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The annual TED conference is known for featuring impressive speakers. Attendees at this year's event in Vancouver have seen Serena Williams and Jorge Ramos, futurists and artificial intelligence experts, health activists and the ACLU's executive director.

But on Tuesday evening, one unannounced speaker took the audience by surprise: Pope Francis.

The pope was on a big screen rather than onstage, and his address had been recorded and edited earlier in April, but still: even for non-Catholics, the bishop of Rome has a certain gravitas.

Updated 3:13 p.m. ET

The Trump administration Wednesday put forth a proposal that it labeled a "massive" tax overhaul, that would give big tax cuts to individuals and corporations, and reduce the number of tax brackets and deductions.

Outlined at a White House press briefing by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the president's National Economic Council, it would reduce the number of individual tax brackets to three, as well as eliminate most tax deductions, other than for home mortgages and charitable contributions.

Reporters and on-air personalities are among the roughly 100 ESPN employees who are expected to lose their jobs this week, in a cost-cutting move at the network that has lost millions of subscribers in recent years.

Under pressure from worker advocates and growing consumer awareness, Tyson Foods on Wednesday promised better conditions for employees at its meat-processing plants.

Tiny, 3-D clusters of human brain cells grown in a petri dish are providing hints about the origins of disorders like autism and epilepsy.

An experiment using these cell clusters — which are only about the size of the head of a pin — found that a genetic mutation associated with both autism and epilepsy kept developing cells from migrating normally from one cluster of brain cells to another, researchers report in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Mexico has long argued that U.S. labeling rules for dolphin-safe tuna unfairly restrict its access to the U.S. market. And in a decision Tuesday, the World Trade Organization agreed, saying Mexico may seek $163 million annually from the U.S. in retaliatory measures.

The controversial labeling rules, aimed at protecting dolphins from getting ensnared in fishing nets and killed, date back to 1990.

Forget the fava beans.

The main reason Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs gets its hooks in you — and leaves you feeling vaguely distracted and discomfited long after it's over — isn't anything Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter says.

It's how he says it. And to whom.

In the reality of the film, of course, he's directing his consummate, artisanal brand of creepiness at Jodie Foster's FBI agent, Clarice Starling.

Twenty-five years ago this week, four Los Angeles policemen — three of them white — were acquitted of the savage beating of Rodney King, an African-American man. Caught on camera by a bystander, graphic video of the attack was broadcast into homes across the nation and worldwide.

Fury over the acquittal — stoked by years of racial and economic inequality in the city — spilled over into the streets, resulting in five days of rioting in Los Angeles. It ignited a national conversation about racial and economic disparity and police use of force that continues today.

So is a gnarwhal a whale that shreds the gnar? And what does the whale shred? Does the whale shred with its tusk? These are hard-hitting questions for Gnarwhal, but the Nashville guitar-and-drums duo only responds with wild yelps, frantic guitar work and crashing drums.

"Light-Up City" comes from the band's third album, Crucial, and it's a raw and switchback-crazy seven minutes of chaotic math-rock. Drive Like Jehu's most emotionally wrought moments come to mind, but stripped down to the bare essentials.

Researchers in Southern California say they've uncovered evidence that humans lived there 130,000 years ago.

If it's true, it would be the oldest sign of humans in the Americas ever — predating the best evidence up to now by about 115,000 years. And the claim has scientists wondering whether to believe it.

Hugh Masekela was an up-and-coming trumpeter, all of 20, when he took an overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town to meet a pianist everyone was talking about in South Africa: Abdullah Ibrahim, then known as Dollar Brand.

A U.S. missile defense system that's now being installed in South Korea will be operational "in the coming days," says Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

For more than four decades, Jonathan Demme threaded a diverse path through the film industry — beginning as a publicist, filming everything from documentaries to comedic sendups, and finally earning the status of Oscar-winning elder statesman. He was 73.

The director died Wednesday in Manhattan from complications of esophageal cancer. His publicist, 42 West, confirmed Demme's death to NPR.

Demme made films such as The Silence of the Lambs and Stop Making Sense that have helped define their respective genres.

Her voice is instantly recognizable. Her youthful exuberance, pure sound and positive energy just make you feel good. Her incredible technical abilities were self-evident, but when she sang, she radiated a joy consistent with her own character both on and off the bandstand.

Already an industry veteran at 20, Rosie Carney writes songs that feel lived-in and worn, conveying a bruised ache well beyond her years. The Irish singer-songwriter has been letting singles trickle out for a few years now, and her latest, "Your Moon," strikes a sure-footed balance between airy tenderness and coolly jazzy melancholy.

I want to introduce you to Chad Clark, a Washington D.C. artist with the band Beauty Pill, which begins a tour today with a musical hero of Clark's and of mine, Arto Lindsay.

If all goes to plan, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will beam new images of Saturn and its rings to Earth early Thursday, sharing data collected Wednesday from its first dive through the gap between the planet and its striped belt of ice and rock particles.

Today's dive also marks the start of the final phase in the craft's 13-year visit to Saturn. Days ago, it used the gravity of Saturn's moon Titan to bend its path toward its eventual destruction on the planet.

Sevdaliza's debut album feels like a lifetime examined — and past lives exhumed.

Chinese officials smashed a bottle of Champagne on the bow of their second aircraft carrier Wednesday, launching what the Defense Ministry calls the country's first "homemade" carrier — which took less than four years to build.

The as-yet-unnamed carrier joins the Liaoning, a repurposed 1980s-era Soviet ship that was bought from Ukraine and launched in 2012. Together, the Chinese ships represent a new dimension in the increasingly crowded waters in and around Asia, where claims and counter-claims have been made on islands and shipping routes.

Appliance manufacturers and home builders are in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate a popular energy efficiency program, even as it's slated for elimination in President Trump's proposed budget.

You probably know the program's little blue label with the star — the Environmental Protection Agency says 90 percent of U.S. households do.

The festivities at this month's third annual Qingyuan marathon, in southern China's Guangdong province, begin at 7 a.m.

On one side of the starting line, there's a traditional Chinese music troupe in robes and long, flowing beards; on the other, there's a stage full of dancing girls wearing skimpy marathon attire, gyrating their hips in unison to a rap song.

Stuck in the middle are more than 23,000 runners, itching to start. The music stops, a gun is fired, and for the next half-hour, runners jostle with one another to cross the starting line

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Updated 9:45 a.m. ET

The White House is banging the drums that President Trump is doing something big again ahead of his 100th day in office — unveiling a tax "plan."

"This is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country," Trump's Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said at a panel Wednesday morning.

In the cool mountains of the Upper Yangtze region, Chinese villagers clamber up dogwood and maple trees to gather what Dr. Oz has called a "miracle anti-aging pill." The small, red schisandra berry has a peculiar taste — five tastes, in fact, because it's considered to be at once sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

'Maud' Doesn't Quite Live Up To Its Heroine's Example

8 hours ago

Before "fandom" was even a word, women were making pilgrimages to Prince Edward Island to pay homage to a certain red-haired orphan girl named Anne. There's such an industry built up around Anne of Green Gables that it's sort of surprising there aren't dozens of novels about her creator, L.M. Montgomery. In many ways, she's the perfect heroine for a work of young adult historical fiction — she was a girl born ahead of her time, full of potential and possessed of a deep longing for love and creative success.

Researchers in Germany have found that getting drunk is associated with abnormal heart rhythms.

Their study was conducted in a place teeming with potential research subjects.

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