Once again, a tragedy of horrific proportions has the nation talking about changing gun laws, discussions that in the past ultimately resulted in no change. Will this time be any different? And, with less than two weeks to go, what to make of talks between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner about the fiscal cliff? Plus: a new senator is named in South Carolina, while a venerable senator from Hawaii leaves us. NPR's Ken Rudin and Ron Elving review the week in politics.
For more than 35 years, riders on the New York City subways and buses during their daily commute were graced with posters of beaming young women. While the women featured in each poster — all New Yorkers — were billed as "average girls," they were also beauty queens in the nation's first integrated beauty contest: Miss Subways, selected each month starting in 1941 by the public and professionally photographed by the country's leading modeling agency.
House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are urging them to support his "Plan B" to avoid the automatic tax hikes of the "fiscal cliff." But they're also facing pressure from outside groups that could mount primary challenges against them if they do.
Boehner argues his plan — which would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to stay in place for income under $1 million a year — isn't a tax increase. But a number of conservative groups have come to a very different conclusion.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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Tomorrow, the National Rifle Association will hold a news conference here in Washington, weighing in, for the first time, since last Friday's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. In and around Newtown, a public debate about gun violence and how the nation should respond has picked up in recent days.
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In Chicago, there was a remarkable jailbreak this week. Two convicted bank robbers escaped from their high-rise cell, some 200 feet above the street. Federal and local authorities have been searching for the men since Tuesday. They don't know how the pair got away without anyone noticing. From member station WBEZ, Susie An reports that the escapees' unlikely plan depended on an awful lot of bed sheets.
After more than two centuries as an independent company, the New York Stock Exchange is about to change hands. It's being acquired by Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE, as part of a deal valued at $8.2 billion. In recent years, ICE has exploded in growth.
And as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, today's announcement is the latest in a series of rapid-fire changes that have transformed the world of stock trading.
To Syria now, where rebel forces are claiming a string of territorial gains, including six towns in the central province of Hama. As the fighting continues, there are also diplomatic efforts to establish leadership that could take over when Bashar al-Assad's regime falls. This month, more than 100 nations, organized as the Friends of Syria, backed an opposition coalition to replace Assad.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour with political fallout from the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died in that attack back in September, and this week, a scathing report set the stage for consequences.
Whenever James Stewart played a character, he was always a little bit James Stewart; that's a good thing. Cary Grant was always a little bit Cary Grant — also a good thing. But Tom Cruise, through a career that's spanned some 30 years, is almost always very much Tom Cruise. And that, particularly in Jack Reacher, can be a very tiresome thing.
Starring flying debris and surging walls of water, The Impossible takes the template of the old-timey disaster movie, strips it to the bone and pumps what's left up to 11.
Decades ago, perched in front of Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, audiences were rewarded with thrills that depended on fleshed-out characters (Steve McQueen as a fire chief!) and multiple interconnected storylines. How pampered we were.
Basically, Not Fade Away is the saga of a 1960s teenager who plans to become a rock star, but slowly realizes he won't. The movie is set mostly in the New York suburbs. So why does it open in South London, where two lads — you may know them as Mick and Keith — bond over imported blues LPs?
Consider the premises of writer-director Judd Apatow's first three comedies:
* A lonely tech salesman (Steve Carell) seeks to end a lifelong romantic drought in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. * A mismatched couple (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) gets pregnant after a regrettable one-night stand in Knocked Up. * A popular but self-centered comedian (Adam Sandler) finds perspective after a grim cancer diagnosis in Funny People.
Christian Petzold's Barbara, set in 1980 East Germany, is a film about watching and being watched. Its central character, the Barbara of the title — played, in a covertly spectacular performance, by the German actress Nina Hoss — is a doctor who's just been transferred by the government from Berlin to the provinces, as punishment for some undefined but easy-to-guess transgression.
Just days after a deal on the fiscal cliff seemed imminent, things appeared on the verge of falling apart. How did it happen? David Welna talks to Robert Siegel about how the internal politics of the House have complicated a deal to avert massive, automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
The controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing has created an oil and gas boom around the country. In states like Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado, there's been heated debate about rules that protect groundwater and public health.
California is now wading into that arena with the release of the state's first fracking regulations. The state's earthquake-prone geology, however, could bring particular concerns.
Fracking itself isn't new. The technology behind it, though, has changed.
They are called "crypto-Jews" or "lost Jews," and in recent years they have emerged in remote places as scattered as India, Brazil, the American Southwest and here in Colombia.
They were raised as Christians but believe they have discovered hidden Jewish roots, prompting many to return to Judaism. Many say their ancestors were Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain more than 500 years ago, as the Spanish crown embarked on a systematic persecution of Jews.
Had you been watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno one Monday night last March, you might have seen pianist Robert Glasper leading his Experiment band from the NBC studios in Burbank, Calif. Had you preferred the Late Show with David Letterman, you might have seen bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding front a horn-heavy ensemble at the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown Manhattan.
Have you noticed, perhaps, that some of your store-bought salad dressings or spaghetti sauces taste a little less salty lately?
Probably not. The companies that make those products are doing their best to keep you from noticing. Yet many of them are, in fact, carrying out a giant salt-reduction experiment, either because they want to improve their customers' health or because they're worried that if they don't, the government might impose regulations that would compel more onerous salt reductions.
Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 1:25 pm
Here was the choice facing Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Run next year against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose popularity would have made the Republican exceedingly difficult to beat; or fix his gaze on the Senate seat now occupied by an 88-year-old fellow Democrat, Sen.
An international criminal court has found a former Rwandan government official guilty of genocide and other crimes, sentencing him to 35 years in prison for his role in the Hutu-led government's murder of ethnic Tutsis on an epic scale. The trial is the last stemming from events 18 years ago.
As Gregory Warner reports for NPR's Newscast unit:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. A new report for the National Intelligence Council describes the world of today as a transition point in world history, like 1815, 1919, 1945 and 1989, when the path forward was not clear-cut, the report says, and the world faced the possibility of different global futures.
Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 12:28 pm
Sen. John Kerry is considered the leading candidate to become the next secretary of state, and that gave added weight to his remarks Thursday as he oversaw testimony on the most volatile foreign policy issue in recent months: the deadly Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi.
The two top deputies of the current secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, acknowledged that the State Department failed to provide adequate security in Benghazi, which has remained extremely volatile following last year's ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza has been described as "quiet" and "different." Unconfirmed reports have suggested that he may have had autism or Asperger's syndrome. Host Michel Martin looks at the speculation about Lanza, and talks about the myths and truths about autism and Asperger's syndrome with two moms and a child psychiatrist.