Good morning. I'm David Greene with a remembrance of Dick Beals, the man whose voice gave lie to Gumby. A glandular condition gave Beals his small stature and youthful voice, a voice that was used in more than 3,000 commercials. Beals played a wide range of roles - babies, teenagers, chipmunks. Perhaps most notably the Speedy Alka-Seltzer character.
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DICK BEALS: (Singing) Alka-Seltzer, plop, plop, fizz, fizz - oh, what a relief it is.
On a Friday, it is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.
In a unanimous ruling, a federal appeals court has struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. The First Circuit Court of Appeals, in Boston, ruled the 1996 law unconstitutional because it denies giving gay couples the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples. As NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports, the ruling sets the stage for a potential battle at the U.S. Supreme Court.
OK, let's turn now to personal wealth. Today's last word in business is disappearing millions.
The number of millionaire households in this country declined in 2011. That's according to this year's Global Wealth Study from the Boston Consulting Group. It found the number of American households with a million dollars of investable assets shrunk by 2.5 percent.
The U.S. still leads the world in millionaires, but developing countries are gaining ground. Other countries added nearly 200,000 millionaire households in 2011.
NPR's business news starts with a new, multibillion-dollar chemical plant.
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GREENE: Exxon Mobil plans to build a huge chemical facility in Baytown, Texas. It reverses a company statement last year that said it has no plans for new chemical factories in the United States. According to Reuters, decades-low natural gas prices made the move too enticing to pass over. Natural gas is a key fuel in chemical production. By using its own natural gas, Exxon Mobil can run a chemical plant relatively cheaply.
It's been more than a year since Wisconsin Democrats began talking about recalling the state's governor, Scott Walker. Next week they'll get their chance to do it. Last night, Walker and his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, traded barbs in their final debate before Tuesday's vote. Turnout is expected to be very high, as the recall is sharply dividing voters in Wisconsin, so much so, some have just stopped talking to each other. NPR's David Schaper has the latest from Milwaukee.
This election year we've seen a lot of cases where different people look at the same economic situation and come to different conclusions. And that seems to be happening in Michigan. It's America's comeback state - that according to its governor, Rick Snyder. Unemployment there is dropping, as the U.S. auto industry rebounds. And the state has a budget surplus for the first time in years.
Let's turn now to Florida, where a federal judge has blocked portions of a new election law that was causing a lot of debate. That law had put tough restrictions on groups conducting voter registration drives. Because of the restrictions, the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote stopped registering votes(ph) in the state. Those groups challenged the new law in court. And yesterday, Judge Robert Hinkle sided with the groups. He called the rules onerous and unconstitutional.