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Top Stories: Missing Plane Latest; Why The Jet Stowaway Ran Away

Apr 23, 2014

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Korva Coleman

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— 'Object Of Interest' Found In Search For Malaysian Jet.

— Stowaway Teen May Have Been Trying To Reunite With His Mom.

And here are more early headlines:

Russia Warns Of Retaliation If Its Interests Attacked In Ukraine. (BBC)

Obama Arrives In Tokyo At Start Of Asia Trip. (AP)

Jump In Whooping Cough Cases In Southern California. (Los Angeles Times)

Report: Human Rights Group Claims Qatar Abusing Migrant Workers. (Amnesty International)

Report: U.S. Army General Disciplined For Bungling Sex Assault Cases. (Washington Post)

Senate Panel Talks Rising Sea Levels In Miami Beach Hearing. (Miami Herald)

It's Wrigley Field's 100th Birthday! (

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Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in 1982, died last week at age 87. (Getty Images)

Book News: Gabriel García Márquez Left An Unpublished Manuscript

by Annalisa Quinn
Apr 23, 2014

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Gabriel Garca Mrquez left behind an unpublished manuscript when he died last week at age 87, Cristobal Pera, editorial director of Penguin Random House Mexico, told The Associated Press. Pera added that Marquez's family has not yet decided whether to publish it. Meanwhile, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia published an extract of the work, tentatively titled We'll See Each Other in August (En agosto nos vemos). In the excerpt, a middle-aged woman named Ana Magdalena Bach has a fling during her annual trip to a tropical island to put flowers on her mother's grave. She stays at a hotel overlooking a lagoon full of herons. Ana, though she's married, meets a man at the hotel and begins an affair with him. The excerpt has a strong sense of place — Garca Mrquez's descriptions are lush with flowers and tropical life - and a ripple of eroticism travels through it, from the touch of perfume Ana puts behind her ear at the beginning of the chapter to the thunderstorm during her encounter with the man from the hotel.
  • David Foster Wallace's estate and his former publisher have come out in opposition to the making of the forthcoming film The End of the Tour, which is based on Wallace's conversations with journalist David Lipsky. In a press release, the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust wrote, "This motion picture is loosely based on transcripts from an interview David consented to eighteen years ago for a magazine article about the publication of his novel, 'Infinite Jest.' That article was never published and David would never have agreed that those saved transcripts could later be repurposed as the basis of a movie." It added that "there is no circumstance under which the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust would have consented to the adaptation of this interview into a motion picture, and we do not consider it an homage." Wallace committed suicide in 2008.
  • The Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world, will be awarded to Mexican author Elena Poniatowska on Wednesday in Spain. Previously won by Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz and Gabriel Garca Mrquez among others, the prize is worth 125,000 euros (about $173,000).
  • A previously unpublished story by Shirley Jackson, the writer best known for her story "The Lottery," is printed in The New Yorker. "The Man in the Woods" is a short, sinister story about a man named Christopher who walks through dark woods to find an isolated house surrounded by trees, "the forest only barely held back by the stone wall, edging as close to it as possible, pushing, as Christopher had felt since the day before, crowding up and embracing the little stone house in horrid possession."
  • Comedian Megan Amram has a book deal for Science...For Her!, which she calls "a fun, flirty, Cosmopolitan-like textbook that is tailored to you, ladies." On her website, Amram describes the book as "a science textbook written by a lady (me) for other ladies (you, the Spice Girls, etc.)," and adds that "it has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history: female brains aren't biologically constructed to understand scientific concepts, and tiny female hands aren't constructed to turn most textbooks' large, extra-heavy covers." Amram's book may be a parody, but it's not that all that far from reality: A 2013 book titled Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape combines math tips with advice on "how to attract guys," and uses handbag shapes to explain quadrilaterals.
  • "You have no legs and your name is alliterative." "A coachman treats you saucily." "You are either ruddy, stout, or flint-eyed." The Toast has some tips for telling whether you are in a Charles Dickens novel. (Full disclosure, I've written previously for The Toast.)
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Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in 1982, died last week at age 87. (Getty Images)

Stowaway Teen May Have Been Trying To Reunite With His Mom

Apr 23, 2014

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The latest word about the teenager who survived a ride Sunday from California to Hawaii in the frigid wheel well of a jet is that he may have hoped to eventually get to Somalia to be with his mother.

Because he's a juvenile, authorities and news outlets have not named the teen. But Hawaii News Now reports that:

"Family members of the 15-year-old stowaway did not want to talk to news reporters outside their Santa Clara [Calif.] home, but Maui police sources say the boy ran away and was trying to get to Africa. He ended up on a Hawaiian Airlines jet because it was the closest plane to the fence he scaled. He also told police he got confused by the writing on the plane."

The boy reportedly lived in California with his father and stepmother. His age was originally being reported as 16, but news accounts and authorities have now settled on 15.

