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Top Stories: Compromise Reached For VA Programs; Gaza Conflict

Jul 28, 2014

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Korva Coleman

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Conflict In Gaza: Here's What You Need To Know Today.

— Lawmakers Reach Deal Intended To Fix VA System In Crisis.

And here are more early headlines:

Investigators Still Blocked From Ukraine Plane Wreckage. (New York Times)

Boko Haram Kidnaps Wife Of Cameroon's Vice Premier. (Reuters)

Russia Ordered To Pay Shareholders Of Seized Oil Firm. (Wall Street Journal)

Ebola Takes Life Of Top Liberian Doctor, Infects 2 Americans. (AP)

Lightning Strike Leaves One Swimmer Dead In California. (KTLA)

U.S. Gas Prices At The Pump Drop Over Past Two Weeks. (Businessweek)

Sarah Palin Launches Internet Channel. (USA Today)

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The Ice Cream Sandwich That Wouldn't Melt

Jul 28, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Horse Feathers art ( )

Song Premiere: Horse Feathers, 'Violently Wild'

Jul 28, 2014

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Stephen Thompson

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Describing Horse Feathers almost inevitably diminishes the band's music: "Let's see, the lead singer has a beard and a soft voice, and he plays the acoustic guitar, and there's a string section. Oh, and they're from Portland, of course." All those identifying details hold true, and yet Horse Feathers' music never feels slight or ineffectual. Take an exquisitely pretty song like this one, in which Justin Ringle's dark words function like a current that pulls you under when you least expect it.

On Oct. 21, Horse Feathers will release So It Is With Us, and its first single, "Violently Wild," is due out tomorrow. (Watch an album trailer and pre-order here.) As you might imagine, the song's title is a bit of a misnomer — Horse Feathers' music has never fit been particularly violent or wild, lyrical content aside — but there's a zippy quality to it, and the band wears it well. Where the strings in past Horse Feathers songs provided chamber-folk shading, in "Violently Wild" they're employed with a welcome bit of energy, even aggression, without sacrificing the bracing beauty for which the band is rightly known.

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House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida. (Getty Images)

Lawmakers Reach Deal Intended To Fix VA System In Crisis

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 28, 2014

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Lawmakers in Washington have reached a deal to overhaul the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, multiple news organizations are reporting.

The Washington Post reports the deal struck by the chiefs of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees would "provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals." The New York Times reports the deal calls for new facilities, upgrading the scheduling system and allowing "veterans who live far from a V.A. facility or who face wait times that exceed a certain duration to see private doctors, and have those visits paid for by the government."

As we've been reporting, the VA has been engulfed in controversy over allegations that the agency falsified documents and allowed sick veterans to languish in its bureaucracy.

Quoting an unnamed aid, Politico reports that the deal struck by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, will touch "both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA."

NPR's Ron Elving tells Morning Edition that this may only be "an agreement to agree." There are still many unanswered questions; the big one is how Congress would pay for a bill like this.

Politico explains:

"Negotiations hit a snag last week over disagreements with how to offset portions of the bill, which will likely cost between $10 billion and $25 billion, and also how to handle a last-minute request from acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson for $17.6 billion to hire more doctors and make improvements to VA centers.

"While Sanders and Senate Democrats prefer the bill's costs to be treated as emergency spending, there is a strong push from Republicans to raise revenue or make other cuts to offset the bill's costs as much as possible.

"Even before the deal was struck, lawmakers like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) were pressing to make sure there was a clear portrait of the bill's final price tag before it gets a vote in either chamber. The Senate's original bill flew through the chamber before the Congressional Budget Office could give a precise estimate of the bill's fiscal impacts. The CBO's preliminary numbers contained the eye-popping estimate that veterans seeking additional care could cost the government an additional $50 billion a year, a number that was disputed by some senators."

The lawmakers are expected to present their proposal this afternoon.

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Fans dressed as stormtroopers from Star Wars attend this year's Comic-Con event in San Diego. (Getty Images)

Book News: The Clash Of The Comic(-)Cons

by Annalisa Quinn
Jul 28, 2014

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

  • The nation's biggest comic book convention has issued a cease-and-desist letter to the nation's third-biggest comic book convention over the use of the name "Comic Con," The Associated Press reports. A lawyer for San Diego's Comic-Con wrote to the Salt Lake City Comic Con (whose name doesn't have a hyphen): "Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of 'Comic Con' in connection with your convention will incorrectly assume that your convention is in some way affiliated with [ours]." In a statement quoted by the AP, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr said, "We're puzzled why Salt Lake Comic Con was apparently singled out amongst the hundreds of Comic Cons around the country and the world." And the story notes that Salt Lake event co-founder Bryan Brandenburg says San Diego Comic-Con tried and failed to trademark "Comic Con" in 1995. [On a related note, check out this report on cosplay from NPR's Petra Mayer from San Diego's Comic-Con.]
  • "One Saturday night, Tsukuru and Haida were up talking late as usual when they turned to the subject of death." — Slate has an excerpt of Haruki Murakami's upcoming book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
  • Alice Bolin writes about Joan Didion, Los Angeles and sensationalism in an essay in The Believer: "It seems that murder stories inspire Didion with a special dread: attempting to lay thematic order over dumb chaos and cruelty starkly and distastefully reveals the cheapness of narrative."

Notable Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Yelena Akhtiorskaya's messy, charming debut novel Panic in a Suitcase follows a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant family in their journey from the cramped apartments and grey beaches of Odessa all the way to the cramped apartments and grey beaches of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Nasmertovs try to leave Odessa behind but find that they "hadn't ventured bravely into a new land, they'd borrowed a tiny nook at the very rear of someone else's crumbling estate to make a tidy replication of the messy, imperfect original they'd gone through so many hurdles to escape, imprisoning themselves in their own lack of imagination."
  • Sgt. Lester Ferris is stationed on the fictional island of Mancreu, trying to keep a semblance of order while island society disintegrates around him. After meeting a comics-obsessed teenager, he decides to try to turn things around in the guise of Tigerman. For NPR, Jason Sheehan calls Tigerman the "kind of good that makes you wonder why every book isn't this smart and joyous and beautiful and heartbreaking; that makes you a little bit pissed off that you ever gave away bits of your life to reading worse books, and sad that so many trees get wasted on authors with less grace, less surety, less confidence than this man who can throw comic books, video games, post-colonial guilt, the longing ache of the childless, murder, tea drinking and mystical tigers all together in a big hat, shake it vigorously, and draw from the resultant, jumbled mess something so beautiful."
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