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Hard Times: A Journey Across America
4:12 am
Sat December 24, 2011

In Camden, S.C., A Family's Generations Talk Race

Sisters Ernestyne James Adams (right) and Althea James Truitt are concerned about the economy and today's political climate.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Sat December 24, 2011 10:07 pm

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

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Animals
4:11 am
Sat December 24, 2011

To Flirt In Cities, Birds Adjust Their Pitch

Have you ever been at a bar where it was just too loud to hit on anybody? Birds feel your pain.

A big part of being a bird is singing, often to attract other birds. Sometimes it's hard to do that amid all the noise in a city. For birds, it's like living in a bar, scientist Peter Marra says.

"Those sounds compete with low-frequency sounds," Marra says, and that makes it hard for birds that sing at a lower pitch to hook up.

But there's no stopping love, and Marra has found that those birds are changing their tune.

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Around the Nation
4:11 am
Sat December 24, 2011

Secular Opponents Of Holiday Displays Get Creative

A skeleton dressed in a Santa Claus costume is part of the holiday displays at the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Va. Many local residents are not pleased with the "Skele-Claus" or other displays by secular activists and atheists.
Kevin Dietsch UPI /Landov

Joseph, Mary, and ... the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Nativity scenes have long been a part of holiday displays at city halls and small-town courthouses across the country. This year, some proponents of secularism are finding new ways to protest the time-honored tradition. They're putting up their own versions of the creche — and causing quite a commotion in places like Leesburg, Va.

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Energy
3:10 am
Sat December 24, 2011

After Fukushima: A Changing Climate For Nuclear

The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station is seen through a bus window on Nov. 12. The four reactors that failed were stabilized this month.
David Guttenfelder AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 24, 2011 6:25 am

This year has something unpleasant in common with the years 1979 and 1986. In 1979, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania melted down. In 1986, the Soviet reactor at Chernobyl blew up and burned.

This year's meltdown occurred in Fukushima in Japan, and nuclear power isn't likely to be the same as a result.

Nuclear power had enjoyed 25 years of relative quiet, but the Fukushima accident reminded people that despite improvements in safety, nuclear plants could still go horribly wrong.

For some, though, nothing has changed much.

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Asia
3:10 am
Sat December 24, 2011

In Japan, Radiation Fears Reshape Lives

Japanese shoppers remain concerned about radiation levels in food following the country's nuclear accident in March. Shoppers are shown here in a Tokyo supermarket.
Lucy Craft NPR

Nine months after Japan's nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 — known here as just 3/11 — has faded into the background.

But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.

There's no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.

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Law
4:31 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Justice Department Blocks New S.C. Voting ID Law

The Justice Department has blocked a new South Carolina voting law, saying it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The state law requires voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The Justice Department says the law disenfranchises minorities, but the state says it protects against voter fraud. For more, Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Pam Fessler.

The Two-Way
3:34 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Work, Life Balance: VW Agrees To Switch Off After-Hours Email

VW workers will no longer get off-hours email on their BlackBerries
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

In an always-connected world, the line between work and life is often blurred. Now, Volkswagen has announced that it is shutting down after-hours email for German employees who are handed Blackberrys.

The BBC has details:

"Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.

"The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.

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The Salt
3:02 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie

If you happen to spend Christmas Eve in Canada — especially Québec — you might lucky enough to be invited to a festive dinner after midnight mass. The feast is an old tradition from France called revellion, and it's something to look forward to after a long day of fasting.

"They'll have a huge feast, with sweets and lobster and oysters, everything," says Thomas Naylor, executive chef to the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. "But, in Quebec at least, you'll always have tourtière. It will be the center of the reveillon."

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The Two-Way
2:27 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Britain's Prince Philip Is Hospitalized

(FILES) A file picture taken in June shows Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attending a reception at Buckingham Palace.
John Stillwell AFP/Getty Images

After experiencing chest pains, Britain's Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has been hospitalized.

The AP reports:

Prince Philip, 90, was taken from Sandringham, the queen's sprawling estate in rural Norfolk, to the cardiac unit at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for "precautionary tests," a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

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The Two-Way
2:10 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Another Mass Protest Expected In Russia This Weekend

Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia's political opposition, speaks at a meeting to discuss a Dec. 24 opposition rally protesting election results in Moscow.
Mikhail Metzel AP

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 2:15 pm

Tens of thousands are expected on the streets of Moscow tomorrow. As The Guardian reports, 50,000 have said they will show up on "Moscow's Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov," and thousands more will march across the country.

