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Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in Beyond The Lights, from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also directed Love & Basketball. (TIFF)

It's That Time Again: The Toronto International Film Festival

Sep 2, 2014

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Linda Holmes

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It's that time again, and by "that time," I mean "Canadian time." Because beginning Thursday, NPR's own Bob Mondello and I, along with Bilal Qureshi of All Things Considered, will be spending a week seeing movies at the Toronto International Film Festival, which your movie-nerd friends call "TIFF."

I wrote last year about the basic rhythms of the festival - its hugely packed schedule and colorful grids and huge collection of respected directors and actors. When I look at the ten films I watched in the first two days last year, it's remarkable to me how much I've forgotten some of them. I didn't even remember I'd seen The Fifth Estate, particularly, until I reminded myself that I did. Some of them, on the other hand, echoed over and over as I talked about film for the following year: The Past, Jodorowsky's Dune, and the charmer The Lunchbox (which I still hope you'll see, if you haven't).

This year's schedule is just as enticing and hard to pin down. My Day 1 currently includes Whiplash, a drama starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons; Mr. Turner, directed by Mike Leigh; The Voices, directed by graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi; Girlhood, directed by Celine Sciamma about a group of black high school students in Paris; and at least one player to be named later. And that's if I stick to the plan. I usually don't stick to the plan.

I've weeded out a couple of films about which you'll see TIFF coverage simply because they're opening so soon after we get back that I'll just see them then - first among them This Is Where I Leave You, based on a Jonathan Tropper novel I love and starring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Adam Driver, among others. I'm excited about the film, but the regular press screening is just after we return, so it's a small jump on the movie if any, and I'd rather take that time to seek out something less accessible from D.C.

I'm scheduled to gamble on Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, despite being less than blown away by Labor Day last year. I'm eager enough to see Anna Kendrick in The Last Five Years that I accidentally added it to my schedule twice. I have no idea whether Ruth & Alex, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, is any good, but I'm not sure I can resist the pairing. And do not think for one moment you are keeping me away from Beyond The Lights, the new romance from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who made 2000's delicate and deeply felt Love & Basketball.

It goes on from there: Chris Rock! Noah Baumbach! And, oh yes, Rosewater, which kept Jon Stewart out of the Daily Show chair long enough to allow for the rise of John Oliver.

Two years ago, I wrote up every movie I saw individually and almost broke my fingers from typing; I'm unlikely to do that again. But I'll bring you roundups and updates and whatever interesting business breaks while I'm there. Feel free to peruse the listings and make recommendations; maybe your pick will be a player to be named later.

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Gravel helps keep the floor level and prevents moisture from seeping up. The floor installers are Jean Pierre (left), a mason, and Daniel Shenyi, operations manager for EarthEnable. (Courtesy of EarthEnable)

When A Home Poses Health Risks, The Floor May Be The Culprit

by Hannah Bloch
Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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Most of us overlook the ground beneath our feet. But when Gayatri Datar, 28, looks at the floor, she sees an opportunity to improve public health.

A research trip to Rwanda last year, when she was a Stanford University M.B.A. student, transformed Datar's perspective. "I kept seeing dirt floors," she recalls. For those who had to live and sleep on them, "it was clearly an unsanitary environment. Dust is kicked up in the dry season. In the rainy season, there are puddles. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It's impossible to clean a dirt floor because it's just dirt."

Indeed, diarrhea, a leading killer of children in the developing world, spreads more easily in homes with dirt floors. So do respiratory and parasitic diseases. Because cleaning the floors is so difficult, fecal matter brought in on shoes or from dirty water spilled indoors tends to stay put, and children are especially likely to ingest it.

A 2007 World Bank study of a Mexican government program to replace dirt floors with concrete found that doing so "significantly improves the health of young children." Among the study's findings: "A complete substitution of dirt floors by cement floors in a house leads to a 78 percent reduction in parasitic infestations, a 49 percent reduction in diarrhea, an 81 percent reduction in anemia and a 36 to 96 percent improvement in cognitive development." Beyond this, adults reported "increased satisfaction with ... their quality of life."

Datar became preoccupied with figuring out a way to provide more healthful floors for the roughly 80 percent of Rwanda's 11.5 million population living in homes built directly on the ground. Back in California, she teamed up with other students to investigate the possibilities. Concrete, the most common replacement for dirt floors, is unaffordable for most Rwandans, costing nearly as much as many earn in an entire year.

But an eco-friendly home design trend in the Western United States could be translated easily to the Rwandan context: earthen floors. Also known as adobe, these are the dirt floor's more refined cousins — they still rely on materials from the ground, but with important extra steps.

