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Remembrances
10:32 am
Fri December 16, 2011

For Hitchens, In Life And Death, An Unaware Cosmos

Christopher Hitchens, shown here in 2010, began a lifelong battle with a God he didn't believe in when he was just 9 years old.
David Levenson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 8:29 pm

Writer Christopher Hitchens, who died on Thursday from complications of cancer at the age of 62, leaves behind some 18 books and countless essays on politics and public figures. But his most lasting legacy may be his atheism and his long-running duel with what he considered the world's most dangerous threat: religion.

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Planet Money
10:18 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Why Airlines Keep Going Bankrupt

Scott Olson Getty Images

The airline industry consistently breaks the number one rule of business: The job of the company is to make money.

"The industry in aggregate has lost about $60 billion over the 32 years since deregulation, " says Severin Borenstein, an economist at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkley.

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The Two-Way
9:52 am
Fri December 16, 2011

'Layaway Santas' Are Spreading Cheer This Year At Kmarts

We need a heart-warming story and this fits the bill:

"At Kmart stores across the country," The Associated Press writes, "Santa is getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents."

We're seeing stories about this happening in:

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Shots - Health Blog
9:25 am
Fri December 16, 2011

An Early Exit For Early Retiree Insurance Program

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 9:36 am

The clock is winding down on a little known but very popular part of the Affordable Care Act that has helped employers offer health benefits to early retirees.

The $5 billion early retiree fund has already paid out $4.5 billion, and the last day to submit claims for any of the remaining funds is Dec. 31.

The federal health law created the fund to give employers an incentive to keep providing health insurance coverage for retirees between the ages of 55 and 65.

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Movie Reviews
9:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

An 'Impossible' Mission Full Of Fun And Wonder

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force go to great heights to combat the threat of a nuclear confrontation in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.
Paramount Pictures

The fourth Mission: Impossible picture is nonsense from beginning to end — and wonderful fun. The director is Brad Bird, of Ratatouille and The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, and there's no doubt now, in his live-action debut, that he's a filmmaker first and an animator second. Part 4, titled Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, is in a different league from its predecessors.

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The Two-Way
9:04 am
Fri December 16, 2011

SEC Files Civil Fraud Suit Against Former Fannie And Freddie Execs

Six former top executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) "knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans" and have now been accused of securities fraud in a civil suit, the Securities and Exchange Commission just announced.

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The Salt
8:48 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Exercise Info, Not Calorie Counts, Helps Teens Drop Sodas

What if you knew you'd have to jog for 50 minutes to burn off those calories?
iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:13 am

Sugary drinks like soda are a big cause of obesity, but public health types haven't had much luck convincing the public of that.

But what if you knew that it would take 50 minutes of jogging to burn off one soda?

When researchers taped signs saying just that on the drink coolers in four inner-city neighborhood stores, sales of sugary beverages to teenagers dropped by 50 percent. That tactic was more effective than a sign saying that the drinks had 250 calories each, or a sign saying that a soft drink accounts for 11 percent of recommended daily calories.

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The Two-Way
8:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

At Bradley Manning Hearing, His Attorney Challenges Judge

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 9:20 am

An "astonishing" scene has already played out at the just-opened military court hearing about the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, The Guardian reports.

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Leaving Iraq
8:14 am
Fri December 16, 2011

As The Iraq War Ends, Reassessing The U.S. Surge

Gen. David Petraeus (center, with no gun) walks with troops in 2007 in Baqouba, Iraq. The area had recently been seized back from al-Qaida control with help from U.S. forces who were part of the surge. The surge is widely credited with changing the course of the war; now, some experts are debating how much credit it deserves.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Here's the conventional wisdom about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq: By 2006, Iraq was in chaos. Many Americans called for the U.S. to get out. Instead, President Bush sent in 30,000 additional troops. By the end of 2007, Iraq started to stabilize, and the move took on an almost mythic status.

In 2008, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke at the Republican National Convention about the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying that, "by every measure, the surge of troops into Iraq has worked."

