From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. The search and rescue operation is still underway in the town of West, Texas, the scene of that devastating fertilizer plant explosion last night. Crews are going through the wreckage of some 75 homes and other buildings, many of them leveled in the blast.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. We're learning a little more, today, about the devastation in the small town of West, in Texas. It was the scene of last night's massive explosion at a fertilizer plant. And while there's still no official word on the number of dead, authorities estimate that between five and 15 people were killed. More than 160 were injured.
NPR's Daniel Zwerdling has been looking into the history of this fertilizer plant and explosions that have happened at other fertilizer plants. And Danny, what can you tell us about West Fertilizer and its history? Have there been safety problems before?
Robert Siegel talks to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma about why he voted no against the measure to expand background checks. The measure failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.
President Obama's nominee to head the Labor Department, Thomas Perez, appeared before a Senate committee today where he tried to portray himself as a bipartisan problem-solver who could listen to all sides. While the tone of the hearing was friendly, Perez faced some skeptical questions about a housing discrimination case he was involved with at the Justice Department.
Melissa Block talks with Mike Sulak, manager of West Drug in West, Texas, whose house was seriously damaged by the West Fertilizer plant explosion. Sulak says his front door and all the windows were blown out of his house, and all the ceilings collapsed. He was out to dinner at the time in nearby Waco.
Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jesse Lewis, holds a picture of the two of them as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.
Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP
Family members of those killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting stand together as President Obama speaks at the White House on Wednesday, after gun control measures were defeated in the Senate. In the foreground are Mark and Jackie Barden with their children Natalie and James, who lost Daniel. Behind them are Nicole Hockley, mother of Dylan, and Jeremy Richman, father of Avielle.
Credit Craig LeMoult / WSHU
Mike Cragin and his bulldog, Truman, stopped by the Dunkin' Donuts in Newtown, Conn., on Thursday. After the elementary school shooting in December, Cragin came to the same place and put up a sign inviting people to hug his dog.
Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 5:47 pm
Following the Senate's rejection Wednesday of a range of gun control measures, including universal background checks, many in Newtown, Conn., are reacting with surprise and disappointment. The town is still stricken with grief from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December that took the lives of 20 students and six adults.
On Thursday morning, Mike Cragin stopped by the Dunkin' Donuts in Newtown with his bulldog, Truman.
Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 3:38 pm
Among the semi-literate journals submitted by his high-school students, jaded French literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is jazzed to find a rough diamond from a new pupil, Claude (Ernst Umhauer).
In weekly installments, the ingratiating but enigmatic teenager, who looks as though he just stepped out of a Pasolini movie, chronicles his efforts to insinuate himself into the family of one his classmates, an amiable but awkward underachiever named Rapha (Bastien Ughetto).
Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 5:54 pm
If it seems perplexing why an idea that has broad support nationally could fail to pass the U.S. Senate, here's an important reminder: The Senate is not a democratic institution.
It never has been, and it was never designed to be. Rather, it was structured to give small or sparsely populated states the ability to stop the majority's will. And on Wednesday, that's how it worked out, as the Senate failed to reach a 60-vote threshold to support new background checks on gun purchases.
Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 2:41 pm
When you listen to NPR on your local Member Station, the audio always sounds so pleasant and calm. The programming floats along, bouncing seamlessly from one topic to another, from one program to another, going off without a hitch.
Except when it doesn't.
Over the last 42 years, there have been plenty of glitches, snags, slip-ups and utter meltdowns when it comes to using the technical tools for recording and playing audio. A few employees agreed to tell us about some of these less-than-perfect moments.
Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and wife Cindy (Paula Patton) are sandbagged by online identity thieves who steal their credit information — even as they're still grappling with the death of their young son.
Credit LD Entertainment
In a loosely connected storyline, the relationship between an investigative journalist (Andrea Riseborough) and a young digital sex worker (Max Thieriot) grows increasingly complicated as the twisted plot of Disconnect unwinds.
The title of Disconnect may be read as describing any of several things: the gulf between online and real-world interactions; the chasm that opens between human beings when spoken communication fails; our default emotional position in the face of unthinkable tragedy.
Attempting to address all three interpretations within the confines of a single movie may be courting failure, but writer Andrew Stern and director Henry-Alex Rubin go one better, adding an unnecessary cybercrime angle that muffles the screenplay's more subtle psychological insights.
The best documentaries about filmmaking are the ones that show it at its worst.
Movie sets are fundamentally boring places, where there's mostly a lot of waiting around going on. But when disaster strikes with millions of dollars on the line, the tension and drama are suddenly amped up to levels that often equal those in the movie being filmed.
Artist Jackie Sumell set out to build a dream home for bank robber Herman Wallace, whose additional conviction for killing a prison guard is the subject of a long-running dispute.
Credit First Run Features
A 3-D rendering of Wallace's dream house; Sumell's juxtaposition of the house and Wallace's 6-by-8 prison cell is a statement on the severity of solitary confinement in Louisiana's notorious state penitentiary.
The off-screen protagonist of Herman's House, Herman Wallace, already has a dwelling for his body: a 6-foot-by-8-foot cell at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, aka Angola. But the documentary's on-screen protagonist, Jackie Sumell, wants him also to have a place for his soul: a dream house for a man who desperately needs dreams.
The enigmatic Julia (Olga Kurylenko) surfaces from the mysterious past of Victoria's husband, Jack (Tom Cruise), a repairman tending drones on a largely abandoned Earth.
Credit Universal Pictures
The sterile, futuristic gloss of the post-apocalyptic living spaces in Oblivion are a perfect setting for Andrea Riseborough's icy Victoria — whose humanity, showing occasionally through the odd crack in her reserve, informs some of the film's strongest moments.
The score for Oblivion was composed by M83, a superb French electronic outfit that derives its name from one of the spectral pinwheels known as spiral galaxies. I point this out because it's the best element of the movie — a cascade of dreamy synthesizers that registers as appropriately futuristic (at least the future as suggested by '80s pop) while allowing an undercurrent of romantic yearning.