Bundyville: a bingeable new podcast that delves into the apocalyptic cult of Cliven Bundy

For many of us, the Cliven Bundy story started when a fringey rancher got a bunch of his militia pals to flex their white privilege by threatening to shoot federal law enforcement officers who'd demanded that Bundy stop stealing public land and grazing; then Bundy's loathsome offspring led a terrorist takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Read the rest

Service animal registries being built to root out fakes

The Air Carrier Access Act, written back in 1986, was kind of lazy in how it defined ‘what a service animals is, to the point where almost anything goes. As such, there’s been a whole lot of folks of late bringing their animals on board of airplanes claiming that they’re emotional support animals. This peacock is an example of that sort of thing. Maybe some help calm their owners on what would be a harrowing in-air experience, without them. But for individuals with verifiable medical conditions who have been given specially-trained psychiatric service animals to help them better navigate their lives, it’s a serious pain in the ass.

With travelers and airlines alike getting tired of people attempting to bring their ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ animals on flights with them, the idea of bringing along an animal for legitimate medical reasons, even one that comes with documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. That’s not OK. It’s a problem that can be especially prevalent with veterans afflicted with PTSD. Many rely on their service dogs to ground them during a flashback, make them feel like someone is watching their back in public places or wake them from reoccurring nightmares. It's not the sort of tool that you want to leave at home when you travel.

Thanks to a pair of new registries currently in development, the epidemic of false service animals that’s cropped up in the news of late could come to an end while, at the same time, helping those with a legitimate medical need to have their prescribed pooches with them on a flight do so, with less hassle. Read the rest

Enjoy this delightful live mini-concert from Superorganism

Hipster quirkcore band Superorganism recorded this delightful live performance replete with sounds made by toy cars, apples, and soda cans. Read the rest

Soldier destroys Humvees with the power of gravity

I don't know about you, but back when I was working a nine-to-five gig that forced me to wear pants and show up on time, I had days at work where I wanted nothing more than to knock everything off my desk and set the office on fire. I'm betting it's a feeling that former U.S. Army Sergeant John T. Skipper can relate to.

During a training exercise back in 2016, Sgt. Skipper, now a former member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, decided that he'd totally be into finding out what happens to a Humvee when its parachute straps are tampered with during a tactical airdrop from a C-130 Hercules.

The answer: As this YouTube video captured by spectators on the ground illustrates, nothing good. However, the premise that a vehicle that reaches terminal velocity during a fall will be destroyed on impact with the ground can't be taken as gospel. An experiment has to be repeated, with the same result, for it to become a fact that you can rely on. So, apparently in the name of Science, Skipper cut the straps on not one, but three Humvees during the course of the exercise.

This past week, Sgt. Skipper was court-martialled for his dabblings with gravity. As a result, he was convicted of three counts of destroying military property with a value of more than $500 and providing a false official statement. "More than $500" is an understatement. While you can buy a well-loved Humvee at auction for a few grand, these days, the ones still in service, or bought new, have an estimated worth of starting at around $70,000. Read the rest

Very cute hedgehogs announce NPR's Tiny Desk Concert contest

Hedgehogs dream of musical glory in these charming announcements for NPR's annual Tiny Desk Concert competition. Read the rest

Gothamist unionized and its evil Trumpist billionaire owner shut it down; now public radio is bringing it back

Last November, evil Trump-supporting billionaire Joe Ricketts shut down Gothamist (and its sister sites) to punish its staff for forming a union. Read the rest

NPR top news editor accused of sexual harassment by multiple women

“The worst part of my whole encounter with Oreskes [was] the fact that he utterly destroyed my ambition,” says one victim.

Michael Oreskes is now NPR’s Senior Vice President of news. He is accused by two women of sexual harassment dating back a number of years, including “unwanted physical contact with them” while he was employed by another news organization “nearly two decades ago.” Read the rest

Trumplings triggered by NPR's July 4 tweets of the Declaration of Independence

NPR celebrated July 4 by tweeting the Declaration of Independence, one line at a time: when they got to "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people," America's fragile right-wing broflakes went berserk, unhinged by reality's well-known liberal bias. Read the rest

Podcasts we love: NPR's 'Invisibilia' uncovers invisible truths

One of the things I love about long summer weekends is catching up on podcasts and filling my mind with something other than bummer political news. The third season of NPR's most popular podcast, Invisibilia, just launched, and I'm really enjoying it.

One of their latest episodes is about the minds of dogs. You should subscribe. Read the rest

Check out Tank and the Bangas, 2017 NPR Tiny Desk contest winners

Six thousand musicians entered NPR's Tiny Desk Concert competition, but this year's unanimous winner was Tank and the Bangas for this delightful jam. Read the rest

Podcasts, positivism and "explainerism"

David A Banks argues that the boom in NPR explainer podcasts -- Radiolab, Note to Self, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio and others -- are ideologically bankrupt, presenting individual, often neurological explanations for social phenomena -- rather than turning to the traditional social science accounts of these issues, so that the weird, broken, messed up things in our world are the result of our human "hardwiring" rather than the outgrowth of policies and ideology. Read the rest

Senate investigates Wells Fargo retaliations against whistleblowers

One after another, ex-Wells Fargo employees have come forward to reveal that when they blew the whistle of millions of frauds committed against the bank's customers, the bank's management fired them and blackballed them from the banking industry for life, by falsifying claims of wrongdoing on a semi-secret list of corrupt bankers that is consulted by the industry before they make new hires. Read the rest

Hard work and lower standards raise our national high school graduation rate

Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.

Via NPR:

While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.

As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.

"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.

Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."

In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.

Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."

It's difficult to know which states earned this uptick in graduation rates through high standards and hard work and which states achieved it through shortcuts and lowered expectations.

Read the rest

Changing Minds: NPR series on people who’ve rethought convictions in an era of polarization and extremism

Boing Boing pal Isabel Lara writes to give us a heads up about a new NPR series, “Changing Minds.” NPR launched the project this week and it looks at stories of people who’ve changed their positions in what has become a cultural moment of partisan polarization and extremism. The stories so far focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Read the rest

A tour of online shopping in 1984

In an NPR report from 1984, a revelation: There are people who do not like to go shopping and some of them might enjoy buying things from the comfort of their own home with the help of a computer. I know. It's crazy. Bonuses: Description of a kludged-together, TV-based system that "will eventually be replaced by a home computer" and an early version of the audio editing and production style now famous from its use on Radiolab. Read the rest

Maggie talking space exploration on KCRW's "To the Point"

I got to join in a great conversation yesterday on KCRW's "To the Point" with guest host Madeleine Brand and several people involved in the future of space travel — especially commercial space travel. I was there to talk about my recent NYT Magazine story on the risks of boredom in space, but the rest of the conversation was also great, ranging from the profit motives of space exploration to Brand's excellent questioning of the founder of Mars One. Read the rest

Radiolab on Reddit

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the hosts of NPR's fantastic science story show, Radiolab, are doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything today. It's been underway for a while, so it's probably late to get a new question in, but it's a great thread so far. Worth a read! Read the rest

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