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Photo: Flour child

A boy's face is covered in flour after competing in the traditional "Las Chamcacas" game during a three-day celebration honoring the town's patron saint "Santa Cruz de Roma," in Panchimalco, El Salvador. Photo: AP/Luis Romero

Tuesday morning roundup


Donald Trump

The upcoming season of The Donald’s primetime hit, “The Apprentice,” will be celebrity-free this time around. The format will revert back to featuring regular folks whose livelihoods have been negatively affected by the economy.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss peace in the Middle East.  Most pressing for the summit is the impending expiration of the moratorium on new Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
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Building a sneakier robot

If robots weren’t annoying enough already with their beeping and clanging and general lack of empathy, now two scientists from Georgia Tech are teaching them how to be liars too.

The experiment, published last week in The International Journal of Social Robotics, endeavored to see if two machines, Hider and Seeker, could psych each other out by leaving fake trails for one another.  While we’re still a long way from a machine that’s sneaky enough to feign regret like HAL 9000, the research marks a significant step forward in the science of teaching artificial intelligence to use deception.
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Highwire at the media circus

I’m so glad to say that Need to Know was a Pastor Terry Jones-free zone last week. While we alluded to the difficulties an anti-Muslim demonstration presents to the U.S. government, and the real threats it posed, we did not contribute to his 15 minutes of fame.

The High Line in New York City. Photo: Martin Palmer

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Television to die for

Truth is the new lie for a failing theater company in the spot-on "Slings & Arrows."

Although it might seem as if all popular culture were aimed at capturing the ever-fleeting attention of 14-year-olds, a recent study says otherwise, at least when it comes to TV. The report, released last month by Baseline Inc., showed that the median age for the major broadcast networks is a staggering, and comparatively doddering, 51. The vast audience that keeps “Dancing in the Stars” on air? Median age 60. In other words, old. Too old, conventional ad sales wisdom goes, to bother selling anything to. This is bad news, it would seem, for network executives who desperately need those shrinking ad revenues.

While this information might be a revelation to those who consume, or work in (or feel bombarded by, or shun), mainstream media, here at PBS we merely shrug and get back to the entertaining business of appraising antiques. We’ll see your median age 51, and we’ll raise you 6 years and a gift basket filled with Civil War memorabilia.

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Word of the day: Retronym

What I learned at work:  During an interview about green design for our Climate Desk podcast, Dwell magazine editor Aaron Britt dropped a word on me I hadn’t heard before: Retronym.  It means, “a word or phrase for something that now has to be specified because it is no longer identifiable in its original state.”  For example, the retronym “acoustic guitar” exists only because there are now electric guitars. Other retronyms include digital clock, sit-down restaurant, black-and-white photo. You get the idea.  Britt believes green design is a retronym because once upon a time homes were built with the environment in mind as opposed to how they are built now.  The invention of the word has been attributed to former NPR president and Robert Kennedy press aid,  Frank Mankiewicz, circa 1980.  Thinking of retronyms is a good time killer and I believe a great Scrabble word if you get lucky.

Monday afternoon roundup


The Vatican Apostolic Library is reopening this month after an extensive renovation and a slew of new security measures. The changes, which were implemented in part because of the attempted theft of a 14th-century document in 1996, include the outfitting of all 70,000 books with computer chips.

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Photo: World Trade Center Memorial

The granite memorial fountain honoring the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The fountain was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks along with the rest of the World Trade Center. A recovered fragment of the fountain is preserved in an interim memorial and will become part of the permanent collection of the new National September 11 Memorial & Museum honoring victims of both the 1993 and 2001 attacks. Photo: Jed Dore

Case against Colombian paramilitaries shrouded in secrecy

Our friends at Wide Angle have partnered with ProPublica to investigate the secrecy surrounding U.S. federal drug cases against Colombian paramilitary leaders. They’ve found that more than a dozen of the country’s most notorious paramilitary leaders have been extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges — and access to the cases has been blocked, so there’s no way for the victims (or anyone) to know that justice is being served. Prosecutors say the cases were probably sealed to protect the safety of the paramilitaries, who are cooperating with U.S. drug enforcement authorities. But the secrecy means that the truth about two decades worth of brutality might not ever be exposed.

Read the full article by Wide Angle’s Oriana Zill and Jennifer Janisch and ProPublica’s Chisun Lee in the Washington Post.