NPR News

Tropical Storm Lee Reaches Louisiana Coast

Sep 4, 2011

The center of Tropical Storm Lee lurched across Louisiana's Gulf Coast early Sunday, dumping torrential rains that threatened flooding in low-lying communities in a foreshadowing of what cities further inland could face in coming days.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Lee had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It says Lee is crawling to the north at 2 mph. Forecasters say a slow northeastward motion is expected as it treks across southern Louisiana.

Consultants have been practically tripping over each other to launch superPACs backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. However, some prospective donors may find presidential superPACs are a gray area.

By now there's a superPAC independently supporting every major presidential candidate. Three of these groups have surfaced to promote Perry. In California, Bob Schuman says he was ready to go before Perry was.

Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan discusses the disappointing August employment numbers, as well as the President's upcoming jobs speech and more of the week's news with Los Angeles Times Washington columnist Doyle McManus.

The Government's Case Against The Banks

Sep 3, 2011

During the housing boom, banks sold investors bundles of mortgages that were shoddier than promised, according to lawsuits the federal government filed yesterday.

This allegation won't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the financial crisis; similar accusations have been flying around for years.

It's the scope of the lawsuits that makes them such a big deal: 17 separate suits naming many of the world's biggest banks and covering nearly $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

Not having a summer or after-school job affects more than just a kid's wallet. It also has real consequences for his or her personal and economic development.

While the overall unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1 percent, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds has been going up since February. Currently 25.4 percent of teenagers who want jobs can't find them.

President Obama is set to deliver a major speech on jobs next Thursday, and his task will be even more challenging after Friday's monthly government jobs report. The U.S. Labor Department says there was no job growth for the first time in a year, and unemployment was unimproved, staying at 9.1 percent.

NPR's Scott Horsley tells Weekend Edition host Scott Simon some jobs were added, but not enough to make up for other losses.

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, once said his mission was not simply to divulge secrets, but to make sure the release of that information actually made a difference.

He shared his trove of diplomatic cables with The New York Times, the Guardian in London, and other news organizations so they could draw the world's attention to the most important parts.

In 1969, astronaut Alan Bean went to the moon as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12. Although the trip going to the moon covered the same distance as the trip back, "returning from the moon seemed much shorter," Bean says.

People will often feel a return trip took less time than the same outbound journey, even though it didn't. In the case of Apollo 12, the trip back from the moon really did take somewhat less time. But the point remains that this so-called "return trip effect" is a very real psychological phenomenon, and now a new scientific study provides an explanation.

The Federal Government filed suit against more than a dozen big banks over mortgage backed securities the banks sold during the housing boom. Essentially the government claims the banks were selling securities that were riskier than advertised.

As we reported earlier, The New York Times reported this news, last night. But, now, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which was appointed to oversee mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, filed the lawsuits today.

One-time baseball pitching star Roger Clemens is not off the hook.

A federal judge ruled Friday that Clemens must stand trial a second time for allegedly lying to a Congressional committee about steroid use. In July, Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of the embattled News Corporation, received a $12.5 million cash bonus for the fiscal year that ended in June.

That may come as a surprise, considering that Murdoch has been at the helm of News Corp. as it tries to weather a phone hacking scandal that has led to the arrest of 13 people and the resignation of two of Murdoch's top executives.

Murdoch's son, James, who is his deputy, turned down a $6 million bonus, which would have been a 74 percent increase from his 2010 take-home pay.

It became clearer today why John Boehner this week became the first U.S. House Speaker in the nation's history to turn down a president's request to address a joint session of Congress.

The House has pressing business Wednesday evening, when President Obama asked to speak to members of Congress about his plans to goose the stagnant jobs market.

Pressing, as in:

Considering the extension of the "Generalized System of Preferences."

Contemplating the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011.

Old people who don't have signs of cardiovascular disease still may have suffered microscopic strokes that don't show up on conventional tests. The small strokes may impair their ability to walk, balance and function just the same.

Scientists examined the brains of 418 priests and nuns after they died. The researchers found that one-third of the brains that had seemed normal using conventional tests while the people were alive actually had damage to tiny blood vessels. The damage was so slight it was impossible to see without a microscope.

Be careful what you eat at work, because you don't know exactly what's in that batch of delicious brownies.

That's the lesson a group office drones learned in Victoria, British Columbia. The Vancouver Sun reports that three people ate some brownies brought to the office by a co-worker. After a while, the workers started complaining of "light-headedness, numbness in the limbs and disorientation."

Everyone likes to be loved, and when campaign season comes around, Florida gets more than its share of adoration.

"This is just a state that's like the whole country," said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. "I love Florida, love being here, love the people of this state, in part because you understand what makes America America."

