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Planet Money
1:28 am
Fri December 16, 2011

A Technocrat In Trouble

Andreas Georgiou, technocrat
Chana Joffe-Walt NPR

Andreas Georgiou is the technocrat charged with running the Greek statistics office — the same office that, in the years leading up to the financial crisis, produced wildly distorted reports of Greece's finances.

"My goal is to make this a competent, boring institution and not to be in the limelight," Georgiou told me recently. "Not to have to give an interview like this one."

So far, though, his efforts have been met with resistance, strikes and a criminal investigation that could lead to life in prison for Georgiou.

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It's All Politics
10:27 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Romney Regains Stride; Gingrich Shows Old Newt At Sioux City Debate

Mitt Romney returned to form in the final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Romney, who had perhaps his shakiest debate performance in Des Moines over the weekend, appeared to regain his composure in Thursday night's debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

He managed to once again convey the sense that he was the one GOP candidate of the seven remaining who could credibly stand on the same stage with President Obama next fall, the most electable of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Monkey See
10:01 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Diablo Cody Explores The Ugly Side Of Pretty In 'Young Adult'

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in Young Adult.
Phillip V. Caruso Paramount Pictures

Charlize Theron is ugly in Young Adult, the new film from the Juno team of director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody — both literally and personally. In parts of the film, she still looks like her knockout movie-star self, but in other parts, she looks like she's aged a year for every day since her character, Mavis Gary, left high school.

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StoryCorps
10:01 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Homeless At 60: 'A Bullet I Didn't See Coming'

Queen Jackson, right, and her case manager, Debra MacKillop, visited StoryCorps in Denver, Colorado.
StoryCorps

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

Queen Jackson has been homeless for about a year. As she recently told her case manager, Debra MacKillop, it all started in 2009, when she was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant.

"I was working for the state of Colorado," says Jackson, 60. "I had all these great ideas of retiring and sitting back and enjoying my life. But, as the budget was becoming very strained, I was one of the first to be laid off."

At the time, Jackson wasn't worried. She had saved some money, and she was sure she'd be able to find another job quickly.

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Your Money
10:01 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Ways To Cut Your Tax Bill Before 2011 Ends

Taxes might not be due until April, but there are a few things you can do before the new year to lower your bill.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:33 pm

Federal income tax time is still a few months away, but there are some things you can do before Dec. 31 to save money on April 15.

"The biggest thing is, if you have a 401(k) retirement plan at work and you have not yet maxed it out, that is a great way to kick some extra dollars into your retirement account," Mary Beth Franklin, a senior editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, tells NPR's Renee Montagne.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Bradley Manning To Appear In Court In Leaks Case

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

Supporters say Army Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn't belong in a courtroom at all. They think he's a whistle-blower — and a hero.

Eighteen months after his arrest on suspicion of leaking national secrets, Manning will finally make his first appearance in court Friday at Fort Meade, Md., just north of Washington, D.C.

When he worked in Iraq, Manning allegedly downloaded thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables and shared them with the website WikiLeaks. He faces 22 criminal charges that could keep him behind bars for life.

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Remembrances
10:00 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Writer Christopher Hitchens Dies At 62

Writer and commentator Christopher Hitchens died Thursday. He was 62.
Amanda Edwards Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:06 pm

The influential writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at the age of 62 from complications of cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects.

Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

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The Two-Way
4:17 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Puerto Rican Mayor Causes A Stir With Wild Christmas Card

A Santini family portrait.
Jorge Santini

We are late to this news, but because it's just now picking up steam in the mainland United States, we'll share it. This was the official Christmas card of Jorge Santini, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, this year:

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It's All Politics
3:59 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Iowa Gov. Branstad On GOP White House Contest: 'It's A Wide Open Race'

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 7:14 am

Iowa's popular Gov. Terry Branstad hasn't endorsed any of the Republican presidential candidates crisscrossing his state yet.

Which means he can at least claim to be above the intramural GOP fray scheduled to end in a few weeks when his state's Republican voters attend caucuses to choose their preference for their party's White House nominee.

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Europe
3:58 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

After Protests, Russia's Putin Takes To The Airwaves

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) speaks during a phone-in TV program in Moscow on Thursday. With widespread fraud alleged in recent parliamentary voting, Putin faced much more critical questioning than usual.
Alexey Druzhinin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 4:10 pm

For the first time in more than a decade running Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is facing serious opposition to his rule. And that meant he faced tougher than usual questions Thursday at his annual question-and-answer session that lasted more than four hours on Russian television.

