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The Two-Way
7:09 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Today's Three Stories To Read About The 'Fiscal Cliff'

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at the White House on Nov. 16.
Toby Jorrin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 10:18 am

As we've said now several times, "the White House and congressional leaders continue to talk about taxes, spending cuts and how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that arrives at midnight Dec. 31 — when Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and automatic spending cuts are set to go into effect."

As NPR and others cover the story, we're pointing to interesting reports and analyses. Here are some of the latest.

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The Two-Way
6:06 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Syrian Defector: Assad Will Use Chemical Weapons If He's Desperate

Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2009.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 12:25 pm

If Syrian President Bashar Assad gets desperate enough he will use chemical weapons against his own people, the former chief of staff for that country's chemical weapons tells NPR's Deborah Amos.

Maj. Gen. Adnan Sillu, who defected in July and is now in Turkey, is convinced that if rebel forces close in on Damascus, Assad will order the use of mustard gas, sarin or other chemicals in a "last desperate act," Deb reported today on Morning Edition.

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Europe
5:39 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Noah's Ark Replica Docks In Netherlands

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm David Greene, with news that Noah's Ark has docked in the Netherlands. Well, sort of. Johan Huibers built a full-scale replica of the ark on a river, staying as true as he could to God's instructions to Noah. The giant floating hulk opened to the public with some real animals: rabbits and parakeets. The bison and tigers are life-sized sculptures. There are modern creature comforts, like two cinemas and a restaurant. And on opening day, by God, it rained. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Around the Nation
5:34 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Phoenix Man Lights Cactus To Celebrate Hanukkah

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. The spirit of Hanukah is aglow in the desert. For the seventh straight year, a man in Phoenix is lighting up the tips of a giant cactus to celebrate the holiday. Mel Kline's cactus is called a saguaro. It has a middle trunk and eight arms, perfect for a menorah. And at 30 feet tall, it attracts hundreds of visitors. The Arizona Republic reports that Kline bought the cactus 35 years ago. His wife wanted a maple tree. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

National Security
4:33 am
Tue December 11, 2012

U.S. Adds Syrian Rebel Group To Terror List

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Digital Life
4:33 am
Tue December 11, 2012

FTC: Apps For Children Raise Privacy Concerns

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

The Federal Trade Commission has released a report taking to task the makers of mobile apps for children. It says apps are not transparent enough about the personal information they collect. It's the latest sign the Obama administration is concerned about children's privacy online.

Economy
3:28 am
Tue December 11, 2012

What Happens If We Fall Off The 'Fiscal Cliff'?

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Lines of communication remain open in an effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff," according to the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.

If no deal is reached between now and the end of the year, would the consequences be that drastic?

To answer that question, let's imagine it's January and the nation has gone off the "fiscal cliff." You don't really feel any different and things don't look different, either. That's because, according to former congressional budget staffer Stan Collender, the cliff isn't really a cliff.

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Author Interviews
1:18 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Oprah's Second Pick: A First-Time Novelist

Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable channel and her magazine have revived her book club, now known as Book Club 2.0.
Charles Sykes AP

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Earlier this year, Oprah Winfrey announced an updated version of her popular book club, this time called Book Club 2.0. Her first pick, Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, experienced best-seller list success thanks to what some people are calling the "Oprah bump." And last week Winfrey announced her second pick, a novel called The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, a first-time author.

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Shots - Health News
1:18 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Feds Say 'No' To Partial Medicaid Expansion

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks about expanding Medicaid during a speech to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock, Ark., on Nov. 14. The federal government hasn't set a deadline for states to decide on their Medicaid expansion plans.
Danny Johnston AP

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

The Affordable Care Act, as passed by Congress in 2010, assumed that every low-income person would have access to health insurance starting in 2014.

That's when about 17 million Americans — mostly unmarried healthy adults with incomes up to 133 percent of poverty, or about $15,000 a year — would gain access to Medicaid.

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Around the Nation
1:17 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Detroit Tries To Stave Off State Takeover Of Finances

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivers his State of the City address on March 7. If Bing and the City Council can't agree on a plan to reduce the city's budget deficit, state officials are poised to take away their power over Detroit's finances.
Carlos Osorio AP

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 8:55 am

Detroit officials face a tough vote Tuesday as they try to keep their city from going over its own "fiscal cliff." If the mayor and City Council cannot agree on a plan to reduce the city's budget deficit, state officials are poised to take away their power and assume total control over Detroit's finances.

It's been a continuing vicious cycle: Detroit's population exodus, lost tax revenue and chronic mismanagement have left the city burning through cash to the point where the state of Michigan has to provide funding to help the city meet payroll for the next few months.

