But as the latest bomb plot in Yemen shows, little stays hidden for long these days.
In the post-Sept. 11 world, even the most sensitive intelligence operations quickly become daily fodder as the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet and media-friendly politicians give the story momentum. And it's often senior government officials and the intelligence community who spread the juiciest details.
Twice a week, local seniors in Warrenton, Virginia, flock to a hip new dinner spot called the Bistro on the Hill for good food, a great view, and musical accompaniment by a retired piano player from a nearby Nordstrom's.
Many headlines and stories (including some of ours) have been saying that a "double agent" infiltrated al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and foiled a plot to get another underwear bomb aboard a U.S.-bound passenger jet.
But we've been looking at definitions of spy terms and think that based on what we have been told so far, the person at the center of the story wasn't a double agent.
What if it's not just our genes or our lifestyle, exactly, that makes us skinny or fat, healthy or sick? What if it's also the makeup of the bacterial ecosystem that inhabits our gut?
A growing pile of scientific studies is pointing us in that direction. Researchers in this hot new field describe the microbes in our gut as a vital organ that's as essential as our liver or kidneys. They're finding that this organ, which they call the "microbiome," varies greatly from person to person.
The amount of plastic debris in the part of the Pacific Ocean known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years.
In a paper published today by the journal Biology Letters, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography report that most of that plastic has degraded into pieces no bigger than a fingernail. But that wasn't the major finding the scientists are reporting.
The scientists have found that all those pieces of plastic have provided ample opportunity for insects called "sea skaters" to breed.
It was a story about the little guy taking on the big, multinational corporation on equal footing: Heather Peters, a California woman, took Honda to small claims court claiming her hybrid Civic wasn't getting the gas mileage promised on the window sticker.
Mexico is reeling from another round of brutal murders of journalists. Four journalists and photographers who covered the police beat have been killed in eastern Mexico's crime-ridden state of Veracruz.
There's a new call for the federal government to take measures to protect journalists in a country where more and more reporters censor themselves out of fear.
The ceremony to remember the most recent killings took place last weekend in Mexico City on the steps of the Monument of Independence between statues depicting peace and law.
If you're sitting at a desk reading this article, take a minute and stand up. That's the latest advice from New York TimesPhys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds. In her new book, The First 20 Minutes, Reynolds details some of the surprisingly simple ways you can combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
The Food and Drug Administration has a proposition for the companies that make X-ray machines.
Make sure your new equipment has settings and instructions that minimize radiation hazards for kids, or the agency will look to slap a label on the machines that recommends they not be used for children at all.
The agency proposed the approach today (details in the Federal Register); it's the latest move to curb radiation hazards from imaging equipment.
The mortgage giant Fannie Mae announced today that it made $2.7 billion during the first quarter of 2012. For the first time since the beginning of the financial crisis, Fannie Mae will not ask the federal government for bailout funds.
CNN reports the company will pay a dividend to the Treasury Department. CNN adds:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, there's a new report from a top U.N. official that looks at living conditions of Native Americans in this country. We'll hear from that official in just a few minutes. But first we turn to domestic politics. The general election is still months away but on Tuesday voters around the country cast ballots that could have a national impact.
Now, we want to turn to a high school competition that is taking off this weekend, and no, we are not talking football or cheerleading. This is the finals of the nation's largest rocketry tournament. One hundred teens will gather for the Team America Rocketry Challenge this weekend in Washington, D.C.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, as a child, did you ever build a rocket? Well, how about one that can take two raw eggs 800 feet up and bring them back safely again? That's exactly what students from Memphis' Wooddale High School managed to do, and now they're competing in a national competition this weekend. We'll hear their inspiring story in just a few minutes.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a leading moderate Muslim leader in the U.S., was once the lead cleric associated with the proposed Islamic community center some critics called the "ground zero mosque." In late 2010, a debate over the location of the community center, now called the Cordoba House, became a contentious issue during the midterm elections.
During the debate, Rauf was called a "radical Muslim" and a "militant Islamist" by critics of the proposed community center. He was accused of sympathizing with the Sept. 11 hijackers and having connections to Hamas.
Six years ago, Indiana Democrats didn't bother fielding a candidate against Sen. Richard Lugar. But with his loss in Tuesday's Republican primary, they think they have a real chance to take Lugar's seat.
Democrats argue that the new GOP nominee, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, will prove too conservative even for the Republican-leaning state.
"There's a lot of animus here because of the way Mourdock has campaigned," says Ann DeLaney, a former Indiana Democratic Party official.
Think you're safe from norovirus, the nasty bug behind the stomach flu, if you steer clear of someone who has it?
Think again. Researchers in Oregon investigating an outbreak of stomach flu among some young soccer players learned the virus can hitch a ride on those reusable plastic bags many of us have gotten accustomed to carrying to and from the store.
One of the most infamous ships still sailing can't dock at its final resting place just yet.
India's Supreme court has ruled that the Exxon Valdez (now called the Oriental Nicety) cannot enter a scrap yard in the western state of Gujarat until its owners can prove the tanker has been cleaned of mercury, arsenic, asbestos, residual oil and other potential contaminants.
Yves Klein made his project "FC1" with water, a blowtorch and two models. The women pressed their wet figures against a fire-resistant board, then stepped away. Afterward, Klein torched the board — an effect that left behind blurry silhouettes of models.
In the history of Major League Baseball, only 15 players have hit four homeruns in a single game. Well, last night, Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton became Number 16. He hit four balls out of the park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Orioles' fans weren't happy. Hamilton's Rangers were trouncing their team. Still, they gave Hamilton a standing ovation as he took his place in center field in the eighth inning. As Hamilton put it, that let's you know they are true baseball fans.
And let's stay in Iowa. It was only a few decades ago that railroad tracks laced the state's countryside, linking even the smallest Iowa communities to the rest of the country. Many of these short line railroads have been disappearing. They're being turned into farm land or in some cases, bicycle trails. But in one Iowa community, farmers and businessmen are using their own money to preserve their railroad connection. They see it as an economic lifeline.