The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Older Tech Workers Oppose Overhauling H-1B Visas

Feb 19, 2013
Originally published on February 19, 2013 3:45 pm



Now, a look at one part of the immigration debate in Congress: a proposed increase in H1-B visas. Those are the visas that allow companies to hire skilled foreign workers. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports in today's "Business Bottom Line," offering more of those visas is controversial, especially among American tech workers of a certain age.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Here in Seattle, people still have fond memories of the 1990s tech boom.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you want a cup of coffee?

KASTE: Take a middle-aged computer programmer to breakfast, and he'll tell you some tales.

JOHN SCHROEDER: Basically, if you weren't drooling on yourself, we would hire you.

KASTE: John Schroeder remembers desperate companies hiring kids straight out of college - zero experience; 80,000 a year. Nowadays, those Gen-X software guys face a very different reality.

SCHROEDER: I do have friends who have been out of work. Some of them have been willing to go from being kind of a senior architect person to being a code monkey on a project, for less money.

KASTE: But that's where you start to see a paradox these days because lately, here in Seattle, tech companies are once again complaining that they can't find enough programmers.

BRAD SMITH: We had over 3,500 open engineering jobs at the end of 2012. That was an increase of 44 percent, year over year.

KASTE: Brad Smith is general counsel at Microsoft, and managers are making similar complaints over at Amazon and at smaller companies. Everybody's way behind on their head count. Microsoft says that's why it's asking Congress for more H1-B visas. Temporary visa holders - from places like India and China - already make up about 10 percent of the company's workforce in the U.S., and Smith says it needs more.

SMITH: The biggest gating factor on the industry's ability to keep innovating, and keep producing more products, is the ability to hire more engineers. It is slowing us down.

KASTE: But Mitch Ericson isn't buying it.

MITCH ERICSON: If you really do need people then why, at the very least, didn't I get a call?

KASTE: Ericson has been applying for jobs at Microsoft since before he finished his computer science bachelor's degree last summer. He is, admittedly, a nontraditional candidate for entry-level software work. This was a late career change for him, and he's 60. But he figures if the need is so great, Microsoft could at least take a look at him.

ERICSON: You know, usually, thing's a pyramid - right? They need 3,000 people up here, and they got 6,000 down below. So you promote from within. And then you get down to the bottom, at the entry-level. Now, we need people at the entry-level. That's me. We're going to hire Mitch now.

KASTE: Microsoft says the experience of one frustrated job hunter doesn't disprove the shortage of workers. And that's true. To understand a job market, you really want data. At U.C. Davis, computer science professor Norman Matloff points to one statistic in particular.

NORMAN MATLOFF: Salaries would be going up, and they're not - OK?

KASTE: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages for computer programmers have stagnated. In fact, between 2001 and 2011, the mean hourly wage didn't even keep up with inflation. It's still less than $40. Microsoft says there have been some healthy increases recently, not reflected in the government numbers. But for critics of the system, it's apparent that the H1-B visas work as a kind of pressure-release valve on pay. Matloff also thinks the visas let companies avoid hiring older programmers.

MATLOFF: You can be an exact fit but if you're 35, you're probably not going to even get a phone call. And meanwhile, the company is going to tell the press that there's just not any qualified people.

KASTE: Microsoft disputes this analysis. It says H1-B workers actually cost more because of the legal fees involved, and it hires foreigners only when it has no choice. And in fact, the law does require an employer to show that it can't find Americans. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In fact, most prospective employers can avoid having to show they've recruited Americans, as long as they meet certain guidelines.] But that process inspires a lot of cynicism, even from one of the people who wrote the law.

BRUCE MORRISON: You hire the alien first, and then you manipulate the regulatory system to prove that you can't find an American.

KASTE: Bruce Morrison shaped the H1-B system as chairman of the House Immigration Committee two decades ago. Now, as an immigration lawyer and a lobbyist, he says employers have become too fond of the temporary foreign workers.

MORRISON: One factor is that if people are here on H1-Bs, they are less demanding than Americans - who have choices about where they might work.

KASTE: Morrison would rather see easier access to permanent residency - green cards - so the foreign workers aren't, as some put it, indentured servants. At Microsoft, Brad Smith says he's all for more green cards. But right now, the company is focused on what's politically feasible - primarily, more H1-Bs; with the visa fees going to fund education in science, engineering and math in American schools.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.