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Shots - Health Blog
7:33 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Say 'Aah' And Get Your Diabetes Test

While I've got you here, how about that diabetes test?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 7:48 am

Each year, one-quarter of adults don't see a primary care doctor, so odds are they're not being checked for high blood pressure, diabetes and other major health risks. That's 55 million people who are missing out.

But a lot of them — around 13 million — do go to the dentist. So what if the dentist could screen them instead?

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The Two-Way
7:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

McQueary Repeats Allegation About Sandusky

(Note: There is graphic testimony about the alleged sexual abuse of a young boy in this post.)

Mike McQueary, a key witness in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — who stands accused of sexually abusing at least 10 young boys over more than a decade — is testifying this morning at a court hearing about the scandal that has rocked the university.

NPR's Jeff Brady is covering the Pennsylvania court proceeding and is posting updates on his Twitter page.

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The Two-Way
7:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Occupy? Humble Brag? What's Your 'Word Of The Year?'

"Humble brag" is linguist Ben Zimmer's personal favorite for 2011 Â word of the year.
Twitter.com/Humblebrag

Merriam-Webster may think that "pragmatic" was 2011's word of the year, as we reported Thursday, but there's certainly lots of room to debate that choice.

And the American Dialect Society has put out its annual call for help in deciding what word it should bestow with the honor.

Last year, the society decided "app" was 2010's top word.

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Latin America
7:01 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Angels Send Message Of Peace To Juarez, Mexico

After 20 minutes of silent witness, the angels gather around a group of neighbors and pray with them for employment, for better living conditions, for salvation from sin, and for an end to the murders.
Raymundo Aguirre for NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:11 am

In the violent border city of Juarez, Mexico, young evangelical Christians are dressing up as "Messenger Angels" to bear silent witness against murder and corruption, to the dismay of the police.

On a recent Saturday morning in the barrio called New Land, at the ragged edge of Juarez, the angels get ready to go to work.

Fifteen young people glue goose down recovered from cast-off comforters onto plastic wings. Others smear on silver makeup, which is, presumably, the color of angels.

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The Two-Way
5:40 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: 'Atheist Intellectual,' 'Noble Contrarian'

Christopher Hitchens.
Brendan Banaszak NPR

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 7:08 am

The life of often controversial writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens, who died Thursday after a long battle against cancer of the esophagus, as told in some of today's headlines:

-- "Christopher Hitchens, Author and Contrarian, Dies at 62." (The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog)

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Africa
5:27 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Thieves Apprehended After Pocket Dialing 911

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne. Most thieves don't turn themselves in, but two in Wisconsin did without quite intending to. As the men drove off after stealing DVDs and video games from Target, one thief pocket-dialed 9-1-1. A dispatcher listened as the duo detailed their heist, including how the police would be looking for their Blue Dodge Durango.

That tip led the cops directly to them. After 54 minutes, their call to 9-1-1 finally ended with their arrest.

It's All Politics
5:23 am
Fri December 16, 2011

With Iowa Vote Looming, Gingrich Struggles To Stay Atop GOP Field

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 6:36 am

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got front-runner treatment Thursday night in Iowa during the final GOP debate before that state's crucial Jan. 3 caucuses, taking a pounding for his years as a highly-compensated Washington influence peddler.

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Around the Nation
5:21 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Secret Santa Drops Krugerrand In Donation Bucket

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne with news of a mysterious donation found in a Salvation Army bucket in Pennsylvania. A gold South African Krugerrand - worth about $1,700 - was found in a kettle Wednesday outside a Wal-Mart. This isn't the first time this has happened. The coins seem to appear almost every year near Gettysburg. Similar coins have been discovered in Salvation Army collections from Tennessee to Chicago. Still, no one's figures out who the secret Santa is. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

The Two-Way
5:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Congress Averts Government Shutdown, But Still Divided On Payroll Tax Cut

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:59 am

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Government Will Not Shutdown:

The House of Representatives just passed a $1 trillion spending bill that will keep the government running through the fall. Congress, however, is still deadlocked on two major pieces of legislation. The extension of the payroll tax cut, which is a priority for the Obama administration and an extension of jobless benefits to to the long-term unemployed.

