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Book News: Booker Prize, Now Open To U.S. Authors, Longlists 5 Americans

by Annalisa Quinn
Jul 23, 2014

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

  • The 13-book longlist for the Man Booker Prize, the U.K.'s most prominent literary award, was announced Wednesday. The prize is traditionally open to writers from countries in the Commonwealth and Ireland, but this year marks the first time the award will "recognise, celebrate and embrace authors of literary fiction writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai." Five American authors made the cut: Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt, Richard Powers and Irish-American writer Joseph O'Neill, who are all critically well-regarded, if not household names. Opening the longlist to Americans sparked fears that Commonwealth authors would have a harder time making it onto the list, and indeed the list includes only one Commonwealth author — Richard Flanagan of Australia — and no authors from Africa or India. U.K. authors Howard Jacobson (who won the prize in 2010), David Nicholls, David Mitchell, Neel Mukherjee, Paul Kingsnorth and Ali Smith also were nominated. Lastly, Irish writer Niall Williams was longlisted for his novel History of the Rain. Notably, the list includes a crowd-funded novel, Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake, which is set after the Battle of Hastings and written in an invented dialect meant to give the feel of Old English. Chair of the judges A.C. Grayling said in his announcement, "This is a diverse list of ambition, experiment, humour and artistry. The novels selected are full of wonderful stories and fascinating characters. The judges were impressed by the high quality of writing and the range of issues tackled — from 1066 to the future, from a PoW camp in Thailand, to a dentist's chair in Manhattan; from the funny to the deeply serious, sometimes in the same book." The winner will be announced in October.
  • Zadie Smith has a quietly devastating short story, "Big Week," in The Paris Review: "He could not know that her mind had drifted strangely: to her stepdaughters, whom she placed now in rooms of her own design — twin aeries either side of a chimney breast — in a shingled house that sat on a bluff, over a wild beach of dunes and sea grass, in America or in Africa — in some dream combination of the two."
  • Arcadia author Lauren Groff visits the Weeki Wachee mermaids and explores their fishy charms for Oxford American: "I think the widespread ubiquity of these dangerous, capricious female figures has less to do with lust and mistaken sea creatures than with a stunning human capacity for metaphor."
  • John Cheever's house is for sale.
  • "I love Dickinson. Her edgy brilliance, the way things implode in her writing, geographies, little longings and big ones, even cosmologies. I loved her writing always, and was scared by it. The whole question of decorum, growing up as a girl, and then finding Emily." — poet Meena Alexander, in an interview in Poetry magazine.
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The harbor of Isola del Giglio, after the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship was towed away. Italy's once-luxurious Costa Concordia cruise liner embarked on its last voyage on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

WATCH: Wreckage Of Costa Concordia Begins Its Final Voyage

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 23, 2014

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More than two years after the luxury liner Costa Concordia wrecked off the Italian island of Giglio, killing 32 people, its wreckage has finally begun its final voyage to a salvage yard in the port of Genoa.

As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, the operation is complex, involving a 14-boat convoy. She filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Boat sirens and fog horns sounded through the tiny italian port of the island of Giglio when the moorings of the Costa Concordia were finally loosened.

"The 15,000 ton vessel - the size of three football fields — had been flipped upright last september in a complex operation called parbuckling.

"Then, ten days ago, salvage workers and engineers began to refloat and stabilize the ship.

"This morning, encased in a straightkacket of 30 fotation tanks, and escorted by a 14-vessel convoy, the ship began its journey. At a steady speed of two knots an hour, she's expected to arrive in Genoa on Sunday.

"The convoy includes a marine-mammal spotting boat as it sails through the Tuscan archipelago, Europe's largest marine sanctuary."

We'll leave you with time-lapse video of the first hours of the operation:

Back in September, we posted time-lapse video of the Costa Concordia being righted.

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A proposed law might determine what happens to our online accounts when we die. But the tech industry warns the measure could threaten the privacy of the deceased. (iStockphoto)

A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone

by Molly Roberts
Jul 23, 2014

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Ancient peoples sent their dead to the grave with their prized possessions — precious stones, gilded weapons, and terracotta armies. But unlike these treasures, our digital property won't get buried with us. Our archived Facebook messages, old email chains, and even Tinder exchanges will hover untouched in the online cloud when we die.

Or maybe not.

Last week, the Uniform Law Commission drafted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, a model law that would let the relatives of a late loved one access the social media accounts of the deceased. A national lawyers' group, the ULC aims to standardize law across the country by recommending legislation for states to adopt, particularly when it comes to timely, fast-evolving issues.

And little evolves more quickly than the Web.

As we live more and more of our lives online, more and more of what used to be tangible turns digital.

"Where you used to have a shoebox full of family photos, now those photos are often posted to a website," notes Ben Orzeske, legislative counsel at the ULC.

That shoebox used to go to the executor of the deceased's will, who would open it and distribute its contents to family members. The will's author could decide what she wanted to give and to whom. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act aims to make the digital shoebox equally accessible.

"This is the concept of 'media neutrality,' " Orzeske explained. "The law gives the executor of your estate access to digital assets in the same way he had access to your tangible assets in the old world. It doesn't matter if they're on paper or on a website."

It turns out those terms-of-service agreements Internet users usually click through without reading include some strict rules: The small print on sites like Facebook and Google specifies that the user alone can access his or her account. But the ULC's proposed law would override those contracts, Orzeske said.

The law's proponents say this change would solve a host of problems.

For one thing, it would allow the executor and family members to clear up any unresolved financial matters in the wake of a death.

