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 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.
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.
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.
If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time.
Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women's division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a document yesterday that got no attention on the nightly news, or almost anywhere, really. Its title, I'm sure you'll agree, is a snooze: National Nutrient Management Standard.
Yet this document represents the agency's best attempt to solve one of the country's — and the world's — really huge environmental problems: The nitrogen and phosphorus that pollute waterways.
Christmas without cookies sounds like something the Grinch would dream up. But that may be the sad fate of many Norwegians, with a national butter shortage less than two weeks before the holiday. No krumkaker. No Berlinerkranser. No sandbakkel. In short, no delicious, butter-infused treats.
There's a nice contrast among the three quintets heard on Dave Douglas' Three Views, sketching out some of his interests. There's no overlapping repertoire or personnel. The Orange Afternoons session features the elastic rhythm trio of pianist Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh on bass and drummer Marcus Gilmore.
Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:55 am
There are "new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah's money," The New York Timesreports this morning, that point to "the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade."
Here's the story's money quote:
"One agent involved in the investigation compared Hezbollah to the Mafia, saying, 'They operate like the Gambinos on steroids.' "
This was a terrific year for fiction and a particularly strong year for first-time novelists. Some of the literary debutantes who glide through this "10 best" list are so young, their wisdom teeth probably haven't had time to become impacted yet. Majestically bringing up the rear of the procession are some much-decorated veterans whose sustained achievements in fiction should ensure that the young 'uns don't rest too comfortably on their laurels.
Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. For a Montana woman who lost her Christmas shopping money in J.C. Penney, Black Friday sure looked like a bad deal. Carrie McNeese had stashed $300 in a plain envelope, along with a few receipts and her grandchildren's clothing sizes.
Those few clues, combined with a surveillance tape, helped Penney's loss-prevention supervisor identify the shopper who dropped the envelope, and reunite her with her cash. Now, that is a return policy.
The paper wrote of horse-drawn carriages in New York's Central Park, calling them "hansom cabs." That's wrong, since the carriages have four wheels. Hansom cabs have two. A Times investigation reveals a reader noted this mistake in a letter to the editor in 1985. The paper published the letter but went on to repeat the error for decades.