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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are waking to news of another mass shooting in California.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Yeah. Days after the attack on a dance hall, a different gunman opened fire in different locations. He was in Half Moon Bay, a coastal community just south of San Francisco. He opened fire at a plant nursery and at a mushroom farm and killed seven people.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Westervelt is covering this story. Eric, who did this?

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve. The San Mateo County sheriff says the gunman is 67-year-old named Chunli Zhao. He's a local resident. The killings spanned two separate farm locations near each other. He allegedly killed four and gravely wounded a fifth at a plant nursery complex near a small shopping area right off the highway. He then killed three others at another location on a farm about two miles down the road. It's believed he worked at the nursery where he opened fire. Police found Zhao in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff's substation. So he basically went on a killing spree and then drove to a police station and gave himself in. He was taken into custody without incident. Police found a semi-automatic handgun in his car. A local official said the gunman was a disgruntled worker at one of the farms. But Sheriff Christina Corpus says there's no known motive at this time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTINA CORPUS: This kind of shooting is horrific. It's a tragedy that we hear about far too often. But today, it's hit home here in San Mateo County.

INSKEEP: Eric, you said a semi-automatic pistol. Isn't that the same type of weapon that was described in the Monterey Park shooting a few days ago?

WESTERVELT: Well, so we don't know yet if it was the exact same weapon, but it certainly is a similar type of a high-powered semi-automatic weapon.

INSKEEP: Who were the victims?

WESTERVELT: The seven killed are all believed to be farm workers at this mushroom farm and nursery greenhouse complex. A local council member says all were Chinese farm workers. The sheriff wouldn't comment on that. Some of the workers live there at the farm, Steve. So it's believed children witnessed the killings and almost certainly heard the shootings. It's a small, close-knit agricultural community. Here's Joaquin Jimenez, the vice mayor of Half Moon Bay.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOAQUIN JIMENEZ: We have been receiving phone calls from family members wanting to know information if their family members are okay. We hope they are.

INSKEEP: Eric, I began reading a news story about one of California's mass killings and mistakenly thought for a moment it was about the other California mass killing. How are people responding to all this violence in so few days?

WESTERVELT: Well, it's interesting. California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted something similar - that he was at the hospital, meeting with victims of the Southern California mass shooting when he got word and was briefed about this one to the north. He decried it as, quote, "a tragedy upon tragedy." And we heard from David Pine - he's the head of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors - who said, you know, he's sickened by all this, that Californians hadn't been able to even start to grieve those killed in the south when they were hit with another shooting spree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVE PINE: Our hearts are broken. We are deeply grateful for law enforcement, for their work this evening. But in the end, there are simply too many guns in this country. And there has to be a change. This is not an acceptable way for modern society to live and conduct its affairs.

WESTERVELT: And, Steve, we should note California has some of the strictest gun laws on the books in the nation. But there are all kinds of loopholes. There are some enforcement problems and challenges. There are illegal workarounds, including going to a gun show in a neighboring state like Nevada to try to skirt California's registration or background check laws. So bottom line - the state's gun laws have not stopped these mass killings.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Westervelt, thanks so much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: In a hit song, Taylor Swift sings, I'm the problem. It's me.

FADEL: Her fans allege the real problem is Ticketmaster. The botched presale of tickets for a Taylor Swift tour is, of course, an issue where Congress must get involved. And they actually have. Senators hold a hearing this morning asking if Ticketmaster's owner, Live Nation, has a monopoly over the ticketing industry.

INSKEEP: NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas is here. Good morning.

ANASTA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. For people who are not fans of Tay-Tay, what went wrong?

TSIOULCAS: Well, last November, millions of fans waited online for hours to buy tickets during the presale. But most of them walked away from their computers disappointed. Ticketmaster's systems crashed, and the company wound up canceling the public sale. Ticketmaster cited unprecedented demand. Interestingly, Taylor Swift later said that Ticketmaster had explicitly assured her several times that their systems would be able to handle it, but clearly, they couldn't.

INSKEEP: Is this more than just a bad day for Ticketmaster?

TSIOULCAS: Critics are saying yes. In fact, they've seized on this meltdown to highlight a complaint they already had. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been looking at Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, since well before the Taylor Swift situation. This has become a favorite talking point for lawmakers, who say this one company has created a stranglehold. Here's Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar talking to All Things Considered last November.

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AMY KLOBUCHAR: So what's before us is something that's too big, and that is Ticketmaster stemming from a 2010 merger in which Live Nation and Ticketmaster were allowed to combine. They own venues, so they're competing with independent venues all the time. And venue operators are concerned that if they don't use Ticketmaster as their primary ticketing service, then Live Nation's concert promotion business won't book the best shows at their venues. There's two high fees. A lot of these hidden fees, high fees are going on because there is no incentive for fair prices and superior offerings and innovation if you're the only company in town.

INSKEEP: And there we're getting to that argument about monopolistic practices. She mentioned a 2010 merger that cut down on competition. Was that when the trouble started, really?

