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Music
11:26 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

A Church, An Oratorio And An Enduring Tradition

The interior of the renowned Marienkirche church, where Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio is traditionally performed.
General Photographic Agency Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 9:17 am

Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio was first performed in Leipzig on Christmas Day in 1734. In Germany, no matter what the economic and political times, it's the Christmas work. In the oldest functioning church in Berlin, the 13th-century Saint Mary's, performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a fixed tradition.

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Education
10:01 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Texas Schools Grapple With Big Budget Cuts

What's known as Middle School No. 8 in Leander, Texas, was supposed to help relieve overcrowding in the rapidly growing community. But after significant statewide cuts to education, the district can't afford to open the school.
Marisa Penaloza NPR

School funding in Texas is in turmoil. State lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion from education this school year — one of the largest cuts in state history — and more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off.

Academic programs and transportation have been cut to the bone. Promising reforms are on hold or on the chopping block. Next year, the cuts could go even deeper.

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Newt Gingrich
10:01 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Gingrich's Catholic Journey Began With Third Wife

Any discussion of Newt Gingrich's journey to Catholicism begins with his wife.

"I have always been a very spiritual person," Callista Gingrich told the Christian Broadcasting Network this year. "I start each day with a prayer, and pray throughout the day, because I am grateful for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us."

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Asia
10:01 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

U.S. And Pakistan Relations: From Bad To Worse

Relations between the U.S. military and the Pakistan military have become even more strained since American forces were involved in a shooting last month that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. Here, Pakistani soldiers march during a ceremony in September.
Arif Ali

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 9:04 am

In Pakistan, transit routes for NATO supply trucks heading to Afghanistan remain shut. The CIA drone missile program has gone quiet in Pakistan's tribal area. Pakistan's government has called for a re-negotiation of its troubled relationship with the U.S.

All of this is fallout from an attack on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border last month in which NATO fire from helicopter gunships killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

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Author Interviews
10:01 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

'The Dead Witness': Classic Victorian Crime Fiction

Michael Sims, editor of The Dead Witness, resurrects long-forgotten Victorian crime writing.
Dennis Wile

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 4:48 am

With his pipe, deerstalker hat and formidable "methods," Sherlock Holmes may be the most recognizable face of the Victorian mystery story. But how does he stack up against Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, who pioneered deductive reasoning? Or quicksilver Violet Strange, debutante by day, intrepid sleuth by night?

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It's All Politics
4:25 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Staying In Shape On The Campaign Trail: Romney Drops A Few Pointers

Romney eats a slice of pizza — this one with the cheese still on — at a campaign stop in Newport, N.H
Ari Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 2:09 pm

Stumping in New Hampshire on Wednesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney revealed a bit about his strategies for staying in shape on the campaign trail.

"Hey, I heard you pull the cheese off your pizza to stay thin. Is that true?" asked a woman at Village Pizza in Newport, N.H., in the southwestern part of the state, where the Romney bus tour had made a stop.

"You know, on occasion, but on the campaign trail you need all the calories you can get," laughed Romney.

"And do you run three miles a day like they say?" she asked.

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The Two-Way
4:14 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Report: Canada's Less Productive, Yet Gaining On U.S. Quality Of Life

Canadians live it up, while Americans work. This is actually an October picture of Canada's national baseball team at the Pan American Games in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico.
Javier Galeano AP

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 5:09 pm

According to Canada's statistics agency, Canadians are less productive than their U.S. counterparts, yet their standard of living gained 5 percent during the 14 year period they analyzed.

Now, the reasons for that argument are quite complex, but The Wall Street Journal boiled it down to a lesson Americans can take from their neighbors to the north: "Be less productive, live better."

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Shots - Health Blog
3:45 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Ditch This Massager, If It Shows Up Under The Christmas Tree

This massager could also strangle you, the Food and Drug Administration warns.
FDA

The ShoulderFlex massager looks harmless enough. But don't be fooled.

