Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 5:48 pm
Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, 88, has died of respiratory complications, according to reports from the AP and other news agencies. The World War II veteran, a Democrat, had been the most senior member of the Senate. He joined its ranks in 1963, shortly after Hawaii became a state.
At the time of his death, Inouye was the president pro tempore, placing him third in the line of succession, behind Vice President Biden and the House speaker. He was also the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
At about 5:30 p.m. on Monday, two washing machine-sized space probes crashed into the surface of the moon. It was all by design and marked the end of NASA's GRAIL mission. The two probes had been orbiting the moon for almost a year, and they've sent back data that have given scientists an unprecedented look inside our nearest solar system neighbor.
South Carolina is getting a new U.S. senator. Governor Nikki Haley announced today that she is appointing Republican Congressman Tim Scott to fill the seat being vacated by Jim DeMint who's retiring. Scott is a freshman member of the House.
And as NPR's Brian Naylor reports, he will be the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction.
In the aftermath of Newtown, school officials and parents across the country were asking themselves the same question today: How safe is my school? NPR's Claudio Sanchez has that story.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: In Nashville, Tennessee, Ruth Rosenberg asked her daughter's first-grade teacher what school was going to be like today. Teachers there were told to downplay any discussion of the Newtown shooting since many kids still don't know what happened, including her 7-year-old daughter, says Rosenberg.
Inside a modest storefront in Loxley, Ala., 18-year-old Maria Lola Melisio points out the Mexican spices and other products for sale in her mother's market.
"There are the leaves where you make your tamales — you roll them up in that," she says.
Melisio has long dark curls and is wearing a houndstooth scarf in support of the Alabama Crimson Tide. When she was 7 years old, she entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico with her mother, and still has a scar on her back from crawling under the border fence. It's a story she's kept secret until now.
Japanese politics is not known for second acts. But last night, Shinzo Abe won a rare second chance to serve as Japan's prime minister, that's after his Liberal Democrats swept to victory in parliamentary elections. Abe's return has caught people's attention across East Asia. That's because, despite his party's name, Abe is conservative. He's also pro-U.S. and he's promised to get tough on China.
Now, a good old-fashioned mystery in the Windy City. Last week, something unusual arrived at the University of Chicago admissions office. It was a thick manila envelope tied with string bearing all kinds of worldly looking stamps and postal markings.
GARRETT BRINKER: We received this package that was addressed to Henry Walton Jones.
SIEGEL: That's Garrett Brinker director of undergraduate outreach at the University of Chicago and actually, it was Henry Walton Jones, Jr.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, reacting to the shooting deaths in Newtown, Connecticut, called yesterday for reinstating the Assault Weapon Ban, which was in effect from 1994 until 2004 when the law expired. How effective was it?
Well, we're going to ask Professor Daniel Webster who studies firearm policy and gun violence prevention. His field is public health, and he's at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Webster, welcome to the program.
That weapon that David just mentioned, the AR-15, was not only used in last Friday's school shooting. It was also used this month by a gunman who killed shoppers at a mall in Oregon. And it was used back in July in the attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The semiautomatic AR-15 is essentially a civilian version of the military's M-16. And it is, according to the NRA, the country's best-selling firearm.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The painful process of burying the victims of Friday's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, began today with the funeral of the youngest victim. Noah Pozner leaves behind a 6-year-old twin sister, as well as his mother, father and three other siblings. He was remembered at a service in nearby Fairfield, and NPR's Tovia Smith was there.
Discussions here in Washington are intensifying between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama as they try to find an agreement to avert a raft of year-end spending cuts and tax increases. The two men met today at the White House for 45 minutes. NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now from Capitol Hill with an update. And, Tamara, there does seem to have been something of a breakthrough in negotiations. Speaker Boehner agreed to let tax rates rise. President Obama came back with a counteroffer. Where are we right now?
In 2005, Red Lake High School in northern Minnesota was the scene of another school shooting. In all, 10 people died, including the 16-year-old shooter. When I went to Red Lake soon after the attack, I talked with the school principal, Chris Dunshee. He told me Red Lake had joined what he called a tragic fraternity along with schools in Columbine, Colorado, and Paducah, Kentucky. When I reached Dunshee today, he sad the Newtown shooting had brought painful memories flooding back.
Almost all of us have complaints about the government, which probably range from high taxes to too much bureaucracy. Periodically, we get to take our frustrations out at the voting booth. But no matter how unhappy you may be, you probably never thought, "I'm going get out of here and go start my own country."
A group of rich techies in Northern California is planning on starting its own nation on artificial islands in the ocean. They call themselves "seasteaders" and are sort of a mix between geeks and hippies.
The literary world was abuzz this year with the runaway success of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and J.K. Rowling's books for grown-up muggles. But it was Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Philip Roth's retirement that got the attention of commentator Ben Dolnick.
BEN DOLNICK: This fall, in an interview with a French magazine, Philip Roth announced his retirement. I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration, he explained. Instead, he's been entertaining friends, playing with his iPhone, and eating meals prepared by a personal chef.
Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 2:37 pm
These days, just about everyone seems to be looking for more natural alternatives to what they eat and drink. So it's easy to see the appeal of traditional medicine. But as two recent cases from New York City highlight, just because a remedy is ancient or holistic doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.
More than 90 people have been detained in China, where authorities are cracking down on members of a Christian cult and others for spreading rumors about Dec. 21, a " doomsday date" mentioned in the Mayan calendar.
Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 5:55 am
In a pair of recent decisions, the Supreme Court has made it clear that Americans have a constitutional right to own handguns for self-defense. But the court will nonetheless allow "reasonable regulations" on firearms.
The country appears set, following the mass shootings at a school in Newtown, Conn., to have a debate about what restrictions should be put in place.
Members of Congress have already signaled their intent to introduce gun-control legislation next year, which President Obama has indicated in recent days will be a priority.
Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 12:10 am
It's a big day in the religious and culinary calendar of the Republic of Georgia. Georgian Orthodox believers observe Dec. 17 as St. Barbara's Day, in honor of an early Christian martyr. And they typically mark the occasion by eating a type of stuffed bread called lobiani, baked with a filling of boiled beans with coriander and onions.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Last night President Obama broke a long silence and called for a meaningful response to Friday's atrocity in Newtown, where a gunman murdered 27 people, including 20 first grade students, and then shot himself.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 12:50 pm
Remember the important contributions Republicans made to civil rights legislation back in the 1960s?
They've almost been lost to memory. When Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the GOP presidential nominee that year, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, opposed it, and Republicans have never recovered their former share of support among African-Americans.
Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 10:48 am
If President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner's closed-door meetings aimed at solving the fiscal cliff crisis trouble anyone, you'd expect it to be the open-government watchdogs who routinely bark their outrage at public officials who work overtime to avoid public scrutiny.