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Top Stories: Mideast Conflict Continues; Missing Algerian Jet

Jul 24, 2014

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Korva Coleman

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Authorities Lose Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft.

— Gaza Conflict Day 17: Here's What You Need To Know.

And here are more early headlines:

Dutch Officials To Receive More Bodies From Downed Jet. (CNN)

Sudanese Woman Sentenced To Death Arrives In Italy. (Al Jazeera)

Weather Suspected In Taiwanese Airline Crash. (Wall Street Journal)

Senate Poised To Vote On Highway Trust Funding. (The Hill)

Federal Judge Overturns Colorado Same Sex Marriage Ban. (Denver Post)

Huge Washington State Wildfire Half Contained. (KING-TV, AP)

U.S. Teen Pilot Dies On Around-The-World Flight. (Indianapolis Star)

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Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye. (Republic Records)

First Watch: Maddie & Tae, 'Girl In A Country Song'

Jul 24, 2014

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Reported by

Ann Powers

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It's starting to seem like even the bros are tired of bro country. The truck-loving Florida Georgia Line has switched up its game with the chart- dominant "Dirt," a sensitive ballad about marriage and farming. The fastest-rising summer songs are "Bartender," Lady Antebellum's ode to girls' nights out, and two distinctly un-macho tales of men giving in to romance, "Yeah" by Joe Nichols and "I Don't Dance" by Lee Brice. The turn away from overt female objectification is gradual, however — Nichols still refers to the woman who tames him as "that sundress" — and could still use a kick in the Wranglers. Maddie and Tae have arrived to provide it.

The youthful Texas-Oklahoma duo made an instant sensation when "Girl in a Country Song" first emerged on the Internet. The foot stomper, written by Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye with Aaron Scherz, speaks in the voice of the woman supposedly enticed by the wolf whistles of artists like Thomas Rhett in "Get Me Some of That" or Tyler Farr in "Redneck Crazy." Aw, naw, Marlow and Dye say to such Cro-Magnon advances. Bikini tops chafe. Cutoff shorts ride up. It's boring to slide on over to the passenger side and just sit there looking pretty. "How in the world did it go so wrong?" Maddie and Tae harmonize. "Like all we're good for is lookin' good for you and your friends on the weekend — nothin' more."

Maddie and Tae are more. They're songwriters, powerful harmonizers, and in the video for "Girl in the Country Song," natural comediennes. Directed by TK McKamy (who's worked with at least one those bros in the past), it casts its two stars as observers of three bros at an outdoor party, rolling their eyes as the guys pant and whistle at some scantily-clad female guests. Then a sign flashes ROLE REVERSAL, and in scenes similar to Seth Rogen and James Franco's KimYe parody or the gender-flips of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," the dudes are shown in belly shirts and hot pants, fawning and strutting like the cartoon ladies recent country hits relentlessly present.

The video (which we're premiering here today) amuses not only because the male actors nail the ridiculousness of what country videos current ask of women, but because Maddie and Tae react with such verve and charm. Shots recreating the song's composition show the checklist the pair says they actually made; with phrases like "sugar shaker" and "money maker," it's relevant to the whole history of popular music, and of women reclaiming the perspective from men.

Now that the media's paying attention, Maddie and Tae are being careful to note that they're not haters of the male acts their song skewers. Like most young artists seeking mainstream success today, they keep their protest fairly benign. But the message of "Girl in a Country Song" and its video can't be misconstrued. Stereotypes are ridiculous. It's time to slide away from them.

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So trendy. Again. (Shutterstock)

Thanks To Backpack's Revival, Lugging Stuff Is Fashionable Again

by Constance C.R. White
Jul 24, 2014 (Ozy.com)

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Constance C.R. White

Backpacks are making a comeback. Which shouldn't be surprising. We're so obsessed with athletic wear designed to be worn everywhere but the gym, so it would seem inevitable that sports bags would make an appearance, too.

But it's not the bag filled with American history books that kids heave to school. Nor is it the rugged, nylon thing athletes carry around. These backpacks are clever examples of fashion following function.

Backpacks' hobo heritage gives wearers a patina of daring and freedom. A briefcase? That's so company woman. This age of bold (or pragmatic) entrepreneurialism calls for a bag that bellows adventure. Plus, what are you supposed to carry when you're already wearing sweatpants to work? A backpack.

Here's who's diving into the fray:

Not content with conquering the shoe world, Vince Camuto's handbag collection boasts three great-looking and utility-friendly backpack styles. There's a small, butter-soft, black pouch with a zippered strap. A crisp white and black number might remind you of 1920s men in linen suits taking seaside strolls and thus is well-suited to summer.

You may prefer the clean lines and smooth leather of a midsize handbag from Alexander Wang or Proenza Schouler. Proenza Schouler has one with a generous top flap and square bottom. It comes in red, black or dove gray with gold or silver trim.

Several big fashion names have gotten creative with what may become the new "it" bag. Unusual prints, pebbled leather and other distinctive treatments like studs, beading and fringe are everywhere. Emerging designer Sarah Law has some of the best-looking backpacks around. Her collection, sold under the name "Kara," includes eclectic combinations of shearling and pebble leather and others in painterly hues of wine or sky blue.

Generally, there's a lot more whimsy in backpacks this go-round than existed in the '90s. Though the fluffy backpacks and kiddie colors of Clueless would be an exception — or maybe an inspiration — for designers like Law.

