years before the Dark Knight met his end (sort of) on movie screens in 2012, Batman was killed off in the comic book storyline "Batman RIP." The final issue, in which Batman seemingly died in a helicopter crash, sold a disappointing 103,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com. Maybe that's because Batman survived, only to be killed in an epic battle during a huge crossover series. That issue only sold a little better, but it was another fake-out; it turns out Batman's charred corpse was that of a clone. The real Batman was unstuck in time and ended up back in the Stone Age... you know what? Never mind.

It's worth noting that the conclusion of "Batman RIP" was beat out by the debut of "Ultimatum," a limited series that brutally killed off dozens of Marvel heroes and villains (not to mention thousands of regular folks) in an alternate universe.

Captain America

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

As these things go, Captain America's death in 2007 was downright realistic: following a superhero civil war, sniper downed Cap on the steps of a federal courthouse. In the midst of an economic downturn, seeing America incarnate bleeding to death was a poignant image. "Captain America" issue 25 made headlines and became the top-selling comic of the year with over 290,000 copies sold.

Believe it or not, Captain America's resurrection involved both time travel and brain-swapping. He was back on the job by 2010. In the meantime, Cap was replaced by former sidekick Bucky Barnes, who was himself killed during World War II and resurrected in 2005.

Got all that?

Putting a price on comic books

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:48

On Friday we talked about a few corporate titans' earth-shattering battle over a MacGuffin that's getting more and more valuble: Comic book intellectual property.

We're in something of a comic book movie arms race, and there's talk that Marvel could be trying to sabotage other studios' Marvel movies by killing off its own comics characters. But death in comics is rarely permanent, it's often used to boost sales or explore new storylines. Publishers have been doing this for decades with varied success. Let's take a look back at some of the highest-profile comic book deaths, and how the heroes — and their publishers — fared.

Note: A version of this post originally appeared with a July story covering Archie Andrew's death in the pages of "Archie Comics."

Wolverine

Courtesy:Marvel Comics

Everyone's favorite X-Man met his end last fall in a four-part event series that had been building for some time. Wolverine had extraordinary healing powers that had previously let him recover from nearly any injury, even a nuclear blast. But after losing them, Logan's many enemies came out of the woodwork to try and take him down.

"The Death of Wolverine" brought Logan all the way back to the laboratory where he was "born," and gave him a death critics called "honorable" and "anticlimactic." The same could be said for sales: issue one was a top-seller, but by Wolverine's actual demise he had slipped down the charts, walloped, ironically, by "The Walking Dead." It could be because Wolverine has died several times and narrowly escaped death countless more. In fact, there was another "Death of Wolverine" in 2008.

Superman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Perhaps the best-known entry on this list, DC Comic's "Death of Superman" storyline found the Man of Steel fighting an alien rock monster called Doomsday, and the image of him dying in Lois Lane's arms became iconic. Collectors snapped up that issue, which sold millions and made headlines around the world.

Of course, it didn't last. Superman returned – with a black suit and a mullet, because it was the '90s – to fight off impostors and resume his post. Fans labeled Supes' death a gimmick, and the backlash arguably helped push the industry into collapse. You can buy the issue, still sealed in cellophane, on eBay for a few bucks.

Spider-Man

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

This one depends on your definition of "death," which is already pretty slippery in comic books. To commemorate the 700th issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," Marvel Comics had the wall-crawler swap brains with his dying nemesis Dr. Octopus. During the ensuing battle, Peter Parker died trapped in Doc Ock's body. The issue sold more than 200,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com, making it one of the best-selling comics of 2012. The $8 price tag probably helped.

The decision to have Doc Ock take on Spider-Man's identity divided fans, but a new series about Octopus' exploits debuted with 188,000 copies sold. "Superior Spider-Man" ran for about a year-and-a-half, selling a solid 70,000 to 80,000 copies per issue before Parker returned to his own body this past spring.

Batman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Four years before the Dark Knight met his end (sort of) on movie screens in 2012, Batman was killed off in the comic book storyline "Batman RIP." The final issue, in which Batman seemingly died in a helicopter crash, sold a disappointing 103,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com. Maybe that's because Batman survived, only to be killed in an epic battle during a huge crossover series. That issue only sold a little better, but it was another fake-out; it turns out Batman's charred corpse was that of a clone. The real Batman was unstuck in time and ended up back in the Stone Age... you know what? Never mind.

It's worth noting that the conclusion of "Batman RIP" was beat out by the debut of "Ultimatum," a limited series that brutally killed off dozens of Marvel heroes and villains (not to mention thousands of regular folks) in an alternate universe.

Captain America

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

As these things go, Captain America's death in 2007 was downright realistic: following a superhero civil war, sniper downed Cap on the steps of a federal courthouse. In the midst of an economic downturn, seeing America incarnate bleeding to death was a poignant image. "Captain America" issue 25 made headlines and became the top-selling comic of the year with over 290,000 copies sold.

Believe it or not, Captain America's resurrection involved both time travel and brain-swapping. He was back on the job by 2010. In the meantime, Cap was replaced by former sidekick Bucky Barnes, who was himself killed during World War II and resurrected in 2005.

Got all that?

What's a comic book death worth?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:48

On Friday we talked about a few corporate titans' earth-shattering battle over a MacGuffin that's getting more and more valuble: Comic book intellectual property.

