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The Beatles perform one of their songs while filming A Hard Day's Night in 1964. (Getty Images)

'A Hard Day's Night': A Pop Artifact That Still Crackles With Energy

Jul 23, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Criterion Collection is selling the movie on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Back in 1964, movie audiences were treated to three hit musicals. Two of them - Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady - won scads of Oscars. But it was the third that announced the future, and it did so from its opening chord.

What followed from that chord was what we call the '60s.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day's Night, there's a spectacular new restoration that you can now see in theaters in its Janus Films release or buy on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. The black-and-white photography is so gorgeous, you'll swoon.

The movie is not half bad either. It was directed by Richard Lester, a filmmaker as underrated as he was influential. Lester took what was designed to be a promo film for the Beatles and - along with screenwriter Alun Owen — crammed it with ideas from the French New Wave and his own slapstick short, The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film, which is on the DVD. The result is a pop artifact that still crackles with freshness and energy. In Lester's verite, hyper-kinetic approach to the musical sequences - and boy, are the songs good — you'll find the template for a million later music videos.

The movie's title came from a malapropism by Ringo Starr that, in its paradoxical poetry, felt as inevitable as a folk saying. It fit perfectly a film that purported to capture a typical day in the life of The Beatles, who spend 87 minutes singing, clowning, hanging around a TV station, and, crucially, fleeing hysterical fans. You see, this isn't just a movie about rock stars but about rock stars playing themselves in a movie that's riffing on rock stardom.

Of course, even as the Beatlemaniacs sob and shriek, one of the movie's conceits is that people over 30 don't get it. On a train ride, the four are joined in a car by a stuffy, blimpish, mustachioed businessman who closes the window they've just opened and, when they turn on the radio, clicks it off.

Watching A Hard Day's Night today, our perceptions are shot through with historical awareness. The Beatles now seem astonishingly innocent in their neat suits and ties, and it's hard not to laugh at how the older characters harrumph at their long hair and cheekiness, for the boys are lovable mop tops - well-scrubbed, unprofane, decidedly non-threatening. They're so spiffy that in these days of hip-hop and piercings, parents might be delighted to have such nice young men for their sons. Yet the harrumphers weren't wrong. As that businessman on the train grasped, The Beatles and their followers were taking over the cultural train.

A Hard Day's Night brims with Marx Brothers' irreverence, if not anarchy, and like the brothers, each Beatle has a clear persona. John's the barbed, ironical one who carries himself like a pop genius. Paul's the handsome nice guy you wouldn't guess was a pop genius. George is the dark horse, the quiet young one with secrets. And Ringo - the most popular back then - was the gentle, sad-eyed one. In hindsight, such personas almost predict their destinies. Even as Ringo is still having a laid-back good time into his 70s, Paul now revels in his living landmark status - he's now photographed hanging out with Warren Buffett. With his hit records, mysticism, and humanitarian work, George would become the triumphant dark horse before dying, at 58, from cancer. As for John, if any of the Beatles was fated to be murdered, it was always him - he was the lightning rod.

But all this would come later. A few months before A Hard Day's Night opened, The Beatles had landed in an America shattered by the Kennedy assassination not even three months earlier, an America yearning for something alive and optimistic. The band was the ideal antidote to such grief, for The Beatles themselves had risen from an even longer, deeper darkness, the shabby funk of a post-war, post-imperial Britain with a calcified establishment, a frustrated working class, and little future to offer the young.

In the unmistakable alchemy of their sound - and in their authentic laughter as they run from shrieking fans during the film's opening credits - The Beatles embodied the hope and vitality the world was looking for then and still loves to this day. Like Louis Armstrong, they created music that, even when sad, is bursting with joy. All those hard days and nights paid off, for more than any band I can think of, they captured the yeah-yeah-yeah of happiness.

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Veterinarian Vint Virga says that animals in zoos, like this lion, need to have a bit of control over their environment. (iStockphoto.com)

Cat PDA Vs. Human PDA And Other Animal Behavior Explained

Jul 23, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Vint Virga, a veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine, has been working mostly with leopards, wolves, bears, zebras and other animals living in zoos and wildlife parks for the past five years.

