NPR News

Second in a three-part series

China basked in a moment of technological glory last November when it nudged out the U.S. as home of the world's fastest supercomputer.

The achievement was short-lived — after just six months, a Japanese supercomputer three times as fast supplanted the Chinese machine — but it generated intense national pride.

But questions remain as to whether China's much-vaunted supercomputing program will be able to live up to Beijing's high expectations.

A law signed into law last month in Missouri is making waves nationally, this week. A small part of the wide-ranging SB54, makes it illegal for teachers to be "friends" with students on any social networking site that allows private communication.

That means teachers and students can't be friends on Facebook or can't follow each other on Twitter for example.

Reaction was swift in Alabama on Tuesday after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block a new immigration law set to take effect next month.

Alabama's new law — considered the toughest in the country — requires authorities to confirm the status of anyone they stop if there's reasonable doubt that person could be in the U.S. illegally. The law makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work, rent an apartment or get a driver's license.

Confessed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's "manifesto" references many statistics and papers dealing with both science and global population. But what if you were a writer — and you learned that the man who killed 77 people had quoted some of your work?

With the Senate's passage of the debt-ceiling legislation and President Obama having signed it Tuesday afternoon, the nation no longer needs to worry about defaultmageddon, at least not until early 2013 when the U.S. Treasury once again runs out of the room to borrow again.

But even though there wasn't a default, the fight left plenty of wreckage laying about.

Among the casualties was Obama. Yes, he seemed to have narrowly averted becoming the first president to have the nation default during his term.

Even A Little Exercise Can Help Your Heart

Aug 2, 2011

We all know that exercise is good for us, but sometimes it's can seem too hard to even detach from the couch.

Plus, let's be honest, having the federal government tell us it's a terrific idea to get 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week doesn't really help our motivation much. Sorry.

The budget deal struck by President Obama and congressional leaders is enough to merit a triple-A credit rating from Fitch Ratings, one of the three big ratings agencies.

Politico reports:

"Agreement was reached on an increase in the United States' debt ceiling and, commensurate with its 'AAA' rating, the risk of sovereign default remains extremely low," the agency said.

The sleepy towns in the Western Mountains of Libya come to life right before the country's rebels engage in a fight with the forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The mostly deserted roads suddenly fill with pickup trucks. The rebel fighters bristle with the makeshift weapons that they rely on. The vehicles, some monster trucks, then peel off into the front lines deep in the desert, covered in dried mud that serves as camouflage.

Senate Approves Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Plan

Aug 2, 2011

Update at 2:07 p.m. ET. President Signs Bill:

President Obama has signed into law a bi-partisan bill that raises the debt ceiling and avoids a government default that analysts as well as the White House warned could have had catastrophic effects on the American economy.

Earlier today, the Senate voted 74-26 to send the bill to the president's desk. The AP reports Obama signed the bill privately in the Oval Office.

Our Original Post:

Efforts to help people in southern Somalia, where famine relief efforts have been stymied by al-Shabaab, a group on the U.S. terrorism watchlist, may get easier in the coming weeks. That's because pending changes to U.S. rules will allow aid groups to deliver food in those areas, according to an AP report.

Citing sources who wished to remain anonymous, the AP says:

We've all desperately tried to force a crumpled dollar bill into a vending machine to no avail. Fortunately, when your dollar is that decrepit, it's on death's door and will likely be removed from circulation.

The average lifespan of a $1 bill, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is 21 months. Eventually, money is destroyed — either by the Federal Reserve itself, or by the places that create it to begin with: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the U.S. Mint. On average, 5 million unfit currency notes are destroyed each day.

Americans put more of their money into savings in June, at the expense of consumer spending — and that came as a surprise to analysts. The month's drop in spending was the first in nearly two years (20 months).

Sebelius Defends Birth Control Without Co-Pays

Aug 2, 2011

The federal government recently announced that starting Aug. 2012, insurers must offer female preventive health services without extra costs to patients. Host Michel Martin discusses the controversial plan with the Health and Human Services Secretary. Martin also explores what the debt deal means for the Affordable Care Act with a Senior Correspondent from Kaiser Health News.

After Debt Fight, States Crave Stability

Aug 2, 2011

The House voted to pass the compromise spending plan Monday night, but drops in federal and state credit ratings remain possible, particularly for South Carolina. To learn about the bill's local ramifications, host Michel Martin speaks with S.C.'s House Rep. for the sixth district, S.C.'s Treasurer, and the mayor Columbia, S.C.