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World
1:16 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Russian Scandal Hints At Larger Political Battle

Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who was recently fired, review military officers on Moscow's Red Square in May. Putin's decision to sack Serdyukov has touched off widespread speculation on the motive.
Alexei Druzhinin AP

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 8:33 am

Russia is in the middle of a blazing tabloid-style scandal that features a bejeweled blonde, a luxury love nest, and an alleged scam worth more than $200 million.

But that's not where some Kremlin watchers are putting their attention. They see the scandal as just the visible fallout from a vicious backroom fight among Russia's ruling elite.

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NPR Story
6:29 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

HSBC Reaches $1.9B Deal Over Money Laundering

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

HSBC bank has reached a record $1.9 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over money laundering. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Jim Zarroli.

The Two-Way
4:09 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

U.S. To Add Syrian Rebel Group To Terror List

The U.S. is adding a Syrian rebel group to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, a move meant to marginalize extremists who are among the groups working to oust President Bashar Assad.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reported on the move to add Jabhat al-Nusra to the list. Here's what she told our Newscast unit:

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The Record
4:08 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Remembering Banda Diva Jenni Rivera

Jenni Rivera performs at the Lilith Fair in 2010 in San Diego.
David Bergman Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

To listen to Mandalit del Barco's appreciation of Jenni Rivera's life and career, as heard on All Things Considered, click the audio link.

Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died Sunday in an airplane that crashed in the early hours of the morning in Toluca, west of Mexico's capital. The legendary musician, household name and feminist presence in the Latin music scene was 43.

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It's All Politics
3:55 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

DeMint And Heritage: Playing Off Each Other's Strengths

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., talks on the phone in his Capitol Hill office on Dec. 6, the day he announced he will resign from the Senate and lead the Heritage Foundation.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shocked Washington last week when he announced that he will quit the Senate to become president of a think tank. But as the barriers crumble between policy research and partisan advocacy, the building blocks are there for DeMint and the conservative Heritage Foundation to build a powerful operation with political clout.

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National Security
3:24 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

The World In 2030: Asia Rises, The West Declines

The National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030 report predicts that by the year 2030, a majority of the world's population will be out of poverty.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

By the year 2030, for the first time in history, a majority of the world's population will be out of poverty. Middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector. Asia will enjoy the global power status it last had in the Middle Ages, while the 350-year rise of the West will be largely reversed. Global leadership may be shared, and the world is likely to be democratizing.

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The Two-Way
2:51 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

After Students Are Killed, Protests In Sudan's Capital

Sudanese students demonstrate in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on Sunday. They were protesting after four students, originally from the Darfur region, were killed last week.
AFP/Getty Images

In the third straight day of demonstrations, hundreds of Sudanese students in the capital Khartoum rallied to protest the deaths of four university students last week.

While the recent deaths sparked the protests, some students are also calling for the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

"Revolution, revolution until victory!" has become the battle cry of the students.

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All Tech Considered
2:43 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Forget The Register: Stores Use Mobile To Make Sales On The Spot

A Nordstrom salesperson shows a customer an online selection of shoes on an in-store iPad. Like some other retailers, Nordstrom is using mobile devices to make on-the-spot sales and check companywide product inventory instantly.
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

The women's shoe department at Nordstrom's flagship store in Seattle is bustling. Shoppers are trying on everything from stilettos to rain boots — and when they're ready to buy, they can pay up right where they are.

The sales associate simply whips out a modified iPod Touch and scans the shoe box's bar code. The handheld device contains a credit card reader, too, so the customer can just hand over the plastic and sign with a fingertip. There's no trek to the cash register and no line to wait in.

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Shots - Health News
2:37 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

What Porcupines Can Teach Engineers

The barbs on porcupine quills make it easier from them to penetrate the skin.
National Park Service

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 6:04 am

Pulling out a porcupine quill is painful and slow, as many a dog discovers to its dismay after tangling with the big rodent. But those tenacious quills are inspiring efforts to develop better medical devices, including less painful needles.

It turns out that no one had really picked apart why it's so hard to remove a porcupine quill. Barbs, sure. But the barbs not only stick like mad. They also make it much easier for the quill to pierce skin and flesh.

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Politics
2:25 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Raising Taxes A Key Sticking Point In Fiscal Cliff Talks

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And if past negotiations are any indication, that silence could mean the talks are going well. We're joined now by NPR's congressional reporter Tamara Keith, who has been following developments on the Hill and beyond. And as Ari just said, neither side is talking about the details, but Tamara, what are they saying?

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Digital Life
2:23 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Social Media Advice: Sending Holiday Cards

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, from eShopping to eCards. That's this week's topic for our social media experts Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book "How to Be Black," and Deanna Zandt. She's the author of "Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking." When it comes to sending a holiday card, snail mail or email?

