Episode 522: The Invention Of 'The Economy'

A bread line forms outside of the Rescue Society in New York City in 1929. “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” directly confronted the hardship of the Great Depression.

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The Great Depression brought unemployment, hunger and anxiety, but it also brought us a great new acronym: The GDP. In the midst of the United States’ worst economic downturn — the GDP, Gross Domestic Product — was born. It was a number and an idea that changed the way we talked and thought about the world.

Until the concept of GDP came around, no one really had figured out a way to measure what was happening, economically. There was no way to compare one year to another.

In 1934, Congress asked a group of economists to solve that. Later that year, those economists published a paper called “National Income, 1929-1932.” The report, by Simon Kuznets and others, became a best-seller in a matter of weeks.

And soon enough, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing these numbers and what they were measuring, this new thing called the economy.

On today’s show: How we started boiling down entire nations and their economies into a single number. And how that number made people think they could control a country’s destiny.

Music: “Warehouse Rockers” and “College Car.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.
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Pelosi Says Democrats Have 'A Responsibility' To Look For Common Ground On Health Law

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the proposed Republican health bill would lead to an enormous transfer of wealth from poorer Americans to richer ones.

Marian Carrasquero/NPR

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Marian Carrasquero/NPR

When Democrats held a majority of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi was the house speaker, she helped pass the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Now, after more than six years in the minority party, she’s watching House Republicans move to repeal and replace parts of the law.

She says that although Democrats don’t have the votes to stop the GOP legislation alone, they can still show their opposition to it.

“In my office I have a painting of Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘Public sentiment is everything’,” Pelosi told NPR’s Robert Siegel. “Regardless of the number of Democrats in the House, the number of people who are affected, 24 million [people] who would lose their care, I’m depending on public opinion. … The fact is the more we point out the shortcomings of the legislation, the fewer votes [Republicans] will have.”

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act

Let’s go back to where we were before the Affordable Care Act, because that was a time where [some people] wouldn’t even be able to have any insurance. So what was the purpose of the Affordable Care Act? [It was] threefold. One, to lower cost. Two, to improve benefits. And three, to expand access for millions more people. And it’s done all three.

Look, there hasn’t been a bill ever passed of this magnitude, whether it was social security, Medicare, Medicaid, voting rights, civil rights bill, that was not revisited. Some of the improvements we [could] have [had] in the Affordable Care Act were there, but the Republicans prevented them from happening. So you can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and say, “I’m gonna make sure this doesn’t work now. Now see, it didn’t work.”

On whether the Democrats could work with President Trump or House Speaker Ryan on health care legislation

We have a responsibility to the American people to find as much common ground as we can. There has to be sincerity, though. … I don’t think he has the faintest idea — the president — about the health care thing.

[But Rep. Paul] Ryan … is [a] philosophical, right-wing, anti-government [person], and so an act of mercy for him is to reduce the government’s role. So we’re talking about two different things. They’re debating whether it’s “Trumpcare” or “Ryancare,” but neither of them wants it identified with themselves because it’s such a failure in the public mind.

On President Trump’s knowledge of health care

The more the president might learn about [health care] then he might see where there’s a path [to working with Democrats], because to tell you the truth, the Affordable Care Act is a private-sector initiative. It contains many Republican ideas.

Understand this about Republicans, and then you’ll understand part of what our challenge is here. They always are gearing whatever they do to benefit the high end. This is the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of our country, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars going into the pockets of the top one percent of the people in our country, at the expense of the good health of our middle class and those who aspire to the middle class.

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U.S. Women's Hockey Team Boycotting World Championships To Protest Low Pay

Team USA hockey goalie Alex Rigsby defends the goal during a practice session in Plymouth Township, Mich., in December 2016.

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The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team — the reigning world champions — won’t be defending their title this year. They’re boycotting the championships as a protest against USA Hockey, citing stalled negotiations for “fair wages and equitable support” from the organization.

The U.S. national team is a dominant player in women’s ice hockey — they’ve medaled in all five Olympic Games that featured women’s hockey, and won the world championships seven times since 2000. (Over the same time frame, the men won two Olympic silvers, and two World Championship silvers.)

