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President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Bladensburg High School April 7, 2014 in Bladensburg, Maryland. It was his fourth visit to Prince George's County in as many months. (Getty Images)

President Obama's Favorite County — At Least When it Comes to Giving Speeches

Apr 17, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Residents of Prince George's County, Maryland might just get sick of hearing "Hail to the Chief." President Barack Obama has visited this county to deliver policy addresses more than any other in his second term.

"Hello Maryland. It's good to see you," the president said enthusiastically in January at a Costco in Lanham, MD. "I love to get outside of the beltway, even if it is just a few hundred feet away."

For many years, presidents have traveled to Prince George's county because it is the location of Joint Base Andrews, the home base of Air Force One. It also has a mighty nice golf course and is about ten miles from the White House.

But these speeches are something else. Since taking office, Obama has spoken at 17 public events in Prince George's County, bringing new notice to a place that has struggled with public corruption, home foreclosures and crime.

To County Executive Rushern Baker, these visits are a sign things have begun to turn around.

"You know for the longest we would say, 'the president spends more time in Prince George's County than any other place than the White House.' And that was usually him driving here to fly somewhere else," said Baker. "Now he's actually visiting, and the first lady."

From 2010 to 2013 crime overall dropped 27 percent with murders down 38 percent. When Baker took office in late 2010, his predecessor had just been taken away in handcuffs, later pleading guilty to extortion and witness tampering as part of a sweeping FBI investigation into corruption in the county. Now, Baker is pitching his county for the new FBI headquarters and he hopes the president is listening.

"And we're hoping that the next visit he comes, he cuts the ribbon on the FBI," said Baker. "What better place to build it than here."

If Prince George's gets the project it would be a major milestone for a place that is now the nation's most affluent African American majority county.

"It is the only place in America...where the population went from majority white to majority African American and education and income of the population went up," said Baker. "It's never happened in America before."

A Sense of Belonging

That affluence was on display on a recent Friday evening in a strip mall in the town of Bowie. A group of men, mostly business owners, sat outside of a fancy Chinese restaurant wearing golf shirts and smoking cigars....

"This county, the president can identify with," said Mack Jenkins, who owns a construction firm.

He has his own theory about why the president visits so often. It sends a message, he says that there are people of color doing well, even if it doesn't always get a lot of attention.

"He can come and show the masses that, lookie here, they don't talk about them much but guess what they're here, and they're doing okay," said Jenkins.

Like many in Prince George's County, Jenkins moved here decades ago because he saw it as a safe place to raise his growing family. His friend Steve Johnson grew up in neighboring Washington DC, but in the early 1990s moved out to the suburbs.

"That's what I can say about this county, I have a sense of belonging," said Johnson. "I belong here."

It could be the President feels much the same way. He did win the county in 2012, with 90 percent of the vote.

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The Serpent Mound in southern Ohio is three feet high and more than 1,300 feet long. (Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.)

The Ohio Snake Art That's Been Mid-Slither For A Millennium

Apr 17, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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In new installment of the Spring Break series, Noah Adams visits the Serpent Mound in southern Ohio. It's not a burial site; it's a massive, grass-covered effigy of a snake, created a thousand years ago.

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Chelsea Clinton co-hosting "Girls: A No Ceilings Conversation," in New York, on Thursday. Clinton chose the venue to announce that she and her husband are expecting their first child. (AP)

Chelsea Clinton Says She's Pregnant

Apr 17, 2014

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Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are expecting the couple's first child, also a first grandchild for former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Mark and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year," Chelsea Clinton, who is 34, said at a New York event while sitting on a stage with her mother, according to The Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton said she's "really excited" about becoming a grandmother.

Chelsea is vice chairman of her family's foundation. She made the announcement at the end of an event on empowering young women, the AP says.

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While many women continue to work with little change in their duties while pregnant, others find that pregnancy can be a career liability. (iStockphoto)

When Being Pregnant Also Means Being Out Of A Job

Apr 17, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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The workplace has become a more understanding place for pregnant women or new moms these days. Many companies now have lactation rooms and offer more liberal maternity and paternity leave policies than in years past.

But for some women, pregnancy can still be a career liability.

Heather Myers was fresh out of high school and working at a Wal-Mart in Salina, Kan., in 2006 when she found out she was pregnant. She kept a water bottle with her on the sales floor, as her doctor recommended. Then, her supervisor intervened.

"She said, 'I'm sorry, but we can't accept your doctor's note because we have ... the water fountains available to you,' " Myers says.

So Myers got a second doctor's note, but the supervisor rejected that, too.

"I was just a little shocked that this water bottle was kind of becoming this big deal, and they were even scrutinizing my doctors' notes," she says.

Myers held firm.

"I decided to go against what my supervisor suggested and listen to my doctor and to my body — and decided to keep the water bottle," she says. "And one day that supervisor came up to me and she said, 'Either the water bottle has to go or you have to go.' "

Myers was fired. She sued, and later settled out of court.

In March, Wal-Mart, under pressure from other women, amended its policy, saying it will take "reasonable measures" to accommodate temporary disability caused by pregnancy.

Refining The Concept Of 'Reasonable Accommodation'

Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, there is still a debate about what employers are required to do for expectant mothers.