According to NBC Bay Area:

"The teen's former English teacher at [San Jose's] Oak Grove High, Keith Chung, [said] he did not know much about the teen, other than that he had moved to the U.S. from Africa three years ago and that his father was a cab driver.

"Chung said the boy had some recent run-ins in his English-learning class. Those issues, on which Chung did not elaborate, had culminated in a transfer to Santa Clara High. ...

"Student Emanuael Golla, 18, told NBC Bay Area that the teen had just transferred to Santa Clara High about five weeks ago. Golla described him as very quiet, someone who kept to himself."

Meanwhile, The San Jose Mercury News reports that the director of the Mineta San Jose International Airport has "called the unusual security breach involving a teen stowaway who sneaked onto the airfield a 'very serious' incident that could spark changes in how the airport protects its passengers."

There is video evidence, The Associated Press says, indicating the teen scaled a fence and got on to the airport's tarmac about seven hours before the Hawaiian Airlines flight took off. The wire service adds that:

"While it's not clear how the teen spent all that time, FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen was sleeping in the plane before the 8 a.m. PDT takeoff. He 'literally just slept on the plane overnight,' Simon said."

The young man was still in Hawaii on Wednesday, according to news reports. Authorities have said they do not plan to charge him with any crime. The AP notes that "Hawaii's Department of Human Services has said child welfare officials were arranging his safe return to Northern California."

Thee wire service also writes that:

"The FAA says about one-quarter of the 105 stowaways who have sneaked aboard flights worldwide since 1947 have survived. Some wheel-well stowaways survived deadly cold and a lack of oxygen because their breathing, heart rate and brain activity slow down."

We explored that part of the story on Monday in this post: You Can Survive A Flight In A Jet's Wheel Well, But Probably Won't.

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Even some euro bank notes may need a good scrubbing. Like dollar bills, these notes are made from cotton and they harbor an array of bacteria. (The Preiser Project/Flickr)

Dirty Money: A Microbial Jungle Thrives In Your Wallet

by Michaeleen Doucleff
Apr 23, 2014

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Dirty Benjamins? The current study looked only at $1 bills. But any bill made from cotton will likely harbor an array of bacteria. Made from plastic, Canadian $100 bills are resistant to liquids and tearing. But are they better than cotton-based bills at keeping dangerous bacteria at bay?

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You may have heard that dollar bills harbor trace amounts of drugs.

But those greenbacks in your wallet are hiding far more than cocaine and the flu. They're teeming with life.

Each dollar bill carries about 3,000 types of bacteria on its surface, scientists have found. Most are harmless. But cash also has DNA from drug-resistant microbes. And your wad of dough may even have a smudge of anthrax and diphtheria.

In other words, your wallet is a portable petri dish.

And currency may be one way antibiotic-resistant genes move around cities, says biologist Jane Carlton, who's leading the Dirty Money Project at the New York University.

The project offers an in-depth look at the living organisms shacking up on our cash. One goal of the work is to provide information that could help health workers catch disease outbreaks in New York City before they spread very far.

"We're not trying to be fear mongers, or suggest that everyone goes out and microwave their money," Carlton tells Shots. "But I must admit that some of the $1 bills in New York City are really nasty."

So far, Carlton and her colleagues have sequenced all the DNA found on about 40 dollar bills from a Manhattan bank. Their findings aren't published yet. But she gave Shots a sneak peak of what they've found so far.

The most common microbes on the bills, by far, are ones that cause acne. The runners-up were a bunch of skin bacteria that aren't pathogenic: They simply like to hang out on people's bodies. Some of these critters may even protect the skin from harmful microbes, Carlton says.

Other money dwellers included mouth microbes — because people lick their fingers when they count bills, Carlton says — and bacteria that thrive in the vagina. "People probably aren't washing their hands after the bathroom," she says.

What about the traces of anthrax DNA? Not a cause for alarm, Carlton says.

"Anthrax is a very common bacteria in soil," she says. "People who work with soil, like farmers, are often exposed to it. It's only when anthrax is weaponized and sent through the mail that it causes those issues."

The DNA survey also detected genes that make bacteria impervious to penicillin and methicillin. The latter make MRSA bacteria such dangerous pathogens.

"Now we know that viable bacteria are on money and could serve as a mode of transmission for antibiotic-resistant genes," Carlton says. "Money is a frequent route of contact between people in New York City."

At this point, though, scientists don't how important money is for transmitting pathogens and fueling disease outbreaks.

Would changing the material for dollar bills are made from help to keep them cleaner? The jury is still out.

Some countries, such as Canada, have started printing money on flexible sheets of polymer film, a fancy plastic. One study found less bacteria, in general, grew on these plastic bills than cotton-based ones, like the dollar and euro notes. But another study reported that microbes survive longer on polymer-based bills, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Until the ideal material gets figured out, the best protection against money's invisible inhabitants is also the simplest one: Wash your hands after handling cash.