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From feisty kittens to pacing cheetahs, Vint Virga knows animal behavior.

A veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine, Virga has treated many household pets in his clinic. But for the past five years he has been working mostly with leopards, wolves, bears, zebras and other animals living in zoos and wildlife parks. He deals with such issues as appetites, anxiety and obsessive behavior.

"I'm always trying to provide every single animal I come into contact with ... the opportunity to invent and think and discover on their own," Virga tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Virga's book, The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human, was recently published in paperback. It explains how animals demonstrate mindfulness, forgiveness and adaptability — and what we can learn from them.

Virga talks about how house cats, like lions, are more fulfilled when they forage for food — and how animals express affection differently than we might think.


Interview Highlights

On making cats forage for food

Probably the most important thing I stress to all my clients is to think about what the cat would do if they were living in nature. They would have to actually hunt for food. While we can't put out lizards and mice to run around in our house, we can portion out the food and make it more challenging and interesting for the cat to actually find.

I take my clients through a program of actually teaching their cats to forage for their food. Yeah, it isn't live, but they've got to go on the hunt or the prowl throughout the house and the locations in which they're going to find the meal scattered about in the house ... are going to be different every day. And cats find that very stimulating and very interesting — it adds a lot of richness to their lives.

On how cats show affection differently from humans

We need to step out of what we consider are the appropriate behaviors as humans and try to put ourselves in an animal's footsteps. ... Affection is shown by being cuddly and lovey for a lot of us — not necessarily all of us - [so we often think] that our cats would want to be cuddled and loved.

Instead, a lot of cats, if you actually watch their natural behavior when they're in groups, the most affectionate cats might be sitting near each other. They might sit with their tails intertwined, rear-to-rear, but they're not usually face-to-face, nose-to-nose, or snuggled up next to each other.

... That says that cats feel comfort and they express their emotions in ways differently than we do. If that's true, then what behooves us [as] ... their caretakers and human family members, is to learn about what it is that cats think and feel rather than [imposing] what we think and feel upon them.

On reading animal behavior at the zoo

Usually I like to spend a fair amount of time sitting outside an animal's habitat and watching them, without trying to interact with them in any way, so I can understand as much about their behavior as possible — how they relate to other animals in their habitat, what they do in their time.

It's one thing to see a wolf, for example, pacing alongside the edge of their habitat at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when they're starting to anticipate that their afternoon meal might be coming. It's a very different thing if I see a wolf pacing around after their morning meal, before the zoo visitors have started to enter because they reflect very different behaviors.

One, we're talking about a wolf that's anticipating something and starting to get a little bit anxious or excited and the other we're talking about a wolf that even after his appetite and hunger needs have been met, he's still choosing to pace. That reflects something very different in behavior.

On how zoos have changed to improve the animals' well-being

I think the most important things that zoos have done in the past 10, 20 years, is that they [have] focused primarily on the animal's well-being. And, depending on their feedback and responses, looked at their behavior, looked at their overall happiness and contentment and used that as the gauge for what to do for the animal.

They've also applied as much [as] science knows about the animals in nature. What that looks like is providing them with a space that's a lot more rich and full than just a place that is an exhibit. So it's really shifting from not a cage, because most zoos don't even have those anymore, but from an exhibit to a habitat. The environment is much richer and more complex rather than flat and uniform, so that we can see them.

[Zoos are] providing [animals with] opportunities to escape from view of the public — and that can be difficult for a zoo. ... Visitors complain to the zoo if they can't see the leopard, the bear or the lion. But on the other hand, if the lion doesn't have any choice of getting away from the public at times, particularly if there [are] crowds or noisy visitors, then we're taking away their sense of control over their environment.

On captive-born zoo animals

It is important to realize ... that most animals in zoos nowadays are captive-born. They are not, by and large, taken from the wild. Usually it's a number of generations that we would have to trace back to any type of direct wild animal.

