Parallels
11:57 am
Tue November 19, 2013

How Will Afghan Forces Fare As NATO Troops Draw Down?

An Afghan soldier stands guard in the western city of Herat in October. U.S. Maj. Gen. James McConville, who commands coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, says Afghan forces did hold their ground this year, but "they're not winning by enough that the enemy is willing to stop fighting yet."
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 3:54 pm

Shiite Muslims gathered in Kabul last week to celebrate Ashura, one of the holiest days on their religious calendar. Hundreds of shirtless men chanted and flogged themselves with chains tipped with knife-like shards of metal.

In the past, these public Shiite commemorations have become targets of the Taliban and other Islamist extremists. In 2011, a suicide bomber killed 56 Shiites marking Ashura. But this year, security was particularly tight.

Shopkeeper Noor Aga said the celebration was magnificent, and he felt safe.

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The Two-Way
11:53 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Safety Agency Opens Probe Into Tesla Fires

Tesla Motors Chairman and CEO Elon Musk (in driver's seat) and chief designer Franz von Holzhausen (in passenger seat) drive the new Tesla Model S all-electric sedan in Hawthorne, California on March 26, 2009.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has opened an investigation into battery fires in two Tesla Motors Model S sedans.

The fires — three reports in six weeks — have sparked concern about the safety of the electric cars. The New York Times reports:

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All Tech Considered
11:50 am
Tue November 19, 2013

This Slide Shows Why HealthCare.gov Wouldn't Work At Launch

A slide from McKinsey & Co.'s outside review of HealthCare.gov, in the spring.
House Energy and Commerce Committee

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 7:07 am

This is a story of contrast between two popular methods of software development. One is called "waterfall," the other, "agile."

Waterfall development favors listing a huge set of requirements for a system up front, letting developers go away for months (if not longer) and expecting a huge software product in the end.

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The Two-Way
11:36 am
Tue November 19, 2013

King Of Thrones: America's Best Restroom Is In Minneapolis

In the Game of Thrones, this is the winner: the fanciful restroom of the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.
Varsity Theater

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 2:38 pm

It pays to be unique when you're going for the title of best restroom in the land. Design details are crucial, and so is the choice of materials. It also doesn't hurt if you serve drinks in a commodious chamber. Those are the strengths of the Varsity Theater, a concert hall in Minneapolis that has won America's Best Restroom Contest for 2013.

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The Salt
11:35 am
Tue November 19, 2013

How To Prepare For Climate Disasters? Artist Says Dehydrate Food

Fan raises egg-laying hens in the yard behind his studio on Staten Island.
Eliza Barclay NPR

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 3:59 pm

Emergency aid workers are rushing this week to get food aid to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines — just the latest reminder of how vulnerable the food supply can be when disaster hits.

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The Two-Way
11:30 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan's Exact Death Toll May Never Be Known

In Tacloban, the Philippines, graffiti on the side of a grounded ship sends a message out to the world.
David Gilkey NPR

The hard work of getting aid to survivors and accounting for the dead continues in the central and southern Philippines, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan on Nov. 8.

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It's All Politics
11:27 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Senate Finance Chairman Floats International Tax Code Overhaul

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., arrives for a hearing with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Capitol Hill last month.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 3:20 pm

The U.S. tax code is messy, complicated and full of loopholes. And if you're searching for the most incomprehensible, technically dense part of that code, international tax law would be a good place to start.

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Movie Reviews
11:23 am
Tue November 19, 2013

'Great Beauty,' 'Narco Cultura': Excess, Succeeding Wildly

Toni Servillo plays a jaded journalist and perpetual partier in The Great Beauty, Italy's submission for the best foreign language film Oscar.
Guanni Fiorito Janus Films

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 1:36 pm

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake served up one of those mind-bending proverbs he's known for: "The road of excess leads," he wrote, "to the palace of wisdom." I thought about this line as I watched two terrific new movies that put Blake's words to the test.

Paolo Sorrentino's thrillingly good The Great Beauty tackles the idea head-on — it's an excessive film about excess. Sorrentino doesn't merely aim to update one of the most famous movies of all time (Fellini's portrait of decadent Rome, La Dolce Vita). He intends to better it.

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Parallels
10:55 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Landlines, It Turns Out, Aren't Vanishing Everywhere

A Cambodian gambler talks on 18 cellphones at once at a boxing match in Phnom Penh in 2010. There are nearly 132 cellphones for every 100 Cambodians, but the country has also seen a surge in the number of landlines.
Tang Chhin Sothy AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 5:03 am

On All Things Considered, NPR's Martin Kaste reported Monday on U.S. landline infrastructure. One fact stood out: 96 percent of homes had landlines in 1998, and that number is down to 71 percent today.

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It's All Politics
10:32 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Crossroads GPS Reports A Single Donation Of $22.5 Million In 2012

An image from a "fiscal cliff" ad released by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies in 2012.
AP

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 9:41 am

The "G" in Crossroads GPS stands for "grassroots," but the politically oriented nonprofit received more than 80 percent of its money last year in donations of $1 million or more — including a single gift of $22.5 million.

An NPR review of its latest filing with the IRS shows that 99.8 percent of its $179 million came from donations of $5,000 and above. And because the group operates as a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organization, the identities of all its donors remain a secret from the public.

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