Strand Of Oaks On World Cafe

Strand Of Oaks performs at WXPN’s Free At Noon concert at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN

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Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN

  • “Hard Love”
  • “Cry”
  • “Radio Kids”

Timothy Showalter is the band called Strand of Oaks. Originally from Indiana, Showalter now lives in Philadelphia, where he’s reimagined himself as a rocker after releasing a couple of quieter albums. This latest phase of his career started with his well-received 2014 album Heal; he recently released the follow-up, Real Love.

The never-reticent musician joins World Cafe to talk about the volatile relationship that has provided fodder for songs on both Heal and Hard Love. In this interview, Showalter says he’s beginning to get a handle on the pull between domesticity and the call of the wild. He also discusses reconnecting with his rock ‘n’ roll adolescence via an anthem on Hard Love called “Radio Kids,” which he says had an ecstatic birth. “I knew it was good because I was, like, sweating with excitement after it was done,” he says. “My wife would get home from work and she would be like, ‘What is the matter with you?’ and I would just be like pacing manically and being like ‘I did something today.’ “


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South X Lullaby: DakhaBrakha

To call what DakhaBrakha does “folk music” completely misses a world of inspiration and sound, both here on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. The mostly-acoustic, utterly unique Ukrainian band mixes traditions from its homeland, but goes wide too, with West African rhythms and Indian drones to create a wild, thrilling texture (especiallylive).

Late at night, we asked DakhaBrakha to bring its cello, keyboard, accordion – and tall, wool hats! — to the balcony of a hotel overlooking Austin, Texas. They played “Kolyskova” from 2010’s Light, but the band only ever calls it “Lullaby.” It’s a quiet, contemplative song that the band says is a “connecting of several lullabies” with “philosophical lyrics that [say] we have time for everything — time to laugh and cry, time to live and die.”

  • “Kolyskova”

Producers: Bob Boilen, Mito Habe-Evans; Director/Videographer: Nickolai Hammar; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Photo: Nickolai Hammar; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann.

Support for NPR Music comes from Blue Microphone.

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Nevada On Cusp Of Ratifying Equal Rights Amendment 35 Years After Deadline

Spectators look down on the Nevada Assembly on the opening day of the legislative session in Carson City, Nev., in February. On Monday, members of the Assembly voted to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment.

Lance Iversen/AP

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Lance Iversen/AP

Nevada has taken a crucial step closer to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment — roughly 35 years after a deadline imposed by Congress. The state’s Assembly approved the long-dormant measure in a largely party-line vote on Monday, sending it back to the state Senate for a final blessing.

Earlier this month, state senators approved the ERA, which among other things guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Now they they are expected to sign off on the minor technical changes added to the resolution since it left their chamber.

It has been a long, twisty path for the ERA, which was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977. Since then, the amendment has teetered just three states short of the threshold necessary to see it adopted into law nationwide — a threshold it failed to achieve by the time Congress’ deadline came and went.

But for ERA supporters such as Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, that deadline is little more than a paper tiger.

“It was in the resolving clause, but it wasn’t a part of the amendment that was proposed by Congress,” she tells KNPR. “That’s why the time limit is irrelevant.”

After all, Spearman and others argue, Congress’ original ratification deadline was 1979, and national lawmakers already bumped that forward to 1982 — so what’s stopping them from bumping it forward again?

“The Equal Rights Amendment is about equality, period,” says Spearman, the Nevada bill’s chief sponsor. A former Army lieutenant colonel and one of two openly gay senators in the Legislature, she says that regardless of timing, the goals of the amendment endure.

“We have delayed passage long enough,” she says. “Now is the time to show the country, and the global neighborhood, we as Nevadans lead when it comes to equality for all.”

Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, who fought for women’s suffrage, rests after marching with supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington, D.C., in 1977. The last state to ratify the ERA, Indiana, did so that same year.


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The measure’s Republican critics aren’t convinced.

Many of them argue the ERA would be a detriment to families and a boost to abortion rights activists, while still others find the exercise useless, given the lapsed deadline. They say the more laudable aspects of the amendment have been rendered obsolete by the enactment of separate laws that fulfill the same function.

And then, there’s the matter of that deadline, which Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus is far less inclined to dismiss. She says she was “deeply disturbed by the theatrics” of ratifying an overdue amendment, according to the Los Angeles Times. As she tells the newspaper, “I don’t believe my constituents sent me to cast symbolic votes with no chance of success.”

