NPR News

Katy Perry's Perfect Game

Jan 19, 2012

If you listen to commercial radio, this is not news: Katy Perry had a huge year. She went No.1 five times. She was the most played artist on the radio. But the record industry is so weird, it's hard to know whether this kind of success translates into huge amounts of money.

So we asked.

I walked over to Katy Perry's record label. She's on Capital, which is under EMI. I met Greg Thompson, executive vice president of marketing and promotion at EMI.

"Did you guys end up in the black?" I asked.

Dissolvable Tobacco Products Draw FDA Scrutiny

Jan 19, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a gathered a group of scientists and other experts to study flavored melt-in-your-mouth tobacco products.

The panel, meeting this week, will hear from two camps of stop-smoking advocates: those who worry that dissolvables are a gateway to smoking and others who say they help people kick the habit.

Gregory Conley, a 24-year-old law student at Rutgers University, pops a dissolvable during class or while he's studying.

During China's Lunar New Year holiday, more than 200 million people will travel home. It's the world's largest annual migration, and every year, Chinese tell horror stories about trying to get train tickets.

This season, the holiday falls on Monday, and it was supposed to be different: For the first time, China's rail ministry created a website to reserve seats. But things didn't work out as planned.

Whenever the late New York Times caricaturist Al Hirschfeld sketched Carol Channing — whether picturing her as an indomitable Dolly Levi, swathed in feathers and sequins, or as carbon-crazed Lorelei Lee, eyes sparkling like the diamonds that were that splendid creature's best friends — he always made her appear a creature composed entirely of lipstick, mascara and hairspray.

Ralph Fiennes showed up for a frenzied cameo near the end of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and her hand-held, adrenaline-charged approach clearly inspired his film of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which he both acts and directs the bloody hell out of.

Using A New Voice To Enjoy Life After Cancer

Jan 19, 2012

In 1999, Rene Foreman was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. She underwent surgery that saved her life; it also took her voice box. To speak, Rene now uses an electrolarynx — a small device that she holds against her throat to produce her voice, electronically.

Discussing how having a synthesized voice has changed her life, Rene, 70, told her daughter Michelle that the electrolarynx helps her to enjoy each day, even if it also makes her stand out in some ways.

Of those times, Michelle asks, "How do you feel when people turn around and look at you?"

Click the link above to listen to Laura Sydell's conversation with Morning Edition's David Greene about the Megaupload indictment and the attack on the Department of Justice's website by the group Anonymous.

For Two City Slickers, Survival Of The Savviest

Jan 19, 2012

Rhoda Janzen is the author of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.

Recently my friend Peggy and I decided to make a jaunt from my house in Southwestern Michigan, across the state to Detroit. We took her car. At day's end we pulled into my remote driveway on Lake Allegan. It was then I realized that didn't have my keys. They were in fact, hanging in the little key box in my laundry room.

Oh no.

I had no way of getting into my home.

Earlier today, the Justice Department announced it had charged seven people on counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy in what's being called one the biggest criminal copyright cases.

NPR's Carrie Johnson filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The Justice Department accused Megaupload, a popular file sharing site, with helping millions of people gain access to pirated movies, music and TV programs, often before the items are released for sale.

How embarrassing for Iowa GOP officials. How embarrassing for Iowa Republicans as a party. How embarrassing for Iowa.

But on the other hand, who told the world to hold its breath earlier this month, awaiting the latest word on who had edged ahead in the Iowa caucuses?

That would have been us. The news folks. Up all night to bring you the latest information — or misinformation, as it turns out.

And who told the world to care about these homey little midwinter Midwestern klatches in the first place?

That, too, would have been us.

The correct answer is mental illness.

Mental illnesses are among the most common health problems facing Americans, with 20 percent of adults having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. That's according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Big-City Mayors Dig In To Food Policy

Jan 19, 2012

Food policy can sound like a dreary enterprise best left to Washington, D.C. But big-city mayors are starting to see local food policy as a key step in getting healthy, affordable food to their constituents.

This afternoon, the mayors of America are meeting in Washington, D.C., to launch their own food policy task force. The goal is to share information on projects that work, and also make sure that federal food policy doesn't muck up those local efforts.

Microsoft is under fire this week over a patent it was granted that's been dubbed the "avoid ghetto" feature for GPS devices.

Freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke died this morning at the University of Utah Medical Center from injuries suffered nine days ago while practicing the sport she championed.

"Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved," says a statement from the medical center. "In accordance with Sarah's wishes, her organs and tissues were donated to save the lives of others."

In South Carolina, The Cain Train Is Back

Jan 19, 2012

NPR's Arnie Seipel came upon something unexpected in Charleston, S.C. and he sent this picture of it:

Yep. The Cain Train is back in South Carolina and he's getting help from comedian Stephen Colbert, who as we've noted, announced his intention to run for President of South Carolina.

What do you do with a 1,000-foot wreck that's full of fuel and half-submerged on a rocky ledge in the middle of an Italian marine sanctuary? Remove it. Very carefully.

The wreck of the cruise liner Costa Concordia, which ran aground last week, is not unlike a car accident. The first order of business is determining whether it's worth repairing or it gets junked. Then there are the questions of how best to go about it – and who pays.

President Obama's campaign on Thursday released its first TV ad of the 2012 election cycle, and it's a defense of his record on energy.

Remember that movie Sarah's Key? Did you miss it? It was last year's highest grossing foreign-language film, but it made less than eight million dollars. The fact is that selling foreign language films to U.S. audiences is a notorious challenge. Nevertheless, Fox, one of the world's most powerful media conglomerates, is beefing up its investment in foreign films.

In Asia's modern history, college students have played a leading role in pushing for political reform and challenging authoritarian regimes.

Adam Adli is one of these student activists, and is becoming a prominent political figure as he fights to abolish a 40-year-old law that bars college students in the prosperous Southeast Asian country from participating in politics.

The 22-year-old was among the crowd of thousands chanting "reformasi," or reform, outside Malaysia's high court in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Jan. 9.

If there's ever been a presidential debate with as much news happening in the hours leading up to the event, it's hard to remember when.

Johnny Otis was many things over his career, including a bandleader, producer, radio and TV host and composer. Additionally, Otis launched the careers of many of R&B's finest singers. Otis died on Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90 years old.

If it seemed like 2011 was a big year for laws restricting abortion, it was.

In fact, according to "Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights In the U.S.," the 21stannual report compiled by the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, the 69 laws enacted restricting a woman's reproductive rights were just one short of the record set in 1999.

In Egypt's recent parliamentary elections, the first since Hosni Mubarak's ouster and the fairest in the country's history, Islamists won big.

And one group suffered a shocking disappointment — women.

Although the final numbers haven't been announced, it appears there will be only about eight women out of the 508 seats — or fewer than 2 percent.

Apple announced it is getting into the electronic textbook business. The tech company is releasing new tools that make it easier for publishers to create new, interactive textbooks designed to be used on Apple's iPad.

Extending the political crisis that has churned up a media frenzy and put the nation on edge, Pakistan's Supreme Court has given the Prime Minister ten more days to answer contempt of court charges

Prime Minister Yusef Reza Gilani drove himself to the imposing Supreme Court building framed by stormy skies this morning. Facing contempt charges, he stood in the well of the packed court and defended his refusal to re-open a graft case against his boss, President Zardari.

A woman who was seen dining with the captain of the Costa Concordia the night the luxury liner crashed off the Italian coast is defending him. The AP reports that the woman, whom Italian authorities want to interview, is Dominican Cermotan, a 25-year-old Moldovan, who worked for Costa as a hostess but was not on duty the day of the incident.

"He did a great thing, he saved over 3,000 lives," Cermotan told Moldova's Jurnal TV, according to the AP.

Any cook who has had to make do with very little knows there's a sort of pride in whipping up a tasty meal from a bare pantry.

The timekeepers at the International Telecommunication Union's Radiocommunication Assembly, who were supposed to decide this week whether to keep or eliminate the leap second, have decided to take some more time to decide.

Three years, apparently, the BBC reports.

The experts, it says, "were unable to reach a consensus, so moved the matter to a meeting in 2015."

Washington, which over the past few days has gotten an unusual amount of snow, is getting another round of unexpected weather. Here's the Seattle PI's lede this morning:

"First snow, now ice."

And the ice, which coated the roads, trees, and power lines is continuing the havoc that the snow brought.

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