The players are asking for higher wages — pointing out that in the past, USA Hockey paid them $1,000 a month for six months every Olympic cycle, and “virtually nothing” for the other 3 1/2 years. That works out to $1,500 a year.

Forward Meghan Duggan says it’s not fair for USA Hockey to pay them for only six months every four years when they train full-time. “It’s 365 days a year to be an Olympic athlete,” she says. “It’s our life, our everything.”

The players do receive year-round support directly from the U.S. Olympic Committee — without which, Duggan says, “there would be no financial survival at all.”

Approximately half the national team players hold “second or third jobs,” according to a press release from the lawyers representing the team.

Players on the men’s national team can also play on the NHL — where the minimum salary is more than half a million dollars. The NWHL, meanwhile, recently slashed its salaries, which were $10,000-$26,000 before the pay reduction.

In short, there’s “no apples to apples comparison” between the financial positions of the male and female Olympic teams, says John Langel, a lawyer representing the women’s team.

But their protest extends beyond paychecks. The women say there are pervasive, possibly illegal inequities in how USA Hockey treats male and female players — in terms of equipment, meals, hotel accommodations, staffing, marketing and PR, among other things.

The team’s lawyers highlight youth programs, in particular:

“At the younger levels, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million dollars annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its National Team Development Program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls, and the Women’s National Team plays only nine games in non-Olympic years. Over the course of its yearlong negotiations, the players have made repeated requests of USA Hockey for increased playing opportunities and financial support consistent with the boys’ teams.”

In a press release, USA Hockey said it was “disappointed” by the players’ decision to boycott the championships.

“USA Hockey has a long-standing commitment to the support, advancement and growth of girls and women’s hockey and any claims to the contrary are unfounded,” the organization said.

It also suggested that has “proactively” increased its financial support for the women’s team, and is preparing a package that “could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period.”

Duggans and Langel say that’s misleading. Most of those funds wouldn’t come from USA Hockey. The figure represents mainly the money the players would get anyway from the USOC, and is variable, depending on whether they win a medal, and what kind of medal.

It also only addresses payments during an Olympic year, not in the other three years that the women have to train and compete, the team says.

Besides, the stipend increase “does nothing to address the marketing and training support [which] is not on par with what it provides to the mens’ and boys’ teams,” the women’s team said in a statement.

In the USA Hockey statement, president Jim Smith says, “USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so.”

Duggan said that was “difficult” to hear.

“They tell us when to be places, how long to be there … we base where we live, what we do, when our alarms go off, when we sleep, what we eat, based on their orders, and their anticipation that we will show up and perform for them when asked.

“It is our life, every day, every minute — it’s for USA Hockey and this program.”

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Movie Twins? Weirdly Similar Films That Came Out Within Months Of Each Other

Life and Alien: Covenant (both 2017 films) are about astronauts who have disastrous encounters with extraterrestrials. Pictured: Katherine Waterston (left) in Alien: Covenant and Jake Gyllenhaal in Life.

Mark Rogers via Twentieth Century Fox; Courtesy of Sony Pictures

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Mark Rogers via Twentieth Century Fox; Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The new movie Life, which opens Friday, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn’t uncommon in Hollywood.

Rival studios often stare each other down, refusing to blink, in showdowns that didn’t need to happen. In 1998, Earth-snuffing asteroids were blown up in the nick of time by nuclear warheads not once, but twice: with much electronic beeping and enormous special effects in Armageddon, and slightly higher beeping and enormous special effects in Deep Impact. That same year, animated insects skittered onto movie screens in both Antz and A Bug’s Life — and all of that just one year after dueling lava flows erupted in Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

Hollywood is not a big town. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, and movies that cost millions of dollars require many people and many months of development. Yet still they end up with Red Planet and Mission to Mars in 2000; two romantic comedies about presidential daughters in 2004 (Chasing Liberty and First Daughter); and two animated penguin movies in 2006/2007 (Happy Feet with animated dancing penguins, and Surf’s Up with animated surfing penguins).

(Left) Gary Sinise plays a man on a rescue mission in Mission to Mars. (Right) Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker and Val Kilmer try to make Mars habitable for humans in Red Planet.