The Food and Drug Administration is warning people not to use the product because it could kill or injure them. There were reports of one person being strangled by the device and another near-death by strangulation, the FDA says.

Clothing, hair and jewelry can get tangled up in the device's rotating parts. And that's a recipe for trouble.

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The Salt
3:12 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

A Christmas Pudding In The Mail Carries A Taste Of Home

The pudding's dark glossy dome is flamed with brandy and carried to the table before the shimmering blue aura dies away.
Chris Elwell iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 6:35 am

Any day now it will arrive stamped by the Royal Mail: a truly homemade Christmas pudding from my family in England.

My mother always made Christmas puddings. And before moving to the U.S., I would make two or three puddings every November, too. Now it's my sister and brother-in-law who keep up the tradition. They use a mid-Victorian recipe handed down to my brother-in-law's father by his mother, the former Miss Mortlock. She was a Quaker so these are teetotal puddings.

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The Two-Way
2:58 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Russian Billionaire Buys Daughter $88M New York Pad

15 Central Park West.
Google Street View

The New York Post simply called it "the best Christmas present ever."

And would you disagree? Dmitry Rybolovlev just bought his 22-year-old daughter Ekaterina Rybolovleva a 6,744-sq-ft penthouse overlooking New York's Central Park. The price tag? $88 million.

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Movies
2:56 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Glenn Close Finds Chemistry In Role Of Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close portrays a woman quietly living as a man in 19th-century Ireland. The character, Albert Nobbs, worked and saved money to avoid the wave of poverty plaguing the country at the time.
Patrick Redmond

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Early in her career, Glenn Close was often cast in the "good girl" role: the idyllic muse in The Natural; the understanding friend, wife and mother in The Big Chill.

Things took a sharp turn for her when she played an evil manipulator in Dangerous Liaisons and then created one of film's greatest villains in Fatal Attraction.

The range of her roles alone would make Close one of the great actors of her generation. Now, she adds another remarkable character to the list, playing the title role in the new movie Albert Nobbs.

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Movie Reviews
2:26 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Tintin's 'Adventures' Take Him To Hollywood

Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, left) and Tintin (Jamie Bell) chase fortune and treasure in The Adventures of Tintin.
WETA Digital Ltd.

Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 11:31 am

Tintin — star of a series of vintage Belgian comics that have sold hundreds of millions of copies in dozens of languages — is a crime-fighting boy journalist who specializes in solving riddles with the assistance of his intrepid dog, Snowy.

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Middle East
2:06 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Iran And Its Rivals Dig In On Nuclear Dispute

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly defends his country's nuclear program despite international criticism. The president is shown here on a visit to Varamin, south of Tehran, on Wednesday.
Atta Kenare AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:01 pm

The year began on a note of cautious optimism on the Iran nuclear front. But talks in Geneva and Istanbul proved inconclusive, and the Arab Spring uprisings soon pushed Iran off center stage. And as 2012 approaches, observers see little reason for optimism regarding a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear dispute.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under attack from other conservative factions at home, continues to find a safe rhetorical haven in defending Iran's nuclear program — and in attacking the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Latin America
2:04 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

What Greece Can Learn From South America

Greek demonstrators protest in Athens on Nov. 8. Similar economic crises in Argentina and Uruguay a decade ago may be instructive for Greece today.
Orestis Panagiotou EPA /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:08 pm

As Greece struggles with a financial crisis, there have been violent protests, creditors demanding their money, people losing their jobs and officials hunkering down.

A decade ago, that was the scene in South America when Argentina and Uruguay defaulted. The two handled the economic calamity in very different ways. Economists say their approaches — and what's happened in each country since — are instructive for European leaders as they try lifting Greece from its turmoil.

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Still No Job: Over A Year Without Enough Work
2:03 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Who Gives The Long-Term Jobless A Helping Hand?

