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Ted Leo and Aimee Mann as The Both, in a scene from their new video for the song "Volunteers Of America." (Courtesy of the artist)

The Both, 'Volunteers of America'

Aug 27, 2014

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Aimee Mann and Ted Leo of The Both

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Robin Hilton

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Aimee Mann and Ted Leo's latest video as The Both, for the song "Volunteers Of America," is part playful comedy, part wistful love story. The two join a cast of friends and family for an outdoor wedding, where a man and woman in their sunset years renew their vows, before the group breaks into an all-night party. It's a simple but affecting story the celebrates the mysterious human experience.

The video, directed by Daniel Ralston, also features cameos from musicians Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) and London May (Samhain), who play in the wedding band. Veteran actor Russ Tamblyn, known for his roles in West Side Story, Twin Peaks and more recently the film Drive, plays the part of the groom. The video was shot at Frank Sinatra's former house. Aimee Mann and Ted Leo also don wigs to play dual roles as their alter egos, aunt Connie and Ed Leo.

"'Volunteers of America' is my favorite song of the year," director Ralston told us via email. "When I hear it I picture people jumping around and having fun, maybe in a bouncy castle. Aimee gets to cut loose a little form her usual 'straight person' role in funny videos and Ted got to play Ed Leo, a character we came up with together."

"Volunteers Of America" is from The Both's debut, self-titled album.

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Israeli couple, Noga and Moshiko Siho, kiss after they have their wedding photos taken in an army staging area on the Israeli Gaza border, near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, Israel on Wednesday. (AP)

As Cease-Fire Takes Hold, Big Question In Gaza Becomes What's Next

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 27, 2014

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Some semblance of normal life returned to Gaza on Wednesday.

The day after Hamas and Israel accepted an open-ended cease-fire, Palestinians returned to their homes, markets opened and bulldozers began clearing the rubble while in Israel, the sirens warning of rockets fell silent.

Naturally, the Palestinians, Israelis and the world started looking toward the future and began asking a tough question: What's next?

The New York Times reports:

"The agreement, brokered by Egypt, calls for Israel to allow humanitarian aid and building materials through the border crossings it controls into Gaza. But it remained unclear who would oversee the reconstruction effort and monitor imported cement and concrete to allay Israeli concerns that it be used only for civilian purposes.

"Discussion of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with demands by Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, for a seaport and airport in Gaza — and by Israel for the demilitarization of the territory — were put off for up to a month.

"'I don't think that any declaration here is important, who won what,' Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, told reporters in an afternoon conference call Wednesday. 'What's important is what will happen in the future.'"

More immediately, Reuters reports that the truce has already started having an impact on the ground. Egypt, for example, eased restrictions at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. It allowed a shipment of 25,000 food parcels from the World Food Program to enter Gaza for the first time 2007.

Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson tweeted that for the first time in a while in Gaza, "you can feel relief in the air."

Still, one thing most people will agree on is that all of the big issues that led to this conflict remain unresolved.

In today's opinion page, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz took shots at both sides, saying both committed war crimes in this conflict. What this war should teach the world is that a long-term peace cannot be accomplished through military might, it said. A long-lasting peace will come only through sincere negotiations.

Haaretz concludes:

"Over the last 50 days, cemeteries filled with bodies and hospitals overflowed with wounded. Rubble piled up and hatred and fear overflowed their banks on both sides. But this cloud could yet have a silver lining: Perhaps Israel, for the first time in its history, will fundamentally change its approach.

"It sounds ridiculous now. But how is it possible to end this cursed war without at least envisioning hope?"

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Indian schoolchildren eat their free midday meal. (AFP/Getty Images)

Lizards And Worms Should Not Be On The School Lunch Menu

by Rhitu Chatterjee
Aug 27, 2014

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Sweetened rice is a popular dessertand snack in India. This dish, traditionally made with a pinch of saffron and cardamom powder, was served at a school on the outskirts of Jammu in northern India.

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Rice and lentils was the free lunch on August 22 at the Government Model Senior Secondary school in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh.

Teachers took a look at the meal.

They found worms.

Lunch was not served. Seven hundred students reportedly went home hungry after their school day.

India's free school lunch program is the largest in the world. The program was started in the mid-1990s with two goals: to fight chronic hunger and child malnutrition and to increase school enrollment and attendance.

As many studies have shown, the program has reached these goals. The "Mid-Day Meal Program" currently feeds about 120 million of India's poorest children. "Food is cooked in 12 lakh (1.2 million) schools," says Dipa Sinha, an economist at the Center for Equity Studies in New Delhi.

It is also a program that has made headlines for its missteps, one of which was tragic.

In 2013, 23 students at a school in the Chapra district of Bihar died after eating food contaminated with pesticides. Many more fell ill. A government investigation later found that, like most schools in the state, this school had no separate kitchen or storage place for the food items. As a result, ingredients were stored in the principal's house, right next to pesticides stored for her farm.