"Do you think the elections are honest and their results are fair?" the TV moderator asked him, reading an emailed question.

"The election results absolutely reflect the balance of power in the country," Putin said.

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Leaving Iraq
3:28 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

U.S. Flag Comes Down, And Iraq War Is Officially Over

A U.S. convoy departs from Contingency Operating Station Kalsu, a U.S. base about 60 miles south of Baghdad. For many U.S. troops, it is the last stop in Iraq on the way out of the country.
Sean Carberry NPR

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 6:22 pm

After nearly nine years of war in Iraq, a subdued flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday marked the official end of one of the longest U.S. military missions in American history.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched over what's known as the casing of the colors — when the U.S. military flag is put away and sent back to the United States. The flag will then be retired and perhaps later go on display at the Pentagon.

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World
3:21 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

Reporters interview Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi before the start of the 160th meeting of the OPEC Conference in Vienna, Dec. 14. The global market for oil complicates the issue of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Xu Liang Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 5:40 pm

The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad.

But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.

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The Salt
3:10 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

When The Formerly Rich Need Help Buying Food

Food stamps aren't "stamps" anymore — they're debit cards. But they won't get you a trip to Hawaii.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 4:27 pm

The image of rich folks using food stamps to buy filet mignon is becoming the 21st-century version of the Reagan-era "Welfare Queen."

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NPR Story
3:01 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Iowa Gov. Discusses GOP Presidential Field

It's a big night in Iowa: The Republican presidential candidates are holding their final big debate prior to the Iowa caucuses, which take place on Jan. 3. Melissa Block talks with Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad about various candidates' strengths and weaknesses. In short, he says there's a lot of excitement, and he's reserving judgment on who the winner will be.

NPR Story
2:57 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Tracking An Order In Real-Life Santa's Workshops

Javier Polendo, an employee at a largely automated Target.com fulfillment center in Tucson, Ariz., scans items to be shipped to online customers.
Ted Robbins NPR

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 6:23 pm

There's a world of activity between the time online shoppers click the "place order" button and when a holiday package is delivered to their doorsteps. The National Retail Federation estimates that 38 percent of holiday purchases will be made online this year, which is keeping fulfillment centers large and small very busy.

Target.com runs five fulfillment centers. One of them, in Tucson, Ariz., stretches the length of 16 football fields.

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The Two-Way
2:55 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Chemists Unveil Future Self-Cleaning Clothes

In the future, cleaning your clothes could be as easy as hanging it in sunlight.
Rodrigo Buendia AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 3:04 pm

A group of chemists have presented what they say is self-cleaning fabric that could one day lead to jeans, shirts and other clothing that dissolves stains and kills bacteria when exposed to sunlight.

The scientists announced their findings in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, which is peer-reviewed and published by the American Chemical Society.

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Still No Job: Over A Year Without Enough Work
2:44 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Changes In The Economy Leave Workers Scrambling

A counselor (right) talks with a man about training programs at a nonprofit training and job placement center in Menlo Park, Calif. Seventy percent of the long-term unemployed and underemployed would like the government to offer more job training services, an NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 5:34 pm

If you're unemployed, it can be painfully clear when you don't have the right skills to land a good job.

With unemployment at 8.6 percent, upwards of 13 million Americans are without a job and looking for work. A recent NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed hundreds of long-term unemployed and underemployed people, asking whether they thought they had the skills required to find a job.

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Rick Perry
2:43 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Perry Tries To Ride Back Into Iowans' Hearts

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry walks with former Marine officer Dan Moran during a campaign stop Wednesday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 4:10 pm

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to reclaim a place in the top tier of the Republican presidential field — and his campaign is betting a barnstorming bus tour of Iowa is the key to exceeding expectations in the state's Jan. 3 caucuses.

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Education
2:41 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Military Tuition Assistance Rules May Limit Options

Military advocates have warned that some schools see service men and women as walking dollar signs.
Dave Herriman iStockPhoto.com

Federal money for active duty students is particularly attractive to for-profit schools, which have been signing up members of the services in record numbers.

So, the Pentagon has developed new rules to ensure that service members are treated fairly when they use government money to attend college. Those rules are set to go into effect Jan. 1, but many of the nation's best-known schools say they cannot accept those requirements.

The dispute puts at risk millions of dollars in federal assistance.