As we've reported, the protests stem from disputed parliamentary elections and come months before a crucial presidential election that will test Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year hold on power.

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Monkey See
2:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

For 'Downton' Fans, A New Season And A New Book

Brendan Coyle is John Bates and Joanne Froggatt is Anna Smith in Downton Abbey, which returns January 8 to PBS.
Nick Briggs PBS/Masterpiece

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 6:08 am

It's almost here. And by "it," we mean the new season of Downton Abbey, the UK-produced drama about the Crawley family and their servants that PBS imported for Masterpiece Classic with great success. Series two has already run in the UK, but if you've been good and patient and resisted the urge to obtain it by illicit means, your wait is nearly over: the new season begins on PBS on January 8th.

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Science
1:50 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Taj Hotel Staff Were Mumbai's Unlikely Heroes

Indian firefighters attempt to put out a fire as smoke billows out of the historic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, which was stormed by armed gunmen in November 2008.
Indranil Mukherjee AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 8:18 pm

On Nov. 26, 2008, terrorists simultaneously attacked about a dozen locations in Mumbai, India, including one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

For two nights and three days, the Taj was under siege, held by men with automatic weapons who took some people hostage, killed others and set fire to the famous dome of the hotel.

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Music Interviews
1:30 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Songs To Annoy You This Holiday Season

Twisted Sister in 2008, posing backstage at a live performance of its holiday album, A Twisted Christmas.
Mark Weiss WireImage

This is the time of year that either has you humming about a one-horse open sleigh or bah-humbugging the various versions of "Jingle Bells" you've heard in stores, on hold and in commercials. Wherever you reside on the Christmas cheer spectrum, we have something to annoy even those who wear reindeer sweaters.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:13 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Poked and Prodded For 65 Years, In The Name Of Science

Experiences in youth shape our health in old age. That's the key lesson from the world's longest-running medical study.
iStockPhoto.com

One night in early March, well over a hundred people gathered together in the British Library in central London to celebrate their collective 65th birthday.

I was lucky enough to tag along.

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Commentary
1:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Week In Politics: Tax Break Extension

Robert Siegel speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne, of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution, and David Brooks, of the New York Times. They discuss the two-month extension for a tax break and unemployment benefits signed into law.

The Impact of War
12:48 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Marines Say Afghanistan Forever Changed Their Lives

Josh Apsey, then an 18-year-old lance corporal, bumps fists with his dad through a bus window as he begins his trip to Afghanistan in 2009. Apsey is still in the Marines, serving in Virginia, and says the war in Afghanistan made him a different person.
John W. Poole NPR

Daron Diepenbruck and Josh Apsey were members of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment — called "America's Battalion." NPR followed that battalion in 2009, on the homefront and in battle in Afghanistan. The two Marines are back home now. One left the military; the other stayed in. Their lives have changed dramatically, as Catherine Welch found out.

Daron Diepenbruck was on his last deployment when something happened that changed his life. One of his good friends was out on patrol.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:43 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Two Strengths Of Infant Acetaminophen Boost Confusion, Risk

At first glance, the new safer concentration looks like the old.
Melissa Forsyth NPR

When makers of acetaminophen for infants said back in May that they were reducing the strength of the medicine so it would be less likely that babies would be accidentally given too much, it all made sense.

Some infant acetaminophen had as much as 80 milligrams of acetaminophen in a milliliter, while products for older children had less than half that.

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The Two-Way
12:40 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Turns Out, Pigeons Are Just As Good As Monkeys When It Comes To Math

A pigeon counting.
William van der Vliet University of Otago

Scientists have found that pigeons are much smarter than we give them credit for and can be taught some complex abstract math. This is stunning because it's trait that has only been shown in primates. But according to a report in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers were able to teach pigeons abstract rules about math.

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Remembrances
12:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Remembering Some Remarkable Lives Lost In 2011

Clockwise From Top: Courtesy Sondra Russell; Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Martin Cohen; kaiscapes via Flickr.

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 10:22 am

Each year, Talk of the Nation reaches out to colleagues and friends at NPR for their help in remembering some of the men and women who died during the previous 12 months. They responded with personal stories about the people who inspired them.

In our sixth annual obituary show, we talk about the lives and careers of remarkable men and woman who did not make headlines when they died, but whose lives still made an indelible impact. NPR's Neda Ulaby, Sonari Glinton and Andy Carvin are among those who share their remembrances.