To construct an earthen floor, a layer of gravel — to prevent water from seeping up and destroying the floor from underneath — is covered by a compressed mixture of sand, clay and natural fibers that is burnished and sealed. The seal creates a waterproof barrier and allows the floor to be washed.

"This is done in modern, beautiful homes in the United States," Datar says. "There was no reason not to do it in Rwanda."

In the United States, earthen floors are commonly sealed with linseed oil, which hardens into a dry, waterproof finish. But linseed oil is not readily available in Rwanda, and it's expensive.

So Datar enlisted Rick Zuzow, a Stanford biochemistry Ph.D. student, to devise an alternative. He uses soya oil, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain in Rwanda. When processed with a proprietary "special sauce," the result is a functional floor-sealing substitute. ("It will also work with corn oil," Zuzow says.). Five liters (1.3 gallons) of the oil, at $2 per liter, can treat floors covering a 20-square-meter (215-square-foot) space. The overall cost of installing a floor is about $50, a tenth the cost of a concrete floor for the same space, Datar says.

Datar set up EarthEnable, a nonprofit group that began manufacturing and installing earthen floors in Rwanda's Bugesera district, near Kigali, the capital, last year. A pilot project so far has provided 21 new floors to seven homes and trained 20 local masons to create and install the floors. Datar and her team aim to provide dozens more in the months to come. They'll be analyzing the health results as well. For now, residents of homes with new earthen floors are reporting less dust, fewer bugs (especially parasitic chigoe fleas, also known as jiggers), cleaner clothing and warmer rooms.

Families with young children seem especially pleased. In one home with nine kids, the single dirt-floor room where everyone slept "smelled awful when we started, as it was soiled," Datar says. The children "often wet the bed."

The top layer of dirt was dug out to make way for a new earthen floor. These days, Datar says, "The mother is incredibly happy to be able to finally clean her floor 'like all the other women.' "

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Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, is out now. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sinkane Makes Music For An Open World

Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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For more conversations with music-makers, check out NPR's Music Interviews.

Homepage photo: Martine Carlson

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
In this handout image made available by the photographer, American journalist Steven Sotloff (left) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line on June 2, 2011, in Misrata, Libya. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria. (Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images)

Islamic State Claims It Has Beheaded Second American Journalist

by Eyder Peralta
Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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An Islamic radical group released a video on Tuesday that purportedly shows the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had threatened Sotloff's life when it released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley two weeks ago.

At the time, the militants said Sotloff's life depended on the actions of the U.S. government, which has been targeting the group with airstrikes to stop its offensive in Iraq.

SITE Intel Group, which monitors Jihadist groups, posted a version of the video showing a man who looks like Sotloff kneeling next to a masked fighter holding a knife.

In his regular briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he was "not in a position to confirm the authenticity of the video or the reports."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff's family and those who worked with him," Earnest said. "The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff."

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. would try to authenticate the video quickly.

"If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act," she said.

Just last week, Sotloff's mother released an emotional video in which she pleaded with the Islamic State to spare her son's life.

Shirley Sotloff asked Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to grant her son amnesty, "to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad who protected people of the Book."

According to The Washington Post, Sotloff was a freelance journalist covering the civil war in Syria when he was captured in 2013. On his Twitter account, Sotloff described himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami," whose work has been published in Time and Foreign Policy.

Sotloff's mother said he was "an honorable man" who "has always tried to help the weak."

The New York Times reports that in the video released today, Sotloff says he is "paying the price" for the Obama administration's airstrikes in Iraq.

A masked fighter, the Times reports, appears besides Sotloff saying, "I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State."

SITE Intel Group reports that the masked fighter also threatens to execute an additional hostage.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

Industrial Hemp Is Poised For A Comeback, But Hemp Seeds Hard To Come By

Sep 2, 2014 (Here & Now / WBUR-FM)

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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For the first time in decades, industrial hemp crops were planted in Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont this spring. A dozen other states have passed legislation in support of hemp farming, and the latest farm bill eased restrictions on cultivation in some states.

Industrial hemp could be poised for a comeback in the U.S., but there are a couple of roadblocks. Hemp remains a controlled substance, according to the federal government, which says it is illegal to grow it or import viable hemp seeds for planting.

Still, some farmers are willing to take the risk. Reporter Jon Kalish visited some new hemp patches sprouting in Vermont and has this report.

Reporter

  • Jon Kalish, New York-based radio reporter, writer and producer.
Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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