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It is very cold and very dark in Finland this time of year - every time of year, I understand. But there's a band that finds inspiration in that dark and cold. For more than 20 years, the group HIM has been heating up Helsinki nights.

Three months after the Gaza Strip war between Hamas and Israel, reconstruction of destroyed homes and businesses has hardly started. Part of the problem is the lack of clear Palestinian government authority on the ground.

It's been a rough ride for the Russian economy and it keeps getting worse. Low oil prices helped push the ruble to another record low on Friday. This spate of bad economic news is probably just accelerating an existing trend: Russia's purchase of gold at an astounding rate.

Russia's central bank bought more than 130 tons of gold this year. Last year, it bought about 75 tons. Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at the brokerage firm, RJ O'Brien, says Russia has shifted even more assets into gold because it has had a particularly bad year.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The friends and colleagues of Michel du Cille are in shock. They simply can't believe that the photographer with the deep voice and the gentle soul is gone. He died on Dec. 11 of an apparent heart attack while covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia for the Washington Post.

Barefoot in a yoga studio in Lebanon's capital Beirut, a couple dozen actresses raise voices and stretch bodies that had grown used to being quiet and still.

"Go on," they cry as a clapping exercise speeds up, and they fill the room with whoops and uninhibited yells.

But these women aren't professional actresses. In fact, they're refugees from Syria, and this production of the Greek tragedy Antigone is a project designed to help them deal with their trauma.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, starts on Tuesday night. But the flickering candles won't be the only things shining on the table. Many families celebrate with gelt, chocolate coins covered in gold and silver foil. But while this treat is beloved, it's not all that delicious.

"It snaps. It's not soft and buttery — it's waxy. This is chocolate you have to chew," jokes Ariel Cohn, who runs Tree of Life, a Jewish pre-school in Portland, Ore.

If you've been too busy finalizing holiday vacation plans and buying gifts, we're here to catch you up on the tech headlines you may have missed from NPR and beyond.

A new study shows what at least some of us might have suspected for a long time: Men are idiots and do stupid things.

That's the premise of the authors' Male Idiot Theory. The study, published in BMJ, the former British Medical Journal, looked at past winners of the Darwin Awards. The awards are given to those people who die in such an idiotic manner that "their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive."

A federal directive will go into effect Saturday making it easier for some Americans to come up with a down payment to buy a house.

The vast majority of home loans are guaranteed by the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator in charge of Fannie and Freddie will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.

This year, Tennessee joined 21 other states that allow employees to leave guns in their cars in the office parking lot. The laws have left many employers debating how best to ensure safety at work.

After Georgia passed its law allowing employees to keep firearms in their employers' parking lots, Sally Roberts installed a sign on her newspaper firm's door. It read: "No Weapons Allowed."

A job candidate once threatened her, says Roberts, human resources director at Morris Communications. "She did become violent, and I'm very thankful she did not have a weapon."

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We've been hearing all week about a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It detailed brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA after Sept 11. Among the questions it raised are whether these techniques are legal, effective and morally acceptable.

For our series This Week's Must Read, author Laila Lalami grapples with these questions by turning to literature.

Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, was admitted to a hospital in Washington, D.C., as a precaution Friday, one day after casting the final vote in his nearly 60 years in Congress.

The Michigan Democrat's office didn't give details on Dingell's condition, other than to say he was under observation and "resting comfortably." Dingell visited a doctor's office earlier this week, after he fell down and bruised his hip.

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The death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot last month by a police officer, has been ruled a homicide by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner.

Tamir suffered gunshot wounds to the torso and suffered injures of "major vessel, intestines and pelvis," the examiner's report said.

Hanukkah's Real (And Imagined) History

Dec 12, 2014
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Updated at 5:00 p.m. ET

A shooter wounded two boys and a girl outside a high school in Portland, Ore., in what police said may be a gang-related assault.

The incident occurred near Rosemary Anderson High School. The Oregonian reports that a 17-year-old was shot in the back and another person, a female, was shot in the chest. The newspaper did not give specifics on the third victim.

Traditionally, the folks at NPR Music make a list of their 100 favorite songs of the year. But this time, they expanded the list to 302 songs and made a really long mix tape.

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As the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee clash over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are considered torture, another question arises: Have depictions of torture on TV and film helped convince us that it works?

Consider this warning that recently greeted viewers of ABC's political soap opera, Scandal:

"The following drama contains adult content. Viewer discretion is advised."

The idea that guns are dangerous to your health is not new. But figuring out what steps, if any, doctors should take to protect people from gun violence is both new and politically explosive.

Recently, more than 100 physicians and crime prevention advocates gathered in Boston for what they say was the first continuing medical education course on how to prevent gun violence. Martha Bebinger from Here & Now contributor station WBUR was there and has this report.

Meeting The Maker Of Moore's Law

Dec 12, 2014

It almost feels like a law of nature. You break your two-year-old smartphone. The next day you go the store and find a new one that’s faster and cheaper and just plain better. Computer chips keep getting better — it’s a phenomenon that engineers call Moore’s law. And it’s about to celebrate an anniversary.

Obama: NFL 'Behind The Curve' On Rice Case

Dec 12, 2014

President Barack Obama says the Ray Rice domestic violence case showed that the National Football League was “behind the curve” in setting policies about athlete behavior. He says new policies now in effect will send a message that there is no place for such behavior.

He says in an interview Friday with Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio that “an old boys’ network” at the NFL had created “blind spots.”

He says: “You don’t want to be winging it when something like this happens; you want to have clear policies in place.”

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