We're in something of a comic book movie arms race, and there's talk that Marvel could be trying to sabotage other studios' Marvel movies by killing off its own comics characters. But death in comics is rarely permanent, it's often used to boost sales or explore new storylines. Publishers have been doing this for decades with varied success. Let's take a look back at some of the highest-profile comic book deaths, and how the heroes — and their publishers — fared.

Note: A version of this post originally appeared with a July story covering Archie Andrew's death in the pages of "Archie Comics."

Wolverine

Courtesy:Marvel Comics

Everyone's favorite X-Man met his end last fall in a four-part event series that had been building for some time. Wolverine had extraordinary healing powers that had previously let him recover from nearly any injury, even a nuclear blast. But after losing them, Logan's many enemies came out of the woodwork to try and take him down.

"The Death of Wolverine" brought Logan all the way back to the laboratory where he was "born," and gave him a death critics called "honorable" and "anticlimactic." The same could be said for sales: issue one was a top-seller, but by Wolverine's actual demise he had slipped down the charts, walloped, ironically, by "The Walking Dead." It could be because Wolverine has died several times and narrowly escaped death countless more. In fact, there was another "Death of Wolverine" in 2008.

Superman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Perhaps the best-known entry on this list, DC Comic's "Death of Superman" storyline found the Man of Steel fighting an alien rock monster called Doomsday, and the image of him dying in Lois Lane's arms became iconic. Collectors snapped up that issue, which sold millions and made headlines around the world.

Of course, it didn't last. Superman returned – with a black suit and a mullet, because it was the '90s – to fight off impostors and resume his post. Fans labeled Supes' death a gimmick, and the backlash arguably helped push the industry into collapse. You can buy the issue, still sealed in cellophane, on eBay for a few bucks.

Spider-Man

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

This one depends on your definition of "death," which is already pretty slippery in comic books. To commemorate the 700th issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," Marvel Comics had the wall-crawler swap brains with his dying nemesis Dr. Octopus. During the ensuing battle, Peter Parker died trapped in Doc Ock's body. The issue sold more than 200,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com, making it one of the best-selling comics of 2012. The $8 price tag probably helped.

The decision to have Doc Ock take on Spider-Man's identity divided fans, but a new series about Octopus' exploits debuted with 188,000 copies sold. "Superior Spider-Man" ran for about a year-and-a-half, selling a solid 70,000 to 80,000 copies per issue before Parker returned to his own body this past spring.

Batman

(Courtesy:DC Comics)

Four years before the Dark Knight met his end (sort of) on movie screens in 2012, Batman was killed off in the comic book storyline "Batman RIP." The final issue, in which Batman seemingly died in a helicopter crash, sold a disappointing 103,000 copies, according to ComicChron.com. Maybe that's because Batman survived, only to be killed in an epic battle during a huge crossover series. That issue only sold a little better, but it was another fake-out; it turns out Batman's charred corpse was that of a clone. The real Batman was unstuck in time and ended up back in the Stone Age... you know what? Never mind.

It's worth noting that the conclusion of "Batman RIP" was beat out by the debut of "Ultimatum," a limited series that brutally killed off dozens of Marvel heroes and villains (not to mention thousands of regular folks) in an alternate universe.

Captain America

(Courtesy:Marvel Comics)

As these things go, Captain America's death in 2007 was downright realistic: following a superhero civil war, sniper downed Cap on the steps of a federal courthouse. In the midst of an economic downturn, seeing America incarnate bleeding to death was a poignant image. "Captain America" issue 25 made headlines and became the top-selling comic of the year with over 290,000 copies sold.

Believe it or not, Capitan America's resurrection involved both time travel and brain-swapping. He was back on the job by 2010. In the meantime, Cap was replaced by former sidekick Bucky Barnes, who was himself killed during World War II and resurrected in 2005.

Got all that?

Budget Reconciliation Explained Through Chutes And Ladders

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:41

The president's proposed budget sets the stage for Republicans to use a tool they've lacked until now: reconciliation. But they're not likely to win the game.

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For The Love Of Pork: Antibiotic Use On Farms Skyrockets Worldwide

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:36

For the first time, scientists have estimated how much antibiotics pigs, chickens and cows consume globally — and how fast consumption is growing. Which country uses the most drugs on farms?

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Why Los Angeles' Fast Food Ban Did Nothing To Check Obesity

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 11:20

A new study finds that restrictions on fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles didn't reduce obesity as intended. That's partly because the ban didn't cover the most common types of food stores.

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Wireless Sensors Help Scientists Map Staph Spread Inside Hospital

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-20 10:53

Over four months of tracking and testing, French researchers mapped the hops that bacteria made from one person to another. Within a month, a third of patients were newly colonized with staph.

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Paths to prosperity from around the world

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-20 10:33

In this round-table discussion wrapping up our series, "Six Routes to Riches" with the BBC, you'll hear from Nkem Ifejika and Linda Yueh, who reported from Nigeria and China respectively, Krissy Clark, who reported from Germany, and Justin Rowlatt, in New Delhi. The four sit down with Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary to discuss what they learned from their work on our collaboration, reporting stories about the global economy.

Click the audio player above to hear the full discussion.

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