Death sentences dropped dramatically this year, marking the first time in more than three decades that judges and juries sent fewer than 100 people to death row, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.
Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences, and only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.
Lego doesn't call itself a toy company for boys. But look at the company's website, and its products are clearly geared towards boys' love of combat and action. There's Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Alien Conquest, Racers and Superheroes. One lonely set, called Belleville, is clearly for girls. It's pink-themed and features a horse.
In the past three years, the ability and willingness of Americans to move across town or to another state have fallen to their lowest level in more than half a century.
An NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation survey examined mobility among the long-term unemployed and underemployed. Of those two groups combined, 40 percent said they would be willing to move to another state to find a job.
One day last year, I skipped school to wait for acceptances from colleges. It was the final day that letters or emails were supposed to be sent out.
I sat in front of my laptop by the front door for at least three hours, listening for the mailman while eagerly pressing the refresh button on my inbox. I admit, at one point, I checked my neighbor's mail. Getting my house skipped on the mail route was one of the less crazy hypotheticals I imagined while waiting.
Education has .edu, .gov belongs to the government, and now, adult entertainment has .xxx.
Since last week, anyone can go online and buy a domain name ending in .xxx — but it's not all adult entertainment companies that are rushing to purchase the new addresses.
Colleges and other institutions have purchased .xxx domains pre-emptively to prevent others from doing so and associating their names with adult content. And many big names in the adult entertainment industry are opposed to the possibility of censorship by places that could block the entire .xxx domain.
This year-end list is dominated by fiction, but a couple of nonfiction titles also made the cut as well. Book critic Maureen Corrigan says that 2011 was a banner year for fiction — especially for several first-time novelists.
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Chairman Gregory Jaczko (center) speaks Wednesday during a meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His fellow commissioners, from bottom left: Kristine Svinicki, William Magwood IV and William Ostendorff.
The government organization charged with keeping nuclear power safe is having a meltdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission consists of five commissioners who direct the work of hundreds of nuclear engineers and other experts. They write the rules for how nuclear reactors operate.
Now four of those commissioners say the chairman of the NRC is a bully who's destroying their ability to do their job.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 3:34 pm
A Georgia school system has suspended all marching band activities after it launched an investigation spurred by the alleged hazing at Florida A&M University.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Dekalb County School System spokesman said they made the decision after uncovering "documented evidence of inappropriate activity that took place over the summer." The AJC adds:
When the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for states to pass tough new laws banning drivers from using cellphones or hand-held devices, she said: "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
While Tuesday's statement by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman is undeniable, there are those who question the advisability of such a ban. Some state lawmakers and transportation experts say it could be difficult to enforce and that there's no real evidence yet that existing laws on hand-held devices have significantly reduced accident rates.
A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.
The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.
One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.
Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.
Women stand in line to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring change.
A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.
The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.
At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.
Yep, that caught our attention, too, so we had to pass along a strange case that has made its way to court in Romania. The government has arrested two self-professed witches who are accused of blackmailing their clients. The AP reports:
South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.
The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.
A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
Credit GeoEye via Google Earth/Digitalglobe/Reuters (top) / ISIS (bottom)/Landov
A combination of photos released by Institute for Science and International Security on Dec. 2 shows satellite images of a military base outside Tehran, Iran, on Sept. 9 (top), and the same base with extensively damaged buildings on Nov. 22 — 10 days after a mysterious explosion occurred at the missile base.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm
It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.
But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.
These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.
The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 4:32 pm
Poll after poll shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for president.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is the gaudiest yet, giving the former speaker of the House 40 percent among Republicans across the country, nearly double the number for erstwhile front-runner Mitt Romney.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (left) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran last year.
Credit Mario Tama / Getty Images
Shiite worshipers march after cutting their scalps in a ritual display of mourning during an Ashura ceremony outside Kadhimiya shrine in Baghdad on Dec. 6. Shiite festivals such as this were prohibited under dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. Shiite Iran is seeking greater influence in Iraq, and Iraq's Sunni neighbors are doing the same.
Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.
As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.
There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.
It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.
The National Transportation Safety Board is advising against cell phone use — and even using hands-free devices while driving. But even some cell phone safety advocates think the recommendation goes too far.
The protests that have spread across Russia took a big political toll today, when the speaker of parliament announced his resignation. As the AP reports, the move appears to be tailored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an attempt to "stem public anger."
Tammi Warren has lived on the same winding street in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Mich., all her life. But as she drives down the block in her Ford pickup, Warren points to several houses on her street that stand vacant, casualties of the housing market collapse.
Vacant houses mean less tax revenue for the city, and less revenue makes it harder for Inkster to provide basic city services.
"[The] city of Inkster has eliminated 38 positions," says City Treasurer Mark Stuhldreher. "It's about 25 percent, roughly, of the workforce."
Now, we all have reason to complain about the speed of our Internet connection. Scientists announced yesterday that they have broken the Internet speed record by transferring data at 186 Gbps between two cities.
Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:36 am
The eyes of Texas have been upon James Richard "Rick" Perry ever since he boot-scootin' boogied onto the public-service stage. Now political observers are watching Perry's fortunes fluctuate as a Republican candidate for president.
Political junkies have followed the career of Perry — an Eagle Scout, veterinary student and son of a farmer and a bookkeeper — from his initial election as a Democrat to the state House of Representatives in 1984. They have studied his endorsement of Al Gore for president in 1988. They watched him as he changed parties in 1989.
(Note: This post was first published on Dec. 14. It was reposted Monday — the 26th — because that's when it was broadcast on Morning Edition.)
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is 11 billion miles from the sun. And every minute, it gets 636 miles closer to its destination: the frontier of interstellar space.
The craft is currently in what NASA calls, not undramatically, "the boundary between the solar wind from the Sun and the interstellar wind from death-explosions of other stars," an area that astrophysicists also call, less dramatically, a stagnation layer.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 10:57 am
NASA is on the brink of putting a man-made craft into interstellar space for the first time, as Voyager 1 speeds toward the outer edge of our solar system. The Voyager program's chief scientist, Dr. Ed Stone, spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep about that feat, and what it means for NASA.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 11:12 am
"On behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words and I know your famlies agree:
With that, President Obama began an address today at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where he continued to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by talking with some of the troops who served in that nearly nine-year conflict.