Sports Commentary: Why Wimbledon Still Thrills

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The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

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Donald Trump picked a military town, Virginia Beach, Va., to give a speech Monday on how he would go about reforming the Dept. of Veterans Affairs if elected.

He blamed the Obama administration for a string of scandals at the VA during the past two years, and claimed that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has downplayed the problems and won't fix them.

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The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.

Now, though, it's always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere.

But in any one location, the season is still short. And this means that workers follow the blueberry harvest, never staying in one place for long.

More than 4 in 10 working Americans say their job affects their overall health, with stress being cited most often as having a negative impact.

That's according to a new survey about the workplace and health from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

While it may not sound so surprising that work affects health, when we looked more closely, we found one group was particularly affected by stress on the job: the disabled.

If you've stepped foot in a comic book store in the past few years, you'll have noticed a distinct shift. Superheroes, once almost entirely white men, have become more diverse.

There's been a biracial Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and just last week, Marvel announced that the new Iron Man will be a teenage African-American girl.

Joining this lineup today is Kong Kenan, a Chinese boy who, as part of a reboot of the DC comics universe, is one of four characters taking up Superman's mantle.

On Tuesday, an international tribunal soundly rejected Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea, an area where China has been building islands and increasing its military activity.

The case before the international tribunal in the Hague was brought by the Philippines, challenging what's widely seen as a territorial grab by Beijing. The tribunal essentially agreed. Beijing immediately said the decision was null and void and that it would ignore it. There are concerns now that the tribunal's decision could inflame tensions between the U.S. and China.

The deaths last week of three African-American men in encounters with police, along with the killing of five Dallas officers by a black shooter, have left many African-American gun owners with conflicting feelings; those range from shock to anger and defiance. As the debate over gun control heats up, some African-Americans see firearms as critical to their safety, especially in times of racial tension.


Toots Thielemans On JazzSet, With Kenny Werner

Oct 27, 2011
Originally published on August 1, 2013 11:39 am

More than 90 years ago, on April 29, 1922, Jean-Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans was born in Brussels. An organization formed to celebrate his landmark birthday, TOOTS90 is presenting a series of eight concerts, featuring Thielemans' quartet and special guests Kenny Werner on piano and Oscar Castro-Neves and Philip Catherine on guitar. All take place in Belgium, tracing a route from Antwerp to Gent, Brussels, Hasselt, Brugge, Liège and Dinant.

Leading up to this grand occasion, Thielemans received the 2011 Player of the Year Award in the category "Rare Instrument" from the Jazz Journalists Association in New York. A street was named for him in Brussels. He performed in Poland, Tokyo, Detroit and Middelheim. Sadly, he honored some friends who had passed away. When you're tracking Toots Thielemans' career, it helps to read German and French as well as English and Portuguese (as spoken in Brazil).

This concert — recorded on April 2, 2011, from The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. — finds, in that little space between a smile and a tear, the space in which Thielemans loves to play music.

Thielemans was always a natural musician, playing accordion at age 3. When he was a boy, the Nazis occupied Belgium and his family fled to France, where he fell even further in love with music — especially the hot jazz of Paris. After the war, Thielemans became fascinated with bebop and figured out the hip new phrases on his harmonica. (Toots, by the way, was originally a professional guitarist, and it is said that after hearing him with George Shearing in Hamburg in 1960, John Lennon went out and bought his Rickenbacker 325.)

Thielemans moved to the U.S. in the early 1950s, at which point he worked with Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Shearing. Toots loves to tell the story of how he made a Chrysler Plymouth commercial with Louis Armstrong, Armstrong singing and Toots playing harmonica. Pops called Toots "bop chops." Thielemans played music in the films Breakfast at Tiffany's and Midnight Cowboy, as well as the theme to Sesame Street; then, Toots fell in love again with the music of Brazil.

Thielemans became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1957. But it is Kenny Werner who thought of interpolating "Travessia (Bridges)" by the Brazilian Milton Nascimento into "God Bless America," the climactic song of the concert.

On synth and piano, Werner is both Thielemans' accompanist and agent provocateur, as he provokes, leads, follows and dances with Toots. In his own right, Werner is a world-traveling composer, pianist and educator, a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of a much-studied book. Effortless Mastery guides the musician/reader toward a personal place from which one's music flows. Perhaps that's the very space that, for Toots Thielemans, lives between a smile and a tear.

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