Since then, there's been no tragedy of similar scope. But there are worms. And lizards.

Earlier this summer, a child found a dead lizard in the lunch served at his primary school in the city of Bhagalpur, on the Ganges River in the state of Bihar. Later that day, 16 students complained they were feeling dizzy and had to be admitted to the local primary health care center. A government investigation later found that the animal had fallen into the meal while it was being cooked."

As the Times of India and other Indian papers reported, this was the fourth case of students being sick after eating their school lunch in the state of Bihar.

In these cases — and other instances where students became sick after eating a contaminated school lunch — the cause is often a lack of proper storage facilities.

The rice and wheat supplied to schools come from government warehouses, says Sinha, who was a member of a team appointed by the Indian government to track the school lunch program in different states. This past year, the government bought more grains from farmers than it had room to store them, she says. "A lot has been stored in the open."

Schools are also short on storage space. The government sends grains to schools every two or three months. And many schools around the country don't have a separate kitchen or larder to store the grains.

This is monsoon season, says Sinha. Insects thrive in the damp weather. "So if there's no storage in the schools, then it's a problem."

Back in Bihar, where most of these recent incidents have occurred, local activists agree. "You have to improve the facilities [in schools]," says Rupesh Kumar, a longtime food rights activist.

Since the 2013 poisoning in Bihar, the government has been building separate kitchens in schools. "As of March of this year, 2000 schools had kitchen sheds," says Kumar. But thousands more are yet to be built.

There's also a need to better train cooks about best practices in the kitchen, says Kumar. Cooks at schools are often illiterate or poorly educated and aren't aware about health standards. He says the government has already given schools in Bihar a set of "standard operating procedures," or guidelines to maintain health and sanitation standards. But there's no way to ensure that the cooks follow those guidelines.

Ultimately, he says all of this reflects a lack of monitoring and accountability.

Currently, a teacher is assigned to monitor the program and make sure everything runs smoothly, says Kumar. Teachers do this on top of regular duties and are not paid extra. "One person is overseeing everything," he says. "This is the main problem."

The problems can be fixed, says Sinha. For example, the states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have created a separate position for a "noon meal organizer." As a result, she says, their school lunch programs have fewer problems than in other areas.

The Indian government has appointed a handful of independent committees to periodically monitor programs in randomly selected schools. But such efforts need to be more comprehensive, says Sinha.

Meanwhile, despite all these cases of contaminated food, kids haven't stopped eating the free lunches — a sign of how much they depend on the Mid-Day Meal Program.

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Mauritanian singer and instrumentalist Noura Mint Seymali. (Ebru Yidiz for NPR)

Latitudes: The International Music You Must Hear In August

Aug 27, 2014

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Sweetened rice is a popular dessertand snack in India. This dish, traditionally made with a pinch of saffron and cardamom powder, was served at a school on the outskirts of Jammu in northern India.

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This month's offerings for what you have to hear from Asia, Africa and Europe are a mixed plate. There are some new summer songs to catch up on, including a fabulous party tune, a very pretty number used in one of this summer's most talked about films and a video I just can't stop watching from an emerging duo. I'm also playing a quick round of "Where Are They Now?" with two acts I've been following for a while; both use fantastical, psychedelic sounds, but to very different ends.

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Sam Mullet stands in the front yard of his home in Bergholz, Ohio, in 2011. Mullet's conviction for hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of his faith was overturned Wednesday. (AP)

Hate-Crime Convictions In Amish Beard-Cutting Case Thrown Out

by Krishnadev Calamur
Aug 27, 2014

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Sweetened rice is a popular dessertand snack in India. This dish, traditionally made with a pinch of saffron and cardamom powder, was served at a school on the outskirts of Jammu in northern India.

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An appeals court in Cincinnati has overturned the hate-crime convictions of 16 Amish who cut the beards and hair of their fellow Amish.

"When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants' theory that interpersonal and intra-family disagreements, not the victims' religious beliefs, sparked the attacks," the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

The Associated Press adds that three defendants who were convicted of non-hate crime-related charges did not challenge those convictions.

The Amish beard-cutters, headed by a man named Sam Mullet, who ran a community of about 120 people near Bergholz, Ohio, were convicted in September 2012 of five attacks in Amish communities in Ohio in 2011. As Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported for NPR's All Things Considered at the time: "The victims have all been Amish leaders who have spoken out against Mullet, or those who have fled Mullet's group."

Mullet, as we reported last year, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is now 69 years old. Members of his family received sentences ranging from one to seven years.

As part of our reporting on the story, sociologist Charles Hurst spoke about the significance of facial hair among the Amish and why the beard-cutting resonated so deeply among the community.

"Having a beard is a sign of adulthood, it's a sign of maturity and it's a sign of marital status. So it's a sign of a man being a man. So, to cut the beard is a kind of humiliation," he told reporter David Barnett.

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