Rob McEwan via Getty Images; Frank Connor/Warner Bros./Newsmakers via Getty Images

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Rob McEwan via Getty Images; Frank Connor/Warner Bros./Newsmakers via Getty Images

One film in each of these pairs will necessarily emerge victorious at the box office, but both will arguably be damaged by their proximity. So why bring them out together? Well, it can sometimes make a perverse kind of sense. 1992 saw rival movies about Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage. (Entirely understandable, considering 500th anniversaries don’t come around often.) And with everyone figuring there was a chance they’d sail off the end of the world, it was, at least theoretically, a good story. Still, both 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery sank like stones at the box office, even though one had Marlon Brando and the other Gérard Depardieu (don’t ask me which was which).

At least there was a reason for those to come out at the same time, as opposed to 2013’s two presidential kidnapping movies (White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen) or 1985’s competing high school nerd comedies (Real Genius and Weird Science), or, for that matter, dueling Christ-story musicals. Godspell was still a hit off-Broadway in 1972, and if it had waited a year, it might’ve been one on-screen, too; but put it in a multiplex opposite big-budget Andrew Lloyd Webber and it’s bound to look puny — which is precisely what happened when Jesus Christ Superstar opened.

Hollywood history is littered with corpses from other double dust-ups, but sometimes lightning strikes more than twice. Three vampire flicks opened in ’79 — Nosferatu the Vampyre,Dracula and Love at First Bite. And then there was the year (’87/’88) that audiences had to choose among four body-switching comedies: George Burns had an accident that made him, as the title had it, 18 Again!; Judge Reinhold touched a magic Tibetan skull and switched places with his son in Vice Versa; Dudley Moore took a potion to do the same thing in Like Father Like Son; and in Big it was an amusement park wish that turned a little boy into Tom Hanks. (Audiences only showed up en masse for Big.)

Now, there have also been times when Hollywood duplication involved a bit of duplicity. When Gone with the Wind was still auditioning Scarlett O’Haras, Warner Bros. decided to steal MGM’s thunder by beating it into theaters with a Confederacy epic of its own. It bought the rights to the Broadway play Jezebel, cast Bette Davis as its vain, self-destructive Southern belle, shot it more cheaply in black and white, and opened it while Gone with the Wind was still shooting. Jezebel won Davis an Oscar, which gave Warner Bros. bragging rights in February 1939 — bragging rights that pretty much evaporated a few months later.

Close on Scarlett and Rhett’s heels came two biopics about the guy who ended their way of life: Young Mr. Lincoln starring Henry Fonda, and Abe Lincoln in Illinois starring Raymond Massey. Biopics often seem to inspire a herd instinct in Tinseltown. Both Oscar Wilde and The Trials of Oscar Wilde came out, as it were, in 1960. More recently, there was a big year for another gay icon, with two stars not only doing Truman Capote impressions but telling the same stories: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Toby Jones in Infamous.

Infamous was an indie, while Capote was from a major studio, which perhaps explained the overlap. That was also true of two competing blonde bombshell biopics about Jean Harlow in 1965. One starred Carroll Baker and the other Carol Lynley — two Carols in films released months apart called, believe it or not, Harlow and Harlow. It’s as though the producers had a death wish.

Still, if films are sufficiently different in tone, there won’t be audience confusion. In 1964 — after the Cuban missile crisis and with the whole world nervous about the Cold War turning hot — there were two movies about the start of World War III. Nuclear annihilation played straight in Fail-Safe and for laughs in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. There were no reports of moviegoers laughing at the wrong movie.

1997’s Volcano (Tommy Lee Jones, left) and Dante’s Peak (Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, right) both feature eruptions and humans running around in a panic.

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About a decade after that, for the first time in Hollywood history, wiser heads prevailed. Two best-selling novels about burning skyscrapers were optioned by Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. Irwin Allen, who had just made The Poseidon Adventure, suggested they do something that no major studios had ever done before: join forces and make The Towering Inferno.

Not that there weren’t issues. Fox had Steve McQueen under contract, Warner Bros. had Paul Newman, and both insisted on top billing, which was tricky. McQueen also insisted not just that his salary equal Newman’s but that they have the same number of lines. (You can almost feel the screenwriters divvying them up.)