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Election 2012
2:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

In Iowa, Obama's Campaign Team Rehearses For 2012

President Obama speaks with small-business owners at Rausch's Cafe in Guttenberg, Iowa, during a three-day Midwest bus tour in August.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 4:31 pm

President Obama doesn't have to worry about winning the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. He's almost sure to be the only Democrat in the first-in-the-nation contest. Yet that hasn't stopped the Obama campaign from organizing its own effort to get out the vote.

While Republican candidates have been hogging the Iowa spotlight, a small army of Obama volunteers has been busy behind the scenes. They've opened eight campaign offices around the state, hosted dozens of house parties, and logged tens of thousands of telephone calls.

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The Two-Way
1:42 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Former French President Chirac Found Guilty Of Corruption

Former President French President Jacques Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds while he was the mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. Chirac will serve a two-year suspended sentence after a court found that he had architected a system in which political allies were handed municipals salaries for fake jobs. The scheme, said the court, cost Paris about $1.8 million.

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The Two-Way
1:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Joe Simon, Co-Creator Of Captain America, Has Died

Joe Simon, who together with illustrator Jack Kirby created the iconic Captain America comic book hero in 1940, has died.

According to The Associated Press, "Simon's family relayed word of his death Thursday, posting a short statement on Facebook and telling The Associated Press through a spokesman that the 98-year-old Simon died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness."

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Remembrances
1:00 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Founder Of Shakespeare & Co Bookstore In Paris Dies

The founder of a venerable literary institution in Paris has died at 98. George Whitman founded the Shakespeare & Co bookstore, across from the Notre Dame cathedral. The shop was a magnet for English speakers in the French capital.

Presidential Race
1:00 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

GOP Presidential Hopefuls To Debate In Iowa

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 4:10 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary.

The Republican candidates gather for yet another debate tonight. This one is in Sioux City, Iowa. It's the last debate before the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd. And it comes as Mitt Romney and other candidates try to stop the surge of Newt Gingrich. Romney and his allies have been launching a furious assault on the former House speaker.

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Animals
1:00 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Ornithologist Discusses Causes Of Bird Downings

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

They're just everywhere. That's how a wildlife manager describes the mass casualties of Eared Grebes that crash landed in southern Utah on Monday night. Some 1,500 grebes died, another 3,000 have been rescued. The small water birds were migrating and apparently mistook a Walmart parking lot, highways and football fields covered with snow for bodies of water.

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The Two-Way
12:37 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Google's Brin Says Piracy Bills Puts U.S. Censorship On Par With China

Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 12:46 pm

Google's co-founder Sergey Brin unleashed perhaps the most stinging criticism of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act that is working its way through Congress.

In a Google+ post, Brin said if the U.S. passed either SOPA, the House version of the bill, or the Protect IP Act, the Senate version, it would put the country in same league as China and Iran as far as Internet censorship is concerned. Brin said the bills were a "threat to free speech."

Brin writes:

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Shots - Health Blog
12:12 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Wyden-Ryan Medicare Plan Shakes Up Politics More Than Policy

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, (left) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, present their plan for changing Medicare at the U.S. Capitol Thursday.
Tom Williams Roll Call/Getty Images

There's not much that's new in the Medicare proposal just unveiled by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)

So why is it getting so much attention? One word. No, not plastics. Politics!

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5 Things...
11:50 am
Thu December 15, 2011

5 Things You May Not Know About Michele Bachmann

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann speaks at The Gift of Life movie premiere in Des Moines on Wednesday night.
Jim Young Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 3:35 pm

She was born Michele Amble. Her parents divorced when she was young. She studied political science and literature in college and was a student volunteer for Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign for president.

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Europe
11:48 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Thousands Protest Alleged Election Fraud In Russia

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 3:56 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in cities across Russia today to protest alleged vote-rigging in recent parliamentary elections. Protests reportedly took place in more than 50 cities, but the largest by far was in Moscow. Reporter Peter van Dyk is in Moscow and joins us. Peter, thanks so much for being with us.

PETER VAN DYK, BYLINE: Thank you.

SIMON: You were in the crowds. What were they like?

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The Two-Way
11:30 am
Thu December 15, 2011

A New Reason To Beat Your Own Chest: 'Drum Machine Shirt'

Think Geek

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 11:36 am

The Two-Way doesn't endorse products. But we do like to pass on things we see about weird and unusual things.

So a Los Angeles Times story about a "drum machine T-shirt" caught our eye. (Since there's a drummer or two in our lives, we may be biased.)

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