In recent months, New Jersey, West Virginia, New York City and Philadelphia have passed laws explicitly requiring employers to "reasonably accommodate" pregnant workers. And there are similar proposals in several other states and the U.S. Congress.

Some in the business community support such measures. But others, like the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, say such bills create legal confusion for businesses that must also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

Jeffrey Risch, chairman of the employment law and litigation committee for the chamber, says "it's going to be both costly and confusing" — especially for small businesses, he says.

Emily Martin, general counsel for the National Women's Law Center, disagrees. "Unfortunately, a lot of employers don't understand that they have legal obligations," she says.

Which is why, she adds, the law needs more clarity. Martin says employers that don't comply are often in low-wage professions like retail and food service or in male-dominated industries.

"Truck driving or policing. Those are also workplaces that are both physically demanding and that may have a culture of some hostility to women being on the job at all," Martin says.

'Too Much Of A Liability'

Take the case of Peggy Young. She had an early-delivery shift for UPS in Maryland when she got pregnant in 2006. She says the staff nurse told her to get a doctor's note saying that Young should avoid lifting objects heavier than 20 pounds.

"But when I took the note in to the nurse, she basically said, 'Well, we don't give alternative work or light duty to off-work incidents,' " Young says. "I'm like, 'I'm pregnant. There's not an incident here.' "

Young shared her story at an Olive Garden restaurant, where she now waitresses. She says she knew that UPS had reassigned some co-workers because of high blood pressure or drunken-driving offenses, so she petitioned her manager to allow her to continue working.

"And he pretty much said, 'You're too much of a liability in our building — don't come back until you're no longer pregnant.'

"I just kind of looked at him like, 'Are you serious? Like, I can't work?' "

His answer, Young says, was no.

Young sued UPS. Two lower courts ruled against her, so now she's petitioning the Supreme Court.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg says the lower court rulings show the company's policy is consistent with the law. In cases of medical need, the company accommodates workers — but pregnancy is not given special treatment.

"The courts determined that UPS policy is pregnancy blind," she says.

Young and her attorneys are waiting to see whether the high court will hear her case.

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Admirers ask Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- seated alongside his wife, Mercedes Barcha -- to sign books in Santa Marta, Colombia, in 2007. (AFP/Getty Images)

Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Who Gave Voice To Latin America, Dies

Apr 17, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in literature "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts". Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez greets fans and reporters outside his home in Mexico City on March 6.

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Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, died Thursday. He was 87. Garcia Marquez, the master of a style known as magic realism, was and remains Latin America's best-known writer.

His novels were filled with miraculous and enchanting events and characters; love and madness; wars, politics, dreams and death. And everything he had written, Garcia Marquez once said, he knew or heard before he was 8 years old.

A Writer Shaped By His Beginnings

Garcia Marquez was born in 1927 in the Colombian coast town of Aracataca, which experienced a boom after a U.S. fruit company arrived. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:

"There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand ... there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about, since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality."

Garcia Marquez's grandfather, grandmother, their stories and their town became the raw material for his most famous work.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude is a towering book of enormous influence worldwide. And it is also as close as one could get to a perfect book," says Ilan Stavans, who wrote a biography of the author's early years, including the time Garcia Marquez spent as a newspaper journalist.

"He was a nobody," Stavans says. "He was really an unknown journalist and author of short stories, just beginning to make his career. He was, at that point, coming close to 40, and the fame and celebrity and this standing that he has as a literary giant of the 20th century really all coalesced in that particular moment when the book was published."

It was a unique moment in time, and One Hundred Years of Solitude struck a chord, says Gerald Martin, another Garcia Marquez biographer.

"You had to be in the 1960s. You had to be in the world of the Beatles and Third World revolution, psychedelia, lots of things, to understand now what impact the first page of that book had," Martin says. "It seemed to be a kind of writing that everybody had been waiting for. They didn't know they were waiting for it till it came. It was just one of those zeitgeist things."

Here's a taste of the book's first lines:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point."

Martin says, "The first two lines, the first time you read them, you just felt, 'I've read this before. Where does this come from?' which is what [Garcia Marquez] felt when he first ... thought up the first line of the book."

Writing 'The Reality Of Latin America'

Garcia Marquez was part of a Latin American literature boom in the 1960s and '70s, along with Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, with whom Garcia Marquez differed sharply in his political beliefs. The Colombian got his leftist leanings from his grandfather, and they shaped his writing.

"I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America," Garcia Marquez said. "Any interpretation of this reality in literature must be political. I cannot escape my own ideology when I interpret reality in my books; it's inseparable."

His 10 novels include The Autumn of the Patriarch, about a Latin American dictator, but they also include a love story about two elderly people married to other people, Love in the Time of Cholera, which was made into a film in 2007.

'He Gives A Voice To Latin America'

Garcia Marquez titled his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech "The Solitude of Latin America."

In it, he spoke about Latin America's wars, military coups, dictatorships and ethnocide:

"We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of ... a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."

Chilean novelist Ariel Dorfman says the speech was one of the author's most important messages to the world.

"Garcia Marquez is speaking about all the people who are marginal to history, who have not had a voice," Dorfman says. "He gives a voice to all those who died. He gives a voice to all those who are not born yet. He gives a voice to Latin America."

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