Still, audiences got a bigger movie, and Fox and Warner Bros. got the biggest attendance of 1974 — roughly the same as for one of the Lord of the Rings movies. So everybody won, proving that it can be profitable to not go head-to-head. Which is not to suggest that Hollywood has learned that lesson: Witness last year’s twin terrible opera singers Marguerite and Florence Foster Jenkins, and the not two, but seven Robin Hood movies currently in development, including feminist, punk-pop and dystopian-future versions. Because the gazillion previous ones listed in IMDB just weren’t enough.

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3 Women Blinded By Unproven Stem Cell Treatments

A colored scanning electron micrograph of two human retinal stem cells, shown in brown and red.

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Professor Miodrag Stojkovic/Science Source

Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it’s always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they’re not used carefully.

Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy.

In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes.

In a second report, a patient suffering from the same condition had a halt in the inexorable loss of vision patients usually experience, which may or may not have been related to the treatment. That patient got a different kind of stem cell derived from skin cells as part of a carefully designed Japanese study.

The Japanese case marks the first time anyone has given induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to a patient to treat any condition.

“These two reports are about as stark a contrast as it gets,” says George Q. Daley, Harvard Medical School’s dean and a leading stem cell researcher. He wrote an editorial accompanying the two papers. “It’s really striking.”

The report about the three women in their 70s and 80s who were blinded in Florida is renewing calls for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the hundreds of clinics that are selling unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke.

“One of the big mysteries about this particular case and the mushrooming stem cell clinic industry more generally is why the FDA has chosen to effectively sit itself out on the sidelines even as this situation overall grows increasingly risky to patients,” says Paul Knoepfler, a University of California, Davis, stem cell researcher who has studied the proliferation of stem cell clinics.

“The inaction by the FDA not only puts many patients at serious risk from unproven stem cell offerings, but also it undermines the agency’s credibility,” Knoepfler wrote in an email.

In response to a query from Shots, an FDA spokeswoman wrote in an email that the agency is in the process of finalizingfournew guidelines aimed at clarifying how clinics could use stem cells as treatments. The agency also noted that it had previously issued a warning to patients.

In the meantime, “consumers are encouraged to contact FDA and the appropriate state authorities in their jurisdictions to report any potentially illegal or harmful activity related to stem cell based products,” the FDA email says.

Other researchers say the cases should stand as a warning to patients considering unproved stem cell treatments, especially those tried outside carefully designed research studies.

“Patients have to be wary and tell the difference between the snake oil salesmen who are going to exploit them and the kind of slow, painstaking legitimate clinical trials that are also going on,” Daley says.

The New England Journal of Medicine report did not name the Florida clinic, but noted that the treatment was listed on a government website that serves as a clearinghouse for research studies. The sponsor is listed as Bioheart, Inc., which is part of U.S. Stem Cell Inc. in Sunrise, Fla.

Kristen Comella, the scientific director of U.S. Stem Cell, would not discuss the cases. “There were legal cases associated with eye patients that were settled under confidentiality, so I am not permitted to speak on any details of those cases due to the confidentiality clause,” Comella said by phone.

She acknowledged, however, that the clinic had been performing the stem cell procedures. They were discontinued after at least two patients suffered detached retinas, she says.

But Comella defended the use of stem cells from fat tissue to treat a wide variety of other health problems.

“We have treated more than 7,000 patients and we’ve have had very few adverse events reported. So the safety track record is very strong,” Comella says. “We feel very confident about the procedures that we do, and we’ve had great success in many different indications.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine report, The Florida clinic was using adult stem cells, which circulate in various parts of the body, including in fat tissue. While those cells may someday be turn out to be useful for treating disease, none have been proven to work.

The body produces a variety of stem cells. The kind that have generated the most excitement — and controversy — are human embryonic stem cells, which are derived from early human embryos and can be coaxed to become any kind of cell in the body.

Scientists are also excited about iPS cells, which can be made in the laboratory by turning any cell in the body, such as skin cells, into cells that resemble embryonic stem cells.

Those are the cells that were tested by the Japanese scientists. The stem cells were converted into retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells, which are the cells that are destroyed by macular degeneration.

“This represents a landmark,” says Daley. “It’s the first time any patient has been treated with cellular derivatives of iPS cells. So it’s definitely a world first.”