TSIOULCAS: It predates that by decades. Certain musicians have been complaining about Ticketmaster for a very long time. All the way back in 1994, for example, members of the band Pearl Jam testified before Congress. Here's Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard at the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STONE GOSSARD: Many Pearl Jam fans are teenagers who do not have the money to pay $30 or more that it's often charged for tickets today. It is well-known in our industry that some portion of the service charges Ticketmaster collects on its sale of tickets is distributed back to the promoters and the venues. It is this incestuous relationship and the lack of any national competition for Ticketmaster that has created the situation we're dealing with today.

INSKEEP: Wow. That is from a different century with this problem. It's the same now?

TSIOULCAS: (Laughter). Yes. And it's worth noting that since the Ticketmaster Live Nation merger, a lot of the venues that Gossard was talking about are now owned, operated or leased by Live Nation. And remember, he talked about 30-buck tickets. Trade publications have noted that since the mid-1990s, average ticket prices for music concerts have tripled in the United States, and that way outpaces inflation. And that's even before tickets hit the resale market. Ticketmaster happens to be one of the biggest companies in that resale business, too.

INSKEEP: All right. So what does Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, say about all this?

TSIOULCAS: In written testimony submitted ahead of today's hearing, the combined company says it has learned, quote, "valuable lessons" from the Taylor Swift debacle. And it's defending its 2010 merger. It blamed fans for really overloading the system, that too many request came in. And they also blamed bots for generating millions of requests.

INSKEEP: I'm not the problem. It's not me. (Laughter) Anastasia, thank you so much.

TSIOULCAS: My pleasure. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: OK. The Oscar nominations come out today.

FADEL: There's a wide variety of movies that could be in the mix, from big-budget blockbusters to the more indie arthouse fare.

INSKEEP: And NPR Culture Desk reporter Andrew Limbong has been following it all. Good morning.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so who might get nominated for best picture?

LIMBONG: OK, so, you know, there are 10 slots in this category, right? And in this year's crop of movies, like you said, it's like the mega blockbusters up against the usual Oscar baity-type stuff. So some of the titles being tossed around include two sequels, right? One, we've got "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way Of Water." "Top Gun" dominated the box office last year, and "Avatar" just spent this past weekend breaking 2 billion at the box office.

INSKEEP: Wow.

LIMBONG: And then on the relatively smaller scale, other titles include the mind-bending, universe-hopping movie "Everything Everywhere All At Once." There's "Tar." That's the Cate Blanchett movie about the controlling orchestra conductor. And for my money, the frontrunner is "The Fabelmans." That's the semi-autobiographical movie directed by Steven Spielberg about a young boy who's coming of age and learns a love of movies. Here's a clip of the boy's mom, Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, helping him film his train set crashing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FABELMANS")

MICHELLE WILLIAMS: (As Mitzi Fabelman) We're going to use Daddy's camera to film it. Only crash the train once, OK? Then after we get the film developed, you can watch it crash over and over till it's not so scary anymore.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) That's great. I missed a chance at the theater the other day to see "The Fabelmans," watched something else. Would I regret that then?

LIMBONG: Well, according to the Golden Globes, you know, you did (laughter) because "The Fabelmans" won for best drama movie. And speaking of the Globes, it's helpful to look at them to get a sense of who's in the running for the actor awards. You know, Michelle Williams is probably in the mix, as is Cate Blanchett. Michelle Yeoh won a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy for "Everything Everywhere." In it, she plays Evelyn, a frustrated mother who has a hard time connecting with her gay daughter. Here's a clip of the two of them talking while they're cooking.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE")

MICHELLE YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) You know, he doesn't have to stay.

STEPHANIE HSU: (As Joy Wang) Who's he?

YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) Becky.

HSU: (As Joy Wang) Becky's a she.

YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) You know me. I always make the he she. In Chinese, just one word - ta. So easy. And the way you two are dressed, I'm sure I'm not the only one calling him he - I mean her him. Anyway...

LIMBONG: Anyone who's seen the movie knows I'm, like, slightly underplaying the plot a bit because the movie gets a little out there. But if Yeoh does get nominated, this'll actually be her first Oscars nod in her decades-long career.

INSKEEP: What did Brendan Fraser do to get into the mix here?

LIMBONG: Yeah, a lot of people are talking about him and his role in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale. In it, he plays an obese writing teacher who also has a hard time connecting with his daughter.

INSKEEP: It's a theme here. But go on, please.

LIMBONG: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. The movie itself has gotten kind of mixed reviews for its portrayal of fat people. But like, even in the most brutal takedowns of the movie that I've read, critics have made sure to mention that Fraser's performance is as tender and humane as the script allows him to be.

INSKEEP: What about another big award, best director?

LIMBONG: Yeah, a lot of the movies we've talked about have their directors in the running. You know, you've got Spielberg, Todd Field for "Tar," the Daniels, Kwan and Scheinert, for "Everything Everywhere." There's also Baz Luhrmann for the Elvis movie. But I'm actually interested in seeing if women get boxed out of this category at the Oscars, like they did at the Golden Globes. And, you know, it isn't as if there wasn't a solid bunch of movies directed by women this year, right? Both Sarah Polley's "Women Talking" and Gina Prince-Bythewood's "The Woman King" got good reviews this year, but they don't seem to be in, like, the discourse as much as, say, Jane Campion was when she was nominated and won for "Power Of The Dog" last year.

INSKEEP: Well, we'll see what the nominations bring. Andrew, thanks so much.

LIMBONG: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.