... It becomes a constant effort by zoos, that is, supervised in a very strict fashion in terms of making sure that these animals are not inbred, to maintain diversity in the population, and yet what we are dealing with [are] ... animals that are to some degree different than their wild cousins.

They lose some of those instincts by ... not having predators and the pressures of the world that they're being exposed to — from habitat loss and pollution and so on. They also are gaining other traits in that they're constantly getting this affiliation or connection to humans. I'm touched by the relationships that I witness every day between keepers and the animals in their care.

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Oh, I don't wanna share you with nothing else, I gotta have you to myself. (iStockphoto)

Does Your Dog Feel Jealous, Or Is That A Purely Human Flaw?

by Maanvi Singh
Jul 23, 2014

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Vint Virga, a veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine, has been working mostly with leopards, wolves, bears, zebras and other animals living in zoos and wildlife parks for the past five years.

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When you kiss your husband, does your dog try to get your attention? And does that mean that your dog feels jealous? Threatened? Or are we just imagining that?

Many if not all dog owners are sure that their pets have feelings. And we've known for a while that animals exhibit behaviors that look like jealousy, guilt and shame. But it's hard to find out what animals are really feeling. And researchers say that understanding that could give us valuable insights into human emotions, too.

A study published Wednesday in PLoS ONE has brought us a tiny bit closer to proving that dogs do get jealous. Psychologists from the University of California, San Diego adapted a test that has been used on human infants to see whether dogs exhibit jealous behavior.

They videotaped how 36 dogs reacted to their owners ignoring them and instead petting and talking sweetly to a plastic jack-o-lantern or an animated, stuffed dog. When their owners were interacting with the stuffed animals, over three-quarters of the dogs pushed or touched their owners. The dogs also tried to get in between the stuffed animal and the owners, or growled at the plush pets.

The dogs seemed less jealous of the jack-o-lantern. But 40 percent acted aggressive when their owners started talking to the plastic pumpkins.

Psychologist Christine Harris, who led the study, says she's been studying jealousy for many years — but in himans. "The motivation that you have when you're jealous is to really break up the liaison between your loved one and your rival," she told Shots.

The fact that these dogs seemed like they were trying draw their owners away from the stuffed animal indicates that they're feeling something very similar to human jealousy, Harris says.

"This is really a landmark study," says Marc Bekoff, an emeritus professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and author of Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed. "It opens the door to a lot more research on animal emotion."

Bekoff, who wasn't involved in the research, says that he's definitely seen what looks like jealousy in his work with not only dogs but also coyotes and wolves. But this study is one of the first controlled experiment that tries to show it.

Of course, the study still doesn't prove that dogs feel jealousy. "The problem is that [the researchers] didn't look at how dogs would react just to those objects," says Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University.

It could be that the dogs were jealous of the stuffed animal, Santos says. Or it could be that the dogs really distrusted the stuffed animal and were acting out of fear.

But this study does build on previous research that shows dogs react negatively when they're treated unfairly, she tells Shots. "This is a very new science. We are just developing new tools to better understand animal emotions."

In humans, jealousy can be a very complex emotion, Santos says. It can bring up a host of other emotions like anger and rejection. And when humans feel jealous, we start suspecting and speculating, she says. "We think, 'If my husband is talking to another woman, maybe he's cheating.' "

If we find out that dogs feel the same way, she says, "either jealousy is less complicated because animals show it, or animals are more complicated than we thought."

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Pedestrians stand beside a memorial for Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while being arrested by New York City police. (AP)

Code Switch Roundup: Big Stories On Race And Criminal Justice

Jul 23, 2014

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A federal investigation found that most pedestrian stops by Newark police officers were unconstitutional. The study also found a pattern of excessive force and theft by the city's officers.

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The last few days have brought a whole lot of important (and pretty sobering) news around race and policing. Here are some of the biggest stories that have landed on our radar.

