Asia
1:21 am
Mon January 2, 2012

Japanese Smoking Culture Proves Hard To Snuff Out

Mina Abe (center) and Kota Osabe (right) are trying to promote blowing bubbles as an alternative to cigarette smoking in Japan.
Courtesy of Tokyo Shabon-dama Club

For generations of Japanese, smoking has been all but synonymous with manhood and hard work. During Japan's high-growth period in the 1960s, the smoking rate for males topped 80 percent, twice as high as the rate during America's smoking heyday.

In a country that's so tobacco friendly, it's no wonder anti-smoking initiatives have trouble gaining traction. That's despite the estimated $90 billion being spent on cigarette-related health costs and damages every year, three times what cigarette sales bring in annually, according to the Japan Health Economics Association.

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Asia
1:17 am
Mon January 2, 2012

Desire For Stability Keeps China, N. Korea Allies

Trucks loaded with Chinese goods head across the Yalu Bridge and into North Korea one day after the memorial service for the late leader Kim Jong Il, at the Chinese North Korean border town of Dandong on December 30, 2011.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 3:50 pm

Chinese leaders made a rare condolence visit to North Korea's embassy in Beijing last month.

Broadcast on China Central Television, the leaders – dressed in black suits — bowed in unison towards the portrait of Kim Jong Il. Why show so much respect to a man who caused so much misery?

One reason: fear of something worse.

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Middle East
10:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Egypt, Tunisia Try To Turn Elections Into Democracy

Egypt is holding parliamentary elections, but the military remains the most powerful force in the country. Here, election officials take away ballot boxes from a polling station in Cairo on Nov. 29, 2011.
Odd Andersen AFP/Getty Images

One year ago, the people of Tunisia and Egypt rose up against their autocratic rulers and forced them from power. Those revolutions spread across the Arab World, leading to the region's biggest upheaval in decades. It's still not clear how these seismic changes will play out, and so far, the results have been mixed. Today, NPR begins a six-part series looking at where the region stands today. In our first story, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on the elections in Egypt and Tunisia as these countries struggle to build democracies.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits

U.S. soldiers at Long Binh base, northeast of Saigon, line up to give urine samples at a heroin detection center in June 1971, before departing for the U.S.
AP

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 1:49 pm

It's a tradition as old as New Year's: making resolutions. We will not smoke, or sojourn with the bucket of mint chocolate chip. In fact, we will resist sweets generally, including the bowl of M &Ms that our co-worker has helpfully positioned on the aisle corner of his desk. There will be exercise, and the learning of a new language.

It is resolved.

So what does science know about translating our resolve into actual changes in behavior? The answer to this question brings us — strangely enough — to a story about heroin use in Vietnam.

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Science
10:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Biotech Firms Caught In Regulatory No Man's Land

Companies making genetically modified animals face a regulatory morass in this country. It's not always clear which federal agency has responsibility for regulating a particular animal, and even when one agency does take the lead, the approval process can drag on for years.

The companies say this uncertainty means their technologies may die without ever being given a chance.

Take the case of the British company Oxitec. It has developed a genetically modified mosquito that the company says can be used to combat a disease called dengue.

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Theater
10:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Up Close and Personal: Introducing Intimate Theater

The Theater for One capsule, big enough for one performer and one audience member, was inspired by such intimate spaces as confessionals, peep show booths and psychiatrist offices.
Danny Bright Theater For One

Theatergoers are used to being anonymous, hidden in the darkness, part of a crowd. They're free to fidget, yawn, even tune out; the actors won't know. But in an innovative kind of theater popping up at fringe festivals and independent venues the spotlight shines on the audience.

Intimate theater relies on tight spaces and unconventional stages to collapse the distance between performer and viewer.

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Education
2:47 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

An Amazing Trickeration?: Banished Words For 2012

During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Aug. 28, 2011, singer Beyonce Knowles rubbed her stomach in the middle of the performance to reveal her baby bump. "Baby bump" is one of the words on Lake Superior State University's list of banished words this year.
Jemal Countess Getty Images

On New Year's day in 1977, Lake Superior State University in Michigan released its first "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness". Every year since then, it has taken nominations for words and phrases we should quit using in the coming year. Last year's list included such anti-favorites as "viral," "epic" and "refudiate."

In Washington, D.C., pedestrians nominated "ping me", "literally" used incorrectly, "bro," "hater," "hating," "totes" and "amazing."

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U.S.
2:24 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

A Quick Look At The Year Ahead

As the new year gets under way, we take a quick temperature check on some key areas to see what the prognosis might be. The topics: politics — domestic and global — and economics.

Education
1:45 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Physicists Seek To Lose The Lecture As Teaching Tool

Originally published on Wed August 1, 2012 4:32 pm

The lecture is one of the oldest forms of education there is.

"Before printing someone would read the books to everybody who would copy them down," says Joe Redish, a physics professor at the University of Maryland.

But lecturing has never been an effective teaching technique and now that information is everywhere, some say it's a waste of time. Indeed, physicists have the data to prove it.

When Eric Mazur began teaching physics at Harvard, he started out teaching the same way he had been taught.

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World
1:44 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Expect The Unexpected: Global Politics In 2012

The world will see big political changes with leadership shifts in China, Mexico, Russia, Europe, Egypt and particularly in the Middle East during 2012, according to David Rothkopf, a contributor to Foreign Policy Magazine.

"We're halfway through the initial wave of these [Middle Eastern] revolutions," says Rothkopf, adding that much more change is to come.

But it is possible that one of the biggest political changes won't happen in a physical location, but on the Internet. Rothkopf thinks that we could see a big escalation of cyber wars between nations.

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