“I would argue that this chamber is full of symbolism,” Jill Tolles, the sole Republican assemblywoman who voted for the measure, tells the Reno Gazette-Journal, adding:

“On my left hand, I wear a ring that symbolizes my promise to love and respect and be faithful to one man for the rest of my life. We stand underneath a seal that reminds us that we are a battle born state and home means Nevada. We pledge allegiance to a flag every single day to celebrate the freedom that was so hard fought for.”

For pro-ERA groups such as the National Organization for Women, the matter is more than simply symbolic. After Indiana became the 35th state to ratify the amendment, in 1977, the group pursued what it called a “three-state strategy” — a plan to identify and persuade the states it needed to put it over the threshold.

That plan didn’t succeed, but Nevada has given NOW President Terry O’Neill new cause for hope.

“Now it’s a two-state strategy,” she tells the Times. “It’s very exciting. Over the past five years, Illinois and Virginia have come close. I think there is clear interest in this.”

For now Nevada lawmakers — who don’t need GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature but have his support — still aim to finish what they started this month. The final state Senate vote is expected to take place Wednesday, 45 years to the day since Congress passed the ERA.

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Scientists launch campaign to restore Pluto to the planet club

FILE PHOTO – Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. Courtesy NASA/Handout via


A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on Tuesday to broaden the astronomical classifications which led to its demotion to a “dwarf planet” a decade ago.

Six scientists from institutions across the United States argued that Pluto deserves to be a full planet, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth’s moon.

In a paper presented at an international planetary science conference at The Woodlands, Texas, the scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, struggling with how to classify a newly discovered icy body beyond Pluto, adopted a definition for a planet based on characteristics that include clearing other objects from its orbital path.

Pluto and its newfound kin in the solar system’s distant Kuiper Belt region were reclassified as dwarf planets, along with Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The decision left the solar system with eight planets.

But this definition sidelines the research interests of most planetary scientists, said the paper’s lead author, Kirby Runyon, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Runyon said he and other planetary scientists are more interested in a planet’s physical characteristics, such as its shape and whether it has mountains, oceans and an atmosphere.

“If you’re interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless,” he said by phone.

Runyon and colleagues argue that the IAU does not have the authority to set the definition of a planet.

“There’s a teachable moment here for the public in terms of scientific literacy and in terms of how scientists do science,” Runyon added. “And that is not by saying, ‘Let’s agree on one thing.’ That’s not science at all.”

Runyon’s group advocates for a sub-classification system, similar to biology’s hierarchal method. This approach would categorize Earth’s moon as a type of planet.

That idea irks California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown, who discovered the Kuiper Belt object that cast Pluto out of the planet club.

“It really takes blinders to not look at the solar system and see the profound differences between the eight planets in their stately circular orbits and then the millions and millions of tiny bodies flitting in and out between the planets and being tossed around by them,” he wrote in an email.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Leslie Adler)

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Harvard Scientists Call For Better Rules To Guide Research On 'Embryoids'

Embryoids like this one are created from stem cells and resemble very primitive human embryos. Scientists are studying them in hopes of learning more about basic human biology and development.

Courtesy of Rockefeller University

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Courtesy of Rockefeller University

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That’s the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They’re using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of “synthetic biology” research might be treading into disturbing territory.

“We don’t know where this going to go,” says John Aach, a lecturer in genetics at Harvard Medical School. “This is just the beginning of this field.”

Aach helped write a paper in the journal eLife, published Tuesday, calling for an international effort to establish guidelines for this provocative area of research.

While all this may sound like something out of Frankenstein, the goal is to find new ways to decipher the mysteries of human biology and to discover novel treatments for health problems ranging from infertility to aging.

“We want to understand biology of natural human development and disease and come up with ways of addressing the problems of disease,” Aach says. “The more precisely you can make something that is like a tissue or a system of tissues in a dish, the easier it is to experiment on it.”

But in the process of conducting their experiments, Aach and his lab colleagues realized scientists might cross disturbing ethical lines.

For example, scientists could create primitive beating hearts and primordial brains.

“How much moral concern should we have for these things? If it has a brain that doesn’t look like a human brain, but it operates like one, it could still feel pain,” Aach says.

Some scientists have already started creating entities that resemble the very early stages of human embryos. Scientists use different names to describe them. They’re sometimes called “embryoids,” but Aach’s group has dubbed them “SHEEFs” — synthetic human entities with embryo-like features.

In some of these experiments, researchers have seen early signs of the formation of the “primitive streak,” which is the beginning of a central nervous system and, potentially, the ability to sense pain.