BARATUNDE THURSTON: So I actually prefer eCards.

DEANNA ZANDT: Really?

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The Two-Way
1:42 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

The Feds Can Tell Ernest Hemingway's Cats What To Do; Here's Why

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 9:06 am

Cats were everywhere. Fifty or so of them. In the house. On the lawn. Sunning themselves on the wall surrounding the property.

Most were six-toed — making them polydactyls. That's different. The cats you usually see have five toes on each paw in the front. Four on each in the back.

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Shots - Health News
1:04 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

How A Superbug Traveled The World

Clostridium difficile bacteria produce a toxin that damages the intestine and causes severe diarrhea.
Courtesy of David Goudling/Nature Genetics.

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 6:06 am

Just as the name implies, Clostridium difficile is a difficult pathogen to beat. It causes a nasty infection in your gut, and it's often resistant to many antibiotics.

But C. difficile got even more troublesome about 10 years ago when a particularly virulent form of the bug cropped up in hospitals across the U.S and was no longer vulnerable to one of the most common classes of antibiotics.

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Asia
12:52 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Hunger Still Haunts North Korea, Citizens Say

The U.N. says food supplies in North Korea have increased, but citizens who spoke to NPR say many people are going hungry. In this photo from Aug. 13, workers stand next to a field that was damaged by flooding in Songchon County, North Korea.
David Guttenfelder AP

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

While North Korea has long struggled with dire food shortages, the United Nations now assesses its food situation as being the best in many years. But NPR has had unusual access to five North Koreans in China, who paint a dramatically different, and alarming, picture.

Even as North Korea mourned its leader Kim Jong Il last December, one surprising thing was on people's minds: fish. State-run television showed people lining up in shops; the dear leader's last wish, apparently, was to provide fish to his people.

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Sports
12:45 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Russia's Hockey Glad To Have NHL-Lockout Orphans

Erik Christensen, right, from Lev Praha challenges Alexander Ovechkin from Dynamo Moscow during their KHL ice hockey match in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Oct. 9. Ovechkin is among those NHL players who were signed by European clubs because of the NHL lockout.
Petr David Josek AP

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 1:43 am

As the National Hockey League lockout drags into its 86th day, which featured news that more games have been cancelled including the All-Star game, some of the league's biggest stars are getting plenty of action back in their home countries.

In Russia, major NHL players such as Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are giving a boost to the fledgling KHL—the Kontinental Hockey League.

Russian NHL players are scattered throughout the KHL teams that still carry names from the Soviet era when Russia dominated world hockey.

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The Two-Way
12:20 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Navy SEAL Killed During Afghan Rescue Is Identified

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

The member of Navy SEAL Team 6 killed during this weekend's rescue in Afghanistan of an American doctor was Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pa.

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The Picture Show
11:35 am
Mon December 10, 2012

A Black And White 1860s Fundraiser

Rosa, Charley and Rebecca are three of eight freed slaves who sat for portraits in 1863-1864 that were sold to raise money to fund schools for emancipated slaves in Louisiana. The three were chosen because it was believed their near-white complexions would draw more sympathy — and support — from a country torn apart by slavery and civil war.
Charles Paxson Library of Congress

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 3:05 pm

They look like any other 19th century vignettes and portraits of children kneeling in prayer or cloaked in the U.S. flag.

But these cartes de visite (a calling card with a portrait mounted on it that was all the rage during the 1860s) featured Charles, Rebecca and Rosa — former slave children who looked white.

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The Two-Way
10:27 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Many Apps For Children Still Raise Privacy Concerns, FTC Says

Who's collecting information about her?
Peggy Turbett The Plain Dealer /Landov

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

Developers of smartphone and tablet apps aimed at children have done little in the past year to give parents "the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it," the Federal Trade Commission reports.

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Author Interviews
10:09 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Lemony Snicket Dons A Trenchcoat

Meredith Heuer Courtesy of Little, Brown & Co.

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 11:53 am

It's been more than six years since Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, concluded his enormously popular 13-volume young adult series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Now Handler has revived the Snicket narrator in his YA novel Who Could That Be at This Hour?

The book is the first of a series — All the Wrong Questions — and a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It tracks the young Snicket's adventures during his apprenticeship at the V.F.D., a mysterious organization that readers familiar with the Snicket stories will recognize.

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Economy
10:00 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: Cutting the Untouchable?

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 10:46 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we'll hear about elections in Ghana. We'll talk about whether the election of President John Dramani Mahama to a new term confirms the country's reputation for leadership in democratic processes, or perhaps undermines it. That's later.

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