Three-quarters of all stops by Newark police deemed unconstitutional

The tensions between residents and the police in Newark, N.J., are long-running. Like a bunch of other big cities in New Jersey, Newark has laid off a big chunk of its police force in recent years, and violent crimes, like carjackings, have been climbing — and some police say they are overworked. But many civilians have complained that they are regularly subjected to police harassment and mistreatment.

Just a few weeks after the Department of Justice announced that it was assigning a federal monitor to the police department of Newark, N.J., federal officials released findings from a years-long investigation that details civil rights violations and the use of excessive force on a systemic scale.

"The investigation found that city police officers had no constitutional basis for 75% of the pedestrian stops they conducted in recent years. It also determined that officers often used excessive force during arrests but underreported the level of force used. [...]

The federal investigation detailed longstanding and institutional misconduct, including retaliatory arrests "for behavior perceived as insubordinate or disrespectful to officers," according to the documents. Officers also routinely stole from suspects, and Newark's stop and arrest tactics both unfairly targeted blacks, according to the report."

Although black people made up just over half of the city's population in 2010, they accounted for 85 percent of all traffic stops and eight in 10 arrests over the period that the justice department was investigating. The inquiry also said that blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped by police, 2.7 times more likely to be searched, and 3.1 times more likely to be frisked than whites were, even as the likelihood of finding evidence during a stop or frisk was essentially the same for both groups. (From the report: "Thus, not only are the unconstitutional stop practices of the NPD falling most heavily on black individuals, but those massively additional stops are not yielding more evidence of crime. In other words, the stops are both impermissible and ineffective. These racial disparities characterized every one of the NPD's policing precincts.") (You can read the whole report here.)

"Our investigation uncovered troubling patterns in stops, arrests and use of force by the police in Newark," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "With this agreement, we're taking decisive action to address potential discrimination and end unconstitutional conduct by those who are sworn to serve their fellow citizens."

Meanwhile, Anthony Campos, Newark's police chief, said that it wasn't yet clear what, if anything, would happen to the police officers who were found to be involved in the violations documented in the report.

A video of a fatal encounter goes viral and inflames old tensions

A 7-minute video that captured the death of Eric Garner, a New York City man who died after a confrontation with the police, was wildly shared over the Internet over the last week, and re-ignited old debates about race and police brutality in the city.

The cellphone video, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, shows Garner arguing with police officers. One of the officers who attempted to subdue Garner appeared to put him in a chokehold, before several other officers wrestled Garner to the ground. Garner can be heard yelling, "I can't breathe!" over and over, before he eventually falls silent. (You can see the video of the encounter here. Fair warning: it is very disturbing.)

The police officer who initially grabbed Garner has been removed from duty pending the conclusion of the investigation, and the EMS workers who were on the scene and who did not appear to treat Garner as he lay on the ground were placed on "modified duty." A police officers union official called the moves "completely unwarranted" and a "kneejerk reactions for political reasons and nothing more."

Witnesses on the video and those quoted in The New York Times say that Garner was trying to break up a fight, which is what drew the police's attention. Garner, who was reportedly six-foot-three and 350 pounds, suffered from diabetes and asthma, and had been arrested dozens of times for selling "loosies" — unpackaged, individual cigarettes cheaper than the taxed ones sold at bodegas and convenience stores — to passersby on the street. The Times reported that he started hawking loosies after his health made it impossible to keep his job in the city's parks department.

For years, Mr. Garner chafed at the scrutiny by the police, which he considered harassment. In 2007, he filed a handwritten complaint in federal court accusing a police officer of conducting a cavity search of him on the street, "digging his fingers in my rectum in the middle of the street" while people passed by.

More recently, Mr. Garner told lawyers at Legal Aid that he intended to take all the cases against him to trial. "He was adamant he wouldn't plead guilty to anything," said Christopher Pisciotta, the lawyer in charge of the Staten Island office of Legal Aid.

As my Code Switch teammate Hansi Lo Wang noted, the New York Police Department has had a long, fraught history with residents in many black and Latino neighborhoods. Garner's death is the latest of several high-profile cases in recent memory in which an unarmed black man has died in an encounter with the New York City police — Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham.