Our Original Post Continues:

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Best Books Of 2011
5:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

A Passion For The Past: 2011's Best Historical Fiction

Priscilla Nielsen for NPR

Historical fiction invites us to experience the exotic and the unknown while confirming our common humanity. I do not believe that human nature has changed much over the centuries, and it is possible to identify with the emotions, passions, and fears of men and women long dead.

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The Two-Way
4:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Japanese Officials Declare 'Cold Shutdown' Of Crippled Reactors

Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station on Nov. 12, 2011.
David Guttenfelder AFP/Getty Images

Nuclear reactors crippled in Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami are now in a "cold shutdown," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced today.

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NPR Story
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Bachmann Tries To Regain Early Iowa Lead

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann once appeared to be the favored Republican presidential candidate in Iowa. But she's been near the bottom of most polls since. Bachmann is making an aggressive push to finish well in next month's Iowa caucuses, and she embarks on a multi-day bus tour of the state Friday.

NPR Story
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Fort Hood Soldiers Return From Iraq

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Congress has already OK'ed a bill authorizing more than $660 billion to be spent on defense. Senate approval came yesterday, the same day the Pentagon declared an official end to the war in Iraq. Among the troops coming home from Iraq are the soldiers of the 112th Cavalry 3rd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn was there for their return to Fort Hood, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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NPR Story
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Writer Christopher Hitchens Dies At 62

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to remember now the acerbic, controversial and always compelling writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens. Vanity Fair, where he was a contributing editor, announced last night that he had died from complications of cancer. He was 62 years old.

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Election 2012
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

In Iowa, Bachmann Attacks Gingrich In GOP Debate

Newt Gingrich stood center state Thursday night in the Sioux City Convention Center. The sharpest elbows did not come from his close rivals, Mitt Romney or Ron Paul. Instead, it was Michele Bachmann who repeatedly went after Gingrich.

Politics
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Negotiators Reach Deal To Keep Government Open

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

So, it looks like the federal government is not going to shut down at midnight tonight. That's good news. Congressional negotiators say they've reached an agreement to move forward on a trillion-dollar-plus spending plan. It would fund the government through October. There are still some end-of-year issues that haven't been resolved.

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Law
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

DOJ Probe Finds Ariz. Sheriff Violated Civil Rights

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Joe Arpaio, the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff, is not backing down. The U.S. Justice Department yesterday accused his sheriff's department in Maricopa County, Arizona of systematically violating the constitutional and civil rights of Latinos. By the end of the day, NPR's Ted Robbins reports, the sheriff was hitting back.

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Race
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Fierce Reaction To 'If I Were A Poor Black Kid'

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich kicked up some dust recently when he opined that poor kids should be able to work as school janitors to develop a work ethic and avoid becoming, in Gingrich's words, a prostitute or a drug dealer.

This week, a tech writer on Forbes.com is causing a stir in the blogosphere with an advice column titled "If I Were a Poor Black Kid." Gene Marks is not a kid, or black. As he put it, he's middle aged, middle class, and white.

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Business
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Anonymous Donors Pay Off Kmart Layaway Accounts

Originally published on Mon December 19, 2011 6:33 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Our last word in business today is: Mystery Elves. At Kmart stores around the country, anonymous donors are walking in and paying off the layaway accounts of complete strangers. It seems to have started in Michigan, but the holiday spirit spread. Kmart says the stealth benefactors usually ask for accounts that include toys.

Economy
2:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Early Retiree Program Bankrupt

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:23 pm

A $5 billion federal program to pay for the health benefits of early retirees is proving to be more popular than expected. So popular that it's running out of money earlier than planned. The fund, part of the health care overhaul, was to provide a bridge of insurance coverage until 2014 when early retirees would have many more options under the health care law.

This report is part of a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, and Kaiser Health News.

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