That work raises the prospect that the experiments might violate the 14-day rule, which has been in place for decades to avoid raising too many ethical concerns about experimenting on human embryos. Two weeks into embryonic development is usually when the primitive streak begins to appear.

But Aach and his colleagues argue that the 14-day rule, which is a guideline in the United States and law in some other countries, has become outdated by this latest generation of experiments.

It’s based on the predictable, linear development of a normal human embryo. But the new synthetic biology techniques do not necessarily follow that road map.

“The primitive streak was like a stop sign,” Aach says. “If you stopped there you would never get a brain. You would never get a heart. You would never get something that would be morally concerning.”

“But now with these tissue engineering and stem cell techniques you can simply go around that,” Aach says. “You could create something at a point beyond that. It might become sentient.”

It’s also possible that some day these embryoids could become so much like a normal human embryo that they could actually be used to create a baby.

So, in essence, “you’ve gone off-road,” Aach says. “With these synthetic tissues there’s no longer one highway of development. A stop sign is no longer good enough.”

The ethical concerns are not just limited to structures that resemble embryos, Aach says.

As a result, he and the co-authors of the report say new guidelines are needed to replace that clear stop sign with something that’s more like a guardrail or fence that will keep scientists from inadvertently steering into ethically troubling terrain.

“What we’re proposing is, instead of doing stop signs, we get these perimeter fences — where there’s an agreement that there’s an area of concern,” Aach says.

For example, scientists, philosophers, bioethicists and others may reach a consensus that “we can’t make a brain that will allow it to feel pain” or “we can’t make something like a heart — but we can make up to it,” Aach says, “as long as it doesn’t start beating.”

Others scientists praised the researchers for raising these tough issues early.

“I absolutely support this,” Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz tells Shots in an email; she is doing similar research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “The time is right to begin discussion of these issues in a forum that includes scientists and has a wide representation of society,” Zernicka-Goetz says.

Some bioethicists also welcomed a debate about these issues.

“I really have to give them credit for raises these issues proactively,” says Insoo Hyun, a Case Western Reserve University bioethicist. “Our current standards for oversight and ethics are not adequate to capture this new area of science.”

But it could be difficult to draw the line in some cases, Hyun notes, such as in experiments aimed at developing treatments for pain or those aiming to understanding the heart better.

“Those types of experiments may be exactly the point of why you’d want to create a synthetic entity that does have some kind of pain sensation, or that has some sort of neural network, or has some sort of heart beat, if that’s actually the body system you want to study,” Hyun says.

And, he says, there may be some experiments people find disturbing on a visceral level.

“Some people may just find that the experiments are just kind of creepy,” Hyun says. “There may be some people concerned about scientists taking the research too far, creating entities in the dish that are quasi-human — and [that they] de-value life in the process.”

Ali Brivanlou, an embryologist at the Rockefeller University who is conducting some of the most advanced work in this area, also says he welcomes a debate. But worried about putting too many limitations on the research.

“We have to dive into this carefully, but I think we really need to move forward,” he tells Shots. “I think it’s important that we don’t somehow let religion or political conviction be a guiding force in this argument. The truth has to come from science.”

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Martin McGuinness, A Former IRA Leader And A Peacemaker, Dies At 66

Martin McGuinness, seen here arriving at 10 Downing Street in central London last October for meetings in his role as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, has died at age 66.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

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Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness, who left violence behind to choose peace — and eventually meet Queen Elizabeth II — has died at age 66. For nearly a decade, McGuinness served as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister.

From London, NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports:

“McGuinness retired from politics in January, suffering from a rare genetic disease. Today, he was lauded for his crucial role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.

But he was also remembered for his early days as a ruthless commander of the IRA, notorious for bombings and responsible for 1,800 killings during the so-called Troubles.”

In many ways, the unusual arc of McGuinness’s public life culminated in his 2012 meeting with the queen. The two smiled and looked each other in the eye as they shook hands; both of them said it was an important moment for peace.

McGuinness met Queen Elizabeth at least one other time: in November, the pair again shook hands and exchanged pleasantries during the unveiling of a large portrait of the monarch in London.

The encounters were an extraordinary development for a former senior leader of the IRA, the group that in 1979 used a bomb to kill Lord Louis Mountbatten, the uncle of Prince Philip and a distant cousin to the queen who had also held leadership posts in the British armed forces.

