Letters: Jackson, IOUs

Robert Siegel and Melissa Block read from listeners' comments about our coverage of Michael Jackson and the interest on California IOUs.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

To your letters now. Our coverage of the death of the King of Pop is keeping our email server very busy. Many of you want us to let Michael Jackson rest in peace, but for different reasons.

SIEGEL: Reason number one, you're tired of hearing about him.

Phoebe Hall(ph) of Mystic, Connecticut wrote this: Last night at the gym, as CNN broadcast nonstop coverage of Michael Jackson's memorial service, I watched dire headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen about the Uyghur unrest in China, fighting in Mogadishu and dozens of deaths in Afghanistan.

I expected more on these actual news stories when I turned on NPR in the car, but instead got more Michael Jackson all the way home. It made me wonder if Jackson had lived in ancient Rome, would Nero have moonwalked while his city burned?

BLOCK: The second reason many of you want us to leave Jackson to rest, you thought we were disrespectful in our interview with culture writer Teresa Wiltz of theroot.com, who weighed Jackson's musical gifts against his personal failings.

Charlene Mulenhart(ph) of Lawrence, Kansas writes: I was disappointed and disgusted with Robert Siegel's interview of the woman who made repeated negative comments about Michael Jackson. Worse still, Robert Siegel added his disapproval. Based on the interview, one would think that Michael Jackson was a good singer, but a horrible human being. You totally ignored all of his good qualities and all the good he did in the world. Overall, I love NPR, but this interview was one-sided and, given the timing, insensitive and mean.

And this from Michael Brooks(ph) of Forest Hills, New York: I never imagined that anything I heard on ATC would deserve to be called sleazy. But this evening, when Robert Siegel suggested to his guest that Michael Jackson would have liked to invite her young nephew for a sleepover, well, sleazy was the word that came to my mind. Shame on you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Well, Steve Epstein(ph) of Orinda, California felt differently. Thanks for providing a balanced view of Jackson's legacy, he writes, and continues, Teresa Wiltz's report was a refreshing departure from the overwhelmingly lopsided coverage that has been offered up by most media sources. Jackson's legacy must include not only his phenomenal artistry, but his corrosive dysfunction as well.

BLOCK: Now, onto our errant mathematical calculations yesterday.

SIEGEL: That's right. I talked with Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle about the IOUs being issued by the state of California. Holders of IOUs can cash them in in October, and the state will also pay interest at an annual rate of 3.75 percent. Well, for those who can't wait that long for the money, they can sell the IOU to someone else for 85 cents on the dollar.

BLOCK: We tried to quickly calculate how much money someone might make by buying up these IOUs, and as many of you noted, we were way off. So we've brought in an expert.

SIEGEL: I was the one who was way off.

NPR's Richard Harris is with me now.

Richard, 85 cents on the dollar, an annual interest rate of 3.75 percent for three months.

RICHARD HARRIS: Wow, it's a lot of money. It's a huge rate of return and almost better to use qualifiers as opposed to real numbers so we don't get in trouble again, but let me give it a whirl.

If you start with $85, the guy's got the $100 IOU to cash in. When he cashes it in, he gets $100.94 in three months.

SIEGEL: That's the interest?

HARRIS: That's the whole - that's what he gets. He's invested $85. He gets back $100.94. So his - in three months, his investment has increased in value by 18.75 percent. And some of our listeners had imaginative ways of how to calculate this as an annual rate, and I'm not going to step into that one, but it's a lot of money. It's a huge, huge rate of return.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Richard. And to straighten us out any time on math or other matters, go to npr.org and click on Contact Us.

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