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 7:15 pm

More than 40 percent of the long-term unemployed say they've received a lot of help from family and friends. But only 1 in 10 reports getting much help from churches or community groups, according to an NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

While family may be the first stop for help, these groups say they're indeed seeing large numbers of people who have been out of work a long time.

'We're Overwhelmed Now'

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Opinion
1:56 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Appreciating The Ugliness Of The Christmas Tree

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:03 pm

Ken Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and an NPR commentator.

Our Christmas tree gets uglier every year. It's not the tree's fault. This year we sprung for a Fraser fir, cut fresh at a local farm. It has soft needles, that ideal pine-cone shape, and a pointy top perfect for holding a star. But when we got home, I felt like apologizing. This tree did not deserve what we were about to do. We re-cut the bottom, mounted it in its holder, and gave it water. For about five minutes, our tree looked beautiful. Then came the decorations.

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The Two-Way
1:38 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

BofA's Countrywide To Pay $335 Million, Settling Lending Discrimination Case

The Countrywide logo.
AP

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:18 pm

The Justice Department is calling it the "largest residential fair lending settlement in history:" Bank of America's Countrywide Financial has agreed to pay $335 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed it discriminated against black and Latino borrowers.

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Environment
1:07 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Turbulence As Europe Passes Fee On Plane Emissions

Air travel contributes only 2 to 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. A new ruling says airlines flying into an out of European airports will have to pay a price for the carbon dioxide they emit from burning jet fuel. Above, a plane takes off from the Geneva airport on March 11, 2010.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

A European court ruled Wednesday that airlines flying into and out of European airports will have to pay a price for the carbon dioxide they emit when they burn jet fuel.

U.S. airlines, which had been fighting the idea in court, say the European Union is trying to force other countries to reduce carbon emissions. Europe currently limits carbon dioxide emissions from its major industries to curb global warming. The ruling cannot be appealed, and the decision likely to end the dispute.

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The Two-Way
12:33 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

EPA Issues Rule Limiting Arsenic, Mercury Emissions From Power Plants

New regulations issued by the Obama administration will force the country's coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce the emission of pollutants such as arsenic and mercury or shut down.

In a statement, the Environmental Protection Agency said the new standards "will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance."

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Shots - Health Blog
12:27 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Lack Of Autopsies After Elderly Die Conceals Health Flaws

Death investigations among seniors are often skipped, leaving the growing population vulnerable to neglect and abuse.
Andres Cediel Frontline

Abuse in nursing homes and suspicious deaths among seniors often go undetected because postmortem examinations are becoming few and far between.

Earlier this year, an NPR News investigation found that many jurisdictions stopped doing autopsies on people who died over the age of 60, unless it was obvious that a violent death occurred. A lack of resources, both financial and staffing, was often to blame.

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Politics
12:11 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Mass. Senate Race A Battle Over Who's More Populist

Elizabeth Warren speaks in October during a debate for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts held by Republican Scott Brown. The race has become a contest of who is the "real" populist.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:35 pm

Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts made a point of calling Ted Kennedy's old U.S. Senate seat the "people's seat," and he won it in large part by casting himself as the opposite of that glamorous and privileged dynasty.

Brown won in a special election in 2010. Now, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor and Wall Street watchdog, is raising Democrats' hopes they can win the seat back. Just months after announcing her first-ever candidacy, polls show Warren pulling out ahead of Brown.

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The Two-Way
12:00 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

For First Time, Women Share 'First Kiss' At A Navy Homecoming

When Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta kissed Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell today in Virginia Beach, a little bit of history was made.

As The Virginian-Pilot explains:

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Monkey See
11:55 am
Wed December 21, 2011

Callin' Oates: The Hotline You Don't Need (But Might Call Anyway)

John Oates (left) and Daryl Hall (right) of pop duo Hall & Oates, seen here in 1987. These days, they're available on your phone.
Dave Hogan Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 4:08 pm

Is it pure whimsy that makes something like "Callin' Oates" appealing?