Daley noted that the scientists only treated one of the patient’s eyes in case something went wrong, to ensure remaining vision would not be threatened in the other eye.

After at least a year, no complications had occurred and the patient had not experienced any further deterioration of vision in the treated eye. While that is promising, more patients would have to be treated and followed for much longer to know whether that approach is successful, Daley says.

“Given that macular degeneration is the most frequent cause of vision loss and blindness in the elderly and our population is aging, the prevalence of macular degeneration is going up dramatically,” Daley says. “So to be able to preserve or even restore sight would be a really remarkable medical advance.”

Despite the potentially encouraging results with the first patient, Daley noted that the Japanese scientists decided not to treat a second patient and suspended the study. That’s because they discovered worrisome genetic variations in the RPE cells they had produced for the second patient.

“They weren’t certain these would cause problems for the patient, but they were restrained enough and cautious enough that they decided not to go forward,” Daley says. “That’s what contrasts so markedly with the approach of the second group, who treated the three patients with an unproven stem cell therapy that ended up have devastating effects on their vision.”

In this case, the New England Journal of Medicine report says, patients paid $5,000 each to receive injections of solutions that supposedly contained stem cells that were obtained from fat removed from their abdomens through liposuction.

Even though the safety and effectiveness of this procedure is unknown, all three patients received injections in both eyes.

“That’s what led to these horrible results,” says Thomas Albini, a retina specialist at the University of Florida’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, who helped write the report.

Before the procedure, all three women still had at least some vision. Afterwards, one woman was left completely blind while the other two were effectively blind, Albini and his colleagues reported.

The cases show that patients need to be warned that something that “sounds too good to be true may indeed be too good to be true and may even be horrible,” Albini says.

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Former Drug Czar Says GOP Health Bill Would Cut Access To Addiction Treatment

Michael Botticelli, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on attacking America’s epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse.

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Alex Brandon/AP

Michael Botticelli served as President Obama’s director of National Drug Control Policy, and pushed Congress to pass a funding measure last year making more money available for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Now he’s concerned that the proposed Republican health plan will reduce access to health services for people with addiction.

“We know that people with addiction, and particularly in the opioid epidemic, need access to high quality health care in general,” Botticelli told NPR.

“We know that many people who are injecting drugs have viral hepatitis. We’ve seen outbreaks in parts of the country with people with HIV. … People need access to high-quality, comprehensive health care if they’re really going to deal with these issues.”

Botticelli discussed access to addiction treatment with NPR’s Robert Siegel, including how the proposed Republican health plan differs from the approach taken by the Obama administration and the broad societal effects of widespread opioid abuse. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On historically sparse coverage of addiction treatment

We knew going into the Obama administration that, historically, only a small percentage of people were able to access [addiction] care in the United States, about 10 percent, largely based on their inability to pay, not having insurance coverage, or having insurance coverage that didn’t cover addiction treatment services. So a large part not only of the Affordable Care Act but of our work with Congress was to pass the President’s budget proposal to give states and local [governments] additional resources for this.

On the societal cost of addiction

I would say we all pay the price for untreated addiction. Certainly we know that it raises health care costs. We know that untreated addiction actually has other costs to it, associated with crime and prison costs, that drive up our taxes. We have seen what historically has been a bipartisan effort to really use addiction treatment to make sure that we’re not filling our jails and prisons with people. So we’re all paying the cost for this.

Given the magnitude of this issue, I’ve been hard-pressed to find a family that hasn’t been impacted by addiction and particularly the opioid epidemic.

On Congressional support for addiction treatment funding

We had a tremendous amount of bipartisan support. Every member of Congress understands the impact that addiction, and particularly the opioid epidemic, has been having on their communities. Then-candidate Trump certainly heard this on the campaign trail, and quite honestly promised access to treatment as one of the prime strategies. So it’s… perplexing to me that members of Congress who support this [proposed health care] bill know the devastating effect that not having, and ratcheting back, addiction coverage is going to have, particularly for people in their districts.

On the potential effects of decreased access to addiction treatment

I think it’s not hyperbolic to forecast that we’re going to see dramatic increases in mortality associated with drug overdose deaths [if the proposed bill goes into effect.] I think we’re likely to see a significant impact on our emergency departments. Certainly we know crime rates go up with people with untreated addiction. … We know that untreated addiction has a nexus to homelessness. So the implications for this are profound, not only in terms of the mortality that we see with drug overdoses, but in health and human services and public safety systems.