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So trendy. Again. (Shutterstock)

Book News: Amazon Exec Says Hachette Is Using Authors 'As Human Shields'

by Annalisa Quinn
Jul 24, 2014 (Ozy.com)

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

  • Amid the ongoing dispute between Hachette and Amazon, Amazon executive Russ Grandinetti has proposed paying Hachette authors normal royalties while donating the e-book profits to charity, according to Publishers Weekly. Amazon's removal of the pre-order button on Hachette titles has been one of its most lethal weapons in the dispute, though it has raised the ire of authors. Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content, made the offer directly to author Douglas Preston, who has been collecting author signatures for a letter asking Amazon to change its tough tactics. When the offer was rejected on the grounds that it would hurt Hachette more than Amazon, an Amazon spokesperson told Publishers Weekly, "You have to look at the parent company — Lagardère Group — rather than just the Hachette division. Kindle books are only 1% of Lagardère Group's sales. They can afford it, and should stop using their authors as human shields." A number of Hachette authors have publically criticized Amazon for the company's role in the dispute, and writers from Hachette and other houses have created a group called Authors United to find a "long-term strategy" for combating Amazon. The group plans to publish a letter as a full-page ad in The New York Times protesting Amazon's treatment of authors. Meanwhile, a competing petition on Change.org has garnered thousands of signatures and argues, "Major publishers like Hachette have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly. Amazon, on the other hand, has built its reputation on valuing authors and readers dearly."
  • On Monday, President Obama will give the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to 21 artists, writers, academics and journalists. The novelist Julia Alvarez will receive a National Medal of Arts "for her extraordinary storytelling," as will Maxine Hong Kingston "for her contributions as a writer."
  • Katie Crouch writes about suicide and Sylvia Plath in an essay posted on Buzzfeed (it was originally published in the journal ZYZZYVA): "She's one I think about the most, really. After all, I, along with thousands of other bookish females with a tendency towards blue, have worshipped her every word since finding The Bell Jar in the school library at fifteen. Sylvia! we cry. Oh, there have been armies of us, knobby-elbowed girls poring over her tangled prose while aching away on our twin beds."
  • The Vault, Slate's history blog, posted a school progress report for the Brontë sisters. Charlotte, the report reads, "writes indifferently," and "[k]nows nothing of grammar, geography, history, or accomplishments."
  • W.S. Merwin has a poem, "Living with the News," in The New Yorker. It begins:

"Can I get used to it day after day

a little at a time while the tide keeps

coming in faster the waves get bigger

building on each other breaking records

this is not the world that I remember."

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Tavarius Miller, 12, Jermaien Payne, 8, Kemarion Jones, 9, and Gary Kendrick, 8, all wait for the pool at Ransom Everglades School to open after an afternoon storm. The kids are bused over once a week from South Miami, which does not have a public pool. (WLRN)

Saving Lives In South Miami, One Pool At A Time

Jul 24, 2014 (WLRH-FM)

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Five kids from South Miami work on their swimming skills before playing a game of sharks and minnows. Gary Kendrick, 8, works on his freestyle stroke with help from a counselor at Ransom Everglades School. Kendrick did not know how to swim before he started lessons at the school.

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It's hot out. The usual midday thunderstorm has just passed, and the few kids hanging out on bleachers around the pool at Miami's Ransom Everglades School finally get the go-ahead to jump in and cool off.

Eight-year-old Gary Kendrick and the others are all here for swim lessons.

"They told us to hold on to the wall and kick our feet and, like, move our arms," Kendrick says. "When I had to swim to one of the counselors I was really swimming. I ain't even know I was moving."

Kendrick doesn't have the technique of an Olympic swimmer, but he can make it to the side of a pool if he's pushed, falls in, or just wants to cool off.

Kendrick is one of a handful of kids from South Miami to get free swim lessons at Ransom Everglades, a private school with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The kids—all over the age of 8, all black—are bused over from South Miami's community center once a week.

The Numbers

"You know, we have populations of people who lack basic swim skills," says Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gilchrist has spent much of her career researching drownings. Overall, she says, black children drown at a much higher rate than other kids.

"In swimming pools ... presumably, you know where the bottom is, you know where the sides are," she says. "And so one would think that with basic swim skills it should be difficult for an older child or teen to drown in a swimming pool. And yet that's what we were seeing among African Americans."

Swimming pool drowning rates among school-aged black children are more than 5 times higher than they are among white kids the same age.

Why? There are many reasons, but one big one ...

Access

"Kids who are living in public housing, growing up where finance is a real problem, single mother households, opportunities for just having access to a pool are limited," says Simon Codrington Jr. from the South Miami Community Advisory Committee.

Codrington is an advocate for the large black community there and says low-income kids simply aren't getting the opportunity to learn basic swimming skills. The closest public pool is three miles away, and Codrington says that's just too far.

"A single mother who relies on public transportation to get around, 9 times out of 10, she's not making a lot of trips," Codrington says.

After four decades of work to get a pool built, Codrington's finally getting one, in the heart of South Miami.

At the site, the pool's concrete basin has been poured, but everything else is just mud. Construction workers dart around in the mid-afternoon drizzle.

"This is the pool. This is the pool that's coming out of the ground right before your face," Codrington says. "Now let me show you something."

This pool, he points out, will be smaller than the one at Ransom Everglades where Gary Kendrick is learning to swim. It will have fewer lap lanes, and it will be shallower.

Codrington calls it a "mixed bag." He wishes the new pool were bigger—to accommodate things like swim meets and lifeguard lessons. But he's satisfied knowing that it'll be a place where neighborhood kids can learn to swim.

"This is going to save a lot of lives just as it is. It's going to save a lot of children from drowning," he says.

Kids looking to cool off during the summer won't have to wait too long. The new pool in South Miami is set to open by the time school's out next summer.

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