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More than 3,600 people lined up to apply for about 1,000 openings at a job fair earlier this month in New Orleans. (The Times-Picayune/Landov)

Jobless Claims Bounce Up From Earlier Weeks' Low Levels

Apr 24, 2014

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After two straight weeks in which the figures tracked near their lowest levels in seven years, the number of first-time applications for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week.

The Employment and Training Administration says there were 329,000 such claims filed, up by 24,000 from the previous week's slightly revised figure.

Reuters says that even though the latest number was above expectations, "the rise probably does not suggest a shift in labor market conditions as the underlying trend continued to point to strength.... The increase probably reflects difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations given a late Easter this year and the timing of school spring breaks."

Bloomberg News makes much the same point: "The Easter holiday period made it more difficult to adjust the data for seasonal variations. ... Looking beyond the swings, firings have slowed, which probably means employers are gaining confidence the world's largest economy is strengthening."

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Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 after its arrival on Monday at Maui's Kahului Airport. After the same flight landed on Sunday, a California teen emerged from the left rear wheel well. (AP)

Stowaway Teen's Father Was Shocked To Hear Son Was In Hawaii

Apr 24, 2014

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The father of a teen who last weekend survived a 5 1/2 flight from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of a passenger jet says that:

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy."

Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi also tells Voice of America's Somali service that he was confused at first when police from Hawaii called on Sunday to say his son had landed in Maui.

"They told me that they were holding my son," the California cab driver said to VOA. "I was shocked. I wondered how my son went there. ... They tried to explain to me about the stowaway and the plane story. I got confused, and asked them to call the San Jose police department which later explained to me how things happened."

As we reported Wednesday, it's thought that the 15-year-old boy — who the father identified to VOA as Yahya Abdi — had some vague plan in mind to eventually return to his native Somalia, where his mother lives. The father told VOA that the family has other relatives there as well.

"He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live," the dad told VOA, referring to the teen. "We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can't go back."

Oakland's KTVU-TV reports that "Jennifer Dericco, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Unified School District, confirmed that Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby sent a note Tuesday to staff members saying the teen had been in the U.S. for about four years, speaks English as his second language and had transferred into the district just five weeks ago."

The San Francisco Chronicle reminds readers that the teen "is not facing criminal charges in Hawaii or in San Jose and is being treated at a hospital in Honolulu under the care of doctors and social workers."

CBS San Francisco writes of what it was like when the boy emerged from the wheel well onto the tarmac in Maui that:

"Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip. ...

"FBI and TSA investigations questioned the boy and fed him like a local with teriyaki meatballs and rice from an airport restaurant and a box of Maui macadamia nut cookies. ...

"When asked if he knew the plane he boarded was coming to Maui, the boy said: 'I don't know, I just got on the first one I came to,' [Maui District Airport Manager Marvin] Moniz said."

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Conductor Robert Spano is returning to Carnegie Hall with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to perform Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)

Live Wednesday: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra At Carnegie Hall

by Brian Wise
Apr 24, 2014 (WQXR-FM)

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The most successful polemical art succeeds first as art. Benjamin Britten proved that with his War Requiem.

Robert Spano will make the case on Wednesday, April 30 at Carnegie Hall when he conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at 8 p.m. ET. NPR Music and WQXR will broadcast the concert, which also features soprano Evelina Dobra?eva, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, baritone Stephen Powell and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Britten composed his War Requiem for the 1962 rededication of the cathedral in Coventry, England, destroyed in a 1940 air raid. The selection of Britten to write and conduct the work was both ironic and appropriate. As a pacifist, he had endured intense criticism during the war for registering as a conscientious objector. His Requiem's great innovation lies in the blending of the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead and nine poems by Wilfred Owen about World War I.

Owen was an English soldier who died in 1918, one week before the armistice that ended the war. He had taken a medical leave because of the stress of the war. While convalescing, he had begun writing poems that didn't concern heroes or deeds but rather drew on the horrors he'd experienced as a soldier.

"Britten was aggressively pacifistic and taking the text of the Latin Mass for the Dead and refracting it through this poetry speaks eloquently to the ravages and horrors of war," Spano told WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon. Over 85 minutes, bold gestures of collective mourning are seamlessly mixed with intimate, song-like passages.

The Atlanta Symphony's Carnegie Hall show happens to fall on the birthday of Robert Shaw, who was the orchestra's hugely influential music director from 1967 to 1988. Under Shaw's direction, the orchestra and chorus became the gold standard for symphonic choral works by Berlioz, Brahms, Verdi and Britten, winning a clutch of Grammy Awards in the process. "Sometimes we refer to ourselves as Requiems 'R' Us," Spano jokes.

