Maybe we have Frank Capra to thank for the notion that in politics, at least as it plays out in the movies, the little guy is always the good guy. Stephen Gyllenhaal swallows that idea hook, line and sinker in Grassroots, in which an out-of-work Seattle music critic (Joel David Moore) runs for city council without bothering to think the issues through: He assumes he'll automatically change the status quo by donning a polar-bear costume and making an impassioned plea for extending the city's monorail system.
The General Services Administration, which is tasked with developing the rules followed by other government agencies, is back in the limelight for the money it spent on a one-day event in the Washington, D.C. area.
In a letter to House members, the agency's inspector general says it has launched an investigation after its initial findings showed the GSA spent $268,732 on the event.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: I'm Jackie Northam in Washington. Today at the U.N., Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution that warned of sanctions against the Syrian regime unless it complies with a peace plan.
This is the third time those two countries have used their veto power to block a resolution on Syria. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, called the decision by Russia and China appalling, and said it would lead to further bloodshed in Syria.
Early in this show, fellow guest Tim O'Brien joked that the Ontario-based Great Lake Swimmers "had better get started" if they hoped to make it to the show on time. They didn't actually swim – but it was still great to have the Toronto band on an episode of Mountain Stage recorded on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minn.
When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps steps onto a starting block a few days from now, a Stanford scientist named Krishna Shenoy will be asking himself a question: "What's going on in Michael Phelps' brain?"
Specifically, Shenoy would like to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex. This area doesn't directly tell muscles what to do. But it's the place where the brain gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming.
Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 11:39 am
If we were to make a list of all the recording and composing credits of the members of The Cookers, it would go on for many pages. The band is an amazing collection of veteran jazz musicians: Billy Hart (drums), Cecil McBee (bass), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet), Billy Harper (sax) and George Cables (piano).
The news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved the use of Truvada, an AIDS drug, to prevent infections in people who are HIV-negative is being greeted with skepticism, derision and even worry by some doctors in South Africa.
That's what one U.S. official says about the prospect that Syria's vast stockpile of chemical weapons might be used against rebel forces. From a U.S. national security standpoint, an even worse outcome would be for those weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.
Here's your vocabulary word for the week: zoonosis. It describes an infection that is transmitted between species. For example, the disease that the husband and wife team of Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy have written about in their new book, Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus.
Pam Houston directs the Creative Writing Program at U.C. Davis. Her most recent novel is Contents May Have Shifted.
Luang Prabang, Laos, is so close to the equator that daybreak happens at the same time each day. Also each day, a few dozen women set up rice cookers on small collapsible tables on street corners next to the more than 30 monasteries that grace this riverside town. If you get up with them and walk the silent streets in the misty Mekong predawn, you smell, under the sweetness of the frangipani blossoms, the thick odor of cooked starch.