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The Salt
11:11 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Feds Trash Old Proposal on Animal Antibiotics

Adrian Mesa protests the overuse of antibiotics in meat production outside a Burger King in Coral Gables, Fla. in 2003.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Have you ever come across a dust-covered "to-do" list, filled with tasks that you never actually finished because they were unpleasant, you just weren't in the mood, or you found something easier to do instead?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has one of those lists. It's 34-years-old. And the agency decided this week to throw it in the garbage.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:11 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Critics Say Obama's Efforts To Protect Science Are Slow and Weak

Did politics trump science when it came to Plan B?
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 9:00 am

Critics cried foul when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, saying that teenage girls can't buy the emergency contraceptive plan B without a prescription. Their complaint: That the move went against the Obama administration's stated goal of protecting science from the taint of politics.

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The Two-Way
11:10 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Dozens Killed In Syria: Regime Blames Terrorists, Opposition Blames Regime

A crater left by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack today in Damascus.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 2:59 pm

"Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting security and intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people" according to authorities, The Associated Press writes.

NPR's Deborah Amos says it's the "first such attack since the beginning of a 10-month revolt" against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Now there's the question of who is responsible.

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The Two-Way
11:02 am
Fri December 23, 2011

In Tough Times, A Simple Request Of Santa

A letter to Santa from six-year-old Jaelynn Riden.
Salvation Army

With the economy the way it is, we've heard plenty of stories about the heartbreaking requests children are making to Santa.

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Politics
9:50 am
Fri December 23, 2011

What's Behind House GOP's Payroll Tax Reversal?

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:01 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A bitter fight in Congress is come to an end just in time for Christmas. The House and the Senate this morning, approved an extension of payroll tax cuts for every worker and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.

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The Salt
9:46 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Senator Finds Government-Funded Food Waste Far Beyond The Compost Bin

The Washington State Fruit Commission received $100,000 in federal money to promote cherries in Indonesia, but Sen. Tom Coburn says this is a waste of taxpayer money.
Jeff Goulden iStockphoto.com

As Eater reported this week, some politicians believe this country is awash in food waste. But this isn't the stuff in the garbage — it's the way we pour money into building restaurants, promoting American food products abroad, and encouraging the purchase of local foods.

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Opinion
9:37 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Bittersweet Anticipation: Expecting The Expected

iStockphoto.com

Ben Dolnick is a writer based in Brooklyn.

Lately, just in time for Christmas, I've discovered that I've been acting in a play. A kind of holiday pageant, really. Working title: Things Are Always Better Before You Have Them.

Act One: I learn about the existence of something I want. Say, a book. (Ooh, a book of letters between William Maxwell and Eudora Welty!)

Act Two: I add the book to my Amazon wish list, which I proceed to circulate shamelessly to my family.

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It's All Politics
9:23 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Boehner's 2012 Challenges Highlighted By Payroll Tax Misstep

House Speaker John Boehner announces a payroll tax cut extension agreement, December 22, 2011.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Mon December 26, 2011 10:09 am

When the histories of the current 112th Congress are finally written, maybe it all will become clear.

But for right now, there seem to be many more questions than answers.

For instance, why did House Republicans ever think it was a good idea to stake out a position on the payroll-tax issue that would leave them holding the bag for a new year's tax increase for 160 million workers? That has now been averted with Congress' passage Friday morning of a two-month extension of the current payroll-tax holiday.

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The Two-Way
9:10 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Cue The Scary Music: 'Space Ball' Crashes In Namibia

The space ball. What is it?
Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:43 am

It's said to be made of a "metal alloy known to man," according to Agence France Presse. (We enjoyed that Spock-like line.)

But there's much that isn't known about what's being called a "space ball" that came down in Namibia last month: Such as where or what it came from.

Officials from NASA and the European Space Agency have been contacted.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:06 am
Fri December 23, 2011

What's Sharing An Egg (Or Sperm) Among Friends?

Should she know that this moment was made possible by an egg donor?
iStockPhoto.com

Though there are more ways today to create a baby than ever before – with help from a friend or stranger's sperm, egg, embryo or womb, just to name a few—questions continue to swirl about what and when to tell the resulting children about how they're related to whom.

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The Fresh Air Interview
8:54 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Singer Darrell Scott Reflects On His Father's Death

Darrell Scott released his father Wayne's first album in 2006. Wayne also wrote two of the songs on Darrell's forthcoming album, Long Road Home.
Scott Simontacchi Thirty Tigers

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 9:23 am

Country singer-songwriter Darrell Scott grew up playing with his father, Wayne, and helped his father release a debut album at age 71. They continued to collaborate in recent years.

Last month, Darrell was in Texas in between gigs when he learned that his father had died in a car accident.

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