Directed by Norman Mackenzie, the ASO Chorus remains an all-volunteer organization, whose members are said to come from across Atlanta's spectrum of jobs and backgrounds. "Mr. Shaw was adamant that it was important to have an amateur aspect to the institution because of the word itself, which means 'the lover of something,'" Spano said. "So rather than meaning not good enough to be professional, [it means] so good as to be in love with one's work."


Britten: War Requiem

Evelina Dobra?eva, soprano

Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor

Stephen Powell, baritone

Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Robert Spano, conductor

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Pedestrians walk past the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City in this 2013 photo. (AP)

Book News: Happiness Study Says Library Trips Are As Good As A Pay Raise

by Annalisa Quinn
Apr 24, 2014 (WQXR-FM)

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

  • Going to the library gives people the same kick as getting a raise does — a 1,359 ($ 2,282) raise, to be exact — according to a study commissioned by the U.K.'s Department for Culture, Media & Sport. The study, which looks at the ways "cultural engagement" affects overall wellbeing, concluded that a significant association was found between frequent library use and reported wellbeing. The same was true of dancing, swimming and going to plays. The study notes that "causal direction needs to be considered further" — that is, it's hard to tell whether happy people go to the library, or going to the library makes people happy. But either way, the immortal words of Arthur the Aardvark ring true: "Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!"
  • Richard H. Hoggart, scholar and key witness in the 1960 obscenity trial involving the U.K. publisher of Lady Chatterley's Lover, died on April 10. He was 95. A defense witness for Penguin Books, Hoggart argued that D.H. Lawrence's novel about Constance Chatterley's affair with a gamekeeper was "puritanical, poignant and tender." He explained that the book was "puritanical" not because it was rigid or prudish, but because it carried "an intense sense of responsibility for one's conscience." Penguin was acquitted.
  • French economist Thomas Piketty's 700-page book on income inequality has attracted rapturous media coverage since it became the top selling book on Amazon. But in an article for The New York Times, Justin Wolfers asks whether Piketty has "kicked off a broad national conversation about inequality, or is the book being read mostly in the East Coast liberal echo chamber?" Wolfers used data from Google searches to show that people in Washington, D.C., did far and away more searches for Piketty, followed by Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut — pointing to a coastal, not a nationwide trend.
  • The shortlist for the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing, which awards the author of the winning short story 10,000, was announced this week. The list includes work by Diane Awerbuck, Okwiri Oduor, Billy Kahora, Tendai Huchu and Efemia Chela. According to a press release, the head of the judges, Jackie Kay, said this is "a golden age for the African short story," adding that the shortlisted works were "compelling, lyrical, thought-provoking and engaging." She said, "From a daughter's unusual way of grieving for her father, to a memorable swim with a grandmother, a young boy's fascination with a gorilla's conversation, a dramatic faux family meeting, to a woman who is forced to sell her eggs, the subjects are as diverse as they are entertaining." The full list, with links to each story, is here.
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Pedestrians walk past the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City in this 2013 photo. (AP)

No Breakthrough: 'Object Of Interest' Isn't From Missing Jet

Apr 24, 2014 (WQXR-FM)

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A large piece of metal found earlier this week on the coast of western Australia, which investigators had called an "object of interest" in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board, is apparently not connected to the missing jet.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau reports that "after examining detailed photographs of material washed ashore 10 kilometers east of Augusta, it is satisfied it is not a lead in relation to the search."

So, the "weeks of false leads and conflicting information about what may have happened to the jet and the 239 people on board" that we cautioned about on Wednesday continue.

As we've said before:

The jet was about one hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early morning hours of March 8 (local time) when it was last heard from. Flight 370 was headed north over the Gulf of Thailand as it approached Vietnamese airspace.

Investigators believe the plane turned west, flew back over the Malay Peninsula, then out over the Indian Ocean before turning south toward Australia. They're basing those conclusions largely on data collected by a satellite system that received some information from the aircraft. The critical question — why did it turn? — remains unanswered.

If the jet did go down in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, "experts say it is likely that debris from the plane could wash up" on the nation's western coast, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. It writes that:

"Busselton underwater observatory manager Sophie Teede said the Leeuwin Current that originates off the coast of Indonesia is able to transport material all the way along the West Australian coast.

" 'Depending on the conditions and what time of year, it can run all the way to Tasmania,' she said."

As for the search for the plane and its passengers, Australian authorities say in a statement that "up to 11 military aircraft and 11 ships" were involved today. They're focusing on an area about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth. Under the surface near where pings from the plane's black boxes may have been detected two weeks ago, more than 90 percent of the area has now been examined by a remote vehicle. "No contacts of interest have been found to date," authorities say.

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