If you pick up your phone and call 719-26-OATES — at least as of this writing — you'll get a computerized woman's voice telling you what numbers to press to hear one of four Hall & Oates songs.

The question, of course, is ... why?

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The Two-Way
11:40 am
Wed December 21, 2011

Iraqi Prime Minister Urges Kurds To Turn Over Vice President

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Kurdish athorities to turn over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who sought refuge in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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North Korea In Transition
11:27 am
Wed December 21, 2011

With Kim's Death, Defectors See Chance For Change

Park Sang-nak, a North Korean defector, displays anti-North Korea leaflets before sending them by balloon into North Korea, at Imjinggak peace park in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Wednesday. Defectors from the North are hoping the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may provide an opportunity for political change.
Yang Hoi-Sung AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 7:09 pm

While North Korean mourners trudged through snow in Pyongyang to pay last respects to their "Dear Leader," defectors from the North now in South Korea are celebrating the sudden death of Kim Jong Il, who died from a heart attack this past weekend.

And as the outside world tries to figure out how much control his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, has over the nuclear-armed state, the defectors are focusing on trying to kickstart a revolution in North Korea.

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The Two-Way
11:05 am
Wed December 21, 2011

FAA Issues New Rules Aimed At Keeping Tired Pilots Out Of Cockpits

Feb. 16, 2009: Flowers are left in memorial near where Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence, N.Y. Fifty people died. Pilot fatigue was cited as a factor.
David Duprey/pool Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 12:24 pm

Saying that they will help make sure that airline pilots are rested before they fly, the Federal Aviation Administration today unveiled new rules about the amount of time off they must get between flights and how long they can be on the job.

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The Two-Way
10:58 am
Wed December 21, 2011

White House: It's Time For Killing In Syria To Stop

In a statement from the president's press secretary, the United States called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop killing protesters.

"The United States is deeply disturbed by credible reports that the Assad regime continues to indiscriminately kill scores of civilians and army defectors, while destroying homes and shops and arresting protesters without due process," Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

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The Salt
10:44 am
Wed December 21, 2011

What A Global Flavor Map Can Tell Us About How We Pair Foods

Each node in this network denotes an ingredient, the color indicates food category, and node size reflects the ingredient prevalence in recipes. Two ingredients are connected if they share a significant number of flavor compounds, and link thickness representing the number of shared compounds between the two ingredients.
Yong-Yeol Ahn, Sebastian E. Ahnert, James P. Bagrow, and Albert-László Barabási

There's a reason why Asian dishes often taste so different from the typical North American fare: North American recipes rely on flavors that are related, while East Asian cooks go for sharp contrasts.

That's the word from researchers at the University of Cambridge, who used a tool called network analysis to chart the relationship between chemical flavor compounds. They did it to test the widely believed notion that foods with compatible flavors are chemically similar.

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The Two-Way
10:30 am
Wed December 21, 2011

NewtGingrich.com Is Sending Surfers To Sites And Stories He Wouldn't Like

Looking for Newt Gingrich? Don't type "newtgingrich.com." You might get directed to Freddie Mac, Tiffany's or other sites that bring to mind less flattering stories about the Republican presidential candidate.
FreddieMac.com

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's official campaign website — at newt.org — is working fine.

But if anyone types "newtgingrich.com" and hits enter right now, they're not going to see things that the former House speaker would find very funny.

In the last few minutes when we've done that we've been directed to:

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World
10:14 am
Wed December 21, 2011

2011 Has Been A Rough Year For Dictators

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, whose death was announced Monday, was in power for 17 years. He succeeded his father, who ruled for nearly a half-century. Kim is shown here on Aug. 24 during a visit to Russia.
Dmitry Astakhov AFP/Getty Images/Emily Bogle

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:11 am

Dictators suddenly seem to have a lot less longevity. This year, several of the world's longest-serving autocrats have either died or been ousted from power.

The death of North Korea's Kim Jong Il from heart failure had nothing to do with the Arab uprisings that ousted four leaders who had been in power for decades — Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.

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