Indeed, the apparent cause of Garner's death has been at the center of some controversy. After the death of the graffiti artist Michael Stewart during an encounter with the police, the police officials barred the use of chokeholds by police. An inquiry by an independent agency into the use of chokeholds by New York City police there found more than a thousand complaints of the use of chokeholds in recent years, but only a handful that could be substantiated.

Study finds federal "fake" antidrug ratings focus on minorities

Earlier this year, a federal judge named Manuel Real angrily threw out charges against three defendants convicted of robbing a stash-house for drugs.

The scheme they were set to go to prison for went like this: a man introduced the three defendants to a drug courier who said wanted to rob the stash-house and wanted to steal what was inside from his superiors. The courier asked the three men to participate in the plot and earn themselves a big score.

But the man who made the intro was a government informant, and the courier was actually an undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The stash-house, too, was set up by federal agents. None of the three defendants had previous robbery offenses.

Although the defendants had already pleaded guilty to the charges, but Judge Real wasn't having it. "[The] government created this fictitious crime from whole cloth," Real told government lawyers during the sentencing phase.

He went on:

"The government provided the plan of this fictitious crime when undercover ATF Agent Carr insisted on running through a script to ensure a conspiracy had been hatched and that Carr also provided the getaway car with the fictitious conspiracy.

Further, there was no evidence that the defendants even knew of the location of the fictitious stash house or could have any ability to check the stash house as to whether or not t was the other than as represented by Agent Carr as being part of the stash house tht he participated in, in fact. Which was a lie and a falsehood to start this whole conspiracy."

Brad Heath of USA Today has been writing about the use of these stings, which have become a growing weapon in the government's prosecution of the drug war. Heath reports that there are several lawsuits in federal courts that claim that these kinds of stings are tantamount to entrapment and don't pass constitutional muster.

On Monday, USA Today published an investigation of these types of investigations and found that the overwhelming majority percent of the people targeted in them are black or Latino.

"At least 91% of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, USA TODAY found after reviewing court files and prison records from across the United States. Nearly all were either black or Hispanic. That rate is far higher than among people arrested for big-city violent crimes, or for other federal robbery, drug and gun offenses.

The ATF operations raise particular concerns because they seek to enlist suspected criminals in new crimes rather than merely solving old ones, giving agents and their underworld informants unusually wide latitude to select who will be targeted. In some cases, informants said they identified targets for the stings after simply meeting them on the street."

But ATF officials denied that they were targeting people of color. "There is no profiling going on here," Melvin King, an ATF official, said. "We're targeting the worst of the worst, and we're looking for violent criminals that are using firearms in furtherance of other illegal activities."

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

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Rescue crews work on the wreckage of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222, which crashed while attempting to land in stormy weather on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, late Wednesday. (AP)

Plane Crash In Taiwan Kills Dozens, Leaving Some Survivors

Jul 23, 2014

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A federal investigation found that most pedestrian stops by Newark police officers were unconstitutional. The study also found a pattern of excessive force and theft by the city's officers.

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A domestic flight in Taiwan that was attempting to land in bad weather brought on by a strong typhoon Wednesday night crashed near the runway, killing as many as 47 of the 58 people aboard, according to multiple media outlets.

About a dozen survivors have reportedly been taken to local hospitals; the plane reportedly had 54 passengers and a crew of four.

From Kuala Lumpur, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports:

"The Transasia Airways turboprop plane took off from the southern city of Kaohsiung. It was headed for Magong, the only city in the Penghu Islands off Taiwan's west coast.

"Civil Aviation Director Jean Shen told reporters that the plane crashed in a village just beyond the airport's runway. Authorities have sealed off the area, where local media report that passengers' bodies could be seen scattered about."

"Typhoon Matmo had just blown out to sea after having closed schools and stock markets on Taiwan. It's not known if the crash was related to this."

The plane's departure had reportedly been delayed by about an hour and 45 minutes Wednesday due to the bad weather. Before it crashed, the flight's pilots had requested a second landing attempt, officials tell the Taipei Times.

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