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Washington, Ill., is full of both optimistic signs and lots of construction crews as the town rebuilds after a half-mile-wide tornado devastated the area last November. (NPR)

In Illinois, A Town That's Half-Destroyed But Filled With Hope

Apr 23, 2014

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Kathy Kuch, a special education teacher at Lincoln Grade School, helps kids line up as they wait to catch buses after school. Debris still litters the yards in neighborhood subdivisons. City officials plan to clear this gulley ahead of any spring floods. Lorelei Cox stands where her yard used to be. Having faced a tornado and a "relentless" winter, Cox says, "You just pick yourself up and keep going." Building permits have been pulled to replace nearly half the wrecked homes in Washington.

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Washington is just starting to rebuild.

Much of the central Illinois town was wiped away by a half-mile wide tornado last November. In all, 1,108 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable — a huge share of the housing stock in a city of 15,000.

"Early on, people were asking me how long it was going to take to rebuild the city, and I said we'll do it in a year," says Mayor Gary Manier. "That was wishful thinking."

Tornadoes typically strike the Midwest during the spring. This one touched down not long before Thanksgiving, meaning Washington lost its chance to rebuild quickly due to an unusually bitter and persistent winter.

Now, multiple home sites on some blocks are busy with workers putting up frames or nailing in walls. But building permits have yet to be pulled for more than half the affected properties.

The city last week sent homeowners a notice that they need to decide whether to rebuild, or tear down.

"All these brand new structures coming out of the ground, all that smell of sawdust and new lumber is great," Manier says, "but the yards are still full of debris, glass and porcelain and nails and steel."

What People Have Lost

Lorelei Cox stands next to a big pile of dirt where her yard used to be. Surveying her neighborhood, she says she's pleased it doesn't look like a "war zone" anymore.

"I see hope," Cox says. "Everywhere I look, I see hope."

Her next door neighbor's foundation stayed intact, so already the frame of a new house has gone up. Cox's own home, custom built in 1991, was totally blown away.

The replacement structure has basement walls, but no basement yet. She hopes to be able to move in by August.

Immediately after the storm, she shared her joy with NPR's David Schaper when her family found some jewelry at the site. Since then, making an inventory of all that's lost for insurance purposes has been a "monumental task," she says, and a wrenching one.

"Every time you think of something, it reminds you of something else, and that kind of rips at your gut a little," Cox says. "I miss the things that were familiar, as mundane as a cup I always chose first to have my coffee in, and my own bed."

Cox also misses her neighbors. Most will come back, but for now they're all scattered.

The Local Building Boom

Devastated subdivisions such as Devonshire Estates and Timber Creek are filled with contractors and their trucks, but everyone's yard is still a torn-up mess, filled with bits of tar and insulation and glass.

"It's going to take a few years to be finished, I think," says Juan Villanueva, part of a crew putting up walls for a house on Kingsbury Road.

People in Washington talk about their frustration dealing with insurance companies. It turns out you get checks cut a lot faster if your home is a total wreck than if insurers believe there's hope of rebuilding. They also have to take care to protect against the type of fraud that is endemic following a disaster.

"We've got a lot of great home builders," says Roger Hickman, a local agent for State Farm, which covers about 500 of the ruined homes in Washington. "We're in short supply of great home repairers."

With so many homes starting to go up at once, further delays are inevitable, as people wait for skilled electricians and carpet layers and the like.

"We're going to be busy all year long," says Pat Weishaupt, an electrician and general contractor. "It's a bad way to get busy."

'We Live Here Now'

Many Washingtonians have been living in rental properties throughout the greater Peoria area over the past five months. The schools are running extra bus routes to a dozen different communities to accommodate scattered kids.

"Residents in my district lost 293 homes and 127 students were displaced," says John Tignor, superintendent of one of the two elementary districts. "We have 17 staff members who lost their homes" — including Tignor himself.

Despite the epic disruption, school enrollment citywide is up by six students since the storm. Everyone seems to want to stay in Washington. People who once felt only loosely connected to the community now say they're deeply rooted, bonded by equally shared senses of loss and hope.

The town has decided to change the name of its summer festival to Washington Good Neighbor Days. People are heartened by the dozens of volunteers from other communities who continue to show up every weekend.

The tornado stayed on the ground for 46 miles, but the official death toll was only one. Two other people died from conditions exacerbated by storm-related injuries.

"Everybody, to a person, says we have each other — mom, dad, cat, whatever," says Mayor Manier. "All the other stuff is stuff. If money can buy it, it can be replaced."

Laura Allaman has only lived in Washington six years, but she and her family refused to accept temporary housing anywhere else but in town, as they wait for their own home to be rebuilt.

"We live here now," says Allaman, a school librarian. "We need to be here. It's family, with everybody helping. We're here forever."

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