So far, Florida is returning his affection. He leads Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican candidates in the polls here, in part because he has been here a lot and built a good organization.

There's a lot of good sense behind closing two famous and nearby military hospitals and merging them into the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But just looking at the name reveals both what's good about this merger and what makes it so tricky.

Walter Reed was a famous Army doctor, and for more than a century his name was on the Army's iconic hospital in Washington, D.C. Now that hospital is shutting its doors, and Reed's name will go onto the new hospital built on the Navy's flagship medical campus in Bethesda, Md., 6 miles away.

For decades, Labor Day weekend has meant the Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy. But this year, for the first time in 46 years, Jerry Lewis won't be on the show. The 85-year-old comedian has been dropped from the program for reasons that are still unclear.

The U.N.'s review of an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish flotilla last year was intended to help resolve the matter, but its release Friday only seemed to reopen the wound.

While Israel was pleased that the panel found its blockade of Gaza legitimate, Turkey has expelled Israel's ambassador and downgraded relations.

Nigeria: More Than 40 Killed In Religious Clashes

Sep 2, 2011

At least 42 people have died in the city Jos in Nigeria after clashes between Christians and Muslims. Bloomberg reports:

Twenty Christians were killed by gunshots and machetes, according to Abraham Hassan, a spokesman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, while the corpses of 22 Muslims are in the city's central mosque, Sabo Shuaib, spokesman for the Jama'tul Nasril Islam group, said today by phone.

"I've never gotten around the question of her having left the governorship of Alaska in mid-term," former Vice President Dick Cheney said today when asked about fellow Republican Sarah Palin and her suitability for national office.

"I've never heard that adequately explained. ... I'd like to know more about that," Cheney added.

When the Soviet military occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s, Andrey Avetisyan served as a young diplomat in Kabul who witnessed a war that ultimately ended with a humiliating Soviet withdrawal.

Today, he is back in Kabul, this time as the Russian ambassador. And his advice to the United States is not to pull out of Afghanistan precipitously.

Just as it had raised prices on its internet streaming customers, Netflix has lost a contract with one of its big content providers. The AP reports that Starz Entertainment, better known as a premium cable channel, announced it was walking away from a contract with Netflix that allowed it to stream Starz TV shows and movies over the internet.

The AP adds:

That means Starz content will be removed from Netflix's streaming service starting in March. Starz' library includes movies from Walt Disney Co.'s assorted studios and, until recently, Sony Corp.

Why Stores Sell Halloween Stuff Before Labor Day

Sep 2, 2011

If you walk into the Safeway near Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown, you'll see a small display of Halloween decorations: witches hats, haunted houses, jack-o-lanterns — the works. That might not seem so strange if it were October or even late September. But it hasn't even hit Labor Day yet.

Safeway isn't the only retailer getting a jump on the holiday. Across the city, shoppers will find Halloween merchandise in Walgreens, Claire's Accessories, Target and Macy's.

The National Retail Federation doesn't have hard numbers on this trend, but the group does have anecdotal data.

Rescue and recovery workers who toiled in the dust, smoke and fumes that engulfed Lower Manhattan after Sept. 11 were less likely to have died since the terrorist attacks of 2001 than colleagues who weren't exposed, according to new research. That also holds true for people who were exposed because they lived or worked in the area.

The latest dismal employment report has thrown a monkey wrench in the White House spin machine ahead of President Obama's big jobs plan next week.

No net jobs were created in August, and the administration has acknowledged that the nation's unemployment rate — which stayed flat at 9.1 percent in Friday's Labor Department report — isn't likely to budge much before next year's presidential election.

A tropical storm that's expected to drench parts of Louisiana with as much as 20 inches of rain this weekend and could cause flooding along the Gulf coast has begun to soak southern Louisiana. Local authorities are beginning to declare states of emergency, as The Times-Picayune reports.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi just can't seem to get up from under controversy. Over the past few years, he's been marred by charges that he paid an underage prostitute and has also faced three other corruption trials.

The latest scandal comes in the form of a phone call recorded by police investigating claims that Berlusconi was being blackmailed about his sex life.

In the tape, Berlusconi talks to one of his alleged extortionists and vows to leave Italy, which he then describes using a scatological term.

August job numbers are showing a stagnant 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Concern is growing over whether the government could do more to boost job growth. Host Michel Martin speaks with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis about the administration's efforts to create new jobs and what can be expected from President Obama's jobs plan next week

Somebody who didn't like the way Pfizer was promoting a bunch of its drugs on a website for cholesterol-fighter Lipitor tipped off the Food and Drug Administration about it. And the agency agreed.

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