On controlling the drug supply in the U.S.

Our approach to drug policy under the Obama administration really tried to strike this balance between supply and demand. In my interactions with the Mexican government, I made very clear that the United States has an obligation to reduce the demand for drugs, which we know will continue to prompt supply, but that the Mexican government had a responsibility as well to help us in this battle by reducing the supply, particularly of heroin and fentanyl that we see.

I have a lot of concerns in terms of the rhetoric that we hear now. Are we going to see the same of cooperation from the Mexican government to meet their obligations in this battle?

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NPR's Facebook Audience Picks Villanova As NCAA Men's Basketball Champions

Kris Jenkins (2) of the Villanova Wildcats shoots the game-winning 3-pointer to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Whether you’re a Bobcat, Colonial, Catamount or Bulldog, there’s nearly no doubt you’ve heard of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that kicks off in full on Thursday.

On Tuesday, we asked NPR’s Facebook audience to pick all 67 games of the NCAA Tournament, and you came through, ultimately picking the Villanova Wildcats to repeat as men’s basketball champions. You can watch the broadcast in the videos attached to the story.

The second video is every pick from the second round until the national championship game.

You can see the bracket chosen solely by our Facebook audience below. Judging by the comments, the audience picked based on basketball knowledge, uniform colors, mascot strength and other criteria. During the broadcast, we offered up mascot matchups between teams: Would you choose a wildcat over a cavalier? (to represent the Villanova vs. Virginia game)

The NPR audience bracket selections


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Frankly, there were so many emoji picks that we lost count, but rest assured that more than 200,000 people saw the stream and could participate if they so chose. We’re thankful for all of you who did. Over the combined 2 1/2-hour broadcast, our Facebook audience ultimately ended up with a fairly favorite-heavy bracket.

  • Your Final Four teams consisted of No. 1 seeds Villanova and Gonzaga, along with No. 2 Louisville and No. 3 UCLA.
  • There’s a huge upset early, but we’re not sure if you all think the No. 15 Troy Trojans have a legitimate shot or the Internet just really hates Duke.
  • Solely based on region ranks, the audience chose 14 upsets out of 32 first-round games (three were 8-9 matchups, with another three between 7-10 matchups).
  • The lowest-ranked team that went the furthest in the tournament was the No. 10 Marquette Golden Eagles, making it all the way to the Elite Eight (East Region Final), but they were the beneficiary of the biggest upset pick by the audience of No. 15 Troy over No. 2 Duke.

Nipper the Newshound, played by NPR staffer Becky Harlan, talks to the hosts during NPR Live’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament show. Nipper (the dog) is NPR’s unofficial mascot and an affectionate name for NPR staffers.

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Kara Frame/NPR

    We submitted the bracket chosen by the audience to ESPN (as of Wednesday afternoon, we were already eliminated from perfect bracket contention since the audience chose Wake Forest over Kansas State in the First Four matchup from Tuesday evening). Since we were actually pretty tired after yesterday’s broadcast, we didn’t get the submission in until Wednesday morning, so in all fairness, we just replaced Wake Forest with Kansas State and had it go as far as you chose Wake Forest to advance.

    One last thing: We have created a group tournament challenge between the NPR Live team and other NPR staffers. We’d like you to join as well and compete against us and NPR’s audience. There are no prizes being given, but you will be able to tout your picking prowess should you come out on top. You can create your bracket at ESPN in the Nipper Live group with the password “gooddognipper” (sans quotes).

    We’ll revisit your picks from Tuesday throughout the tournament and see just how well NPR’s audience knows its basketball, even if we’re not going to beat those 1 in 9.24-quintillion odds of a perfect bracket.

    NPR staffers (also known as Nippers) Joe Ruiz, Julie Rogers and Laura Roman appear on NPR Live discussing the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Rogers, a historian on NPR’s Research, Archives and Data Strategy team, is representing her alma mater, the Wisconsin Badgers, with her choice of headwear.

    Kara Frame/NPR

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    Kara Frame/NPR

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