"An executor could go find estate assets like online bank accounts through email," Orzeske said.

But the law could also have more sentimental implications.

Though Facebook switches dead users' profiles to memorial status if a decedent's family asks, the site does not allow family members to log onto a loved one's page without a formal request. And sometimes, these petitions are turned down.

That's what has happened to many grieving relatives, from Virginia farmer Ricky Rash to Jay and Helen Stassen of Minnesota. Both families lost their sons to suicide — and both were frustrated in their attempts to find answers through their child's Facebook account.

ULC lawmakers hope their efforts will fix this problem, allowing families to handle online accounts just as they would photographs or diaries.

But Facebook — and companies like it — see another side to the issue. Where the ULC's policy might seem only to help, Jim Halpert, head of the privacy practice at DLA Piper U.S., thinks it could hurt.

Halpert, who represents social media and communications companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo, explained that the proposal does more than offer distressed families closure — too much more.

"The bill takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased," Halpert said in an email statement. "This would include highly confidential communications from third parties who are still alive — doctors, psychiatrists, and clergy, for example."

Carl Szabo, policy counsel for the NetChoice eCommerce trade association — whose members include AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and Google, among others — says the ULC law would also threaten the privacy of the deceased.

"It sets the default privacy to zero," Szabo said. "Unless the user makes an affirmative choice, by nature everything is disclosed."

For someone unfamiliar with the law, then, what seemed private in life may turn public after death.

So is there a middle ground?

Some companies are working on it.

Yahoo Japan's Yahoo Ending lets the deceased choose for him or herself — before death, of course. The new platform allows the living user to craft farewell emails, prepare cancellations of subscription services, and choose certain photos and videos for postmortem deletion.

And sites in the United States are trying, too.

"Google has a tool on their dashboard called the inactive account manager," Orzeske said. "It allows you to hit a switch and choose to have your emails deleted, preserved, or handed over to someone if your account is inactive for some amount of time."

This protects privacy even in death, letting a user choose to keep confidential communications confidential.

"It serves the exact same purpose as making a will," Orzeske said.

But Szabo says the ULC act trumps the user's wishes the moment the state in which he or she resides enacts the law.

"The day the state passes the uniform act, all your privacy choices are overridden," he said.

As states decide whether to make the ULC's vision a reality, companies will search for ways to let their clients know which gates will open after death and which will remain closed.

And in the meantime, a Facebook profile remains shrouded in just as much mystery as King Tut's tomb.

Molly Roberts is an intern on NPR's Washington desk.

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Palestinians walk through the rubble of damaged houses minutes after they were hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City on Wednesday. (AP)

White House Adviser: Cease-Fire Should Include Demilitarization Of Gaza

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 23, 2014

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A top White House adviser says any cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinians must include the demilitarization of Gaza.

In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, White House adviser Tony Blinken said "that needs to be the end result."

"There has to be some way forward that does not involve Hamas having the ability to continue to rain down rockets on Israeli civilians," Blinken said.

Steve then asked if this means the U.S. endorsed Israel's demand that Hamas give up its weapons.

"One of the results, one would hope, of a cease fire would be some form of demilitarization, so that again, this doesn't continue, doesn't repeat itself," Blinken said. "This is what we've seen happen multiple times over the past few years, which is these rockets coming from Gaza, which Hamas controls, as well as more recently the tunneling to Israel with terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel. And no country can accept that. So that needs to be the end result of this process."

Of course, this is news because Hamas is unlikely to accept that demand and adding it as a pre-condition to a cease-fire agreement may mean this current conflict may be prolonged.

Aaron David Miller, a well-known Middle East analyst and vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote in Foreign Policy that the demilitarization of Gaza is "on the far end of the outcome spectrum."

He continues:

"This would mean a cessation of hostilities far different than in previous rounds of fighting. It would require a fundamental change in Gaza's political situation brought about either by military or diplomatic means. ...

"It would also require someone to assume real responsibility for Gaza. A transformed and defanged Hamas is hard to imagine. But if Israel forcibly tried to dismantle Hamas as an organization, there would likely be massive casualties on both sides. And in these circumstances neitherEgypt, let alone the Palestinian Authority, could ride into Gaza on the backs of Israeli tanks amid the carnage.

"Demilitarization is impossible without a diplomatic solution by which Hamas agrees to give up its weapons in exchange for a fundamental change in the economic and political conditions in Gaza, perhaps a kind of mini Marshall Plan."

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Palestinians walk through the rubble of damaged houses minutes after they were hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City on Wednesday. (AP)

Top Stories: Kerry In Israel; Victims' Bodies Returning To Netherlands

Jul 23, 2014

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Gaza Conflict, Day 16: Here's What You Need To Know.

— Dutch Day Of Mourning, As Remains Of Some MH17 Victims Come Home.

And here are more early headlines:

Last Body Believed Found From Washington State Mudslide. (KOMO)

19 Uncontained Wildfires Burning In Oregon And Washington State. (Oregon Dept. of Forestry)

Perdue Wins Georgia GOP Senate Nomination. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Federal Judge May Soon Rule On Colorado Same Sex Marriage. (Denver Post)

Typhoon Crashes Into Taiwan, Heads For China. (VOA)

Salvage Team Raises Sunken Cruise Ship Off Italy. (BBC)

Parts Of Chinese City Under Quarantine After Bubonic Plague Report. (ABC)

Huge Fire Burning At North Dakota Oil Supply Business. (Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Clippers Owner Sterling Files New Suit Against Wife, NBA. (CNN)

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