Pity the politicians as they struggle to a hammer out a deal on the US debt: the endless negotiations, the late agreements that collapse by the morning news cycle. Everywhere they turn they seem to constrained - hemmed in – by forces pulling in every direction.

The browser wars are getting personal. A new study gave IQ tests to more than 100,000 English-speaking Internet users from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Those results were then compared to what browser each person was using to take the test.

In an interview with CBS' The Early Show, the head of the Democratic party said they expect Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) to "come back to help us full time."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said the Democratic National Committee was prepping for a re-election bid in case Giffords decides to run.

One Final Hurdle: Debt-Ceiling Bill Faces Senate Vote

Aug 2, 2011

It seems to be all over but the voting.

Hours before the deadline to avert a U.S. default, the Senate was expected to pass legislation Tuesday in time to send it to President Obama and end the self-inflicted debt-ceiling crisis that has shaken confidence in the nation's credit and its political leaders.

The compromise bill, which easily passed the House on Monday night, is virtually assured to clear the Senate by a bipartisan tally. The president has promised to sign it into law almost immediately.

The battle over the debt ceiling may be over, but Congress remains deeply divided.

"Republicans are now taking a well-deserved victory lap while the Democrats are in a state of near total dejection," says journalist Robert Draper. "The Republicans got some cuts, they kept some revenue off the table but most of all, what they've done is dramatically shift the ethos in Washington."

FDA: Wake Up, People, Those Lazy Brownies Are Unsafe

Aug 2, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration has given the maker of Lazy Larry relaxation brownies a wake-up call.

The Associated Press reported the agency has warned HBB LLC, the Memphis-based company that sells the brownies, that the melatonin in them has not been deemed a safe food additive. And the FDA says it can seize the brownies, which it considers adulterated, if HBB keeps making and selling them.

The Japanese women's soccer team stunned the United States a few weeks ago. After a tense match where Team America seemed to have the upper hand throughout, Japan leveled the game with a late equalizer and then went on to win a penalty shoot-out.

New psychological research suggests that soccer goalkeepers and teams aren't only affected by the high stakes pressure of a penalty shoot-out. Without their awareness, goalkeepers also appear to be biased to dive to the right in some situations.

As we reported yesterday, the FBI jump-started D.B. Cooper mania with its revelation it has a new suspect in the unsolved skyjacking that occurred 40 years ago this November.

New details continue to trickle out with each interview with FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt. Among the new bits of information about the man who may or may not prove to be D.B. Cooper:

-- The "suspect" died more than 10 years ago of natural causes

After last night's vote on the debt ceiling compromise, the House adjourned for the summer but left nearly 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees, who have been furloughed because of a funding impasse, in limbo.

Reuters reports that because of the House recess and the fact that a compromise in the Senate faltered last night, it is now near certain that the FAA could be shut down through August.

The Nation: Sports Don't Need Sex To Sell

Aug 2, 2011

Mary Jo Kane is the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.

"The newest kid on the women's sports block is finding that the old formula for attention-getting is as robust as ever. 'Sex sells,' says Atlanta Beat defender Nancy Augustyniak, who was astonished to learn she finished third in a Playboy.com poll of the sexiest female soccer players." — Wendy Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Foreign Policy: Influencing A Murderer's Manifesto

Aug 2, 2011

Phillip Longman, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is author of The Empty Cradle: Why Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It.

Fred Barnes is the executive editor for The Weekly Standard.

We've learned a lot from the fight to attach spending cuts to the debt limit increase. Here are five of the lessons:

New Republic: Capitulate In Debt Debate? Not Clinton

Aug 2, 2011

Kara Brandeisky is an intern at The New Republic.

Good morning!

As we wrote earlier, the big news of the day is the debt ceiling compromise that's making its way through Congress. We'll be following that story throughout the day, but here are some other headlines:

After the House passed the debt ceiling deal with a surprising lopsided 269-161 vote, yesterday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill at noon, today. If it passes, it heads to the president's desk and with a signature the debt ceiling is immediately raised by $400 billion. And it would all happen just hours before the day the Treasury said the country would run out of money.

After 15 Years, GOP Revives Balanced Budget Idea

Aug 2, 2011

It's an idea whose time may have come again.

There was lively debate about amending the Constitution to require a balanced budget throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, but the issue seemed to die off in the face of the federal surpluses that marked the end of the Clinton years.

"The reason it fell off the radar screen then is we actually did it," says Robert S. Walker, who served on the House Budget Committee as a Pennsylvania Republican during the Clinton administration. "We simply said, look, if it's not possible to pass the amendment, let's balance the budget."

Pages