Discussing that sort of violence in 2013, McGuinness said, “regrettably the past cannot be changed or undone.” As reported by The Irish Times, he added, “Neither can the suffering, the hurt or the violence of the conflict be disowned by Republicans or any other party to the conflict.”

Responding to the death of his longtime ally, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

“He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the re-unification of his country. But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Martin McGuinness today. His passing represents a significant loss, not only to politics in Northern Ireland but to the wider political landscape on this island and beyond.

“Martin will always be remembered for the remarkable political journey that he undertook in his lifetime. Not only did Martin come to believe that peace must prevail, he committed himself to working tirelessly to that end.”

Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement saying in part:

“While we certainly didn’t always see eye-to-eye even in later years, as deputy First Minister for nearly a decade he was one of the pioneers of implementing cross community power sharing in Northern Ireland. He understood both its fragility and its precious significance and played a vital part in helping to find a way through many difficult moments.

“At the heart of it all was his profound optimism for the future of Northern Ireland – and I believe we should all hold fast to that optimism today.”

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Good luck coins prove fatal for Thai “piggy bank” turtle

A 25-year-old Thai sea turtle died from blood poisoning on Tuesday, never recovering from an operation to remove 915 coins from her stomach, thrown into her pool for good luck, veterinarians said.

The green turtle named Omsin, “piggy bank” in Thai, underwent a seven-hour-long operation this month to remove 5 kg (11 lb) of coins which she had mistaken for food.

But Omsin, who lived at a conservation center in Chonburi, east of the Thai capital Bangkok, was rushed into intensive care on Sunday night, breathing too slowly. She received an emergency operation on Monday, after which she went into a coma.

Her fate had preoccupied Thais, who cherish turtles as a symbol of longevity, and the vets had urged people to pray for her recovery.

“Her cause of death is blood poisoning,” one of the vets told reporters.

The gap in Omsin’s stomach left by the removal of the coins caused her intestine to become strangled, blocking blood flow, the vets said. Acute infection in the intestine then caused blood infection.

They also said they would perform an autopsy on Omsin as a case study, which would benefit the treatment of turtles in the future.

“She is our teacher,” another vet said.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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'You know there's crocs there' says teen bitten after jumping in river

An Australian teenager who was bitten by a crocodile when he jumped into a river in northern Queensland on a dare is now recovering in hospital and looking forward to a date with the British backpacker he was trying to impress.

Lee De Paauw, 18, had met Sophie Paterson while drinking at with a group of friends into the early hours of Sunday morning at a backpackers’ hostel in Innisfail in northern Queensland.

According to local media, De Paauw told Paterson that backpackers were more likely to get eaten by crocodiles than Australians, and was ready to back up his words.

Accepting a dare to jump from the wharf into the crocodile-infested Johnstone River, he was grabbed almost immediately by a crocodile.

“At that point, I punched it in the snout”, De Paauw said from his hospital bed in Cairns. “My second hit, I got it straight in the eye, and then it let go.”

De Paauw suffered serious injuries to his left arm and underwent surgery at Cairns Hospital.

“I think he’s very brave to be, you know, in such high spirits after what happened,” said Paterson, who said she has agreed to go on a date with De Paauw.

“She’s beautiful, caring and kind,” said De Paauw.

Asked to account for his own actions, De Paauw was under no illusions.

“Stupidity,” De Paauw said, “You know there’s crocs there.”

(Reporting by Reuters Television, Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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U.S. To Ban Larger Personal Electronics From Cabins Of Some Flights From Mideast

U.S. officials tell wire services that laptops and other larger electronic devices will be banned from cabins of foreign airlines’ flights originating in eight countries.

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John Locher/AP

The U.S. government is preparing to require passengers arriving from eight Mideast or North African countries to put their electronics larger than a cellphone in their checked luggage, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Associated Press and Reuters. But certain medical devices will be permitted in the cabin.

The new security measure came to light when Jordanian Airlines disclosed it. The airline has deleted a tweet it posted, replacing it with a notice that more information is coming.

The AP reports that laptops, tablets and cameras are among the items covered by the alert regarding flights originating in eight countries:

“A U.S. official told The Associated Press the ban will apply to nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ban was indefinite, said the official.”

The countries involved are majority Muslim but aren’t those targeted by President Trump’s travel restrictions. The president’s revised executive order singled out Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. That order, like Trump’s first ban, has been blocked by federal courts and is under appeal.

No American carriers are to be covered by the ban, according to Reuters. The wires service also quotes congressional aides as saying Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called members of Congress over the weekend to notify them of the move.

The officials didn’t specify what threat had prompted the new measures.

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